Trio of Online Banks Dominate Social Media Channels

They may not have as many assets as their Big Bank rivals, but three online banks based in the U.S. continue to punch above their weight class in social channels, ranking among the elite in the latest Power 100 index for Q1 2014. In fact, these three banks — Ally, Capital One 360 and Simple — rank among the top 20 U.S. banks, proving you don’t have to be the biggest to be among the best when it comes to reach and engagement across social media platforms.

Bank Power 100 Rank
(Q1 2014)
Power 100 Rank
(U.S. Only)
Asset Rank in U.S. Total
Power 100 Score
(Q1 2014)
Change in
P100 Score
vs. Q4 2013
Bank of America #1 #1 #2 $2.1 trillion 3,145 +576
Chase #2 #2 #1 $2.4 trillion 2,802 +238
Ally #26 #10 #23 $151 billion 388 +73
Capital One 360 #47 #14 #28 $82 billion 139 +1
Simple #52 #16 n/a n/a 126 +17
BBVA Compass #61 #20 #31 $65 billion 83 +2

While the manner in which Power 100 scores are calculated is somewhat subjective, the formula has been weighted to adjust for: the relative value of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels; financial industry averages; and the ease/difficulty of growing a community in each channel.

When it comes to amplifying their brands, online banks by their very nature have a leg up on other players who are more conservative, as well as an advantage over smaller players who are resource- and innovation-challenged. The three online banks singled out in the Power 100 rankings never forget that their appeal with consumers stems from a promise of banking disruption. And as Brandwatch notes when looking at the financial services category, having “character and a personality” can work advantageously towards social success, a maxim embraced by the scrappy online banks with their bold, brash “challenger brands.” They exploit the concept of “disruption” as a brand pillar, translating their position into tangible banking benefits and services. By having a unique value proposition, a differentiated experience and an unexpected tone, they can more easily amplify their brand in social channels in relevant ways.

Ally Bank

Ally is one of the best financial institutions in the industry in three particular areas: translating the brand to social channels, qualitative evaluation, and integrating efforts across multiple platforms. They don’t use Twitter for customer service, but instead use it to share personal financial tips and various other updates about Ally updates. Video content is used across all social channels, with their commercials and educational content being among the most popular — Ally’s “New Way” video garnered just under 2 million views — and they are always rotating in fresh content.

Back in 2012, the Ally’s CMO noted that the bank published on average 1,500 pieces of content between all its social channels. A quick review of Q1 2014 content indicates they are keeping pace with fresh, relevant, novel content:

  • “Pin to Play” Pinterest sweepstakes promoted in all social channels
  • Mobile app promotions for new enhancements
  • Partnerships with Kiplinger (financial education) and National Geographic (brain game activities)
  • Live Tweet chats on retirement and women’s finances – part of their Bank Straight Talk campaign
  • Use of engagement devices: simple polls, low-lift gift card giveaways, topical word clouds
  • Use of influencers (e.g., Daily Finance)

Capital One 360

Priding itself on saving money and time for customers, Capital One does a good job extending its money-saving emphasis through its use of social channels. Their Facebook page makes clever connections between topical subjects — ranging from the Super Bowl, the Olympics and the Academy Awards — with their mission to help customers save money. Their followers don’t seem to mind the stretch sometimes required to make those connections.

Some of Capital One 360’s more effective posts in Q1 included reminders about unique product features like an on/off debit card capability during the Target breach, and an offer for a Valentine’s Day coffee at a local Cap One 360 Café. Capital One 360’s most productive social content leverages “We the Savers” stories stemming from their signature “What Are You Saving For?” contest.

Not all the commentary on Capital One 360’s social channels is upbeat. They weather some criticisms from consumers, but that’s okay because transparency earns people’s trust.

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Simple, the worry-free alternative to traditional banking, was acquired by BBVA Compass during Q1, triggering a ton of chatter in social channels. There were concerns and questions aired on Facebook, Twitter and Quora. During this period, Simple’s social content was not particularly robust, but the bank did score high marks for both engagement and a high volume of shared content.

Simple’s “Skip the Waitlist” invitation, a security checklist following the Target breach, and job openings were the most popular pieces of content the bank generated in Q1.

Brandwatch takes positive note of Simple’s informal customer service in social channels, with unscripted teams who are encouraged to be themselves. The casual conversations they have with people might yield an invite to meet up with the Simple team at an Austin coffee shop during SXSW. But the social discourse surrounding BBVA’s acquisition of Simple suggests consumers are still nervous. It doesn’t seem like Simple successfully reassured everyone that they will remain true to their mission and continue down their path. Although a Facebook post linked to the CEO’s letter that was quite reassuring, the social team’s replies to posts were less so. Oddly, the acquisition announcement on Facebook linked to BBVA Continental’s Spanish-language Facebook page, a confusing experience indeed.

What Can You Learn From Online Bank’s Social Success?

  • Although every social move is not perfect, it is evident that each of these three online banks understands and communicates who they are.
  • The individual members of each bank’s social team demonstrate varying levels of skill, experience and dexterity, but for all three brands, they parlay into a group voice that ultimately works.
  • Any major move — corporate changes, product announcements — must be carefully managed and prepared for in advance. Case in point, Capital One 360 enhancements to mobile banking unleashed the impatient Windows phone users who want to catch up. Simple’s new acquisition status by a traditional big player resulted in customers who need reassurance that nothing will change.
  • Like Ally, consistently distribute your promotions across channels. But don’t feel tied down to always feeling like you need to be running promotions. Simple customers energetically share content without any discounts, offers or strings attached. Proving relevancy to your customers is key.

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