What do credit cards and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have in common? Some credit card providers are trying to integrate the two. We investigate.
Card companies have been using social media channels for the past few years as part of their customer services operations.
Barclaycard set up a customer services Twitter feed in May 2008 and American Express UK in November 2009.
A recent study by the latter found one in five consumers in the UK and 10 other countries across the globe used social media at least once in the last year to obtain a customer service response.
However, in the past few months credit card companies’ online engagement efforts have taken a significant step forward.
It pays to be social
This year Barclaycard US launched the Barclaycard Ring, the first credit card to be designed and built through the power of crowd-sourcing.
Crowd-sourcing in this instance is where an online community of customers has the opportunity to shape decisions about the card.
The credit card firm seeks opinions from customers on how the card is managed and they can also suggest future features of the product.
Paul Wilmore, managing director-consumer markets at Barclaycard US, said: “We want to change the way people think about credit cards and their credit card company by putting the power back in the hands of customers.”
Tweets turned into shopping savings
In America, American Express has also launched a social media-savvy scheme this year - a Twitter promotion which turns tweets into shopping savings for its customers.
It allows American Express card members to sync their cards with Twitter.
When a customer tweets about American Express and one of the retailers the card firm has chosen to promote, such as McDonalds, the card user will receive a discount to use at that retailer.
The discounts are uploaded directly onto the customer’s card for spending.
The US has not been the only country to witness credit card providers placing social features at the heart of their products.
The social A-lister
2012 is proving to be the year of credit card and social media integration.
Citibank Singapore has tried to capitalise on the country’s 1.5 million Facebook users under the age of 35 with the launch of its Clear Platinum Card in March.
One of the card’s main features is a Facebook-based "Social A-Lister" concept.
Customers are rewarded for checking-in and participating in online activities on Citibank’s Facebook page.
Every month these actions allow participants to climb a virtual social ladder to become the Social A-Lister.
Research by social media analysts Visibli, shows American Express’s Twitter followers grew by more than 100,000 in the month it launched its Twitter-sync scheme.
This suggests social media initiatives are worthwhile for card companies.
If such schemes are proving successful overseas, it may not be long until social media credit cards are introduced in the UK.
Drew Benvie, social media expert at public relations firm Hotwire, says this is something that looks set to catch on here.
"Rewarding customers for advocacy and engagement on social media is the future.
“There was a time when we felt uncomfortable blogging, tweeting and checking-in. Now social media is mainstream and in the UK we are a special case.
“Take how we tweet as an example. 80 per cent of us do it from our mobile, compared to the global average of 55 per cent.
“We're on the go and that means human traffic for the brands we spend with. We should now expect to see some real innovation from mainstream brands.
“What it means for us as shoppers is that there will be deals to be had and we will be incentivised for something we have started to do for social kicks."
What do you think?
Do you engage with your credit card provider through social media?
Would you sign up to their Facebook page and Twitter page in order to gain discounts and rewards?
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