The Role for Social Media in Banking Industry
What purpose does social media serve and how can it contribute to the business of banks? Despite the corporate presence of social media for more than 6 years, there remains uncertainty about how best to use the communications technology and platforms.
We take a look at findings from two sources—a survey of attendees at the recent BankSocial conference (consisting largely of community banks and credit unions) and a comprehensive content review and analysis of social activity by some of the nation’s largest banks.
The Target Audience for Social Outreach
Social media now largely falls under the remit of internal marketing so there is little surprise that the intended audience and overall objectives differ little from traditional marketing. According to conference respondents, the goal of social media is to create messages that reach present and future customers. For community banks there is a secondary target, the broader local community.
Content posted on social platforms and therefore entirely public offers a clear picture of how banks seek to project the organization. For community banks, this could best be described as “look at us”. Top of the content list is sponsorship news – events, teams and activities that the bank sponsor and in third place comes news on bank philanthropic activities. Wedged between sponsorship and philanthropy are posts about the bank’s own products. It is not until fourth spot that advice—content that might help customers self-educate around financial topics and concepts is considered.
The “large bank content analysis” reviewed and analyzed every Facebook post and Tweet during the first quarter of 2016. From this analysis, product news is provided the greatest potential reach (number of posts times the accumulated audience). Sponsorship news comes second. Large banks compared to community banks are more likely to offer to financial advice and less likely to promote philanthropic activities.
The aggregate content analysis does hide inconsistency between banks as can be seen in the chart below detailing the content blend for some of the individual banks. US Bank provides a significantly higher amount of advice than most of the other banks whereas Citi, Chase and Fifth Third place stronger emphasis on products. Bank of America uses its social media outreach to promote and amplify ongoing philanthropic campaigns.
According to a recent study by TrustRadius, 80% of social marketers consider social post engagement as one of the top three metrics for evaluating success. This certainly looks the case for the survey respondents with over 80% viewing post engagement as the highest social media priority. Drilling one more level, post shares and link clicks are considered the most important types of interaction. Reflecting the new reality of social platforms, lowest priority is now the acquisition of new Facebook and Twitter followers.
There is some disconnect between content strategy and success metrics. Promoting bank products is high on the priority list for banks of all sizes but this type of content generates least engagement.
The content analysis included posts on Facebook and Twitter and while there is strong correlation between the platforms, Twitter results are possibly more reflective of organic engagement. With Facebook now primarily a paid platform, banks tend to boost posts on which they prefer engagement, e.g. product news.
It is not surprising that philanthropic posts attract significant engagement, after all, what is not to like? But this engagement come primarily in the form of ‘likes’ (“audience applause”). It is noticeable, and consistent with other studies, that advice posts earn the highest number and percentage of sharing. People do like to be helpful to friends and family and relevant help is often passed on. To illustrate this point, Bank of America hosts an advice-orientated microsite (with the Khan Academy) that targets millennials (BetterMoneyHabits.com). Posts promoting BetterMoneyHabits content on Facebook does attract a lot of shares but on an admittedly unscientific analysis, many of the sharers look to be older generations, (how many millennials are paying attention to Bank of America on Facebook?). Could this be parents sharing solid financial advice and tips with their millennial children and if so, it is not an excellent use of social sharing?
The Content Creation Problem
Not that long ago, a product brochure delivered annually was the typical demand on content development teams. Now 5 tweets A DAY are required. Content creation can be a huge overhead and one valid reason why community banks tend to focus on sponsored and charitable activities. These events take place irrespective of social media and generate a lot of content, while providing visual evidence of a shared community commitment and involvement. Social media can really help amplify the sponsorship value. Large banks now increasingly view social media as a vital component of sponsorship opportunities. It is becoming imperative to maximize social amplification both through the bank’s social networks but even more critically through the sponsored organization’s own social networks (with its own probably more excitable followers).
Just 14% of the survey respondents have dedicated content development teams and the most common situation is best describes at “no consistent content development strategy”.
Not that long ago, a product brochure delivered annually was the typical demand on content development teams. Now 5 tweets A DAY are required. Content creation can be a huge overhead and one valid reason why community banks tend to focus on sponsored and charitable activities. These events take place irrespective of social media and generate a lot of content, while providing visual evidence of a shared community commitment and involvement. Social media can really help amplify the sponsorship value. Large banks now increasingly view social media as a vital component of sponsorship opportunities. It is becoming imperative to maximize social amplification both through the bank’s social networks but even more critically through the sponsored organization’s own social networks (with its own probably more excitable followers). Just 14% of the survey respondents have dedicated content development teams and the most common situation is best describes at “no consistent content development strategy
According to survey respondents, the ideal amount of curated content (as a percentage of the whole) should be a little over half (55%) whereas the actual aggregate amount across all respondents is surprisingly close at 51%.
For large banks, the amount of owned versus curated content can be determined with some accuracy. Owned content is increasing and across all of the larger banks, 82% of the content linked from social posts is hosted on bank owned digital properties. However, there is wide variance in the owned/curated ratio and some of that may be determined by the content strategy. For example, US Bank provides a greater amount of advice content than most other banks and also links more to independent sites. On the other hand, Citi uses social posts to promote product news and benefits (especially to credit card holders) and hosts 93% of the content linked from social posts.
Video, especially the auto-start option now available on both Facebook and Twitter is on the rise. No link is required to deliver a deeper content and the users does not need to leave the social platform to consume the video. Many marketers suggest that links to YouTube hosted video can result in users never returning. While auto-start video remains in the minority of the total, the inevitable increase places more pressure on content creation teams. In the chart above, “None” signifies posts without any link, which in most cases consists of images encapsulating quick and complete messages (Memes) such as holiday celebrations, inspirational quotes brand messages and repurposed campaign images.
Measurement and Success
Social media ROI has always posed difficult conversations but with social media increasingly seen as one step on a customer journey of self-education and selection, demand for direct correlation looks to be on the decrease. So how do banks monitor social progress?
Larger banks tend to look at very traditional benchmarks and metrics such as Sentiment Analysis and Share of Voice matching against groups of acknowledged industry competitors but neither of these metrics is ideal. Sentiment analysis remains an inexact science and tools that claim to analyze sentiment remain flawed. At the Bank Social conference, US Bank acknowledged the problem and reported that even though they have tools that assess sentiment, bank staff review (and audit) every one of its over 15,000 social mentions a month. As for “Share of Voice”, there is a trend towards social media “walled gardens”. Facebook is the classic example with mentions on the platform now much harder to gather comprehensively. In social mention analysis, it is not atypical for Twitter to represent between fifty and seventy five percent of all social mentions but this is due to the fact that Twitter is the most open platform. Many younger customers have migrated to Snapchat or Instagram and corporate users spend much of the time on LinkedIn and Slack from which mentions are largely invisible. Social conversations and platforms are becoming hidden and less of a public megaphone.
Many community banks expressed growing concerns about the escalating cost of social listening and monitoring tools. This is restricting the ability to benchmark against competitors. Sentiment analysis is still valued but conducted manually in many cases and limited to a bank’s own mentions. The top common metric remains social post engagement.
Social media has, and will continue, to evolve. It is no longer about learning (and gaming) social platforms and more about how to communicate the message of the bank. In other industries there is a growing emphasis on social advocacy marketing—identifying and enabling influencers and brand advocate. This might apply to employees, most of whom have social networks but are largely ignored to date by banks.
Social media is best employed as integral to a broader messaging and communication strategy and not as part of a social silo. This is starting to happen in the banking sector but the unique benefits of social sharing and amplification have not been fully realized.