What would banks and credit unions do on Instagram if dogs didn’t exist?
Actually, there’s quite a bit financial marketers have been doing as Instagram builds out its platform. But financial brands seem to have an affinity for canines, from service dogs sponsored by the institutions to employee and customer pets to more abstract memes such as Bank of America’s slightly surreal dog-on-the-beach Instagram post seen in the gallery below. Most bank and credit union accounts explored by The Financial Brand had many dog photos posted — we could have done an all-dog gallery and not exhausted the inventory. We found only one cat, and it didn’t look terribly happy.
Instagram, invented in 2010 and now owned by Facebook, is a relative newcomer to the social media fray, especially in its current iteration. One factor that sets it apart from older platforms is that its creators designed it as a mobile-first effort. You can view and do many things on the computer version of Instagram, but using a mobile device gives you the full experience.
“Instagram is a mobile-friendly experience,” says Meredith Olmstead, CEO and Founder, FI GROW Solutions, which helped with this report. People increasingly seem unable to put their phones down, so this is a good place to catch their eye. Especially if they are Millennials and Gen Z.
“Successful Instagram postings often have some emotional pull. USAA and Navy Federal, for example, often touch on the service of veterans or current members of the armed services.”
“Younger generations’ preferred channel is Instagram,” explains Penne VanderBush, Chief Strategy Officer at the firm. This sets up some expectations about what will be seen when visiting the platform. VanderBush says the overall Instagram tone is more casual than other channels. In the gallery that follows you’ll note that Jamie Dimon, the Chairman and CEO at Chase, who frequently is seen on mainstream media in tie and jacket, is dressed informally in Chase Instagram stories about management’s new market “road show.”
And another key factor is that successful Instagram postings often have some emotional pull. USAA and Navy Federal, for example, often touch on the service of veterans or current members of the armed services. Photos featuring branch staff, consumers visiting branches, and community events also play big. And then there are all of those cute-as-hell dogs, with or without costuming.
Instagram has an estimated 1 billion monthly active users and about half of them use it daily. How active are banks and credit unions on Instagram, compared to other social media services? An American Bankers Association study found that banks use platforms for marketing as follows: Facebook, 97%; LinkedIn, 76%; Twitter, 59%; Instagram, 48%; YouTube, 45%; blogs, 21%; Snapchat, 5%; and Pinterest, 5%. One in three banks on Instagram use its paid advertising opportunities.
Understanding Growing Significance of Instagram Stories
Like much in digital marketing these days, Instagram presents financial institutions with a moving target. Right now, brands frequently use the original horizontal single-frame postings with a little bit of commentary, which may be still photos, short videos, text, or images.
“The 24-hour timeline creates a sense of urgency for followers. The story could be gone when you go back in.”
— Alexandra Bauer, FI GROW Solutions
But the hot item for many brands right now are “Instagram Stories.” Stories especially favor the mobile device, using vertically oriented frames that can run somewhat like a slideshow that runs automatically. The various types of media — still, illustration, video, and more — can vary throughout the story and multiple types can exist in a single frame. Users can take part in polls, swipe to see related material, and more.
The only catch is that stories run for 24 hours as originally posted and then disappear from public view unless the account holder saves them to a private archive on the platform. They can display them longer by placing them in Instagram Story Highlights, a series of circles near the top of the user’s profile page.
The disappearing act, a defining element of the Instagram stories experience, has a definite business purpose, according to Alexandra Bauer, Marketing Campaign Coordinator at FI GROW. “The timeline creates a sense of urgency for followers,” she explains. “The story could be gone when you go back in.”
“My kids rarely look at their feeds anymore,” says Olmstead. “They are just interested in stories. “So far, stories are free of the ads contained in YouTube that sometimes must be viewed before the content runs, without the ability to skip them.
Stories can be short and quite simple — a snippet of video — or more elaborate with multimedia, including sound. “Some of the most successful stories take the least time and effort,” says Bauer. “Instagram stories are taking over the platform now.”
This points up a key thing marketers have to remember, according to Olmstead: There’s no percentage in just being a social media diva. Hard sell messages are frowned on in the social media world, but the bank or credit union isn’t there for fun.
All the engagement, all the following in the world does your brand little good until it connects them with content that you control. Clicks, likes, and comments are step 1, but only that. In some fashion the social messages need to push consumers towards the institution’s website or get them added to an email list that will enable them to receive messages of interest.
In the sections below, excerpts from stories can be distinguished by their vertical orientation. Click on the image for a larger version.
Chase Takes to the Road
JPMorgan Chase promotes numerous events on Instagram with connections to special audiences, such as women in business. It also promotes “good life” perks for consumers carrying its Sapphire line of products. A recent set of stories promoted the management tour of new business areas Chase is branching into. This includes Charlotte, where Bank of America is headquartered.
( Read More: Marketing Lessons From Chase Bank’s Twitter Blowup )
What’s Cooking with Bank of America
Bank of America used a kitchen motif in an Instagram story to summarize its small business study, and to draw people to download it.
( Read More: BofA’s Surging Digital Assistant Signals a Turning Point in Retail Banking )
Turning Lemons into Lemonade at AmericaFirst Credit Union
Looking at the smallest of businesses — the age-old lemonade stand — AmericaFirst Credit Union focuses on an 11-year-old entrepreneur and asks questions about her venture.
Going to the Dogs at Avidia Bank
Avidia Bank, a Massachusetts community bank, hopped aboard social media early with its “Avidia Smarties” group of posters. The bank highlights all kinds of things on Instagram, including a huge story featuring many dogs, posted in connection with Woofstock Dog Festival, a Humane Society fundraiser.
Flying High with Navy Federal
A touching homecoming scene, the sailor home from the sea, is one posting by Navy Federal Credit Union. A frequent theme has been aviation and space subjects, such as posts about aviation pioneers Amelia Earhart and Orville Wright and astronaut Sally Ride.
Painting a Picture at Canvas Credit Union
Canvas, which originated as a public employees’ credit union, has posted its share of dogs on Instagram. But it has also posted a guinea pig and the only cat we saw in our ramblings.
Going for Variety at FirstBank
Colorado’s FirstBank, featured in a special presentation at the The Financial Brand Forum, features all kinds of things in its posts, from interns earnestly playing cornhole to the high-fin beauty at a 1950s car show the bank sponsors. While this bank also puts on the dog, it also posted a hedgehog from one of its commercials.
Doing Good for Two Centuries at Eastern Bank
Eastern Bank, a large savings bank based in Boston, used an Instagram story to celebrate its 200th anniversary. The institution gives a substantial portion of profits to various causes. These are excerpts from a fittingly lengthy story.
Smile! You’re on TD Bank Camera
Consumers like a little bit of time in the sun, and Instagram gives banks and credit unions a chance to let them shine. TD Bank posts photos of consumers as they visit its many branches to do their personal banking business.
Military Connection Plays Big for USAA
USAA’s military and military family customer base makes for a specialized Instagram audience. The story excerpted below concerns the arch football rivalries between the service academies.