Why Some Companies Emulate Facebook

By Edward Cone  |  Posted 10-15-2007

Social networking guru dana boyd stirred controversy this summer by writing about class divisions online. The Berkeley doctoral student noted that Facebook is used by kids more likely to go to college while MySpace is more popular among students expected to get a job or join the military after high school.

These broad generalizations about services with millions of users apiece seem to be shared by some buttoned-down financial service companies seeking to tap the youth market via social networks. As social nets gain popularity as business tools within the enterprise, companies continue to reach beyond the firewall and use the technology for marketing purposes as well. For a growing number of big banks, Facebook is the place to be.

TD Canada recently launched a Facebook application called Split IT, which lets roommates easily divvy up shared bills. The bank built the app as part of its Facebook offering, The Money Lounge, which features financial information, coupons and other content. When a Money Lounge message board asked users what they like and don't like about the bank, replies compared TD Canada's online services with those offered by other large Canadian banks--valuable marketing intelligence.

JPMorgan Chase, meanwhile, targets the college demographic with a Facebook group built around a credit card loyalty program. The Chase +1 group has about 34,000 members, and offers rewards and financial advice. The idea is to win over valuable customers early and keep them for years.

Of course, the Net being what it is, there's at least one Facebook page vulgarizing the JPMC corporate name and complaining about the company's service. That's the kind of social networking any company could live without.