Published on septiembre 23rd, 2009 | by admin0
5 Ways Banks Are Using Social Media.
Many banks have started using social websites to help them with everything from healing the financial industry to promoting their latest credit cards. By embracing the most popular tools available, the industry has also been embracing the best of what social media culture has to offer, and smaller, community banks seem to be leading the charge when it comes to social media innovation.
This post profiles some U.S. banks that have used social media in their marketing and communications plans in some interesting and successful ways. These banks have tapped into the root of what social media means to the community, enjoying success in the way of returning real value for their institutions.
1. Community Building
Banks are not usually known for building warm and fuzzy communities around their products and services. When we think of banks, we often think of impersonal bankers in pinstriped suits denying customers their request for a car loan or a mortgage. The world is changing, though, and even banks are trying to foster community rather than appear monolithic and imposing. Focusing on customer service and adopting the personality of the people they serve, community banks and credit unions can really teach the big guys a thing or two about what it means to be close to customers. Community building is something that banks should be doing more of because many of the most important touch points in our lives from attending college, to buying our first cars and building a home, to starting a business and saving for retirement all involve a relationship with a bank.
Missouri Bank, known popularly as Mobank, is a financial institution with a cool vibe that makes them a natural fit to utilize social media. They serve an eclectic customer base of visionaries and artists — people known to take chances, and though they have only three branches, they’re located in areas where people are invested in the community. They’re not using social media to “sell” anything, but instead utilize social media as a way to build upon the community-minded philosophy that they have spent years developing. Hip, young and cool, the bank parlays that image on a Facebook Page that acts as an online neighborhood for their customers to interact with each other and the bank – much like their branches.
“Being a Mobank customer is very much like being part of the ‘in group,’” said Grant Burcham, the bank’s President and CEO. “Our customers see each other in business, civic and social settings. Those networking opportunities are a great benefit of being a Mobank customer. As they embraced social networking, they expected to see us there.”
Mobank did have to consider the reputation management implications of launching a Facebook Page where anyone can post anything about the bank in the public sphere. Ultimately, they decided that they were confident with their customer relationships and that if someone was going to talk about Mobank negatively in a public forum, they’d find a way, but if it happened on a Page that the bank managed, they could respond to any concerns on the spot.
2. Product Research
Whether you’re crowdsourcing to find out what customers think of your services or using social media as one tool in your arsenal to enlist customers to help develop new products, a social network is an undeniably powerful research and development resource.
Social media was a big part of formulating a new and popular type of checking account at 1st Mariner Bank. The company’s marketing department used social media tools to take a look at their customer’s needs and used that to build new products and services.
Steven L. Kruskamp Jr., E-Commerce Marketing Manager for the bank, said that the bank asked through social networks what was needed most in their marketplace. The bank was able to use social communications tools and online surveys to develop a financial life cycle for their customers and identify that many people today establish a long lasting relationship with a bank in their late teens. They also found that parents are a major influence in the decision of which bank people ultimately decide to use. At the time, they didn’t have an attractive account to market to both parents and 18-25 year olds. With more research using social tools, they identified which features and benefits were important and which combination would give them a competitive edge.
3. Customer Service
Social media has become a great customer service tool across many industries and banking is no exception. However, not all banks are so proactive. A study done by the American Bankers Association found that four out of ten banks polled said that they avoid discussing specific products and services in their social media efforts.
But for banks that are more active in engaging with their customers over social media channels about their products, real-time search can be helpful in addressing problems with customers. In other cases, a visible Twitter () account can be a quick and easy first step in the customer service chain when people want to get specific information.
Bank of America sees many of the same questions on Twitter that they get on typical channels like via telephone or in person, according to David Knapp, who runs the bank’s Twitter account, but they are starting to see social spaces as a potential channel of choice for customers to get the information they need. However, because of the sensitive nature of banking and the openness of social media, customers need to be careful when sharing information with customer service reps on social channels. On Twitter, Knapp regularly takes conversations private using direct messages and from there to more secure communications channels to gather sensitive details.
Though Knapp and Bank of America are now seeing much positive feedback on their Twitter account, when they first opened credibility was an issue. “When we first entered the space our credibility as a representative of Bank of America was a challenge,” Knapp said. “But as we began to help customers, and social media sites picked up our work, our legitimacy grew.”
