Should You ‘Join the Social Media Conversation’ If No One Is Talking About You?

As social media tries to find its footing amid the financial marketing landscape, the concept of “social CRM” — using social media tools to manage existing consumer relationships — has been gaining more and more attention.

Consultants and the trade media point to banks like BofA and Wells Fargo as successful examples of how social media can be used to address customer problems, concerns and complaints. Financial institutions are told they need to “join the conversation” because “people are already on social media sites talking about you.”

Reality Check: No they aren’t. Banks and credit unions with less than $1 billion in assets are almost never mentioned on social media sites. Ever.

The notion of helping retail banking consumers through social media sounds like a good idea, but it simply isn’t a practical application for all but the largest financial institutions. In the credit union industry for instance, only about 175 out of some 7,700 — that’s 2%! — are large enough to be mentioned on social media sites at a level that warrants attention.

Smaller financial institutions have the most to lose with social CRM. They are always looking for new, inexpensive marketing tactics, and they hear consultants, experts and the media talk about case studies from companies like Dell and Comcast, so they run out and give social CRM a whirl.

Reality Check: Nearly every successful example of social CRM comes from companies with millions of customers, thousands of employees and hundreds of marketing staff.

Compared to these huge consumer megabrands, small banks and credit unions have far fewer resources they can gamble with. Any yet you’ll hear many social media experts offer blanket advice too all financial institutions, irrespective of size.

There are social media enthusiasts who will say the volume of social mentions doesn’t matter; that you should automate searches and reply to every relevant comment every time, no matter what. But watch out… This approach can quickly turn into a sinkhole, where the employee responsible for monitoring and responding to social media mentions winds up spending wayyyyy more time dinking around Twitter, Facebook and YouTube than anyone expected. The magnetic pull of social media is hard to resist, especially when you can learn/read/see so many things that are ten times more interesting than the rest of your job.

Social CRM is a fantastic idea in theory, but financial marketers need to step back and look at the facts. The Financial Brand used social media search tools like Twitter Search, Google Realtime Search, Topsy and Social Mention to scan for references to banks and credit unions in Pennsylvania. Take a look at the results below, and you’ll see that smaller financial institutions simply aren’t mentioned very often. Only as you pass the $1 billion threshold do you start to see significant volumes of social media references.

Go give it a try for yourself. Search around for any financial institution with less than $1 billion in assets and you’ll be hard pressed to find much more than a handful of mentions at social media sites.

Bottom Line: Unless you can find at least 30 social media mentions each month from consumers within your service area, you are going to have a very difficult time justifying why your financial institution should launch any social CRM initiative, whether you (1) pull an existing employee from their current duties, or (2) hire someone to handle it. Financial institutions that are truly committed to answering their customers’ questions and resolving problems should look first at their existing service channels, then prioritize online chat over social CRM.

Susquehanna Bank – $13 billion

Social Media Mentions: Less than 100 per month

Susquehanna is monitoring its brand on Twitter, sending approximately 6-8 tweets in the last 30 days to customers who have mentioned the bank. All tweets mentioning “Susquehanna Bank” in the last four days have been either spam/ads or one of many references to the arena bearing the bank’s name. Susquehanna also thanks the 6-10 people per week who use Foursquare to check-in at one of the bank’s 50+ branches. Assuming the bank has around 20 employees in its marketing department, it probably makes sense for them to have someone monitoring the web and responding to people via social media channels. Note: The bank has no Facebook presence beyond pages created for Susquehanna Center.

TruMark Financial Credit Union – $1.3 billion

Social Media Mentions: Less than 10 per month

With membership hovering around 100,000, this credit union has accrued 1,786 likes on Facebook, and there have been about a dozen wall posts in the last 30 days. TruMark also has 423 Twitter followers (many of them industry insiders and other credit unions), but doesn’t follow anyone back nor send @replies to anyone.

Clearview Federal Credit Union – $726 million

Social Media Mentions: Less than 1 per month

The credit union has a Facebook page with 147 likes. They were able to generate around 30 wall comments using a contest that required people to post “I love my CU and I would love those tickets!” But besides the occasional Foursquare check-in, there aren’t many social media mentions.

Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union – $689 million

Social Media Mentions: Less than 10 per month

There are a few tweets here and there, but most are about the credit union’s community events and don’t require much (if any) response. The credit union has 517 likes on Facebook, with about five total wall posts since January.

QNB Bank – $681 million

Social Media Mentions: Less than 10 per month

For Quaker National Bank, there is a conflict with Qatar National Bank, so results must be filtered. There are only two recent tweets mentioning the Pennsylvania financial institution, one from a public official congratulating the bank on a new branch and another casual reference in a news article. The bank isn’t on Twitter or Facebook.

Penn Security Bank & Trust – $645 million

Social Media Mentions: Less than 5 per month

The bank isn’t on Twitter or Facebook, so it’s no big surprise that they aren’t mentioned more than a handful of times, and even then, the references are casual. Every now and then, someone may check-in to a branch using Foursquare.

Sb1 Federal Credit Union – $562 million

Social Media Mentions: Basically none ever

SB1 is taking some heat in the business press over its mortgage operations this year, but all the tweets mentioning the credit union’s problems come from those outside the state of Pennsylvania. The credit union isn’t on Twitter or Facebook.

Kishacoquillas Valley National Bank – $486 million

Social Media Mentions: Less than 1 per month

The bank’s name has been shortened to “Kish,” but it’s still a very searchable term. According to Topsy, this half-billion dollar bank has only been mentioned a total of 69 times in the history of social media. Localized searches in Google Realtime seem to confirm this.

Honesdale National Bank – $477 million

Social Media Mentions: Less than 1 per month

Only one non-sponsored tweet about this bank so far this year, and it wasn’t the kind Honesdale would want to respond to. They have a Facebook page, but only 313 likes and less than a dozen posts on their wall in the last four months.

Juniata Valley Bank – $467 million

Social Media Mentions: Less than 1 per month

Good luck finding any relevant mentions of this bank. They aren’t on Twitter, they aren’t on Facebook, and no one is talking about them.

APCI Federal Credit Union – $454 million

Social Media Mentions: Basically none ever

There are only 6,650 Google search results for this credit union. That’s total. None of them are relevant social media mentions, just the random spam tweet here and there.

Sewickley Savings Bank – $261 million

Social Media Mentions: Basically none ever

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