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‘We can’t expect execs to speak our language’: How Regions’ made social media a quantifiable part of the business

  • Melissa Musgrove, head of social media at Regions Bank, talks about the challenges of advocating for social media initiatives when it was still a foreign concept to executives
  • Social isn’t just about humanizing banks after the financial crisis; over the years marketing managers have become increasingly responsible for quantifying the ROI on social media initiatives
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‘We can’t expect execs to speak our language’: How Regions’ made social media a quantifiable part of the business

People who tweet make more money.

That’s according to recent customer data from Regions Bank, which found that the average household revenue of customers who are active on social media is 60 percent higher than that of customers who engage less with social, or not at all.

The Alabama-based bank also found average household deposits of social media users 76 percent higher and the average cross-sell 59 percent greater than customers who aren’t social users. Social customers have the same household income as “average customers.”

In 2011, Regions recognized its customers and prospects were active on social media — they asked questions about products, talked about their finances and reacted to campaigns — and set out to form a social media team within the marketing department that included a head of social media, a community manager and four customer care reps. It has since added another comment manager, three virtual concierge reps and a strategy lead, Melissa Musgrove.

Today the main tenets of the bank’s social strategy are fostering loyalty and delivering customer service, but above all, driving revenue. Social isn’t just about humanizing banks after the financial crisis — though it does that; public trust in financial services companies rose to 54 percent in 2017 from 43 percent in 2012, according to L2 — and while Musgrove has done that job over the years her team has also become increasingly responsible for quantifying the ROI on social media initiatives. Broadly, however, brand efforts to enhance the handoff from research content to conversion tools remain underdeveloped, according to L2.

Tearsheet spoke with Musgrove about the challenges of advocating for social media initiatives when it was still a foreign concept to executives and how the attitudes, approaches and learnings have evolved since then. The following has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

How has Regions’ openness and approach to social media evolved since 2011?
A lot of brands, and people, have the perception that social media is a free or a low-cost initiative and that the main goal of social is driving engagement. For a long time that mentality was ours as well — we wanted to publish content that was thoughtful, engaging and would drive likes shares and retweets, and that we would call success. For a while we did. Over the past few years social has grown in importance in the marketing mix and as a PR tool, and with that comes a lot of increased staffing needs, budget needs, technology needs. It calls for creating a robust social media effort.

What’s different now?
It’s become our responsibility to show how social media is delivering on ROI and becoming as much of a revenue driver as other channels. Our role is to be internal advocates and even evangelists for social media and communicating that message of value, delivering example after example of why it’s meaningful that we’re there, how it drives revenue, how it generates loyalty and how it contributes from a brand reputation perspective to consumers’ views of us.

What challenges do you face trying to evangelize something not everyone necessarily gets?
Speaking in the right voice. When we launched the social media team back in 2011 it was a foreign concept for a lot of our executives. Many were not active on social professionally or personally. Some knew it was important for us to be there but weren’t sure why. There were a lot of concerns about legal and compliance and what we could say or not say. Those were the biggest hurdles for us.

How did you come out of that? Or haven’t you?
We just keep pushing and pushing a little more and learning to tell our own story of the value of social in a way that resonates with our execs. Often as marketing and social media experts we expect execs to speak our language — I don’t think thats correct. We need to speak their language when we talk about the value of what we do, that’s going to resonate so much more with them.

What’s an example of how it’s driven revenue for Regions?
Checking and savings account and loan acquisition are a big part of what we support through marketing dollars — as a retail bank, checking acquisition is the bread and butter of what we do. We’ve seen social become one of our most efficient drivers of checking acquisition across all our platforms.

Does current news about Facebook’s data ethics concern you?
It’s always something were keeping eye on — any type of scandal, news or announcement across social properties has the chance to affect us, we’re advertisers and customers on those platforms. Particularly because were a financial institution the security of data and conversations we have on those platforms is of the utmost importance. If we can tell a conversation needs to turn to a more private discussion about the dollars and cents we’ll take it off social to a more secure channel where we can.

So what keeps you up at night?
The changing face of social. We feel confident in certain strategies and platforms, but customers are fickle and platforms come and go, and our strategy needs to adapt to that. Marketers tend to bequick to say what’s dead or what new thing is relevant. I’m a little more conservative, I survey the landscape and get caught up in the data.

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