Bancography | Branch Planning, Marketing Research, Brand Strategy, Products & Profitabilty

5 Reasons Banks Suck at Blogging

Financial institutions have heard social media shaman banging their drums about blogging for over five years. A study by The Financial Brand revealed that 18% of banks and credit unions have succumbed to the allure and promise blogs hold, yet many of them struggle for one or more reasons.

To help define some of the most common problems and find best practices, The Financial Brand audited the blogs of 10 banks and 12 credit unions, then talked to some of the financial industry’s thought leaders about the results. Here are the findings:

Bank Blogs

Name of Bank Posts Launch Months
Active
Posts/
Month
Total
Comments
Comments
Per Post
ShoreBank 140 Sep-08 23.5 6.0 239 1.71
Arvest Bank 417 May-08 27.5 15.2 538 1.29
Standard Bank 170 Jul-09 13.5 12.6 186 1.09
United Bank & Trust 40 Jun-09 14.5 2.8 31 0.78
Bank Atlantic 40 Oct-09 11.0 3.6 9 0.23
Citizens & Northern 24 Oct-09 11.0 2.2 0 0.00
Elgin State Bank 11 Apr-08 28.5 0.4 - -
Brookline Bank 14 Nov-09 10.5 1.3 - -

Credit Union Blogs

Credit Union Posts Launch Months
Active
Posts/
Month
Total
Comments
Comments
Per Post
South Carolina FCU 367 Apr-09 16.5 22.2 921 2.51
Verity 314 Dec-04 56.5 5.6 569 1.81
Hopewell 159 Aug-07 36.5 5.2 91 0.57
Midwest Financial 53 May-07 39.5 1.3 26 0.49
SIU 101 Jun-09 12.5 8.1 15 0.15
Truliant 149 Jan-10 8.5 17.5 50 0.34
Coors FCU 493 Feb-08 30.5 16.2 56 0.11
Emery FCU 82 Sep-10 12.0 2.7 0 0.00

Top-Performing Bank & Credit Union Blogs

Name Posts Launch Months
Active
Posts/
Month
Total
Comments
Comments
Per Post
mBank (Poland) 705 Nov-07 34.5 20.4 8,370 11.87
ING DIRECT 244 May-09 15.5 15.7 2,875 11.78
SC Young & Free 515 Jan-09 19.5 26.4 4,359 8.46
Servus Young & Free 797 Sep-07 36.0 22.1 3,865 4.85
Vantage Young & Free 94 May-10 3.5 26.9 930 9.89
Verity Credit Union 181 Jul-09 13.5 13.4 1,473 8.14

A Case Study In Blog Badness


This site is emblematic of everything that’s wrong with bank and credit union blogs. The design is horrible, with no pictures, no photos, no video, no polls. There is no connection back to the organization’s brand — not even a logo, or link back to the main website.

Much of the content is illegally scraped from other copyrighted sources (note: it’s against the law to copy-paste-publish someone else’s blog post). The credit union is still at it after one full year. 82 blog posts later, the only comments they’ve received (around 5) are all from spammers. Even though it takes very little energy to keep this blog up, it is clearly a waste of time. The blog is a detriment to the organization — a brand backfire — and should be killed immediately.

Postscript April 2013 – This blog was abandoned permanently in February 2011. Emery FCU promised it would start up a new blog to replace it, but they never did. They did leave the old blog up though. In Google, both the abandoned blog and another false-start blog still show up in the results. Blogs can be good — or bad — for SEO, depending on what you do with them.

Getty Images | Content Marketing

1. Banks Have No Blogging Strategy

Ask most financial institutions why they have a blog and — if they were honest — they’d probably tell you “because that’s what some expert told us we needed to do.” Just because a bunch of social media zealots tell bankers to “go be authentic and transparent” does not mean everyone should rush out and launch a blog.

Will the blog make any connection to the bank’s brand? Will the blog help sell, promote or raise awareness of the bank’s products and services? Does the bank know how its blog will be any different than any other blog already out there? The answer to all these questions is usually “no.”

Most financial institutions wouldn’t consider introducing a new product or branded service without creating a plan — some sort of strategy tied to corporate goals and objectives. There might be budgets assigned, research conducted, a SWOT analysis performed and projections created. And yet one willy nilly blog after another dribbles out from financial institutions every year with no plan, no strategy, no goals, no budgets, no projections, no metrics. Nothing. They don’t put any banner ads for their products on their blogs, but then complain about how blogs don’t help create new business?

