Barclay is a big bank hoping that social media will help it ride out recent anti-bank sentiment and attract customers to its new crowdsourced U.S. credit card. The launch of the socialized card comes as American Express partners with FarmVille maker Zynga to unveil a card allowing players to accumulate virtual currency.
Introduced in April, the Barclaycard Ring MasterCard encourages cardholders to use social media platforms and the company's private online community to vote on policies such as late fees and marketing. In exchange, cardholders get access to the company's financials and will share in its profits. Barclay's fourth-quarter P&L statement was posted on the cardholders' private community site May 21 - the first time the quarterly figures were shared.
The card has been launched via a digital-only campaign - heavy on social media - that is designed to direct traffic to the card's site. The site got about 40,000 page views in its first month, said Jared Young, product manager. Going forward, branded content generated by customers communicating their preferences to the company will be a key element of the campaign. Engagement doesn't appear to be a problem. Even before the first financials were revealed, "well above 10 percent of members posted content," on the card's social sites, said Young.
Interactions and comments from cardholders, for example, resulted in the following blog post from a Barclaycard Ring product manager earlier this month:
Barclaycard Ring Members wish this card had rewards. It’s been mentioned enough so I want to address the issue. I’ll admit, I wish the card had rewards too. The trouble is, we can’t afford the cost of rewards AND an 8% variable APR.
So far, the campaign has used search ads, email marketing and a YouTube video and plans to unveil a slate of banner ads soon. Facebook ads are minimal, and Twitter Promoted Tweets are not part of the mix at all. The impact is relatively small at this point, however. The brand's video has been viewed around 7,000 times, and the U.S. Barclaycard Ring page has attracted only about 120 likes on Facebook and 180 followers on Twitter.
Referrals are one way the card is recruiting customers to help it get off the ground. People who make referrals by email, Facebook or Twitter get a bigger slice of profits. Also, cardholders can earn online badges for referring friends. The badges appear on personal pages in the community site and are also given for sharing links and answering questions. A high number of badges will bring customers "expert" status and exclusive benefits, says Young. Yet another incentive is the ring symbol that appears alongside cardholders' names in the community site. The colors in the ring are determined by how much the person engages with the community - including the number of referrals to prospective customers.
Barclay is treating the unusual credit card and its marketing as an experiment that will provide lessons about social business for all of Barclay's offerings. "We are testing our way to good ideas, making a bunch of small bets to see what works best with consumers," Young said. To date the product's brand message has been intentionally modest, telling consumers it is a "time for change" and now "they have a voice" in how their credit card works. As people sign up and share their feelings about banks, it will be interesting to see if engagement related to the card becomes more disruptive and reflects deeper anti-bank sentiments. "We are watching and listening to see what really resonates," Young noted.
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Joan Voight is a Contributing Editor to ClickZ. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, she has covered online and offline media, marketing and advertising since the mid-1990s for several business publications. She spent nine years at Adweek magazine, where she was San Francisco bureau chief, national senior writer and contributing reporter.
March 19, 2014