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The Big Question About Social Media For Banks

Social media adoption by banks has worked its way from the largest to the smallest. Now, after a decade, even modest rural banks are getting on board. As your institution evaluates the options, the question to ask isn’t “what are we going to put on social media?” but instead “why are we using social media?” Answer that and the rest takes care of itself.

The key to social media is content. It is not a “set it and forget it” proposition. If you don’t already have a Facebook page, I recommend that you log in to Facebook (or have somebody with an account do it) and take a look at the page that Facebook’s “helpful” automated system has almost certainly launched on your behalf (and without your permission). Even though you don’t actively do anything to maintain this “automatic” page, people can still post information to it – and inevitably will. We have a client whose automatic Facebook page was filled with photos of a fender bender that took place nearby, the intrepid photographer having tagged the page in each of her shots. It wasn’t anything bad, but it also wasn’t what the bank wanted people to see when they searched for their name on Facebook. The same thing can – and will – happen if you let any social media page lie fallow.

To better control your brand message on social media, you need to create a page (you can even “claim” that page that Facebook automatically set up for you) and fill it with content. Once you’ve committed, there are really two ways of taking your next steps: you can fill that page up with posts about things you want to tell your customers, or you can fill it up with things your customers want to see.

Sometimes those are the same thing, and sometimes they’re not. Either way, it’s your mindset that makes all the difference. Treat your posts like your own private advertising channel, and it is likely that you will consider your foray into social media a failure. Nobody volunteers to have a bank interrupt their day with ads, so users tend to either not follow you, stop following you (after they see what they are in for) or simply ignore you. None of those paths lead to “engagement,” an industry buzzword that roughly translates into “when your customers care enough to react to your posts, at least by viewing them and at most by responding to them somehow.”

You see, social media sites are built to reward engagement. When people “like” your bank’s posts, Facebook or Twitter show those posts to more people. The result is that more people follow your page, which leads to more engagement, which leads to more people following your page, which – well, you get the idea. It all starts with a post that somebody might actually like so much that they click on it, and very few people are going to do that to your ad for a new checking product.

Instead, the most successful bank posts on social media tend to revolve around human beings. That is, photos of people at events, people getting promotions, people volunteering, people and their hobbies, etc. Get permission, of course, then feature as many people as you can, whether they are your employees or your customers or your business partners. You see, those people tend to share those posts on their own personal social media accounts, which are then seen by their own friends (who may or may not follow your bank on social media, and before you know it, the number of people choosing to follow your social media properties starts to gain some momentum.

Eventually, you can use one of your social media posts to introduce your new mortgage lender. She is a person, after all – she just happens to be a person who can be very productive for your bottom line. Then later,f you might use a post to show how your frontline team dressed in sports apparel to support a local team. That makes for a great photo, and if fans happen to notice that you are having fun with their favorite team, then your brand gets a little shinier in their eyes. Everybody wins. Use social media to let customers (and potential customers) get to know the people at the bank. Use it to tell them about important events (“please use the south entrance during construction”). Use it to make their day brighter (“stop in for coffee and say happy birthday to Mike!”). Use social media to benefit users first and the bank second, and it can go from an obligate to an opportunity.

Lastly, it’s beneficial to get your compliance team on board early. Let them become part of the process, and even they will start to have fun with social media.

The days of one-way communication in banking are coming to an end. An engaged customer is a more loyal customer. Take the right approach to social media and it can be a powerful way to interact with your community and the people who use your services.

Greg “Hal” Halliday is the president of Anchor Marketing, a branding and new media agency that specializes in successful differentiation and positioning. Anchor Marketing has spent nearly 20 years branding and marketing independent banks in Minnesota and North Dakota. Halliday is recognized as a Certified Financial Marketing Professional by the American Bankers Association. You can contact him via phone at 701-787-8230 or by email at halh@anchorwebsite.com.