When Credit Card Companies Try Hard to ‘Get’ Social Media

When Credit Card Companies Try Hard to 'Get' Social Media

Felix Salmon is having some fun with Barclaycard’s “first ever crowdsourced credit card” that is “built on a community” of “incredibly happy, healthy, outdoorsy types who live only in bright sunshine” and with the issuer’s efforts to get them to “join the conversation.” In fact, Salmon is quite cynical about banks’ efforts to “get” social media in general.

Now, we can’t really hold Salmon’s distrust of healthy people who live in bright sunshine against him, for he hails from Scotland where this blogger has spent six months in his younger days and can testify to the deficiency of the commodity in question in this otherwise beautiful country. Moreover, I share most of Salmon’s cynicism toward card issuers engaged in “creating conversational blog post campaigns,” posting cool tweets and other things of that nature. But couldn’t the reason be that my sojourn in Scotland has left a deeper impact than I had realized? Perhaps concepts like crowdsourced credit cards and social media engagement of various sorts aren’t as outlandish to other people as they are to me and Salmon? After all, I am the type of person who makes financial decisions based on available data, not on what others are saying, but I don’t think I’m representative of the population at large and I don’t think that Salmon is either. And unlike Salmon, I think that the issuers may be on to something here, although they do need some practice.

Barclaycard Ring

I did review Barclaycard Ring, the crowdsourced credit card at issue, when it was introduced more than a month ago and liked it. Its rates and fees are reasonable and clearly communicated. Salmon agrees with me:

Which is not to say you shouldn’t apply. This card has an 8% APR, and no penalty APR. You miss a payment? You default on some other credit card debt? Your APR stays at 8%. For “revolvers” — people carrying a balance — this has got to be one of the cheapest credit cards out there, and certainly one of the least dangerous. The fee schedule is the one place where you don’t find gimmicks: no 0% APR balance transfers (with 3% up-front fee hidden in the small print), no hugely complicated reward program you’re never going to use, no annual membership fee which you have to mentally amortize against the perceived value of all those hypothetical rewards.

So what’s his problem then? Well, here it is:

I wish that Barclaycard had just released a simple no-annual-fee, no-rewards, no-penalty-APR card and left it at that. I fear that the gimmicky social side of Barclaycard Ring is going to overshadow the fact that underneath its trendy exterior it’s actually a perfectly good product.

You can tell that he is not really the social type.

Ring’s Social Side

Here is what Salmon doesn’t like about Ring:

[W]atching a big bank try to be all cool and down with the social kids can be rather like watching your father try to rap. The Twitter feed is embarrassing enough, but the sponsored posts are much worse. For instance: companies who “get” social media are “are the ones that are leading the fold and have good futures ahead of them”, says BrainFoggles, who seems to have been paid to write that by something called Dweeb Media, which specializes in “creating conversational blog post campaigns”.

On a personal level I share Salmon’s disdain for Barclaycard’s efforts at making its card look cool on the various social media stages. But then, I am also someone who treats just about anything that gains social media prominence with disdain. So much so that I can’t give you even one example of a social media hit. After all, I haven’t seen any of the “viral” videos that have been seen by millions on YouTube. And I suspect that Salmon may not have seen many of them either. Then again, Barclaycard Ring isn’t targeting the analytical types; it is designed to appeal to the far more numerous consumers who are influenced by social signals. The issuer may be going about it rather clumsily, but it may well improve over time. And anyway, why is that an issue?

The Takeaway

Barclaycard Ring is a really good payment product and that’s all that matters. Not even a torrent of embarrassingly dumb tweets or even worse sponsored posts can have any effect on its rates and fees. Moreover, as part of its social commitment, the issuer will be publishing its financial statements on the card’s website for everyone to see and even Salmon is looking forward to reading them. So we have a credit card company that is offering a good product and is being unprecedentedly transparent with its existing and potential customers. What is there not to be liked?

Image credit: Barclaycard.

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