As Wachovia is absorbed into parent company Wells Fargo, the legacy division at the bank still continues. Tim Collins, the SVP of Experiential Marketing, uses social media not only to service Wachovia customers but to answer questions about the status of the merger between the two banks. The bank had been involved with listening on social media for years before they decided to open a Twitter account, which they use to help customers with questions related to checking products and online banking. Wachovia has now fully embraced social media as a way to communicate with customers, even going so far as to create a special set of hashtags for the bank on Twitter.
It took them a couple of tries to get social media right, however. Collins cited one very interesting miss in providing customer service through social media for Wells Fargo. Their first program, called “Stagecoach Island,” was piloted in Linden Lab’s Second Life platform. “We quickly realized that our customers would feel more comfortable on a more flexible platform,” said Collins.
4. Marketing & Promotion
Banks that are using social media to brand themselves or to market a specific product or service have found success by integrating social tools into their existing campaigns or creating new ones that capitalize on the spirit of the community. Whether it’s by making the bank synonymous with solid financial advice or giving people the power to do some good in the world, banks have been finding that immersive marketing techniques using social media tools have brought solid results.
Jeff J. Gahnz, Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations at Nicolet National Bank realized that as a small community bank, their competition could afford to spend his entire marketing budget in one week-long campaign. But as he sat in a meeting and listened to the CEO of the bank explain something extremely complex in a matter of five minutes, he wondered how many people would want to be in that room to hear what he said. They realized that ideas they talked about in meetings could be shared with others using social media channels, and it would be a way to create value for customers that required only a small investment. The bank shares ideas and information through its blogs and audio and video podcasts on a community hub called The Vault.
Citi is one of the big banks using social media to build a community around its brand. As might be expected for such a large financial institution, different divisions have shown themselves to be more independent and innovative than the rest. Citi Credit Cards, for example, has launched a campaign that centers on the power of harnessing your Facebook () network. Their Make a Difference, One Friend at a Time program combines the friends in your networks and charitable giving by promising to donate $50 to the charity of your choice for every approved credit card application your refer through your social graph.
First National Bank of Omaha (FNBO), an online-only bank, encouraged customers to utilize the ease of transferring balances online to maximize the interest they earn on the money in their bank accounts via an innovative social media marketing campaign called the Pay Yourself First Challenge. The campaign helped customers develop a personalized saving plan, and FNBO utilized a number of different social media outlets, including YouTube (), Facebook, Twitter, MySpace (), iTunes and blogging to get the word out.
The challenge involved five contestants competing to reach a savings goal. The bank recruited contestants by having them submit videos via YouTube describing their saving goals, and during the competition each contestant blogged about his or her progress. FNBO chose the winner based on a combination of reaching their goal and online votes. The contest helped to create awareness for their brand and showed current and potential customers how they can use FNBO’s online banking tools to become more successful savers.
The current financial crisis has led many customers to distrust banks, which is one reason why many banks are now turning to social media as a way to become more transparent to customers and build trust. David Armano, Senior Partner at Dachis Corporation, says that banks are like every other institution facing the evolution of the networks and websites providing empowerment to individuals, and that they must adapt to join the conversation. “Banks also dealing with trust issues may accelerate that change,” he said.
Nicolet National Bank has used social media in order to be more transparent, said Jeff Gahnz. The President of their bank answers questions directly on their blog, for example, and they have helped people with mortgage questions, business loan queries, and general finance questions. They have also blogged their thoughts on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), where the money has gone, and why their bank participated.
“Right now, in Washington, the phrase you hear most often with banking and finance is transparency,” Gahnz said. “We are leaders in this area because of social media.”
For FNBO, the emergence of social media has allowed for more opportunities to communicate with their consumers, which is important to them. They understand the benefit of participating in the conversations that are already happening online, rather than avoiding or attempting to control them.
“Banks could potentially miss opportunities to mitigate risk … by choosing not to participate in social media,” said a bank spokesperson. “As a result, we recognize the value of a controlled and closely managed approach to social media as one of the many ways that we can be transparent with our customers and prospects.”