Banks’ Social Media Wish List

An ABA Research Study

To find out how banks are now managing social media—what they’re doing right and what obstacles still persist—the American Bankers Association surveyed more than 430 banks of all sizes. The 2019 report, The State of Social Media in Banking, provides a detailed status on where banks stand on social—and what’s changed in recent years. Here we take a look at what banks wish they could do better on social media.

Bankers continue to show a relative lack of confidence when it comes to their bank’s social media prowess. When asked how their banks compared with peers on social media use, two-thirds of ABA survey respondents felt their institutions were “average,” “somewhat behind” or “significantly behind.” Only six percent felt their social media programs were leading-edge.

There’s clearly room for improvement. Only a minority of respondents strongly agreed with the following statements that characterize a robust social media strategy:

  • The social media channels we use align with the target audience we are trying to reach. (35 percent)
  • We have implemented a plan for how frequently we post. (40 percent)
  • We have implemented a plan for what time of day we post on social media. (22 percent)
  • We have developed a clear statement of the goals we want to accomplish through social media. (19 percent)

By and large, banks have done well choosing the right social media channels on which to focus. Their confidence in their choices rose from 23 percent in 2016. Now they need to do more about establishing measurable objectives, to hone their use of social media for business results.

Bankers responded to the question: Please state the degree to which you agree or disagree with the following statements about your bank’s social media use.

What banks wish they could do better

When asked to name one thing they would change about their banks’ use of social media, 265 survey respondents had something to say, generally revolving around the desire to have more and do more. The themes we heard most often were that banks want to:

  • Engage more staff to contribute content.
  • Add staff and time resources to be more effective with social media.
  • Use more video content.
  • Participate more frequently on social media, in real time where possible.
  • Be more strategic in how the bank creates engagement and meaningful conversations.
  • Add new platforms and channels to reach the bank’s audience where they are.
  • Use stronger analytics to better target audience groups and drive conversions, such as new account openings.

When asked to name their biggest challenges in achieving these objectives, we heard the following:

  • Tracking results and measuring the impact (54 percent)
  • Building engagement/followers (45 percent)
  • Lack of clearly defined strategy and objectives (44 percent)
  • Shortage of dedicated marketing staff (44 percent)
  • Social media management tools (30 percent)
  • Budget (25 percent)

Bankers responded to the question: What challenges to you face when implementing your bank’s social media initiatives? (Select all that apply.

These challenges are intertwined. Banks must provide great content to build an audience. But to have great content, they must understand what resonates with audiences, have creative people who can generate great ideas—and connect it all to tangible business value.

The good news is that many banks are taking social media seriously as a must-have proficiency. They are actively learning about social media trends and best practices to continue to improve their programs. They are turning to informative websites and blogs (67 percent), attending social media conferences or seminars (46 percent) and taking advantage of educational resources from social media providers such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Generating the right content

“The hard part is content creation and content management,” says Joann Marsili, SVP and director of marketing and digital sales at Fidelity Bank in Dunmore, Penn. “When you have a small staff, generating interesting content gets hard, and just having the time to do that on a regular basis is a challenge.”

So is determining what viewers want to see. “We’re always trying to reach new followers, but it can be difficult to gauge what kind of content they want to see,” says Emily Mays, VP and senior marketing director at Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay, Ala. “So even if you’ve got some money behind it and it’s a sponsored post, you have to be dynamic in reaching that new market where they are. We’re doing new things, always coming up with new concepts and having new content to push out, but sometimes it feels like we’ve recreated the wheel a multitude of times.”

As with all forms of marketing, the right content type will vary by audience. Consumers of retail banking services may be drawn to breezy and fun contests, tips and tales. But your wealth management clients will likely prefer something quite different and perhaps more substantial.

At Missouri-based Commerce Bank, investment professionals write a variety of commentaries, and the bank publishes outlook reports twice a year as well as quarterly economic check-ins. “These are pretty popular,” says Paul Lewis, CMO at Commerce Trust Company, a division of Commerce Bank, the top-ranked Missouri bank (17th in the nation), named by Forbes as one of “America’s Best Banks.”

“So some of the more popular pieces of content that we engage our audience through social media are not so different from what we do with our website.”

The focus is on useful advice and guidance. “We have a tremendous team of resources here – whether our financial planners, portfolio managers, tax folks – who can speak on a variety of topics and issues depending on what’s going on, the economy, the time of year. Our marketing folks will sit down with these specialists and write up a Q&A or commentary-style piece. We share that with clients and anyone who wants the content.

“The way we use social media has primarily allowed us to stay top of mind with our prospects, people that we have some connection to but they are not currently doing business with us. Connecting on social media with prospects allows us to stay present, and to demonstrate some thought leadership in the content. Some companies will hide or restrict that content for clients only. We’ve been sharing more of that and trying to expose it to folks who aren’t customers or clients of ours today.”

Listening and responding

“The challenge with social media is that everyone has a voice,” says Michelle Barone-Lepore, SVP of marketing at Rhinebeck Bank in upstate New York. “It’s no longer that you can put out an ad and be in control of the conversation. You always have to be on top of it and should be prepared for the unexpected. So there’s a challenge in mitigating all of that. You always have to listen. And that’s where so many companies fall short.”

“The biggest challenge for the bank is just monitoring what’s said on social media – and then concerns over what you’re not monitoring,” says Mays. “Being aware of what’s going up on your page, keeping up with comments that are there, either positive or negative.”

Community Spirit Bank has two automated monitoring tools in place, and it still isn’t enough, says Mays. “You feel like it’s enough because you’re receiving all these notifications and emails, but it doesn’t feel adequate for all the content that’s out there. For instance, we can’t see what’s on personal pages unless we’re connected with that person. We had a situation where someone wasn’t happy and posted it on their personal page. One of our people saw it, took a screen shot, and I got it at 11:30 on a Friday night. So the monitoring is the toughest, and sometimes it seems like you can’t keep up.”

Download the full report.