Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It Can Be A Cruel World

Earlier today I sent off a press release to the world proudly announcing that Pan American Bank had taken a big step in bringing social media to its mix. The effort had taken some planning - though not a tremendous amount, given the small size of our shop. But, still, some effort and thought had gone into it.

Floating on air and proud of our little Latino bank, I kissed my daughters and wife goodbye and got into my car and headed off to work. I was ready to take on the world, clear clutter and projects off my desk and ease into my holiday vacation. That's when it happened...

Just as I got on the freeway onramp, my Blackberry began to blow up. Alerts, emails and frantic phone calls. "The blog is creating chaos!!! We're a B-I-G FAIL!!! We and YOU are becoming the laughing stock of the social media community!!!" What?!!

Fortunately there was a line at the freeway onramp that allowed me to read the messages and answer the calls before putting my life at risk on the Los Angeles freeway system.

So what was all the hubbub. Well, a couple things.

First, if you look at this blog, along the right side and below you'll see ads displayed by Google. When I created this blog I was provided the option of adding them onto the blog.

While some people (spammers selling their wares) would like you to believe there is money to be made displaying these links, they are mistaken (have you clicked on one of these links while reading this? Didn't think so). In other words, the Bank is not going to swap lending for Google Ads any time soon.

My only rationale for having the Google Ads is that Google makes its fortune off of these things (they sell the advertising) and I suspect that all things being equal, a bank blog with Google Ads displays higher than blogs without (though I would imagine Google would deny my assertion). I could be wrong but I am entitled to my opinion.

The problem with the ads is not the ads so much as the fact that Google placed ads for Bank of America on the blog and given that we ARE a bank, that seems somewhat contradictory. In fact, by the time I got into the office, the Twittersphere was burning up with this story.

The second problem was that in a past life (before becoming a bank CEO), I had written the most popular ebook for bankers on social media, The Community Bankers Guide to Social Network Marketing. It was featured in many industry magazines and is still a tremendous hit - though it is nearly a year old (a lifetime in social media time). As such, my experience and own advice should have prevented this.

Truth is, the criticism is accurate. While I did input a few domains to block, I did not test the blog to make sure my blocks took. Now I realize that to readers of this blog, that really does not matter. I did not create this blog to "market" products or services. Regardless, many will argue, "why give the competition an open door on your blog." So in that case, my bad and FAIL.

So what now? Well, I still do believe there is value in keeping the Google Ads on the site. Who knows, maybe we'll suddenly start earning some real income as a result of this blog posting! Ok, probably not.

I'll go back and tweak my settings again (and again and again, if necessary). I'll have to walk with my head down at the next social media conference I attend and take endless ribbing from my friends. But in the end, I think this was a good lesson and a great outcome.

Just as no one can look away from the car pulled over by the highway patrol on the side of the road, much attention was brought to my little Latino bank blog. Sure it cost me some personal capital but did it really? Social media is about transparent and honest communication.

At the end of the day, mistakes will be made. What matters is how you handle the mistake and prevent future mistakes.

Thanks for visiting. I look forward (sort of) to hearing your feedback.


  1. I think you said it best "what matters is how you handle the mistake and prevent future mistakes." Personally, though, I don't think it was that big of a mistake. Of the customers of your bank, that read this blog, I'd bet few of them would even bother to look at the Google ads, let alone click on a link to another bank.

    And while you're right that "social media is about transparent and honest communication", why limit that to social media? Shouldn't all customer relationship development be based on "transparent and honest communication"?

  2. Great points Ron.

    Thanks for the input. I think organizations are fearful of using social media precisely for this reason. And while I would had preferred not to be called out on this issue, it does provide a "lessons learned" aspect that I and future readers will find helpful.

    Thanks for following.