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HolidayBuyer's Guide

What if the bankers had behaved like Facebook?

Facebook's idea of inviting users to comment on the site's Terms of Service might suggest a certain naivete. Or it might suggest a blueprint for future customer relations in many industries?

Bankers are finding it hard to get a little love these days. Their spouses offer a cold shoulder. Their relatives, a cold consomme. Their golden retrievers, cold comfort.

As they spend their lonely nights sipping their VSOP and trying to make an online appointment at the Emperor's Club, perhaps they might slide over to Facebook just for moment.

Facebook, like the odd banker or two, makes a mess of things sometimes. But there is a certain sweetness in the way in which the company's upper echelons sometimes remember who their customers are. And, perhaps even more importantly, how they like to be spoken to.

Inviting Facebook members to get involved in the decision-making surrounding the Terms of Service might seem naive to some. But perhaps it's a sign of how corporations might govern in a future that is nearer than national calamity.

Please imagine (oh, go on- reality is so ugly these days) that you're at a board meeting of the fictional Bank of Righteousness. Strategy is being discussed. A man with hair even shinier than his suit declares that they are going into the sub-prime mortgage market with gusto. Because there's no way they can go busto.

He explains that some of the customers might not be fiscally sound, but that they should be able to sell the mortgages on before the debt hits the fan.

A spiky-haired man at the end of the table wearing a Motorhead t-shirt and someone else's goatee offers: "Whoa there. Why don't we check with our customers how they feel about this?"

"Social networking? Oh, you mean a cocktail party..." CC Jim Linwood

Everyone fills their mouths with the most refined oral juices, but Ronnie, the new Head of Cybercommunication, is the Chairman's son-in-law. So they sit, rather than spit.

The next day a cybercommunication goes out to customers of the Bank of Righteousness: "Hey, how's it going? We just wanted to run this one by you. We're thinking of giving mortgages to some folks who might not strictly, you know, have the cash to pay for them. Because, you know, we think the good times are going to last forever and we're all going to be millionaires."

It continues: "So we just wondered what you guys might think about all this. It's a bit of a risk, but not really that much. At least we don't think it is. Drop us a note on our Facebook page or Tweet your feelings. Thanks. Your buddies at B of R. "

Alright, perhaps that's a little informal. But banks have been tending towards cuddly informal communication for years. And there's a generation (or two) now that believes that socially-networked communication is the only meaningful kind.

Now what do you think might have been the reaction? And what do you think might have been the result?

It's Wednesday. And Wednesdays are always my days for wondering.