Where are the banks?

Guest post by *Ahmad Abbasi - So where are Oman's banks? No, not where as in city, town, street. But where as in social media presence, on Facebook or Twitter. Answer? Bar one bank, nowhere, which means almost all are missing a trick or two as far as interacting with potential customers is concerned.
The one Omani bank which seems to understand and appreciate the social media potential is Bank Muscat. According to Social Watchlist, a website which monitors official Facebook pages from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Bank Muscat is sixth in the league table of top Facebook pages from Oman. HSBC Oman is nowhere to be seen.  National Bank of Oman is nowhere to be seen. And the rest, the same, nowhere to be seen. Why? Supposing for a moment a snippet like “business current accounts available from HSBC” appeared somewhere on HSBC Oman's Facebook page. Would it get a reaction?
Maybe it would. Or maybe not. Depends on a number of factors. What is certain is if there is no page in the first place then reaction is going to be zero. Common sense. If there is a page and it's simply used as an advertising extension, you know, click here to find out more about international banking or business banking or financial management, the reaction is going to be zero, too. A Facebook page has to be clever, engaging, entertaining, and subtle. It has to give the target audience a reason to go online regularly to check out the page.
In other words, engagement is the name of the game. Social Watchlist says Bank Muscat is “ranked #615 amongst Facebook pages in the Middle East & North Africa, with 34,364 likes. This is a -0.15% growth from the previous week and -0.53% from four weeks prior. The page engaged 0.72% of its audience, with 249 people talking about the page. This summary is based on data from December 01, 2012.”
Ranked 615 across the MENA region as a whole but sixth in Oman, the stats appear good but are not stunning. Could do better is a fair summation. Now compare this with Oman Air, the top page in Oman. Social Watchlist says, “Oman Air is ranked #307 amongst Facebook pages in the Middle East & North Africa, with 116,106 likes. This is a 19.84% growth from the previous week, and 62.08% from four weeks prior. The page engaged 39.65% of its audience, with 46,038 people talking about the page. This summary is based on data from December 01, 2012.”
Huge difference in likes and engagement. Supposing HSBC had a page which had 46,000 Facebook users talking about it. What would that do for business if only a fraction turned talking into concrete action?
Oman's population is just over 2.8 million. And over 1.7 million people in Oman use the Internet, according to the latest available figures. More than half a million use Facebook. Social media represents huge opportunities not only for banks and airlines, but for all kinds of companies. But there has to be the understanding and the will to make it all happen.
*Ahmad Abbasi is a Doha-based freelance financial expert who has written for a number of popular Qatari and Omani websites.

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