A few weeks ago Afrinnovator featured GTBank, the Nigerian bank that is pushing it’s use of New/Social Media as a way of building it’s brand and connecting with it’s clients (or in this case audience).

GTBANK LOGO

GTBank are clearly trend-setters for corporations in Africa. We found it interesting that a bank had spent so much effort and gone to so much detail to create a strong online brand presence on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

So what did we do? Well, we did the obvious thing! We sought an interview with GTBank on their use of social media (don’t you just love us!)… why would a bank want to use Social Media? Are their efforts bearing any fruits? What lessons have they learnt along the way?

Lola Odedina, the Head, Communications & External Affairs at GTBank, oversees the Brand Management, Media Relations & New Media development for GTBank & all subsidiaries. She answered these and other questions regarding this innovative use of ‘social tools’ to enhance her company’s brand.

LOLA ODEDINA

Lola Odedina, the Head, Communications & External Affairs at GTBank

Below is a transcript of the interview. One thing that amazed me is just how thoroughly GTBank has planned, invested and executed on social media channels. There are a lot of lessons here for other corporations in Africa (and beyond). In some cases I’ve italicized some phrases to emphasize aspects of the interview that really struck me. Enjoy

Afrinnovator.com: Tell us a bit about GTBank.

Lola Odedina (GTBank):

Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) operates from business offices in Nigeria with several bank and non-bank subsidiaries spread across Anglophone West Africa and the United Kingdom. We are a leading Nigerian Bank with a corporate banking bias and strong service culture that has led to consistent year on year growth in our client base and financial indices. From the early 1990s we have tirelessly set the pace for other local financial institutions in terms of service quality, product functionality, innovation, share value and excellent customer service.

We have also been the subject of business and brand reviews by Harvard and Cranfield Business Schools.

HISTORY:

Guaranty Trust Bank plc was incorporated as a limited liability company licensed to provide commercial and other banking services to the Nigerian public in 1990. The Bank commenced operations in February 1991, and has since then grown to become one of the most respected and service focused banks in Nigeria.

Five years later, in September 1996, Guaranty Trust Bank plc became a publicly quoted company and won the Nigerian Stock Exchange Presidential Merit award that same year and subsequently in the years 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. In February 2002, the Bank was granted a universal banking license and later appointed a settlement bank by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2003.

Guaranty Trust Bank undertook its second share offering in 2004 and successfully raised over N11 billion from Nigerian Investors to expand its operations and favourably compete with other global financial institutions. This development ensured the Bank was satisfactorily poised to meet the N25 billion minimum capital base for banks introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2005, as part of the consolidation exercise by the regulating body to strengthen Nigerian Banks.
In 2007, we entered the African business landscape history books as the first Nigerian financial Institution to undertake a US$350 million regulation S Eurobond issue and a US$750 million Global Depositary Receipts (GDR) Offer. The listing of the GDRs on the London Stock Exchange in July that year made the Bank the first Nigerian Company and African Bank to attain such a landmark achievement.

In 2009, the Bank issued the first tranche of a $200 billion local bond – the first corporate bond in Nigeria in a long while, and raised $13.8million in that regards.

ACCOLADES:

Over the years, the Bank has been a recipient of numerous accolades and commendations for exceptional service delivery, innovation, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility and management quality. A few of these are: the 2007 Most Respected Company in Nigeria in a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers and BusinessDay, multiple honors in the Vanguard Newspaper Banking Awards as winner in three categories: 2007 Most Customer-Friendly Bank, 2007 Bank of The Year and 2007 Best Bank in Corporate Governance. More recently, the Bank clinched the 2009 Most Customer-Focused Bank: Retail Award and a 2008 Best CSR Rating from KPMG and SIAO respectively. The Bank also won the “Best ICT Support Bank of the Year” award at the 2009 National ICT Merit Awards. Guaranty Trust Bank was also adjudged “The Best Bank in Nigeria” at the 2009 Euromoney Awards for Excellence

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY:

A significant part of the Bank’s annual earnings are used to support structures, events and individuals across diverse areas of Child Healthcare & Education, Entertainment, Environmental Beautification, Human capital development and the Arts.

Guaranty Trust Bank’s continued support for such laudable initiatives over the years have resulted in several accolades and recognitions; most recent was the 2008 Best CSR Rating by SIAO, a foremost indigenous rating firm and the Most Socially Responsible Bank in Nigeria at the 2009 Social Enterprise Reports and Awards SERA 2009.

