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Tweet This: 1 In 5 Banks Are Twitter Quitters

Who’s adding the most followers? Does tweeting more boost follower counts? Answers to banks’ tough Twitter questions in this exclusive study from The Financial Brand — follower growth, tweeting efficiency and other performance metrics for over 300 U.S. retail banks. The hard data doesn’t lie.

This study encompassed 314 banks on Twitter, estimated to represent around 4.2% of all U.S-based deposit-taking retail institutions in the U.S. and at least 20% of all such banks on Twitter. Only banks that sent at least one tweet from a public Twitter account with a customized profile were included. Banks with uncustomized or protected accounts, and those with no tweets or followers were ignored. This is believed to be the first and only public study of its kind in the retail banking industry.

The Prototypical Bank on Twitter

If you took the 314 banks in this Twitter study and picked one right in the middle (#157, the median), this is what that bank would look like: They would have launched their account in late September 2009, accruing 277 followers since then — an average of one new follower gained every four days. During that time, they would have sent around 330 total tweets, or one about every 3-4 days. They’d follow no more than 100 accounts back.

Twitter Quitters

A total of 67 accounts (21.3%) were found to be dormant or abandoned entirely. Accounts considered dormant or abandoned did not send a tweet in at least the last 6 weeks. That means more than one in five banks launching a Twitter initiative gave up (21.3%). This is nearly identical to the number of credit union Twitter quitters The Financial Brand identified back in February — 74 of 350 credit unions studied, or 21.1%.

But banks didn’t roll over as easily as you might suspect. The average bank quitting Twitter sent an average of 128 tweets over a period of 1 year and 9 months before throwing in the towel.

Six of the 18 banks that adopted Twitter in 2008 have since shut down their accounts. 51 of the 67 banks quitting Twitter had started their account in 2009 (76%), while only 10 that started in 2010 have quit.

The bank on Twitter longest before surrendering — Foster Bank — had created their Twitter account way back in April 2008 and kept it account active until March 2012. Their 1,527 followers haven’t heard a peep from them in seven months.

Another bank walked away from their account after sending 1,107 tweets over a period stretching two years.

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Follower Growth

18.4% of banks at least doubled their follower base in the last year, but only 15 total (5.3%) saw increases of more than 200%. The average annual growth rate was 90%. The median, however, was only 51.1% — meaning half the banks studied only added one new follower (or less) for every two followers they had the year prior.

84.5% of banks added less than 400 followers in the last year — less than one per day. Five banks actually lost followers over the past 12 months, with Pinnacle Bank (SC) losing the most — a net loss of 348 followers, down to 5,132.

Total # of followers (all 314 banks): 626,164
Median # of followers: 277
Average # of followers: 1,994
Number of accounts with over 1,000 followers: 45 (14.3%)
Number of accounts with less than 200 followers: 141 (44.9%)
Average # followers added per day: 1.97
Most followers of any bank: 106,959 (Citi)

Ranked by Net
New Followers
in Last
% YoY
Per Day
Per Day
(Last Year)
1 Citi 96,925 106,959 966% 94.2 265.5
2 BofA Community 67,408 98,424 217% 130.7 184.7
3 BofA News 49,754 56,734 713% 75.9 136.3
4 Wells Fargo 18,293 31,250 141% 15.1 50.1
5 USAA 16,154 36,614 79.0% 24.4 44.3
6 BofA Help 13,730 31,598 76.8% 22.5 37.6
7 TD Bank US 8,922 13,193 209% 11.2 24.4
8 BofA Careers 8,120 20,453 65.8% 20.3 22.2
9 Ally 7,287 9,563 320% 10.2 20.0
10 Union Bank 4,784 5,146 1322% 3.5 13.1
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Ranked by % Increase
in New Followers
% YoY
in Last
Per Day
Per Day
(Last Year)
1 FirstMerit Bank 3980% 398 408 0.3 1.1
2 Union Bank 1322% 4,784 5,146 3.5 13.1
3 Citi 966% 96,925 106,959 94.2 265.5
4 BofA News 713% 49,754 56,734 75.9 136.3
5 Citi Jobs 557% 4,297 5,068 4.1 11.8
6 Huntington Bank 504% 3,376 4,046 3.6 9.2
7 MB Financial 349% 611 786 0.7 1.7
8 Fifth Third 339% 1,877 2,431 3.6 5.1
9 Ally 320% 7,287 9,563 10.2 20.0
10 Associated Bank 317% 736 968 2.0 2.0

Tweeting Activity

Of those banks actively tweeting in the past year, one in four averaged at least one tweet per day. 50% of banks studied sent less than one tweet every three days. One in 10 banks (11.3%) sent fewer than 20 tweets… that’s total — all year long.

