Do a Better Job on Social Media

Findings from ABA Research

ABA recently conducted a nationwide survey of 780 banks of all sizes to find out how they are managing social media programs. What are the results banks have seen from their efforts so far? What do they wish they could do better? And what are the opportunities and challenges they see on the horizon? The final report, The State of Social Media in Banking, generated a wealth of data—and some recommendations for what banks can do differently.

Could banks be doing a better job with social media?

“Absolutely,” said Ryan Bell, chief product officer and chief technology officer for Gremlin Social, which offers a benchmark assessment service to determine how well organizations are doing in social media. Toward that end, Gremlin analyzes a bank’s social media accounts for quality of the content, amount of engagement (likes, comments, shares, etc.), governance, management, monitoring, data retention, and other factors that determine the success of a social media program.

“Banks tend to have an average score of 57 out of 100 on our report card,” Bell explained, noting that equates to a marketing score of D and a risk score of C-. “Banks are behind the overall business usage of social media—but they have significantly improved since 2009 or 2010, when we first started seeing banks use our products.” That score would have been closer to 35, he added.

We’re moving in the right direction.

“The quality of the content is going up,” Bell said, “as is the understanding that this is a two-way conversation rather than just broadcasting through a megaphone. Banks are successfully using social media for customer support, driving people to the website, and having a positive impact on the brand. A few years ago, it was a matter of understanding all the bells and whistles, best practices, general capabilities and possibilities of social media. Now it’s more about measuring results and fine-tuning to improve performance. Banks in general have moved from beginners to intermediates, and some are on the advanced side.”

ABA’s survey results confirmed that impression.

When asked whether their bank was ahead or behind its peers in social media use, 35% rated their institutions about average, while 21% said “somewhat ahead” and only 4% said “significantly ahead” of others. Four in 10 respondents said their banks were somewhat or significantly behind other banks in use of social media.



There’s clearly work to be done.

Only a minority of respondents strongly agreed with the following statements that characterize a robust social media strategy:

  • We have developed a clear statement of the goals we want to accomplish through social media. (17%)
  • We have implemented a plan for what time of day we post on social media. (18%)
  • We have implemented a plan for how frequently we post. (33%)
  • The social media channels we use align with the target audience we are trying to reach. (23%)


By and large, banks have done well choosing the right social media channels on which to focus. Now they need to do more about establishing a plan for what to do in those channels—and how to manage it.

Listen and reply. Now.

The push for more time and resources is well founded. “In social media, people really expect quick response,” said Jeff McCarthy, vice president of marketing for First Bank Financial Centre. He noted that Facebook actually ranks your responsiveness and assigns a score. “If they reach out to you on social media and they don’t hear from you for two or three days, they think you’re not listening. If it’s two or three weeks, they don’t see the value, they think you don’t care, and that can hurt your brand image. You almost do more harm than good trying to get into these platforms if you don’t allocate the resources to the program.”

What banks wish they could do better.

When asked to name the one thing they would change about their banks’ use of social media, survey respondents offered 600 answers that generally revolve around the desire to have more and do more.

  • Be more active and expand the ways social media is used, such as for recruiting.
  • Grow the number of followers, likes, clicks, etc., especially among younger consumers.
  • Do more paid advertising on social media sites.
  • Get more employees engaged in posting and sharing content.
  • Have more resources to apply to social media, particularly to generate more original content.
  • Develop a greater ability to measure ROI and use analytics to gain new insights.
  • Provide more direct communications about the bank’s products and services.
  • Formalize the social media program, with well-established policies and systems.
  • Reduce the burden of compliance—the processes of approvals, archiving, and record-keeping.

One respondent said, “I would toss out our social media policy that states that the bank won’t use social media now or in the future.”

Download the full ABA report.

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