Is your financial institution paying attention to what people are saying online? It only takes a modest level of social media marketing acumen to monitor the web for mentions of your brand (or similar financial conversations in your market) and respond accordingly. Still, many banks and credit unions undertake no form of online listening.
Monitoring online conversations for mentions of your brand is the first, basic step in social listening. You could simply call this “customer service.” You’re looking for consumers mentioning your brand – usually because they’re having problems. You respond and solve the problem. Happy customer.
But there’s another world of possibilities for social listening that most financial brands haven’t even touched. And these possibilities can directly affect the your organization’s top- and bottom lines.
Social Listening As Research
Financial marketers understand that the most important piece in their strategy is knowing their audience. Without understanding the “who,” “what,” “why,” “where,” “when” and “how” of buying your product, you can’t successfully market to them. Traditionally, the way marketers understand their target markets is through research – surveys, focus groups, or perhaps buying third-party intel. These methods aren’t bad, but neither are exact either.
The advent of the social web has turned everyone into a publisher, giving brands new opportunities to get to understand consumers, the competition, the competition’s customers, and more. Social media channels essentially produce the largest consumer focus groups in history. And many of those conversations – rich with attitudes and opinions – are posted online where they can be indexed, searched, filtered and analyzed.
This is what social listening software does. But marketers haven’t been using these tools for research. It’s time to start. The information there is invaluable to understand.
What People Say About Mobile Banking
Over the last six months, I’ve been conducting research for my presentation at The Financial Brand Forum. During that time, I looked at just over 29,000 online conversations that discuss mobile banking in some manner. Overall, this collective conversation is overwhelmingly positive, with the net sentiment coming in at +72 (on a -100 to +100 scale). This doesn’t necessarily mean the majority of people like their mobile banking product, but that when they discuss it, the conversation generally skews positive.
Dive into specific mentions of mobile banking apps and you see both positive and negative conversations.
In the negative category, my research revealed 99 distinct conversations discussing mobile banking apps that were negative. The passion intensity around these posts was +36 (also on a -100 to +100 scale). This indicates that when people are negative about mobile banking apps, they are more intensely passionate about being negative, occasionally resorting to terms like “hate” and “pisses me off.”
Drilling into the specific conversations, you find some recurring themes. Most mentions are consumers having trouble using their institution’s mobile app. The majority of these conversations are driven by app malfunctioning or no longer being compatible with a their device’s operating system upgrade. App speed and intuitive design were also frequently called out – both bad. Another portion of the conversations express concern about the safety and privacy offered in mobile banking apps.
At a minimum, these conversations tell us that investing in an app is more than just building it and “letting it ride.” Consistently ensuring it works on new operating system upgrades, investing in user-experience design and improving app performance/speed can set your institution’s app – and it’s brand – apart.
Again, let’s not forget positive conversations around mobile banking apps out-numbered negative ones about 4:1. You might think that these are conversations about how much consumers enjoy the convenience of mobile banking… but you would be wrong.
Of the conversations identified as positive around the topic of mobile banking apps, almost 40% were from news sites (52% were on Twitter, another 10.2% were on discussion forums). These news references include mainstream outlets, but also wire services and other generic news websites that often repurpose press releases and similar announcements. This volume of “news” is unusual. Normally when analyzing online conversations in other industries, news sites account for less than 10% of all conversations. This suggests two things: (1) media outlets are interested in mobile banking stories, and (2) financial institutions have fired up their PR engines and are pumping out news/releases about mobile left and right.
Is that bad? Not necessarily. But if you really do care about your customer’s thoughts, opinions and beliefs about your products and services, you have to discount or remove some of these “false positives” from consideration.
What about Twitter? The vast majority of tweets mentioning mobile banking apps positively were from banking analysts and financial consultants tweeting #fintech links – often links to intra-industry press releases and news stories (i.e., “false positives”). Some tweets linked to articles that ranked the best mobile banking apps, and similar articles.
Incidentally, when you remove news sites from consideration, positive online sentiment in conversations about mobile banking drops 12%. Looking beyond the raw data shows you the importance of context in analyses like these.
That’s Just The Tip of The Iceberg
But looking at the conversation from a keyword-centric standpoint severely limits what you can discover online. Imagine what would happen if you started with the question of, “What do only my brand fans/customers say about mobile banking?” Or, conversely, “What do my competitor’s fans/customers say about it?”
How does audience perspective change the way you consider social listening? Keyword-centric searches limit you to conversations that include that keyword. But if you really want to know your audience well, you need to know what they talk about when they talk, not just when they talk about you (or the keyword) in question.
Take Vespa as an example. The stylish scooter company wanted to increase leads and sales from new customers. They looked at the online conversation from an audience perspective by asking, “What are our customers talking about online when they aren’t talking about scooters, or transportation more generally?”
They discovered their audience indexes much higher than the average internet use for discussing style, fashion, design and art. So they revamped their “blog” to become a “style magazine” of sorts, and began focusing content on those topics to attract more like-minded customers. In three months, they had over 2,700 leads for new purchases and almost half of them were from people new to the Vespa brand.
This is where the industry is now maturing. Companies like NetBase, which offers new, audience-centric queries, are helping meet the growing need for better social listening, helping companies understanding the modern, online consumer. If you aren’t leveraging social listening now, you are about to get left behind. Even if consumers barely mention your institution’s name in social channels, they are certainly talking about your competitors and banking products – both the good, bad and ugly.
As the expression goes, you aren’t learning whenever you are the one talking. To extract real value from social media, you have to listen.
Jason Falls is a noted analyst and observer of the social listening space. He authored the first-ever online conversation analysis of the banking industry in 2012 and continues to server medium to large brands in his role as SVP for Digital Strategy at Elasticity, a digital marketing and PR firm based in St. Louis with offices in Louisville and Chicago. He can be found online at goelastic.com and jasonfalls.com.