Three banks actually deleted tweets, resulting in a net negative for the number of tweets they “sent” last year. For instance, the number of tweets Secure Trust Bank has sent (all-time) dropped from 43 to only 5 showing now.

Total # of tweets sent (all 314 banks in the study): 475,330
Median # of tweets sent: 330
Average # of tweets sent per bank: 1,514
Average # of tweets sent per day per bank: 1.49
Most tweets sent by a single bank (all-time): 127,958 or 91 per day (BofA_Help)

Ranked by
Most Tweets
Sent Last Year
New Tweets Sent
in Last Year
Total Tweets
Sent All-Time
Per Day
Last Year
Per New
1 BofA Help 79,852 127,958 56.92 0.17
2 TD Bank US 19,558 27,467 16.60 0.46
3 Ask SunTrust 17,449 34,890 14.86 0.09
4 Citi Help 11,996 20,586 10.67 0.27
5 Ally 8,141 12,985 8.72 0.90
6 State Bank of WW 4,764 7,492 4.44 0.03
7 Citizens 4,013 5,537 5.42 0.43
8 Citi 3,011 5,799 2.65 32.19
9 BofA Careers 2,587 7,629 2.56 3.14
10 North Shore 2,389 5,282 1.49 0.36

Tweeting Efficiency

One way to evaluate banks’ use of Twitter is to compare the number of tweets they send to the number of new followers they add. You could call this a “tweeting efficiency” ratio. Those banks who send out few tweets but get the most followers in return have a “high tweet efficiency,” while those who send out disproportionately more tweets than they get followers could be considered to have a “low efficiency.” Here are the top 10 most efficient tweeters — those who yielded the biggest bang for a minimal investment. Bottom line: Sending out a bunch of tweets is no guarantee you’ll get a ton of followers.

Ranked by Tweet
Per Tweet
in Last
in Last
in Last
% YoY
1 BofA News 100.31 49,754 496 56,734 713%
2 BofA Community 80.34 67,408 839 98,424 217%
3 Citi 32.19 96,925 3,011 106,959 966%
4 Wells Fargo 12.50 18,293 1,464 31,250 141%
5 USAA 7.86 16,154 2,056 36,614 79.0%
6 BofA Tips 8.87 2,634 297 4,461 144%
7 First National Bank TX 7.55 83 11 221 60.1%
8 Union Bank 4.69 4,784 1,019 5,146 1322%
9 Square 1 Bank 4.11 230 56 670 52.3%
10 HomeTown Bank 5.33 96 18 438 28.1%
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Sorry, Not Following You

Social media experts are constantly nagging banks to use social channels to “listen.” Well, it’s pretty darn hard to “listen” on Twitter if you aren’t following anyone. Sure, banks might be using social media monitoring software… but you know most aren’t.

The average bank follows one account for every 3-4 followers they have. Of the 314 banks studied, 40 follow more accounts than they have followers.

Banks that follow fewer than ten accounts will struggle to ever break 1,000 followers themselves — most will have 175-300 followers.

One common theory among social media experts is that you can boost the number of Twitter users following you if you go out and follow a bunch of accounts yourself. This theory does seem to bare itself out in the study’s data; those banks who added the most followers also started following the most new accounts.

Total # of accounts followed (all 314 banks): 184,628
Median # of accounts followed: 98
Average # of accounts followed: 588
Number of banks following no one: 19 (6.1%)
Number of banks following 10 accounts or less: 59 (18.8%)
Most accounts followed by one bank: 34,501 (BofA_Help)

Ranked by Most
Accounts Followed
in 2012
in Last
Ratio of
1 BofA Help 34,501 15,850 18,651 (#1) 31,598 13,730 (#6) 0.9:1
2 USAA 25,895 7,481 18,414 (#2) 36,614 16,154 (#5) 1.4:1
3 Wells Fargo Help 14,701 n/a n/a 15,433 n/a 1:1
4 Citi Help 10,158 6,497 3,661 (#4) 9,317 3,240 (#14) 0.9:1
5 TD Bank US 7,104 3,802 3,302 (#5) 13,193 8,922 (#7) 1.9:1
6 Pinnacle Bank SC 5,426 5,543 -117 (last) 5,132 -348 (last) 0.9:1
7 Citi 4,692 4,428 264 (#29) 106,959 96,925 (#1) 23:1
8 USAA Help
3,866 1,210 2,656 (#6) 6,565 2,067 (#16) 1.7:1
9 Citi Jobs 3,830 0 3,830 (#3) 5,068 4,297 (#11) 1.3:1
10 PNC Virtual Wallet 3,317 2,184 1,133 (#9) 4,025 1,846 (#18) 1.2:1