For us at Guaranty Trust Bank plc, everyday presents the opportunity to make history, whilst consolidating our pride of place as a Proudly African and Truly International Bank.

Afrinnovator.com: For a Bank, especially in Africa, one finds it surprising just how much you have embraced new/social media. How did you come about to this?

Lola Odedina(GTBank): Post-consolidation, Guaranty Trust Bank made a strategic decision to actively engage in retail banking whilst focusing on new, innovative, efficient and accessible technologies to boost that drive. A major re-branding exercise followed in June 2005, which saw the Bank emerge with cutting edge service offerings, aggressive expansion strategies, advertising policies and our now trademark vibrant orange.

All of these played a major role in the decision to strategically deploy a presence across key New Media platforms.

We realize that the online media has become one of the most relevant and important medium of communications in the 21st century. We therefore felt it was time to deploy a consolidated online communications strategy to compliment the use of current traditional communications and marketing methods.

We believe that an articulated online communications strategy will enable the Bank monitor groups and community chatter on GTBank and its subsidiaries, as well as harness the global platform and the progressive Brand differentiation that New Media provides.

We also believe that it will also enable us communicate with a more global audience and offer targeted communications initiatives to select customer groups for product development as well as service enhancement.

Simply put, we wanted to be able to engage our customers and non customers, on platforms they were comfortable with, whilst receiving real-time feedback on what they had to say about the Brand, our products and services. [emphasis added]

Afrinnovator.com: How long have you been using new/social media/networking?

Lola Odedina (GTBank): Officially the platform was launched on the 1st of October, 2009- a very special day in Nigeria’s history. (Nigeria’s Independence Day).

Afrinnovator.com: With the comprehensiveness of your new/social media/networking efforts one would assume you have a formal strategy laid out for this. Is this the case? Was this the case from the beginning? – Or did you just pick it up and run with it as it came?

Lola Odedina (GTBank): Yes. The decision to develop a New Media implementation plan came 10 months before the launch date [emphasis added]. The team spent most of this time crafting strategy, and refining operating procedures for community managers and social media consultants. We ensured that this adventure was situated squarely within the dynamics of the Bank’s Business and Brand Strategy.

The key to some of the successes we have recorded is planning, planning, and planning [emphasis added]. The first thing we did was to identify key New Media and Social book-marking platforms we wanted to deploy corporate profiles. The next stage was to explore how these platforms would complement our current communications efforts. It’s been one learning experience after another, but so far, it’s been a worth while journey.

Afrinnovator.com: Please explain to us how social media/networking works at the organization e.g. do you have a department that runs your efforts, or specific individuals; how do you measure ROI etc

Lola Odedina (GTBank): At GTBank, the New Media team reports to the Communications and External Affairs Group. This Group is responsible for developing Brand Strategy and Communications strategy for the Bank and its subsidiaries. The Group is also responsible for the execution of the Bank’s media relations strategy.

A key touch point of this initiative is the ‘REPORTING METRICS‘ Before we set out on this project, key deliverables and monitoring metrics were developed and agreed with the New Media team. Reporting formats and nuances were also agreed. Some of the metrics we looked at included the following:

  1. Number of group members or fans
  2. Unique Visitors
  3. Page Views
  4. Return Visits
  5. Interaction Rate
  6. Comments posted
  7. Relevant actions taken. E.g. Vdeos viewed, Uploads (e.g. images, videos), Poll votes, Messages sent etc.

We are also keenly interested in Content Freshness and Relevance [emphasis added].

Afrinnovator.com: Tell us about your experience in this. I mean, have you experienced any failures in the process; are there tangible returns from investing in this media?

Lola Odedina (GTBank): Well. We wouldn’t consider them failures as much as learning points [emphasis added]. The great thing about New Media and Social networking is that once your strategy is off, you usually know immediately. This is more so for a Brand like GTBank that elicits strong passion and emotion in the minds of our many customers and audience. Our community members have played a key role in our Social Media success and development.

Afrinnovator.com: Some pointers (from what you’ve learnt so far) about launching and keeping up a new/social media/networking campaign/presence…?

Lola Odedina (GTBank): Don’t do it unless you are READY! It is a very time intensive platform. Organizations willing to leverage New Media must be willing to deploy the time, manpower and resources necessary [emphasis added] to constantly engage audiences and community members. It also requires ample doses of patience and continuous reevaluation whilst never losing sight of one’s set out objectives.

