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Thanks to social media, the days of banks being perceived as cold and impersonal may be behind us. Today, you’ll find lots of community banks and credit unions on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social channels. Whether it’s to promote new products, nurture existing customer relationships, build brand awareness, generate new leads, or engage the community, social media is giving financial institutions a platform to showcase that they are more than just the stodgy bank on the corner.

The American Bankers Association (ABA) report, The State of Social Media in Banking, surveyed 800 banks.1 34% of those surveyed felt they were “very active” on social media, 39% said they were “somewhat active,” and 76% agree or strongly agree that social media is important to their banks. 90% said they are using Facebook, with LinkedIn and Twitter rounding out the top three preferred social networks.

And what is the number one reason they are using social media? According to the survey, it’s community engagement. It makes sense. With increasing competition from online banks, being an integral part of the community is a major differentiator for the brick-and-mortar financial institution. Social media is a cost-effective way to enhance a bank’s brand and demonstrate that they are involved in the communities they serve.

“One of the main aspects of social media is having a two-way conversation with prospects and customers,” said Stefan Held, Wpromote’s Director of Social Media Strategy. “Banks were traditionally worried about that aspect because of compliance issues. But looking at today’s research, it becomes clear that banks do not have a choice anymore. They have to be part of this (already ongoing) online conversation.”

Content For Community Engagement

If you are a bank marketer, you can take advantage of this competitive edge by creating social media content that engages your audience with authenticity and personality. Examples of content that can help foster a connection with your community include posts about:

  • In-branch contests
  • Customer appreciation days
  • Local event sponsorships
  • Employee involvement in the community
  • How the bank supports a neighborhood charity or runs financial literacy classes
  • Money management, fraud prevention, saving for college, etc.

Here are examples of effective community engagement content from Wpromote client United Bank. Note the high reach and engagement.

The Fear Of Customer Complaints

Some banks and credit unions have been reluctant to have a social presence because they are concerned about online customer complaints. The truth is, customers value transparency, and by addressing issues in a social forum, banks have been able to transform negative comments into positive sentiments.

A perfect example of this is cited in the ABA report. Jeff McCarthy, vice president of marketing for First Bank Financial Centre in Milwaukee, WI said, “…somebody posted a complaint that we didn’t have a branch near them, that it’s such a drive to get to our headquarters. We used that complaint as an opportunity to talk about mobile banking and mobile check deposit. ‘Did you know you can do all the banking from your computer and your phone?’”

Stefan Held explained that the key to handling complaints is to have proper community management, professional social listening, and a clear escalation triage in place. “Once they do that, banks quickly see the benefit of talking directly with their communities.”

Effective social content can be creative, entertaining, and educational. It can start conversations and be an extension of your public relations efforts. By telling your story‒one that goes beyond the mortgages and checking accounts‒you can connect with your customers and prospects in genuine ways. You’ll humanize your bank, showing your market that you are approachable and that you understand them and care about their needs. Optimal use of social media can help build your bank’s brand and, more importantly, build customer relationships and loyalty.

1American Bankers Association (2017), The State of Social Media in Banking, http://www.aba.com/Products/Endorsed/Documents/ABASocialMedia_Report.pdf

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