Banks Mining Social Networks with Analytics Tools

Frank Eliason thinks of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as customers’ living rooms. “You have to wait to be invited in,” says the SVP of social media at New York-based Citi. “You want to deliver content that’s important to your fans. As you follow what they’re sharing and commenting on, that tells you which content is working and which is not.”

Dan Marks, chief marketing officer at First Tennessee in Memphis, views social media as a big cocktail party. You want to go and listen, find out what people are saying, maybe jump in with a comment or a witty quip once in a while — but you don’t get to control the conversation or pitch products, he says. “It’s a great indicator of word of mouth.”

The point is, on social media sites, thousands of conversations are going on, and some of them are about your bank. (Actually, it’s often more of a random spewing of personal opinions, thoughts and article links to an audience that may or may not be listening.) Within this mass of communication lies a wealth of useful information for banks — insights into where they’re falling short in customer service; which products, websites and mobile apps customers love or hate; what their share of voice is compared to competitors (that is, how often they’re mentioned versus their competitors); and how their marketing messages are coming across.

Banks such as Citi, SunTrust, First Tennessee and ING Direct not only are listening to the conversations and chiming in where appropriate, they’re analyzing the conversations to uncover ways to improve their business, with the help of monitoring and analytics software. “A year ago, banks thought their customers might be in social media sites and that there might be a few people talking about their banking experience online, but it wasn’t enough to necessitate a strategy,” observes Zach Hofer-Shall, an analyst at Forrester Research. “Now, just 12 months later, it’s big, and a lot of banks are doing something. But a lot of what they’re doing is behind-the-scenes research or measurement.”

An Active Social Life

Some software products in the space are multitasking — they provide a console for responding to social media comments as well as reports and analytics. Toronto-based ING Direct Canada (US$37.6 billion in assets) has about 19,000 fans and followers of its Twitter and Facebook pages. Under the name SuperStarSaver, the bank’s social media team tweets and posts comments to customers and prospects about their financial challenges. The messages are often offbeat.

“Quirky taglines are part of our culture,” says Mark Nicholson, head of digital and interactive at ING Direct Canada. “The intent is not to sound like a bank, but to speak the way a retailer would. It’s embedded in the DNA of what we call the ‘Orange Culture.'”

The bank uses Austin, Texas-based Spredfast to collaborate and participate in social networks. “Our folks aren’t directly on Facebook — they’re on Spredfast, which allows us to audit and track all those interactions,” Nicholson says, noting that the SaaS solution helps the bank scale its social media engagement and manage the workload.

Spredfast also helps the bank monitor its interactions, “so we don’t say something on a social network that we shouldn’t be saying,” and for compliance, Nicholson adds, pointing to proper disclosures as an example. A built-in workflow executes an approval process, he explains.

Citi’s ($1.9 trillion in assets) social media team uses Indianapolis-based ExactTarget’s CoTweet to engage with customers. “You assign responses to people, which is extraordinarily useful,” the bank’s Eliason says. And the solution tracks the conversation, so if one customer service representative starts an interaction with a customer and then his shift ends, another rep can see what transpired. “That’s important,” Eliason adds.

To manage Facebook interactions specifically, Citi uses New York-based Buddy Media. “When you’re looking at managing your wall in Facebook, you have to look at your publishing capabilities — how easy is it to put content up there?” Eliason says, noting that the software also helps the bank manage widgets on its Facebook wall. (For more on Citi’s use of social media, see related article, page 24.)

SunTrust ($172.9 billion in assets) also uses ExactTarget’s CoTweet to manage social media conversations and obtain metrics for its three Twitter handles: @suntrust for general bank information, @asksuntrust for customer service inquiries and @livesolid for conversations about finances and savings. “From a workflow management perspective, if you have multiple accounts and different contributors under those accounts, you want to have an easy way to identify a mention and assign it to someone,” says Bianca Buckridee, the Atlanta-based bank’s social media engagement manager. “That’s what CoTweet does.”

It also provides background information, she says — including the commenters’ bios and geographic locations, if available, their blog and/or websites and past tweets — to help the social media team decide whether or not to respond and to determine an appropriate answer.