Why I’m a social media believer

I joined LinkedIn’s influencer program last year and it was reported on the front page of Australia’s major business newspaper as breaking news.

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Front page? Perhaps it showed how novel it was for CEOs to embrace a presence on social media.

At this point I need to confide that this didn’t come naturally.  

My own journey to becoming a social media believer came a bit late. One of our directors, Greg Clark, who chaired the Technology Committee of the Board, encouraged me to take our directors and management board to the west coast of the United States. The idea was to explore the thinking in major companies that were regarded as innovators in financial services and in technology, companies such as Google, Cisco, Apple and of course LinkedIn. 

It was a bit of ‘light bulb’ moment.  It was already clear to me that digital financial solutions were redefining our business.  Here at ANZ we were first to market in Australia with our goMoney app in 2010. Today, that app provides banking to 1.4 million customers in Australia and New Zealand who undertake 273,000 transactions a day. 

What wasn’t quite so clear to me – apart from observing my children with mild amusement – was that social media had become completely mainstream and was driving a fundamental shift in the way people find and consume information, and how they expect organisations like ANZ to communicate.  

Jeff Weiner at LinkedIn must have seen the switch go on because he invited me to join the LinkedIn Influencer program.

The visit to the west coast and my experience as a LinkedIn Influencer has served to reinforce my view that there’s now both a need and an opportunity for business to move faster in becoming socially-enabled enterprises. 

The opportunity exists because innovation is often incredibly difficult in large companies and if you can create a culture that supports and embraces change, there is a prize for first movers. 

With social media the opportunity is to have a more direct, deeper and authentic relationship with our most important audiences including customers, staff, investors and other stakeholders. Ultimately that’s a prize that’s worth having in terms of customer satisfaction, corporate reputation, attracting and retaining talent, gaining market share and reducing the cost of doing business. 

The reality is that for many of our customers, the digital and social future is already here. As a business we need to respond more quickly to participate in the opportunity. That’s why I have made accelerating ANZ’s progress with digital solutions for our customers, and engagement through social media a key business priority over the next three years. 

Ultimately I don’t see this being about technology or being up to date with the latest thing.  It’s part of the focus business needs to have on being customer-centric by engaging customers and improving their experience with us. 

However, the transformation of legacy systems and the cultural shift required to achieve this isn’t without its challenges. 

In social media our strategy is rapidly evolving. It is centred on ANZ participating in the social web through our organisation and through our people. This includes me as CEO, my management team and ultimately all our people.  This broader, less centrally driven conversation is requiring us to think differently about who communicates, why they communicate and how they go about it. 

Becoming a socially enabled organisation also requires us to think differently about the approach of our specialist support functions such as marketing, communications, legal, risk and technology, and how those functions work together much more closely in this new internal and external environment. 

We also know part of this transformation is being more transparent, more engaged and more responsive in our communication. As a step in addressing this need, we have launched our own digital publication for news, insight and opinion called BlueNotes. It covers the economy, financial services, investment and society from both within ANZ and from experts outside the bank and provides great thought-leadership content to build our engagement with the social web. 

We still have a lot to do to bring about our digital and social transformation at ANZ, and to build a more customer-centric 21st century business. We are not alone in that but we are making good progress with what I consider to be of the most urgent priorities in business.

Photo: Jeff Weiner, CEO LinkedIn and Mike Smith, CEO ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.