Account Longevity

Average # of years active on Twitter: 1.97
Banks active on Twitter less than a year:
28 (12.1%)
Banks active on Twitter for 1 year:
32 (10.2%)
Banks active on Twitter for 2 years: 78 (28.4%)
Banks active on Twitter for 3 years: 166 (52.9%)
Banks active on Twitter for 4+ years: 9 (3.2%)
Bank on Twitter the longest: Wells Fargo (5.7 years)

There doesn’t appear to be any correlation between when accounts were created and follower growth. In other words, there is no real, significant advantage (at least in terms of follower growth) to being an early adopter.

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There seems to be only one thing that can spike massive follower growth: Twitter Verification. Only banks big enough to partner with Twitter can get verified because they are the only ones who can afford to pay for promoted tweets and accounts. (Twitter only verifies accounts for celebrities and its advertisers.) Basically, if you’re big enough, you can buy followers. Only three of the following 15 accounts aren’t verified by Twitter: USAA, USAA Help and Citi Jobs.

Ranked by
Highest Daily
Per Day
1 BofA Community 130.7 2010 Oct 2.1 98,424
2 Citi 94.2 2009 Oct 3.1 106,959
3 BofA News 75.9 2010 Oct 2.0 56,734
4 USAA 24.4 2008 Oct 4.1 36,614
5 BofA Help 22.5 2009 Jan 3.8 31,598
6 Chase 21.9 2010 Feb 2.7 21,995
7 BofA Careers 20.3 2010 Feb 2.8 20,453
8 Wells Fargo 15.1 2007 Mar 5.7 31,250
9 TD Bank US 11.2 2009 Aug 3.2 13,193
10 Ally Bank 10.2 2010 Apr 2.6 9,563
11 Citi Help 8.3 2009 Oct 3.1 9,317
12 PNC News 5.4 2009 Dec 2.9 5,700
13 USAA Help
4.3 2008 Sep 4.2 6,565
14 Citi Jobs 4.1 2009 Jun 3.4 5,068
15 BofA Tips 4.1 2009 Nov 3.0 4,461

Why Don’t More Banks Give Up?

Nearly two-thirds of banks on Twitter have less than 200 followers. Three in five added fewer than 100 new followers last year. 83% add less than one new follower every two days. Two thirds sent less than 200 tweets in the past 12 months, and a third have sent fewer than 200 tweets ever. And yet they’ve been at it an average of two years.

It makes you wonder… Why don’t more banks just give up already?

There are two kinds of financial institutions on Twitter: a handful who take it seriously (mostly big banks)… and everyone else, who should probably ask themselves, “Why bother?”

Many are just going through the motions, spewing lame tweets about rate changes or happy holiday wishes. These guys can probably find more productive things to do with their time.

Jeffry PilcherLearn from the brightest minds in banking at The Financial Brand Forum 2017 — three days jam-packed with the latest ideas, insights and innovations that are transforming financial marketing today.

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  1. Great study of bank Twitter usage, which begs the question . . . do banks primarily use Twitter as a way to listen or a way to talk? It looks like the bigger banks are doing both, but not doing it very well. The smaller banks are definitely not using the channel to ‘talk’ since nobody would be listening (limited followers).

    I think what this amazingly in depth research illustrates is the impact of an unstructured or nonexistent social media strategy. Hopefully, most of the banks in your study will go back to the drawing board, set goals for their social media efforts, build metrics to measure impact, and determine if a Twitter strategy makes sense.

    As with most marketing strategies, just because it is cheap to use a channel doesn’t mean it makes sense to use a channel.

  2. Wow, I knew twitter numbers for banks were bad, but not that bad. I tend to agree with Jim that if banks decide to use a channel like twitter they need to have a strategy and not just do it because is cheap.

    But I suspect the lack of success in twitter is also due poor “tweet” quality. What I mean by that is that banks are not saying something that people find interesting.

    Banks cannot benefit from the charm or popularity of real people, but they could be tailoring their tweets for a sector of the population (impossible to please everyone and they need to accept that). Directing tweets to those people and “touching” them will bring more followers.

