LAGOS: African banks are increasingly using social media to engage with consumers and to offer banking services.

PwC, the consultancy, recently looked at the South African banking system and noted: "It is clear from our survey results that banks are already using social media platforms to monitor and respond to customer complaints."

The study also observed that customer expectations of banking quality and service were being driven by other sectors, "some of which far outperform the financial services sector in this capacity".

In Nigeria, KPMG outlined how GTBank, the country's largest and most profitable bank had transformed itself into a social media leader, again with an initial focus on consumer service which had led to the creation of a full-time social media customer care team able to respond at any time of day or night throughout the year.

And if Nigerian banks are unable to provide such a direct service, an enterprising businessman has created an open platform, @MyBankPalava, to enable customers to air their grievances and to help resolve complaints.

GTBank has moved beyond straightforward customer care, however, utilising the channel to conduct market research to determine where new branches and ATMs are located.

It has also launched a Facebook banking application, which allows people to open GTBank accounts on Facebook.

In the future, they will be able to transfer money, purchase mobile airtime, pay bills, and confirm their account balances via their Facebook accounts.

The bank's social media ambitions extend into the marketing sphere, where its quarterly digital magazine, Ndani, now boasts a major presence in the form of Ndani TV, blogs and Facebook pages.

Bisi Lamikanra, head of management consulting at KPMG in Nigeria, pointed to the fact that GTBank now had more social media 'likes' than most North American and European banking brands and argued that soon Western banks would be looking to Africa for best practices in social media.

Data sourced from How We Made It In Africa, All Africa, PWC; additional content by Warc staff