Banks and financial institutions face a number of challenges when it comes to digital marketing, particularly with social media. Compliance and privacy issues pose unique challenges for financial marketers who recognize the benefits of having an online presence, but are beholden to guidance from the FFIEC, FINRA and SEC. Still, some banks and credit unions are successfully leveraging social media to further their brands. Susquehanna Bank is a Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based bank operating over 260 branches in four states including Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and West Virginia. The bank engages its more than 15,000 Facebook followers with weekly features such as “Where is it Wednesday?” and “Trivia Tuesday” — as well as social responsibility campaigns dedicated to helping those in need.
However, a recent study from Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group shows that most banks are significantly missing the mark with customers on social media. Out of 1,002 consumers polled, 52 percent said they believe their bank's use of social media was ineffective, and a whopping 87 percent said banks are “annoying, boring, or unhelpful” on social media. These rather startling revelations present an opportunity for financial marketers to blaze new trails on social media in the areas of marketing and promotions, community outreach and customer service.
But first, let’s start by examining what is off limits:
- Anything related to personal, financial or proprietary information about investments, customers or accounts. (For more detailed information, check out our previous post, “Updated Social Media Guidance from the FFIEC: Is Your Bank Still Compliant?”). This also includes any statement that would discourage applicants or potential applicants from applying for loans through that institution.
- Requesting or collecting personal information such as sex, race, age, color, religion or natural origin.
- Using social media to disclose the existence of a debt, or to harass or embarrass consumers about a debt.
Even with these limitations, financial institutions aren’t limited to discussing the weather. The key to successful social engagement is research. Before posting one word on any social network, monitor what your customers are saying by doing a search for relevant keywords. These include your brand name as well as your competitor’s names. What are customers saying, both positive and negative? Research the demographics of your ideal customer as well as the statistical data on the social networks that interest you. Choose the networks that jibe with your target audience. No one will penalize you for not having a YouTube account, but they will if you have one that is inactive or uninteresting.
Once you have completed your research and set some measurable goals, it’s time to start creating content.
Three useful topics financial organizations can leverage on social media are:
1) Marketing and Promotions – Remember, social media is just one tool in your overall marketing strategy. The Bank of Edwardsville promotes its Down Payment Plus program across multiple platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, by saying they want to help customers own their dream home.
2) Community Outreach – Think about it; most life changing events – going to college, planning a wedding, buying a car or a house – involve interaction with a bank or credit union. Yet according to the Edelman Global Trust Survey of 2013, financial institutions are still the least-trusted sector in the global economy. FastCompany reported a third of millennials believe they'll be able to live a bank-free existence in the future. With these statistics in mind, personalized community outreach is a mandate for financial institutions looking to grow their business.
3) Customer Service – According to the American Bankers Association (ABA), complaints about fee transparency, charges and guidance on how to avoid them “represent 15 percent of all problems reported and are second only to denials of credit/loan requests and charges when making a purchase as a source of dissatisfaction.” While these topics require full disclosure statements to meet compliance standards, financial institutions can still use social media as a first step in an overall customer service experience. Because of the risk involved with personal information, customer questions or complaints should handled outside of social media (either a customer service phone number or email). You'll also want to ensure the follow up is immediate. The ABA survey found that, of customers who were very satisfied after contacting their bank with a problem, 58 percent gave the bank more business. However, 32 percent of customers who were very dissatisfied with the customer service experience closed some or all of their accounts.
The take away is that while social media is a powerful and necessary tool for financial organizations, the quality of the experience is what keeps customers happy and engaged. Beyond staying compliant, banks and credit unions can avoid being boring by providing content that solves customer problems and serves their communities. The Bank of Edwardsville, for example, raised money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Illinois, and served hotdogs for opening day of the MLB season. Sponsor a college scholarship, a breast cancer 5k team, or other charitable work in your community to build and maintain consumer trust. If handled properly, a bank can gain consumer trust, stay compliant, and be compelling to their social media fans.