Is it any wonder why senior leadership teams and others in the C-suite are so reluctant to take social media seriously? Until the organizations launching blogs and the people responsible for them start approaching social media with the same level of strategic acumen expected in all other areas of banking, blogs will largely remain a joke in the financial industry.

2. Banks Don’t Understand Publishing

Publishing is not an inherent part of the basic banking business model. It isn’t something that comes easy or naturally to financial institutions. It’s a huge stretch. Bankers simply aren’t prepared for today’s hyper-competitive media landscape. After all, if it was easy to be a publisher these days, don’t you think newspapers would be faring better?

Tim McAlpine, President/CEO of Currency and creator of Young & Free, thinks consumers’ attention is stretched thin by the hundreds of fun, engaging and entertaining media options available today. “There are hundreds of millions of blogs in existence. And now with Facebook and Twitter drawing most of people’s social media time, if you want your blog to draw visitors and comments, it sure better be good.”

And if you think it takes just a few minutes to bang out a blog post people will find and read, think again. It takes a lot of work. It can take anywhere from 2-5 hours of staff time per post running a blog — writing, researching, managing, admin, comments, replies, etc.

“Financial services marketers sorely underestimate how hard it is to create and maintain a compelling blog,” McAlpine says.

“Australian banks are slowly warming to social media, but have probably left the idea of blogging behind,” observes Rob Findlay, Aussie banking expert and author of TheBankChannel.com. “As large corporate, faceless organizations, the human and individual nature of blogging and broader social media is hard for banks to manage.”

“There is more than one reason for this,” Findlay continues. “Investment in setup is hard to justify. It’s difficult to operationalize. Internal understanding and support just isn’t there. And customer interest is pretty non-existent.”

According to Brett King, author of Bank 2.0, Bank of America wanted to blog but needed help, so they hired an ad agency to write it for them. “But when that agency fell out of favor,” King recalls, “they simple abandoned the whole idea.”


BofA – FUTURE BANKING BLOG
This blog didn’t last long. It is now discontinued.

McAlpine says it takes discipline to find any success with a blog. “Establish a very regular publishing schedule with hard deadlines. Publishing regularly and often is critical to making a return on your investment.”

Getty Images | Content Marketing

3. The Content on Bank Blogs Sucks

Take a look at most bank blogs and what will you find? Articles about credit scores, identity theft and the bank’s latest phishing attack. There may be a blurb about Sally the new manager at the Downtown branch, or a photo of the CEO handing a check to the local Boys & Girls Club.

Reality Check: Booorrriinnnggg…

Why would people spend 2-5 minutes reading what your financial institution has to say? Seriously, would you read what you’re thinking about publishing?

“There are far better sources for financial education than your blog, so don’t set out to be the ultimate source of financial information,” advises McAlpine. “Be relevant, local and human.”

“Repurposed newsletter articles and bland posts about retirement do not keep your audience coming back,” McAlpine adds. “Show some personality, be intriguing, be funny and have an opinion.”

“I remember corporate communication staff arguing vehemently for press releases to be included on the bank’s website homepage,” recalls King. “Our tracking data showed only 0.1% of visitors read that stuff.”

“To reach readers, you have to think like a customer and not a banker,” King advises.

Unfortunately, most banks only know how to think one way — like bankers. Hiding behind compliance fears, they lack the courage to be provocative and stir the pot — and that’s what it takes to get blog readers these days.

“Putting a bunch of inane product promotions disguised as blog ramblings is not a strategy,” says King.

4. Banks Don’t Promote Their Blogs

Banks don’t tell customers about their blogs. They don’t advertise. Have promotions. Fun contests. Send emails. Ads on estatements. Comments on other blogs. Nothing. And then they sit around scratching their heads wondering why no one reads their blog. Go figure.

“One of the problems with the whole bank blog is the assumption by bankers that customers will flock to the blog just because they write it,” King complains.

How do most financial institutions promote their blogs? They get a Twitter account and tweet about their Facebook page where you can find links to lame blog posts. It’s a mess of circular irrelevancy.

If you’re looking to increase the traffic on your blog, here’s a basic place to start: the homepage of your main website.

“We feed in a recent article from our blog on the front page of arvest.com in a blog spotlight area,” Jason Kincy, Arvest Bank’s VP Marketing Manager/Alternative Delivery. “We also have a blog link at the top right of the homepage.”


ARVEST BANK – CROSS-PROMOTION ON HOMEPAGE
The bank promotes its blog in two separate locations on its main website.

