The Conversation Report: A Banking Industry Social Media Study

Perhaps no industry has changed as much in recent years as banking. Events like the mortgage crisis, BofA’s ill-fated debit card fee and Occupy Wall Street have soiled consumer confidence in U.S. banks. In an effort to earn back their trust, some financial institutions have adopted social media channels in an effort to connect and engage with consumers.

Social Media Explorer, a digital media marketing agency, wanted to evaluate this approach and see if it’s working… or not (hint: not really). “The Conversation Report: What Consumers are Saying About Banking,” is a 112-page study shares research-based insights that can help banks and credit unions decipher the nagging social media riddle.

Jason Falls, CEO of SME and author of the report, says financial marketers lack a solid understanding of the online conversations occurring around banks and banking products. They need to know what consumers are thinking and saying.

“What most banks are doing in the social media space is not enough to win back consumers,” explained Falls. “The Conversation Report delivers an in-depth analysis of the topics and conversations that will help guide marketing decisions at banks and other retail financial institutions in the coming months and years.”

While traditional market research says what fellow bank marketers are thinking or doing, The Conversation Report offers unfiltered insights into what the public is saying about the top bank brands, community banks, credit unions and the products and services they offer.

Key Insights

For all the bad juju in the financial world, people still mostly like their bank. Using NetBase’s sentiment analysis, the report found that of the top 25 FDIC asset banks, 23 had higher than 60% positive sentiment in online conversations about their bank.

The 7 Business Drivers of Social Media

  • Enhance Branding & Awareness
  • Protect Brand Reputation
  • Extend Brand Public Relations
  • Build Community Around the Brand
  • Extend Customer Service for the Brand Facilitate Research & Development for the Brand
  • Drive Sales and Leads for the Brand

For banks in social media, size doesn’t (necessarily) matter. Being the biggest bank doesn’t necessarily equal having the biggest piece of the online conversation pie. For example, Goldman Sachs, the 21st largest FDIC asset bank, ranks third in online buzz and conversation.

Banking consumers are fickle. One of the top conversations taking place on the banking industry is customer service. While it was listed as one of the top three positive areas consumers discuss, at the same time it was one of the top three negative areas consumers discuss for seven of the top 10 banks.

Advertising works… at least at driving sentiment. In other words, you can use branding tools (like advertising) to shape and influence your image and reputation. Banks that made a big splash in advertising scored big with consumers talking positively about them online. For example, Capital One and HSBC’s ad campaigns are notable and “buzzworthy” for being either humorous or thought provoking. This matters because other bank ad campaigns failed to crack 8% of positive online conversations.

Customers do not like to pay fees to access their money. Both ATM and overdraft fees emerged as consistent pain points for consumers. Banks that restore or reimburse ATM fees are big winners in this category.

Falls at SME says the report shouldn’t serve as a blanket blueprint for a financial institution’s social media strategy so much as a contextual backdrop or compass. “I’d always recommend more focused research and assessment for individual banks and brands before determining one’s marketing goals and objectives,” Falls elaborated. “But the insights gleaned and reported here are powerful supplements to a brand’s existing research and consumer insights. It will help you understand your customers, their wishes, fears and demands, while also giving you a wealth of information on which you can base your approach to social media marketing.”

Passion Index for Top 25 U.S. Banks

While many of the brands fall in the middle of the chart, there are some clear winners in Brand Passion online. State Street Bank and PNC Bank stand above the others with high positive sentiment and high passion scores. Bank of America and Wells Fargo are the most disliked or even hated of the brands.

Sentiment Comparisons for Top 25 U.S. Banks

Bank of America dominates the volume of online conversations with 1.2 million mentions, over 40 percent more than its nearest competitor (JP Morgan Chase) which registered over 800,000 conversations. Goldman Sachs and Citibank also had over half a million conversations with Citibank, Wells Fargo and HSBC rounding out a “Big Six” grouping — those with over 400,000 online mentions. The next highest volume of mentions came from ING, PNC Bank and Capital One, each with 140,000-180,000 mentions.

About The Conversation Report

Social Media Explorer banking industry report is a survey of the online conversational marketplace with specific focus on the topic of banking and the banking industry. Using online market research tools, social media monitoring and other indexing services, the report identifies and analyzes thousands of mentions of banks, financial institutions and the consumer-driven topics around them. The goal was to find out what consumers were saying in relation to these institutions and their industries. For the report, Social Media Explorer:

  • Interviewed several bank and financial industry marketers to establish a foundation of understanding of the industry from the brand perspective
  • Identified the top performing national and regional bank brands in the U.S.
  • Identified the top banking brands on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube to potentially serve as examples or best practices for others
  • Developed a list of recommendations for banks and financial institutions interested in entering the social media marketing world based on the here-and-now conversations of consumers

The Conversation Report is available for purchase. The cost for a single-user license is $497. To learn more about the report, you can visit

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