Modern Marketing

Why banks prefer Twitter to other social channels

  • Of 123,000 social posts by banks this year, 79 percent were posted to Twitter compared to 12 percent on Facebook
  • For banks, social media strategy is far from a need-to-have; they have enough brand equity that even without a winning Facebook strategy, they'll still come out on top
Why banks prefer Twitter to other social channels

Banking institutions may not be many people’s picture of social media savvy, but they are perhaps surprisingly interested in Twitter.

Banks use Twitter more than Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn — of 123,000 posts by financial brands, 79 percent were posted to Twitter compared to 12 percent on Facebook — and not just as a channel for customer complaints, as many other brands in service businesses do. Banks Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Citi push podcasts, video interviews, company updates and sponsorships to customers.

There are a few reasons: It’s free, and according to Liz Elder, senior financial services associate at L2, shows people they’re not too old or behind the times to cater to the same customers that use services Facebook and Uber and shop online — sometimes on their mobile phones.

The greatest thing about Twitter, according to B of A’s enterprise social media executive Christopher Smith, is “the ability to know in the moment what it is people are talking about. You can also create moments.”

For example, being one of the first banks to sign up to the Zelle network and roll out the offering to its customers this year, B of A recently created the #FriendsAgain campaign to promote the peer-to-peer payments service.

“One out of every five friendships end over money, it doesn’t have to be a lot of money there’s just a lot of discomfort over who owes who and who needs to pay back,” Smith said. “We can actually use Twitter to tap into that and just say ‘you know what, pay ‘em back! We have this new capability, this new feature so let’s restore friendships across the country.'”

Bank of America has also experimented with broadcasting live from the World Economic Forum in Davos via Periscope on Twitter.

But for financial institutions, social media strategy is far from a need-to-have. Banks have enough brand equity that even without a winning Facebook strategy, they’ll still come out on top because how customers shop for a banking relationship just isn’t the same as how they approach the rest of their shopping; customers still consider things like proximity to a branch, access to human advice and — despite research showing that banks still struggle to reclaim customer trust lost after the 2008 financial crisis — the trust that comes with a name evoking strength, gravitas and rigidity like Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan Chase.

Historically, big banks have tended to use social “more as problem management and financial literacy tools,” Jill Castilla, Citizens Bank of Edmond CEO, told Tearsheet earlier this year. “It really should be a tool to make people feel connected…[and] humanize those institutions that can often be villainized.”

That decline in customer trust was much of the impetus for so many fintech startups to enter the industry with the aim of “disrupting” the legacy firms. Startups like Ellevest and Stash have proven more successful on Instagram, where they promote their values rather than the specific products or services they’re selling. Banks are adopting a similar strategy with their Twitter feeds.

“When we think of content strategy a lot of banking and finance brands have been coming at it as: ‘we need to visualize the products, what is wealth management or a 401K?’ That hasn’t necessarily connected with the customer and that’s why you see fintech brands doing a lot better,” Elder said.

Banks seem to be more comfortable on Twitter because of its company-to-customer nature versus the person-to-person nature of Facebook interactions, she added.

“Given that these financial services brands have always been about the product to the person or the company to the person, it’s much more in their comfort zone to continue doing that sort of model,” Elder said.

Across social media platforms, 75 percent of 15.4 million interactions with financial services brands in 2017 have happened on Facebook, compared to 20 percent on Twitter, according to L2’s Digital IQ Index for Financial Services, published this week. Twitter posts average 31 interactions, while Facebook posts average almost 800. That’s a trend unique to financial institutions, and it’s odd, Elder said. In general, Twitter’s total users are plateauing and as visibility there is decreasing, the Facebook audience is growing.

“A lot of brands see a silver lining in focusing on the Twitter platform,” Elder said, where there’s a “smaller but more engaged audience.”

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Many financial firms are still hesitant to invest the time or money to develop their presence on social media, Elder said. For them, boosting impressions isn’t necessarily the best strategy for building brand awareness; they’re paying to promote posts but decreasing overall display ad spend. The real challenge for their social executives is how to be better at content.

“A brand should be focusing on the content, not the platform; how to make it more relevant for customers and visualize the product without looking like they’re a stuck-in-the-Stone-Age financial services brand,” Elder said.

Goldman Sachs, for example, receives 10 times more interactions per tweet than the average brand, according to L2. In the third quarter of this year, it dedicated a third of its tweets to promoting its “Exchanges at Goldman Sachs” podcast and #TalksAtGS video series.

Goldman Sachs along with Citi dominate the Twittersphere compared to their peers.

Citi’s content strategy is pretty easy to figure out, Elder said. The bank focuses on its philanthropic endeavors, and every post is identical: some text, a link, a colorful picture. They want to get an emotional response from people.

In September, Bank of America used Twitter to draw support for it’s sponsored PBS video series, The Vietnam War — tweeting 53 times a day compared to the industry average of three tweets per day. Rather than repeating variations of the same message to its following, it adopted an opt-in notification system through customer retweets. More than 16,000 of B of A’s followers subscribed and the campaign earned 141,000 interactions.

“It all flows from the audiences we’re talking to and what’s important to them,” Smith said. “Our customers expect us to be present on Twitter… it’s about learning how folks are doing it and then being useful.”

Bank of America joined Twitter in early 2009, beginning with the @BofAHelp handle and has expanded its Twitter presence since to several more focused accounts. Talking with customers on Twitter is becoming more and more important to B of A as a listening channel, Smith said.

“I circle back to how we started back in 2008, it really is about the listening piece of this,” he said. “The networks will change but at the end of the day it’s about the audience and what it is it that they expect of a bank and we have to be in a position to deliver that.”

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