“For our Young & Free blogs, we are able to attract hundreds of comments during the spokesperson searches because there’s actually something to care about,” shares McAlpine about his popular Gen-Y program for credit unions. “This early activity sets the stage and builds an audience that is interested in what’s going throughout the year.”

5. Bank Blogs Are Ugly

Take a look at the typical bank or credit union blog and you aren’t likely to see the dynamic, interactive and engaging material you’d usually find at a top blog site like Mashable or TechCrunch. Where are the photos? Videos? Polls?

For that matter, why do so many financial blogs have a style of design that radically differs from the rest of their brand? Sure, sometimes a financial institution is looking to craft a different image for a blog’s specific audience, but that isn’t often the case. It frequently seems like someone took a dull, lifeless stock blog theme (one that differs from the dull, lifeless style of their main website) and did as little customization as possible to it. Why? Is it laziness? Lack of knowledge about the blogging platform deployed? Or does it reflect a general indifference and lack of commitment to the channel?

Currency’s McAlpine offers these ideas for how financial institutions can spruce up their blog: “Text posts can get pretty repetitive — especially if you are cranking out new posts everyday. Including imagery will help your posts grab attention and get read, especially with RSS readers where everyone’s content looks the same.”

“Throw some video into the mix,” McAlpine continues. “You can either embed existing video from YouTube or create your own. You don’t need a professional video crew or expensive equipment. For as little as $150, you can get a Flip digital camcorder with built-in video editing software and you are in business. And with free video hosting at sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.tv and Viddler, there is no excuse not to produce your own videos from time to time.”

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All content © 2014 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.

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Comments

  1. I think the most interesting thing about this post is that Emery FCU has actually responded to the above critique on a new post to their site: http://emeryfcu.typepad.com/emery-fcu-enotes/2010/09/we-got-noticed.html

    That definitely shows the power of social media and the immediacy.

    Great post, Jeffry! And thanks for tweeting about it, @jkincy!

  2. If comments/post is the solitary measure of performance, almost every blog in existence (financial services or not) sucks. That said, I don’t dispute your contention. I think most financial services blogs do suck, aren’t remarkable, and aren’t marketed.

    The biggest question that needs to be asked is “why blog”? Too many financial institutions haven’t answered that question yet, and it’s obvious. Clearly, the answer will vary from FI to FI, and so will the success metrics.

  3. Matt, sorry if the charts suggest that comments/post is the only important metric. That’s not the case at all. There are a lot of interesting statistical measures one can use to estimate a blog’s vitality. I think that density of posts and comments are two good key performance indicators. The more frequently blog posts are published, the more readers/views a blog tends to get. That’s not a hard-and-fast rule, just a guideline. There’s no guarantee that simply posting more frequently will automatically trigger more traffic though.

    There’s another commonly accepted guideline that the average blog post will get 1 comment from every 100 readers. Here at TheFinancialBrand.com for instance, the all-time average is 3.37 comments per post, and the percentage of total visitors leaving a comment is 1.13%. If I had traffic numbers for the blogs I included in the audit, I’d bet they are seeing similar reader-to-comment ratios.

    Out of the 146,849,527 blogs out there, I’d say that most of them do indeed suck — whether using comments as a key indicator or something else. Whether we’re talking about movies, TV shows, blogs or even sports figures, usually only a small percentage are worth paying attention to. Creating content and/or performing for the public is extremely difficult.

  4. Agreed. I just did a quick check on my blog and found that I’ve averaged 4.57 comments/post. But…I’ve only posted 138 times since January 2007. That means it takes me 9.8 days to publish a post. My analytics tools have huge gaps in data due to various issues, but I’d say my comments/visitor are in the 1% range as well.

    Taken together, I’d argue that these stats define a sub-standard blog. And I’d agree with that assessment. But I’d agree with it mostly along metrics concerning visitors, % target audience reached, mentions on other blogs. My goal is to create quality content and to get my ideas to spread. Comments, while they remain the most personally fulfilling aspects of my blogging experience, do not necessarily facilitate such dissemination.

    With trillions of bytes of data competing for audience attention, I think the winning bloggers are the ones who somehow, some way, break through the clutter, or serve some other purpose vital to an organization’s mission. For example, Verity’s social media efforts have established the credit union as progressive, transparent, and in-tune with the needs of Seattle mothers. While I’m sure they’d love to have hundreds of comments on each post, their overall mission (or at least those apparent to me) can largely be considered a success. Seth Godin’s blog doesn’t even allow comments, and it’s one of the most influential blogs in existence. The Financial Brand is one of the best banking blogs/news sites going because of its combination of quality, frequency, and conversation.

