Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Self-forming community beats the banks

So an adhoc, self-forming community of shared interest/purpose has won its battle with banking giant HSBC: HSBC makes U-turn after student facebook protest
It's a great example of the rapid growth of actual, real value that's possible when the exponential of Reed's Law is let loose. 5000 supporters joined the facebook group protesting about new charges within days. They weren't just doing it to talk ( in a classical social network way). They were out to create value for themselves.
The real value concerned is £144 a year per graduate. Now they won't have to pay. Any charges already paid are being paid back, too.
HSBC has just been taught a tough lesson. It's a networked world. Anger a mob of students and all students will soon get the message that you aren't a bank to sign up with.
This was always so - it's the break-neck speed at which this happens that are startling - and it is this which is a direct result of digital communities.
The question from a publisher's perspective is - how the hell do we get our cut of the value from this.
HSBC loses cash, students gain it. Where's the cash for facebook?
Well, of course it would be possible for a traditional bit of faux engagement (ie, in context, related banner ads from rival banks looking to encourage people to jump ship). But there's growing evidence that we're switching off even to these. They feel forced, they feel mechanistic - and they always carry the risk of revealing just how little they 'know' about the context they are related to (examples like this are always a possibility).
The clever response for HSBC now (and perhaps facebook could negotiate a facilitator fee) would be to galvanize the protestors with some good old two-way conversation to repurpose this adhoc group (which would likely change with some leaving, some joining as a result) to co-create the next student bank accounts.
This is rather more than focus groups on steroids. If they worked with (for!) their communities of shared interest (ie young students, mature students, graduate students, overseas students, married students, parent students) they might be able to create new products (accounts) to attract many, many more to their brand.
It's just the simple lesson of allowing the community to take charge.

See also: The Great Graduate Rip-Off


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?