  3. Excellent study. It should be obvious that actual work is necessary to recognize benefits offered by Twitter and other social media channels. Perhaps this study begins to shine the light on why so many Banks see little or no benefit from Social Media, and rightly decide to abandon the channel. ‘It ain’t free’ but neither are most things that are worthwhile.

  4. I am really appreciative that this study was conducted. That being said, I’m having an issue with which metrics were evaluated and which ones, in this article, were given weight.

    It is obvious to me that the bigger banks are going to have the resources and the customers to have bigger followings. They’ve probably hired someone to create a strategy for them and tweet more consistently because, well, they have money…and customers.

    I am more interested in which metrics are affecting brand loyalty and the bottom line. For instance, how many customer service requests were fulfilled on these channels? How much was moved from the branches or the call center? And how many customers followed links tweeted that go them to the bank’s website to make an inquiry or sale?

    Of the followers added, which resulted in bigger rewards for the bank? Which followers added have become a vocal advocate of the brand?

    To me, follower count means almost nothing. It’s if you have the right followers that makes all the difference in the world.

    Another thing, tweet frequency means only so much. Of course, you want your bank to be consistently providing relevant information that follows a strategy, but if your customers have a saturation point of 6 tweets per week, then why try to send out 50?

    I just want to caution readers that are looking at this that these numbers must be taken with a grain of salt and with regard to the individual financial institutions.

  5. Hi Taylor,

    Thanks for your comment. This study concentrated on finding empirical correlations, and addressed nothing of a qualitative nature. I can say, however, that the vast majority of banks do not send @replies. Usually the use of Twitter to address service issues is limited to the big banks, and for a number of reasons. First, and most importantly, consumers usually only refer to megabanks by brand name — all others are generically encapsulated with the catchall “bank.” As in, “I had to wait in line for 20 minutes at the bank today.” If it was a brand name bank, they might say, “I had to wait 20 minutes in line at BofA.” Megabanks are the only ones with major brand awareness to warrant mentioning by name.

    In a previous study conducted by The Financial Brand, a financial institution would get one relevant social mention per $100 million in assets per month. If you’re BofA, you’ll see upwards of 15K-20K tweets per month. But if your Smallville Community Bank, you might not see more than 1 or 2.

    It’s easy to dismiss the significance of follower counts, but from a marketing perspective one could argue the importance of “reach.” If you’re a $500 million bank and no one is talking about you and you only have 20 followers, can you really find much value in your Twitter activity even if your 20 followers are ardent supporters? But if this same $500 million financial institution could reach 2,000 people? Or 20,000? That certainly seems like something that would affect the bank’s view of Twitter’s value. And there would likely be more than 20 ardent fans among 20,000 followers.

    The Financial Brand has previously written about the value and strategic implications of providing service through social channels, particularly Twitter. But again, social CRM was beyond the scope of this study. The purpose was to identify trends and correlations supported by quantitative analysis. If The Financial Brand had the resources, we would also field qualitative studies, but unfortunately that isn’t the case.

  6. These stats, like the other commenter’s have stated, really go to show that social media is a difficult realm for banks to work within, and that it requires more than opening an account to make a social media campaign successful. I agree with Serge that social media isn’t free and requires effort. Banks need to actively engage with their followers in order to gain anything from their social media accounts. When a bank actually attempts to use social media constructively, it can have huge benefits. CitiBank recently proved this. Do you think the potential benefits from social media are worth the needed effort?

  7. Right now in the financial industry, the only case studies showing any kind of real “success” come exclusively from big banks (Citi, Chase, BofA, Wells, and the super-regionals). Until case studies start coming from smaller financial institutions — those with less than say $1B in assets — The Financial Brand continues to assert that Twitter is by-and-large not worth the effort needed to realize the potential benefits. Smaller institutions have less social media traction because they have less brand awareness. They also have fewer resources to spread around, and bigger fish to fry.

    The absence of successful case studies from smaller institutions is by no means from a lack of effort. There are hundreds upon hundreds of community banks and credit unions that have sought social media gold, many who had strategies and were coached by consultants.

    For now, it seems there are two kinds of case studies: big banks… and everyone else (with very few exceptions here and there).

  8. Fascinating statistics. For my CU, Twitter is used to promote brand awareness as well as to interact with our base. Follower growth of most users is inflated by spammers and other businesses looking for a follow back. Smaller institutions should filter followers, block spammers, and create a list of local people, or a consumer base, to follow back.

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