    The challenge is to encourage not only readership, but advocacy and groundswell as well. When blog readership becomes more participatory, and more of a partnership, that’s where the magic lives. And that’s where most of us struggle.

  5. Jeffry,

    Technical question: Do comments per post include the responses from the author?

    Great post by the way and commentary by Matt and Mark.

    Jeff

  6. Yes, the number of comments and comments-per-post include all comments the blog has published, including author replies, trackbacks and presumably some spam.

    Glad you enjoyed the article.

  7. Aw, come on… Banks deserve a bit more “credit.”

    Seriously though, Matt hit the nail on the head: The biggest question that needs to be asked is “why blog”?

    Banks are all about the numbers. As in money, not just KPIs and metrics. Show ‘em a financial reason and they’ll get on it. Guaranteed.

  8. We struggled with the purpose of a blog for a long time and only really got into June of last year. What made a significant difference for us was having a purpose and a problem outside of having the blog to begin with.

    How do we communicate what we’re doing in the community?

    We made a blog. And it worked perfectly. We aggregated our YouTube videos and Twitter all into one place (the blog) and use it as the primary place for any kind of community public relations. The Blogger system itself is incredibly easy for any marketing staff to update and an attractive presentation makes all the difference. While our traffic is minimal (50 hits a day average), it’s such a perfect extension of our ‘community-focus’ brand that it was hard for us NOT to blog.

    http://kootenaysavings.blogspot.com

    We even give significant space advertising the blog on our homepage at https://www.kscu.com/.

    We’ve even surveyed our members on their opinion of our blog and received very promising satisfaction scores for the blog (74% of our members gave it a 4 or 5 out of 5) with 91% saying it was the same or better than other financial institution blogs.

    We definitely stand behind it and put the time and resources into maintaining it :)

  9. Thanks for sharing Adam.

  10. Great post Jeff,

    Brett King
    Author – BANK 2.0

  11. Yes, no point blogging or being on social media or any other medium — new and whizzy or old and traditional unless you have something to say.

    Otherwise, it’s like rushing into a room full of people waving your arms and going “Oooh! Oooh!” and then when someone excitedly asks “What is it?! What is it?!”, you reply “Oh, nothing. Don’t worry about it. Bye.”

  12. Ok, so my new boss says, “Let’s blog, and Tweet, and Facebook, oh yeah, throw in LinkedIn too!” He’s hired a ghost blogger, but it comes down to me trying to keep up with all of it and my regular job. The other problem is he just wants to do everything this article just said don’t do – like hard-hitting marketing. I would love to have fun with the blog, Twitter and our Facebook page, but I really need to keep my job! So what’s your advice for me? Anyone?

  13. Carol, you can tell your boss that The Financial Brand doesn’t think financial institutions like yours with less than $150 million in assets should be blogging at all. With a 1-2 person marketing department, you guys should already be stretched thin. It’s about the opportunity cost of your time: What’s the highest and best use of a small marketing department? It ain’t blogging… Unless your credit union is the rare 1-in-150 exception, there is low-hanging fruit you still haven’t picked.

    Social media is a bonus for most financial institutions right now. Unless your marketing machine is well-oiled and highly productive, you should leave social media on the wish list for now.

  14. A neat study, for sure. Anyone checked out Wells Fargo’s blogs? Ugh. :P It helps to think about where your passion is to produce content for a FB Page, Twitter feed, or blog. For us, it’s community – and representing a community of the finest community banks and credit unions in America (we’re proud of high interest rates, too), – but first and foremost, it’s winning the war against megabanks and putting money into communities, the backbone of America’s economy.

  15. CorporateBlogger says:

    Kasasa: I actually like the Wells Fargo blog. I think they take more risks than most and have personality. It features posts like “Why I rode my bike to work today” and so forth. It’s very readable.

  16. Please add to the list IBM Southeast Employees’ Federal Credit Union, they sucks.
    Once you post a complain on their facebook, they just hide those posting and case continue without been resolved.

    I do not really recommend this kind of behavior.

  17. Not as good as it used to be but check out this blog: http://www.mbank.cz/blog/

  18. Technically Banks suck at blogging because only few people are interested in bank stat. aside from this “Banks Have No Blogging Strategy” and “Banks Don’t Understand Publishing”.

    Jamie Dingman

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