Before the advent of social media, interaction with customers strictly meant face-to-face conversations and transactions, phone calls, emails, or maybe the occasional mailer with a response coupon or number. Now, banks have a whole host of platforms at their fingertips to interact with customers online.
$1.3 billion-assets Citywide Banks in Aurora, Colo., has been using social media since July 2011, when the bank joined Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. (Citywide Banks created a YouTube channel this past February.)
“For us, it represented another communication channel to interact with our customers as well as the general community,” says Steve Ebner, first vice-president, marketing director, of Citywide Banks.
The jump into social media was also made to stand out from local competition. “At that point, in 2011, none of our competitors were on any of the platforms,” says Ebner. “It was an opportunity to be the first on there.”
Jumping in early turned out to be a boon as they worked out what was effective and what wasn’t. “We started out doing probably what everybody thinks they could do with social media, which is talk about their products and talk about banking, and we found that that really isn’t the way to go,” says Ebner. “We’re fairly savvy on all the platforms right now.”
Getting the social job done
Aside from the occasional freelancer hired to assist in developing content, the social media sites are all handled in-house. The bank has several documented procedures and policies that staff follows when updating and maintaining the sites.
“We’ve got a small marketing team, and we just integrate all the social media activities into our daily routine,” says Ebner. “We don’t outsource it off to a vendor or an agency. We want to be able to control it.”
Engagement is the game, so the bank monitors metrics and analytics to measure the effectiveness of the social media sites.
“We go by just a handful of metrics. One is engagement rate,” says Ebner. “People get caught up on how many followers you have, but we really focus on getting people to click, share, or comment on our content.”
To keep followers engaged, Citywide Banks has developed a different strategy for each platform.
YouTube: The bank’s newest platform allows for videos to be hosted in one place. The bank embeds and uses the videos in emails, on their website, and even at customer events. But the real drive for the jump into video was the growth of mobile devices and the way it has changed the consumption of information.
“Videos work great for mobile, because mobile print can be really small,” explains Ebner. “People are very apt to getting information by quick video.”
LinkedIn: Citywide Banks uses this platform as more of a one-way communicator of the bank’s blog posts, announcements, etc.
Facebook: This platform is particularly helpful for interacting with customers, according to the bank, which has even developed the Citywide Banks Charity Hand-Up Contest specifically for Facebook. The contest has run since September 2011, and it has evolved beyond Facebook to include the bank employees and branches.
Citywide Banks divides its 260 employees into seven teams and each nominates a charity. The teams then promote the charities and contest through social media, in the branches, and through blog posts on the website. The public votes on Facebook for their favorite charity, and the organization with the most votes receives $5,000. An additional $3,000 is split among the remaining charities.
Twitter: Through tweeting and retweeting business articles and news relevant to the local area, Citywide Banks is able to show its commitment to the community. The company may also tweet original content in the form of #FRIDAYFUNNIES comics as well as #TuesdayTeasers and #JUSTFORFUN puzzles to offer a break from the workday.
You’re on a platform. Now what?
“We try to really brainstorm on creating our own content as much as possible, again, to stand out,” says Ebner. “We try to use content that reflects back to what we’re trying to communicate and what we care about, which is our local community and managing a business in Denver and Boulder.”
Using original content has proven successful for the bank.
“I think the most effective pieces of content that get the engagement and interaction are the ones that are unique and you can’t find anywhere else,” says Ebner.
That original content is another reason why Citywide Banks keeps the management of its social media in-house. It counsels other banks considering social media to do the same.
“There are a lot of social media vendors out there, and what happens is at times it can be not very genuine as far as the content,” says Ebner. “It’s made-up content and not really original or fresh.”
The only outside vendor the bank does use, in combination with automated tools, is to help track what’s happening beyond their social media sites, including mentions of the bank, whether the overall sentiment is positive or negative, and market opportunities.
“If people are complaining on Facebook about a particular banking-type product out there, or they’re not finding what they need, we may be able to help,” says Ebner. “Or we want to know if there’s a lot of negative sentiment about one of our competitors; that may be a market opportunity for us.”
Handling complaints on social media about themselves is also important to the bank.
“We integrate social media into our complaint process where we go through our regular steps, just the same as if somebody went into one of our branches and complained,” explains Ebner.
Looking ahead, Citywide Banks hopes to expand and drive more traffic to its YouTube channel, as well as continue to develop content for its other social media sites.
“It’s brand awareness,” says Ebner. “It’s just another communication channel where we can talk about how we’re different, what our story is, and how we’re unique.”