Afrinnovator.com: Your Brand is very prominent across all your social media channels. Talk to us about the ‘branding’ aspect of planning a social media campaign for a corporation.

Lola Odedina (GTBank): Guaranty Trust Bank regards social networks and New Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, personal blogs, forums, YouTube, Flickr etc as important new forms of media. As such we hold them to the same standards that we hold our other Brand communications platforms. [emphasis added]

Social media channels such as (micro) blogging, video and photo sharing, forums, virtual worlds, opinion markets and collaboration environments represent an opportunity to engage customers, facilitate conversation and improve our Brand perception [emphasis added] with all stakeholders within the financial services industry and our place in it.

As such, we ensure that all platforms are fully accentuated with colors, tag lines and other Brand associations that tie each interaction to the GTBank Brand.

Afrinnovator.com: Does new/social media/networking have a place in the corporate environment in Africa? Is it justified?

Lola Odedina (GTBank): Absolutely, the latest Internet penetration figures show that people now spend more time on Social Networking sites than watching television and sending traditional e-Mails. We are in the age of the social consumer [emphasis added]. Serious Brands need to take Social Media very seriously.

A good example here would be when we launched the Guaranty Trust Bank e-Quarterly magazine, Ndani.

In exactly 30 minutes 56 secs, 300 people had read the magazine. This was all done by simply including a link via a status message on the GTBank Twitter page. We also included a link that enabled readers send feedback to us via a comments/feedback page.

This will never have been possible if we had done this the old fashioned way. To cut the long story short, we can now publish a magazine, have it read and receive feedback on said magazine all in one minute!

Afrinnovator.com: What’s your take on this ‘new’ form of marketing/PR vs the traditional marketing/PR models?

Lola Odedina (GTBank): They are both as relevant as ever [emphasis added]. The challenge will be finding a convergence between both touch points such that consumers can feel the Brand online and offline.

New Media has enabled the Bank receive near real time feedback and responses for communications efforts. This has greatly assisted our efforts in creates a platform to establish ‘real’ trust with our customers and even customer prospects.

The viral nature of New Media makes it much more cost effective, since it reaches a global audience in a very short amount of time unlike Traditional media that is sometimes limited in reach and coverage.

New Media has also provided a platform for two way conversations that have provided a better relevant feedback mechanism. This of course was not nearly as readily available with Traditional media.

Afrinnovator.com: I happened to see this on your Twitter feed “RT @slimtmusic: @gtbankonline good morning my fav bank, wish i had a polo top with your logo on it“… this is a sign of unprecedented loyalty to a corp. especially a bank. How does this translate/relate to the quantitative aspects of running the bank i.e. revenues/profits etc..

Lola Odedina (GTBank): Guaranty Trust Bank is one of Nigeria’s Superbrands. Over the years, we have built a strong Brand with our service initiatives and superior financial performance. This platform has greatly improved our ability to engage audiences, identify key influencers and product and/or service opportunities-all of which has allowed us accelerate product and service innovation-in the long run, all of this eventually will lead to increased revenues. [emphasis added]

Afrinnovator.com: Following up on the previous question – will you be printing polo shirts for your customers? :)

Lola Odedina (GTBank): We’ll see. But we try to celebrate our customers as often as we can. A great example here would be the Orange Valentine celebrations for 2010 that are designed to encourage Staff and customers to remember this special season victims of forgotten disasters.

Afrinnovator.com: A Bank that actually has a browser toolbar for multiple browsers. Wow!.. how did that idea even come about?

Lola Odedina (GTBank): Our Brand was built on Service Excellence and it became imperative to ensure that as much as possible we situate our Brand within the context of people’s online experience. We continue to explore initiatives that will make this a reality.

Afrinnovator.com: Final words…?

Lola Odedina (GTBank): We are happy at this opportunity to talk about a project we are indeed very proud of. We are a financial institution that prides itself on service Excellence. We are continuously on a quest to deliver the latest in innovation whether it be in Communications or Product and service innovations.

In 2010 and beyond, conversations with Brands will now really take place real-time. Our adventure in New Media is not a fad [emphasis added]. We are in it for the long run and are willing to commit the necessary resources to ensure that better and more relevant connections are built with our audience whilst offering the best in World class financial services.

We would like to thank Ms Odedina and GTBank for offering us the opportunity to interview them and for accepting to share these insights with the rest of Africa.

NOTE: This was not a sponsored interview/post

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