When Twitter was first introduced to the public in March 2006, some saw it as a great way to share what they were up to, while others saw it as a nuisance. No matter which side you were on, there is no denying the social network has now grown into a worldwide phenomenon, with over 300 million users in 2011.

As Twitter grew in popularity, it also grew in purpose; meaning many businesses began assigning marketing value to the social networking tool. By leveraging instant connectivity to users, businesses could easily announce any new developments without paying for a costly campaign. One industry that needs to start paying particularly close attention to Twitter is the financial one.

Javelin Strategy & Research recently came out with a “Banking and Social Media” report showing the importance of leveraging social media for banks. One of the main findings of the report was that people do not feel comfortable using social networking sites to conduct their banking — not very surprising. Despite such low customer affection for this form of banking, banks need to leverage this popular communication medium and attach it to their brand name.

However, many are joining the social media revolution, so it’s on banks to figure out the best way to reach out to customers through the social networks, and thus far it’s looking like Twitter is one of their best bets. The report points out, “FIs should aim first to use social media as a channel to build and promote the brand, spark fan viral marketing, and engage consumers with interactive promotions. But, social networks also offer a tantalizing venue for customer service that is immediate and augments conventional face-to-face branch service and voice-to-voice call center service.”

Tweeting Customer Service

Whether you are opposed to the idea of Twitter or not, there’s no denying that it’s increasingly becoming the best way to get the attention of otherwise unreachable companies.

With long wait times, sitting through automated messages and needing to enter all sorts of information — getting a hold of customer service for your bank, for example, can be one of the most frustrating experiences ever. The great thing about using Twitter to grab the attention of your bank is you can just tweet your thoughts and tag them with the ‘@’ symbol and the bank’s Twitter handle.

There are some drawbacks though, as you may not be able to describe your problem in 140 characters. Even if you can, most of the times bank representatives respond to tweets with, ” I understand you’re frustrated. Can I help? Please call me directly at ——– (it’s for your privacy and security).”

As banks realize the importance of being available via all social channels, do not be surprised if you will begin to shift their focus to campaigns revolving around those sites. Giant banks jumped on this bandwagon early by creating Twitter handles such as @BofA_Help, @AskCiti and @Ask_WellsFargo among others. Although these handles are often recipients of rants and rage from customers, a bank that can eloquently address the complaints can come out on top.

The study only looked at a few of the bigger banks on Twitter. But, during the commotion of Occupy Wall Street protests and potential debit fee changes, banks experiences triple the amount of activity on Twitter with nearly tripled Twitter nearly 6,000 interactions.

It can be hard to adapt to the newest trends and technological etiquette as they continue to evolve rapid, but as businesses start paying more attention to sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, it may be time you do as well.


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  • Is the conclusion that *every* bank and credit union needs to provide customer service on Twitter? Seems like a very broad, one-size-fits-all recommendation for an industry with 13,000 competitors ranging in size from $10 million in assets to $2 trillion. Does this mean a small community bank that never gets mentioned on Twitter needs to be on Twitter? A credit union with 5,000 members needs to have a Twitter service rep?

    • You bring up a good point, while we focus our stories mainly around banks (not credit unions) it’s still important to bring up where smaller banks stand.

      I will say that I think besides the customer service aspect — which may be more convenient for larger banks — twitter offers a great reach to customers in general. One example that comes to mind is a small pizza place in Columbia Mo., voted Good Morning America’s Best College Hangout. Shakespeare’s Pizza won the vote after campaigning via twitter and facebook to get their loyal fans to vote online.

      Shakespeare’s cultivated a mass social following (over 25,000 fans attended their voting event) and utilized it to get national attention. Although a Pizza place is hardly comparable to a bank, banks can still gain more notoriety and popularity through using social networking sites like Twitter. Because these sites are free, I think having a social presence can only help.

    • Sunshine25

      >  *every* bank and credit union needs to provide customer service on Twitter

      You go where your customers are. If your customers are on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ the bank needs to be there. If not, the bank will be perceived as unresponsive.