No Social, No Sale. Watching Out for Suspect Firms

Jul 22, 2013   //   by Keith McDonald   //   Commentary / Editorial, Technology  //  2 Comments

In this social media driven age, does the absence of a company profile on Twitter or Facebook now trigger alarm bells where it didn’t before?

I’m not a fan of social media, even as I admit how necessary it’s become. But it’s now reached a point, I think, where businesses in certain sectors without a social profile are effectively admitting they’ve got something to hide.

Not long ago, I was bemoaning the regulatory mess that presides over the advertising of financial products. If you missed the story, it related to the banning of an advert for payday lender Cash Lady featuring the frequently bankrupt Kerry Katona.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) quashed a television advert that lured customers into applying for high-cost loans – over three months after it was launched. The Office of Fair Trading, which regulates the payday lending sector, could only be consulted on one of the four issues raised about it.

Well, the ASA has been in action again recently, concerning a rather shocking assertion by one of these parasite claim firms that public sector workers should aim to cash in a lump of their pensions with ‘ZERO’ impact, regardless of their age.

Pension Cash Now Sample 2

This is highly misleading, as there are only a few exceptional circumstances that allow this prior to the age of 55. Otherwise, HMRC will be expecting the vast majority of that withdrawal back in tax.

Furthermore, as most of us well know (even if it isn’t strictly illegal in advertising regulation), the involvement of an intermediary like this will almost invariably result in them taking a large cut in return for poor information and precious little reward.

The ASA has held Pension Cash Now in breach of two codes and banned the promotion in its current form, but six days have since elapsed without any action taken from either side.

Upon visiting the guilty party, I immediately think to myself: ‘cheap’. Basic layout; stock images; primary colours, ad nauseum…

Pension Cash Now Sample

But even then, I acknowledge that to the untrained eye, it still does a job. I’ve seen much worse, and much that is more overtly suspicious.

The mark of credibility I now find myself looking for is evidence of a social media feed. Why? Because it’s a public soundboard, a place to converse, and the place where a faceless brand can translate into a real person. In essence, it’s one useful step towards transparency.

If you cannot find one for a financial services business, I’m assuming it’s because customer interaction is the last thing they’re after.

And if businesses don’t want that, by and large, you really don’t want what they have to offer.

Which4U can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. We introduce ourselves here. And as site editor, you can find out more about me here or on Google+. There are any number of ways to get in touch, and you’re very welcome to do so.

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  • David

    ‘Upon visiting the guilty party, I immediately think to myself: ‘cheap’.’ Well if you are making bird noises in your head, it’s no wonder you approve of tweeting!

    I am pleased when I see that a business has a social media presence, particularly on Twitter. The usefulness of this as a business and marketing tool is variable, though it’s clear that under most circumstances, an active Twitter account is indeed a gesture of openness to potential and actual customers alike: a mutual acknowledgement that the middle man can be cut out. Phone a business and one might fret over whether a call is being recorded; make contact via Facebook or Twitter and such anxieties are irrelevant. Even if a customer doesn’t wish to interact with a business in such a public way, he or she might still hope for its social media output to evince a sense of fun. This is something that doesn’t appear to come naturally to much of the financial services industry.

    Pension Cash Now’s use of ‘£000’s’ to indicate pounds is off-putting. An ironically unnecessary use of the possessive apostrophe when there is nought to possess. ‘Basic layout; stock images; primary colours, ad nauseum…’ As would induce nauseu? Like nausea, only more onomatopoeic.

  • Keith McDonald

    I have to stop myself thinking ‘ everybody knows about the word’! And I can’t possibly correct my spelling error now that you’ve gone to the trouble of giving it a good purpose. :-)

    Social media is useful for customer rights, I think. It’s so easy to sully reputations these days that it’s in a firm’s interests to handle complaints well. And doing so in a public arena also creates a very good impression.

    But I still think there’s a certain responsibility to uphold. Which4U has been left a few terrible reviews on review sites by people who have apparently been refused products by banks. I’m not sure how that’s our fault, exactly, but we were the subject of the ire nonetheless.

    Social media makes plenty of things easier, but it’s also easier to get things wrong, and there are consequences. :-/