Social Tips, Seasoned for Banks

By Kathleen Craig

You can’t pumpkin spice your bank.

How much time and energy is your financial institution currently spending on social media?

A few hours a month? Several per week?

You may be wondering whether this is the best use of your team’s time. If you’ve asked yourself these questions, if you’re just getting started, or if you’re planning on ramping up your social marketing efforts in 2017, let’s talk.

First, let’s take a quick look at what is going on out there.

The largest two banks in the country—with their robust teams, generous marketing budgets, and amazing agencies—get less than 100 likes per post.

The third largest bank is getting engagement in the thousands, but they are going through a crisis right now (you may have heard about it) and it isn’t exactly the type of interaction we would all hope for.

Starbucks, on the other hand, gets 161,000 likes per post.

(Numbers derived from a completely unscientific evaluation of the most recent average of 10 posts by the companies as reviewed by our team.)

One hundred and sixty-one THOUSAND likes versus 100.  

Even if you account for the variance in audience size, it is still drastically different. We cannot seem to find a way to compete with the delicious image of a pumpkin spice latte on a crisp fall day.

Yet, we all want to leverage the amazing reach and power of social.

So, how do we get the attention of our audience—and more importantly, how do we engage our audience so that it acts on our content?

We can’t.

At least not in the same product-centered way that they can. Our products just can’t be pumpkin spiced.

And that is just fine. The quickest way to fail at social media is to try to be something you are not. We cannot be a product-centered social behemoth because our products don’t conjure the same feelings that a mocha latte does. Interest rates just aren’t going to make people feel the happy and warm feelings that other companies can evoke.

But, there are other ways to engage on social and to get people’s attention.

The financial institutions finding success in social are making it about the people—and the community—that make up the bank.

As you think about your social efforts, take a step back and look at which posts in 2016 received the most engagement. Most likely, it’s the ones that made the audience feel something.

With that in mind, here are three tips to take your social to the next level in 2017.

1. Set goals.

So many of us have jumped into social because someone on our leadership team read an article, attended an exciting conference session, or saw something cool another company did with the power of social. But perhaps we didn’t start with the end in mind.

We may have not taken the time to ask ourselves important questions like:

  • Why are we doing social?
  • What is our goal?
  • Who are we as a bank, and as such, what platforms make the most sense for what we are trying to do?

Knowing your goals will help you figure out who you are on social, what platforms make sense, and what goals are reasonable results to expect from your social efforts.

2. Be Real.

Social media is about human connection. It is about making the person on the other end feel something enough that they want to respond with a click.

Sharing interest rates, product promotions of your new credit card, and pictures of bankers giving checks for sponsorships isn’t new or all that interesting.

Almost every financial institution in your state—and really the country—is doing the same thing.

How can you get through the noise and have an impact that engages your audience?

3. Show the people behind the brand.

Video and visual are critical. Video is one of the fastest growing content areas, and posts with images get 2.3 times the engagement of posts without an image.

You can also try out some of the great new tools that are popping up all the time, such as Facebook Live.

Here are just a few ideas:

  • If your goal is to drive wealth management business, you might have one of your advisors do a Facebook Live session each week or once per month and see how that goes.
  • You could host a Tweet Up with a great hash tag, getting some local experts to come together and answer a set of 5 questions over an hour. Great recent examples include #AbletoSave and #FutureSmart.
  • If you are a retail-driven bank, you might try a Facebook Live from a local small business. Interview them about what they do, tying it back to shopping and banking locally.
  • You could leverage the power of your coworkers and their social reach to help drive a great fundraiser or local event.

Bear in mind that if you run a more commercial or business focused bank, Facebook may not be the right platform at all for your brand. Consider LinkedIn and Twitter as a way to establish thought leadership as your route to social success.

Track results.

Social media is just like any other form of marketing, in that some things are going to go much better than you anticipated and some things will fall flat. That is okay and to be expected. Keep trying. Keep being creative and taking calculated risks. And track your results. Use a social media scorecard. Take time each month to evaluate what you have done, and plan for the next month. If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a sample scorecard you might try.

In closing, just don’t overthink it.

Be real, be open, be honest, and give people the feels.

Kathleen Craig is the President of HT Mobile Apps. Kathleen has been in banking since 2008, most recently as the consumer eServices leader at a community bank in Michigan. Kathleen’s specific focus in digital channel strategy gives her insight into the latest mobile banking trends. She founded HT Mobile Apps to push beyond traditional mobile banking platforms to find fun, innovative ways for community banks to tap into the app experience. Email: [email protected]. Twitter. LinkedIn.

Kathleen was a featured speaker at the ABA Bank Marketing Conference.

Online training in digital, mobile and social media from ABA.