Doomed to fail >> HSBC plans to develop its “own version of Facebook”

UPDATE –This story has just taken a little turn. HSBC says that the brief to agencies to come up with this plan was a “mock brief”.

But considering the brie was 35 pages long who spends that much time on coming up with a mock brief in such detail?

Her is what the @HSBC press team has been tweeting in response to this story:

“Sorry to disappoint everyone but you can’t believe everything you read in the press :-)

“@Biz_Hack Happy to work with Facebook on a page / strategy, but certainly not an “own version of Facebook” #sticktoyourstrengths

@theclickdesign Sorry to disappoint, but this was a mock brief – no plans to take on Facebook at the moment!

“@prweekuknews Sorry to disappoint, but you’ve been given a mock brief as part of a ‘Request For Information’ agency exercise…”

Sorry note sure I buy the mock idea. It holds as much water as a bank lauching a social network. I do like some of the names drifting around though for this venture – Chequebook is amusing if obvious.

From Earlier – Here is an odd one that sounds like it might be a tough sell straight out of the gate. PR Week is reporting that HSBC is developing its own social network. It says that HSBC is putting “social media at the heart of its UK business growth strategy with a plan to create a “dedicated digital offering” that one industry source described as building “their own version of Facebook”.

The news comes a week or so after Mancheter United announced its plan for a global social network.  Football I can see, but really who wants to spend more time with their bank? This idea lacks any credit – social credit at that.

The magazine reports that the project is only in the early stages and HSBC is looking for an agency to help establish the new proposition and to develop a social media strategy.

It should just stick to the social media strategy as what the world does not need is a social network developed by a bank. It is almost an oxymoron. Isn’t banking one of the least social activities that any of us engage in?

It says the plans are laid out in a confidential 35-page pitch document obtained by PRWeek that says: “We will build a distinct digital offering centred on customers’ future needs, financial and non-financial.

Why build an offering based on their non-financial needs when this is something that HSBC don’t and can’t fulfil?

There is some scope for setting up networks based around special interests, but in most cases there ventures will fail as Rich Millington blogged recently most online communities are doomed to fail.

At the moment, most branded community efforts fail. Few attract more than a handful of active participants. Even those that succeed, barely deliver the ROI they promised.

HSBC plans to target ABC1 and C2 demographics will appoint an agency to create a digital concept that has a “clear focus and a clear message”. Social media strategy will be central to the new offering, but the campaign to launch this will  include TV and wider advertising.

In a word they are going for a big launch. This is, according to Millington, a classic mistake in building community as “no successful community today began with a big launch. A big launch actually does more harm than good”.

Again who wants to spend time with their bank? This idea seems to be leaky from the outset and whoever is behind it is simply burning money. I could be wrong, but really I’d like to hear a good idea why.

HSBC should stick to what it is good at and create a create a bank that engages with its customers social. It should build strong presences within social media and go to where its customers are rather than trying to bring its customers to it.

  • Ian MacDonald

    My God. I thought the days of idiotic brands doing ‘their own’ social network were long gone. And a bank of all businesses, a horrible fit with a Social Network.

  • Ian McKee

    Will you have to carry around a ridiculous little calculator key generator thing with you everywhere in order to log in?

  • Sheli

    Hmm interesting twist in the story… so who do we believe now?! I would imagine that lots of banks are trying to find ways to engage better with their customers. They already face some hurdles doing it on social media because of privacy issues, so maybe that’s why an own-branded social network would appeal. But it would have to be just for customer service, I can’t see people using it for anything else.

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  • @gordonmacmillan

    You mean your social network key encrypted login protection system? Definitely.

  • @gordonmacmillan

    @Ian – the idea is so old isn’t it? Like a decade old. Maybe that shows how far behind the times banks really are.

  • chris McEllligott

    Banks love shooting themselves in the foot dont they. No doubt they fell for a pile of waffle delivered by self styled social media experts. Now they compound it by embarassing back tracking. Since banks repuatation for what they are supposed to do is so poor why would anyone listen to them about anything else?!

  • Stephen Uprichard

    I think all of you including the author have slightly missed the point on all of this. Yes, the brief might have not been official, real or a dip of the toe into the water BUT the idea of a bank launching their own social network is not by any means a stretch of the imagination! We deliver bespoke social networks to a variety of brands and sectors, including the financial sector. The difficulty with any social activity around social media for banks is that they’re bound by a law which restricts them letting anyone know that they actually bank with them eg. A bank sets up a Facebook page, I like it and post on the wall about my account/can’t get money out – whatever…they cannot respond as they cannot publicly acknowledge that I bank with them. Now on the flip side of this a social network which is about general customers, offering a space for individuals to communicate/do business and endorsed by a bank is fine…and there you have it. If the concept for the network is right (Which I’m not going to share) then actually the idea is perfect and has longer legs than Usain Bolt. The difficulty is understanding niche social networks as they are still in their infancy and overshadowed by the buzz and scale of Facebook and Twitter but they are not to be dismissed and potentially shape the future. I would love to develop this idea the HSBC and watch this space I may just do it!

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  • Caroline – San Francisco Consult

    I agree with Stephen as well as with you all.

    Niche social networks have emerged and will continue to do so. However, it IS often a challenge to get them off the ground. This is especially true when a company attempts this, as it lacks the “real comunity” backing that is required for niche online social networks to prosper.

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