Where Absa's wall is just a foot away

When you think Facebook you think friends, poking, messaging, writing on walls, uploading pictures and joining groups of people who share a common interest. You do not think Absa.

So what on earth is Absa doing on Facebook?

The banking giant has created a fan page on the popular social networking site as part of its ‘Put your best foot forward” campaign.

Absa says: ‘This Facebook page provides a platform for you to ‘shout out’ your life philosophy.”

Social networking, unlike banking, is the hottest thing on the internet. Facebook has 70-million active users of which 661 778 are on its South African network.
It is estimated to be worth about $15-billion.

Absa says on its website that it has decided to establish a presence on Facebook ‘to open new communication channels and find new ways of understanding customer needs”.

‘We want to uncover your life philosophy. You already have one. Here’s your pedestal.”

Although most Facebook users have their own private pages which restrict access to users who have been approved by the owner of the page, Absa has opted for a fan page that can be viewed by all newcomers. The page launched on May 7.

Fan pages offer limited interactivity: users cannot, for instance, poke, body slam, throw a snowball, hug, pinch, slap or zombie-bite Absa.

Fans are encouraged to sign up at the page with the promise of winning a MacBook for the best life philosophy. By mid-week 381 fans had signed up.

The page also allows users to post comments on the site. A few posted comments on Absa’s wall, including: ‘Brilliant idea! I like to think that my bank has personal touch! :)”.

‘There’s nothing sadder than a bunch of money-grubbing corporate bankers trying to play it cool with the kids.”

‘VERY CLEVER! On your part ABSA!—PROPS TO YOU! Social networking on Facebook — I think u put ur best foot forward!”

Arthur Goldstuck, founder of World Wide Worx, told the Mail & Guardian that it was not unusual for Absa to go this route. ‘It’s fairly much the way things are going, but it is a fairly dangerous strategy. If customers take to it, it will positively engage with a new breed of internet users.”

Yet Goldstuck does see this as a ‘brave and risky” strategy ‘filled with peril. It can be damaging as it opens up a forum for customer complaints.”

Such a platform can leave Absa open to criticism and dangerously open to attack from either customers or potential competition.

Managing executive for Absa Digital Channels, Christo Vrey, says the fan page is about learning what the customers may or may not enjoy and it is ‘an important aspect of being able to serve our customers”.

Social networks to a degree are self-regulated, but Absa will not tolerate racial, sexist or ethnic slurs, personal insults or obscenities on its fan page. ‘Any posts such as this will be deleted immediately.”

Vrey says the bank will continue to use this platform for ‘gradually broadening the scope of the site and potentially offering information that is relevant to specific groups of Absa Facebook fans”.

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