By Monica C. Meinert
IIt is almost impossible to imagine a world without social networks. With two billion active users worldwide who like, share, and tweet every day, social media transcends all demographic lines – its users represent people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities. Social media are used as an information vehicle, political sounding board, consumer forum and, of course, a communication tool for businesses.
Bankers clearly see the value of social media; in a recent survey released by the American Bankers Association into the state of social media in banking, an overwhelming majority (76%) said social media was important to their institution. Despite this, many banks are still in the early stages of their social media journey: only 24% of bankers have been using social media for more than five years. The rest are just starting (63%), plan to do so in the next 1-2 years (5%), or have no plans to use social media at all (9%).
When Jeff McCarthy joined First Bank Financial Center in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin three years ago as vice president of marketing, the bank was using social media, but lacked a cohesive strategy. “We had all of these great stories to tell, but a relatively small marketing budget to tell them,” he says. “I was looking for ways to tell these stories to show people our personality, to show our commitment to the community without spending a ton of dollars. Social media seemed like a great place to do this.
McCarthy (who was one of many bankers interviewed for the ABA survey) took the opportunity to revamp the bank’s social media program, creating a strategy that leveraged Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn to engage customers and build the bank’s brand. He also hired a social media coordinator to take over the day-to-day management of the program. “To make social media the way we wanted to, we needed someone whose full attention was on them,” he says. “We want to be active, we want to be engaged and we want to be able to respond to people who contact us in a timely manner. If you outsource this, or if it’s an afterthought, you’re going to miss out on a lot of opportunities.
For banks that use social media, community engagement is a top priority, according to the survey. Banks use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other channels to spread awareness of the many ways they support their communities: spotlighting local businesses, publicizing charity events… even becoming a hotspot for catching Pokémon.
Take Citizens Bank of Edmond in Edmond, Okla. The bank has had viral success promoting “Heard on Hurd,” a monthly street festival it sponsors. The bank stepped up its use of Instagram to spread the word, using the hashtag #jointhehurd to encourage community members to share their photos from the event. President and CEO Jill Castilla (another survey respondent) notes that the bank intentionally keeps a low profile during the event, choosing to showcase the community rather than the bank’s brand. The response has been significant: The first Heard on Hurd event far exceeded attendance expectations, and festivals today attract 20,000 to 30,000 people.
At Busey Bank in Champaign, Ill., AVP and Communications Manager Christa Dubson says the bank’s top priorities in social media are to engage the community, deepen customer relationships and to meet customer service needs. Busey falls into the early adopters category of banks that have been active on social media for five years or more, and Dubson says the company’s social media strategy is to “be where our customers are. , our associates and members of the community ”.
The bank stays away from advertising products or services through its social media platforms – which include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram – choosing instead to showcase various community engagement initiatives like Promise a Plate , a program that has provided more than 60,000 meals to people in need since 2012.
The usefulness of social media is well understood among banks, although many are only scratching the surface of what they can do. While 73 percent of banks using social media rank as fairly or very active users, almost a quarter say they are not. Compared to their peers, only 35% consider themselves “above average” in their use of social media channels, and four in ten say they are somewhat or significantly behind.
“If you want to be on social media platforms, you have to be active and you have to be engaged, or you run the risk, I think, of damaging your reputation,” McCarthy advises. “If someone contacts you through social media and you only post periodically, I think people perceive that you aren’t listening or that you don’t care.”
He adds that he was surprised by the survey’s conclusion that a quarter of banks said they did not intend to use social media for customer service. “I really see customer concerns and complaints as an opportunity to grow the brand, and I embrace them when they are conveyed through social media,” he says. “Not only does this give you a way to respond to and resolve a customer’s issues, it is also a very public forum for doing so. When your subscribers see you resolve an issue quickly, it’s a wonderful demonstration of your customer service – you’re not just fixing the issue in a timely manner, you’re showing the world that your customers are important, and you take their concerns seriously. . “
Dubson says she sees her bank as “ahead of the curve” with social media, thanks to buy-in from the bank’s management team, employees and the local community. Part of the bank’s success, she adds, has come from Busey’s commitment of its associates to be active on social media (according to the survey, only 36% of banks are currently encouraging their employees to do so. ). Through Busey’s “B Social Savvy” program, employees receive training on how to participate in the social media conversation, and Dubson says this added commitment has helped the bank expand its reach in its market and become more successful. connect with new potential customers.
“With social media, everything is a learning curve,” she said, adding that the information from the ABA survey will help Busey as they continue to advance their social media strategy and find new ways to measure social media engagement. “You never know what’s going to work with your associates or with your followers. We continually evaluate our strategies internally and externally, and have fun along the way. I think this is the most important part.
To download a free copy of the social media survey, visit aba.com/socialmediasurvey.