What the Future Holds for 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 hints as to what banks should expect in the days to come.

What does the future hold?

One thing is clear: Banks will continue to invest in social media.

More than half the banks surveyed (54%) expect to increase spending on social media resources in 2017. Some 12% will significantly increase that budget. One-third (33%) will hold the budget steady.

Only 1% of banks plan to reduce social media investment.

New channels – “We’ll keep an eye on up-and-coming platforms and assessing whether we should be there,” said Jeff McCarthy, vice president of marketing at First Bank Financial Centre in Wisconsin. “For example, as a team we can’t figure out how to add value in Snapchat, so we’re not there. Who knows; the next big thing in five years might not even exist yet.”

“We are a bank that likes to experiment,” said Jill Castilla, president and CEO of Citizens Bank of Edmond in Oklahoma. “So when there’s opportunity to expand into other social media platforms, we’ll always be looking at the next great thing. Someday down the road it will be a whole new suite of social media platforms.”

Growth in followers and engagement – “I see our program as in its infancy,” McCarthy said. “I’m working hard to grow our base of followers, so we are constantly trying to think of new ways to generate that interest. If we can keep up our level of engagement with a larger number of followers, we’ll be very happy.”

More mobile – Fully 90% of survey respondents agree or strongly agree that in five years customers will use mobile devices as their primary source of bank communication. Banks need to be agile and mobile-friendly to meet those customers’ expectations.

More video – “You get a good response with text, a better response with images, and even better response with video,” according to Ryan Bell, Chief Product Officer and Chief Technology Officer for Gremlin Social. “The trend is toward more video, particularly experimenting with live video. For instance, if the bank is involved in a charity event or breaking ground for a new branch, you might want to broadcast that on Facebook.” Central National Bank in Waco is one of the banks that has seen tremendous success using video, especially videos that poke a little fun at the bank. “You can do so much with video across all social media platforms,” said assistant vice president Bryan Fonville. “It’s also a nice way to show the human side of banking.”

More advertising – It will cost more to be seen. In 2016 Facebook announced an update that prioritizes posts from friends and family over those from businesses. In 2017, Facebook will likely move even more to a “pay to play” platform, emphasizing the need for brands to use paid advertising to reach consumer news feeds. Mobile ads, which command a higher price than those shown on desktops, accounted for roughly four-fifths of Facebook’s revenue in Q1 2016.

More process controls – “Initially people were trying to manage social media solely through policy and process management,” said Bell. “The wheels weren’t greased to make the approval process and content distribution efficient. The mere clumsiness of the process takes time, and time is money.” Money spent on software to manage social media will save hidden costs in compliance or reputational damage later.

Gordon Banks, senior vice president of marketing at FirstBank in Denver, Colorado, said, “We are satisfied where we are using social media but we are not going to be resting on our laurels. There are still a lot of opportunities for us to take advantage of as new platforms and new capabilities in social media come to fruition.”

Download the full ABA report.

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