What Can Financial Institutions Really Expect from Twitter?

The Financial Brand estimates that around 5% of retail banks and 10% of all credit unions are on Twitter. What about the rest? What could they expect if they joined Twitter? How many followers might they they get?

The Financial Brand randomly selected 15 banks and 11 credit unions with active Twitter accounts and looked at how many followers each had relative to its assets, number of customers/members and number of employees.

Banks find followers hard to come by

Banks included in the study had anywhere from a few dozen followers up into the thousands. Assets ranged from $110 million up to $2.3 trillion.

Banks with less than $100 billion in assets saw around one follower for every $14 million in assets. The banks most successful at attracting Twitter followers averaged 1 for every $1 million in assets.

Banks with over $100 billion in assets had one follower for every $209 million in assets. The average for all 15 banks was one follower for every $160 million in assets.

Among big banks — those with over $100 billion in assets — there was only one follower for every 5,212 customers. Less than one quarter-percent (0.021%) of all big bank customers follow their bank on Twitter. That translates to an average of 208 followers for every one million customers.

BofA, the largest bank in the study, had 12,315 followers out of its 55 million customers. Wells Fargo averaged one follower for every 8,635 customers. By comparison, ASB in New Zealand had 2,289 of its one million customers following them on Twitter, or one in every 437 customers.

Relative to staff size, large banks have one Twitter follower for every 25-30 employees. SunTrust, for example, has 1,424 followers and 28,000 employees, or about one 1 in 20. Smaller and medium-sized banks have a staff-to-follower ratio around 3:1, that is one follower for every three employees.

Banks included in the study: BofA, Wells Fargo, Commonwealth (AUS), Westpac (AUS), TD Bank (US), SunTrust, Zions, ASB, Bank of Oklahoma, Bremer Bank, Washington Trust Bank, Northeast Bank, Union National, Monarch Community and Pinnacle Bank S.C.

Credit unions fare better than banks

Credit unions in the study had as few as a couple hundred followers and as many as 2,000. Assets ranged from $46 million up to $11 billion.

Credit unions with over $1 billion in assets saw an average of one Twitter follower for every $5 million in assets, whereas smaller credit unions had one for every $750,00 in assets. The credit unions most successful at attracting followers averaged one for every $200,000 in assets.

Only an average of 0.65% of members are connected to their credit union on Twitter. That’s one follower for every 155 members.

Coast Capital in Canada, with $11 billion in assets and 425,000 members, has been on Twitter for approximately two years. They have 1,485 followers, or one for every 286 members (0.35%).

At less than one-tenth Coast Capital’s size, Advantis Credit Union in Oregon may be considerably smaller, but they have more followers. With only $750 million in assets and 42,000 members, Advantis has amassed over 2,000 followers. That’s roughly one in 20, or 4.9% of its member base.

Credit unions included in the study: Coast Capital, OnPoint, CommunityAmerica, Public Service of Colorado, LA Firemen’s, Unitus, Advantis, Vantage, Verity, Heartland and Star Choice.

What can a financial institution new to Twitter expect?

How many followers might a bank or credit union expect to see if they launched a Twitter account? The short answer is “not many.”

Best case planning scenario for banks considering Twitter:

  • 1 follower for every $1 million in assets
  • 1 follower out of every 200 customers (0.5%)
  • 1 follower for every 2 employees (1:2)

Worst case scenario for banks:

  • 1 follower for every $200 million in assets
  • 1 follower out of every 4,000 customers (0.0025%)
  • 1 follower for ever 50 employees (1:50)

Best case planning scenario for credit unions considering Twitter:

  • 1 follower for every $250,000 in assets
  • 1 follower out of every 25 members (4%)
  • 10 followers for every one employee (10:1)

Worst case scenario for credit unions:

  • 1 follower for every $5 million in assets
  • 1 follower out of every 350 members (0.29%)
  • 1 follower for every one employee (1:1)

Hopefully, you’ll surpass these projections, as some banks and credit unions do.

Keep in mind that The Financial Brand estimates at least 15% of the people following any Twitter account (including @FinancialBrand) are outside your core audience: spam, bots, social media “gurus,” people from other countries, etc.

You’ll have to determine whether there’s value in engaging an audience that will likely total no more than 1% of your existing customer/member base. Financial institutions who provide service and resolve customer issues via Twitter may see significant value, while those hoping to use Twitter as a broadcast or marketing tool might be sorely disappointed.

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