RBC Royal Bank and Toronto-Dominion, Canada’s two
largest banking groups, have both tapped into the social networking
craze in an attempt to promote their respective brands to the
student and youth segments of the Canadian market. Douglas Blakey
reports on the rise of a new bank marketing channel.

RBC Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Toronto-Dominion (TD), ranked
one and two respectively in Canada in terms of assets, have rolled
out online marketing initiatives to target the student and youth
sectors of the Canadian market by way of blogs and sponsored pages
within the social networking site Facebook.com, the second-largest
such site in the world.

TD has started a branded user group called TD Money Lounge,
designed as a forum for students to talk about financial management
and budgeting strategies. The launch is part of a six-month pilot
project by the bank to engage students online.

TD’s Facebook debut on 13 August was followed a few days later by
RBC, which set up RBC Campus Connection, offering financial advice
as well as information on scholarships and the chance to
participate in RBC competitions and promotions.

Additionally, at the end of August, RBC also announced it would
roll out RBC P2P, an online discussion forum run by six student
bloggers. Student employees will manage the content of the website,
blog about their own banking experiences, and share information and
solutions on issues of importance to the student population.


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RBC’s P2P initiative is being led by a recent graduate, Michel
Savoie, who said in a statement: “I see RBC P2P as a place where
students can share stories and experiences and talk about solutions
that will work for them – and what better way to do that than with
a site for students, managed by students.”

Candidates who apply to join the RBC P2P blogging team will be
asked to submit a homemade video audition by 31 October, to be
posted onto the RBC P2P website. The bank will narrow the field to
12 possible candidates, and students visiting the site will then be
invited to view and vote for their favourite candidates. The
successful applicants will be the six bloggers who top the student
poll and will each receive a paid, 12-month contract from RBC to
provide content for the website.

According to Judy Murchison, director of marketing strategy for
students at RBC, “P2P is the icing on the cake” for what she
describes as a comprehensive suite of offerings for students.
“We’re on school campuses, we’re offering no monthly fee student
banking, we’re podcasting money information to students, we keep
adding to our student scholarship support, and we’re on Facebook,”
she said.

Facebook, which only launched in February 2004, claims to have the
largest number of registered users among student-focused sites with
over 34 million active members worldwide in July, 39 percent of
whom it estimates are aged 18 to 24 years old. It has become one of
the more cutting edge marketing channels for banks and other
corporations to talk to the valuable youth market.

By the beginning of September, just over 180 organisations around
the world had paid for sponsored user groups to be set up on the
site. Membership figures from Facebook show that TD’s Money Lounge
offering, with more than 6,500 students registered so far, has
attracted more than four times as many members as RBC’s Campus
Collection group.

Some way to go to catch

Both RBC and TD have some way to go to attract the sort of Facebook
following enjoyed by the US’s third-largest bank, Chase, which
signed up as the site’s exclusive credit card sponsor last
September. With membership of the group currently exceeding 33,000,
it ranks as one of the most popular sponsored groups on the

Chase has been running banner ads on the website and inviting users
to join a Facebook-hosted group page for people who want to learn
about, or sign up for, Chase’s+1 credit card, a student Visa card
offering 0 percent interest for an initial six-month period. The
promotion carries the tag line ‘A totally new way to hook up your
friends, yourself and your community’. Students earn reward points
by using the card or referring a friend.

During the launch promotion, Chase enlisted a ground force of
‘student influencers’ at 100 colleges across the US to help
generate buzz about the +1 programme and drive traffic to Chase’s
Facebook page.

The TD Money Lounge offers students incentives to join the TD
Facebook group such as money off vouchers for use at a range of
Canadian retailers as well as the chance to win money-off coupons
for Apple’s popular online iTunes store. The site also features an
online budget-sharing tool to help users split bills with roommates
and friends.