Blog article
See all stories »

Tweet or become obsolete - banks selling using social media

I had the opportunity to visit Beirut recently, where I met and addressed senior executives from various banks.  It became apparent that many banks are still seeking to understand how best to leverage social media.  Of course, this is a huge subject to cover in a single blog, so I will address one specific aspect of social media – micro blogging.  Micro blogging, by and large, means Twitter. Twitter is a hot topic among banks and financial institutions – especially since its recent stock market float.   Since it first came on to the scene back in March 2006, banks have wanted a piece of the micro-blogging action.  For a while, many marketers in banks were busy tweeting and hoping to sign up more followers.   But six years later, it is interesting to see how the use of these Twitter accounts has matured.

I read a study recently that showed that 1 in 5 banks are ’Twitter quitters’.  Banks such as Foster Bank, part of BBCN Bank, the largest Korean-American Bank, have suspended their account after 4 years - and with over 1000 followers.  On the other hand, some banks find Twitter an indispensible tool for communications.  The Co-operative Bank in the UK demonstrated this back in May when they dispelled rumours of a bailout through Twitter.

Many banks operate a number of branded Twitter accounts to cover each area of business.   Barclays Bank has as many as twenty Twitter accounts which cover a range of businesses, services and sponsorships. Barclays’ largest Twitter following comes from its Barclays Premier League account @BarclaysFooty, – which appeals to football supporters and currently boasts 110,759 followers.

However, the real banking action lies in customer service.  Using Twitter for customer complaints is increasingly common. Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup all used scripted answers to respond to customer queries. It can be a challenge for a bank to provide problem resolution via Twitter, and in many cases, customers are prompted to send an email. This requires the customer to take the next action, which means Twitter is an extra step rather than a time saver.

However, the Barclays customer service Twitter account, @BarclaysOnline, has a 19,000 followers. It is continuously manned during working hours and customers can expect a response on the same day.  Of course, complaints posted outside working hours remain public and unanswered until the bank resumes operations.  Based on my personal experience, it seems that  HSBC manages its customer service Twitter account 24/7. HSBC also has different Twitter accounts for different area of the business.  HSBC’s Twitter accounts are also country specific, such as @HSBC_UK_Help.  Whilst HSBC has been active with these accounts, they have not yet achieved the same scale as Barclays and currently have 5,769 followers in the UK.  

This said, I believe the most exciting opportunities lie beyond customer service – and in revenue generation. Twitter can act a sales lead generation tool in three ways:

1)      As a gateway for sales staff to develop their online personal and business brands. This helps organisations by providing valuable customer interactions and insights. 

2)      Twitter can enable banks to listen to what is being said about their organisation and products.  This provides banks with invaluable information about their market as a whole.

3)      Twitter lists can be used to target listening efforts at specific opportunity customers, thereby improving insights.  Combining lists with Twitter’s advanced search feature enhances this effect.  Recently, Avaya was able to generate $250,000 of sales using Twitter Lists.  Avaya was able to search Twitter for key words and phrases and looked to start conversations that could lead to sales. They were also able to filter their search based on multiple criteria, such as location.

Twitter is a very strong social tool.  Until now, the majority financial institutions have been very hesitant to use it to its fullest extent. Twitter has the potential to go beyond customer service and become a platform to support sales.



Comments: (1)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 02 January, 2014, 16:29Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

We've learned from our work with an insurance company that up to 15% of Tweets received on social media customer service channel are actually not complaints but queries / requests which are one step away from becoming opportunities for upsell and cross-sell. However, since the staff manning the social media customer service channel are typically from the ORM space, they operate with scripts. For them to convert these tweets to sales, they need social intelligence tools that can pick out the proverbial needle from the haystack. Can you cite any success story of a bank / FI / insurer using social media for sales? I'm asking because Avaya, the example you've cited, is not from the BFSI industry and many banks we've spoken to cite regulatory hurdles in doing this.

Member since




More from member

This post is from a series of posts in the group:

Innovation in Financial Services

A discussion of trends in innovation management within financial institutions, and the key processes, technology and cultural shifts driving innovation.

See all