Twitter has overtaken Facebook as the social network most favoured by financial services firms, according to analysis from Corporate Insight, which singles out American Express' use of the channel for special praise.
Social media has evolved in a short space of time from an experimental communication tool used by a few forward‐thinking financial services firms into a nearly universal feature, says Corporate Insight.
Of the 90 companies covered in its report, 57% used Facebook in 2010, and 51% Twitter. By the end of 2011, 88% of those with a social media presence were on Facebook and 92% on Twitter.
Almost all firms now accept the case for using social media but there is no clear consensus on how best to do this. Corporate Insight has attempted to score its 90 subjects on four types of 'social properties': Facebook pages, Twitter profiles, proprietary communities and blogs.
The firm weighed three main factors - audience, content and engagement - when evaluating each firm but put extra emphasis on engagement. The most prevalent form of engagement is the use of dedicated Twitter accounts for customer service while many companies also use the microblogging site and Facebook for recruitment.
Alan Maginn, senior analyst, Corporate Insight, says: "Engagement is truly what sets social media apart from more traditional business-to-consumer communications, and this direct interaction with current and prospective clients is a major benefit of a well-executed social media offering."
American Express, a social media pioneer that launched its first online community in 2006, tops the analysis. As well as its Open Forum proprietary community for small business owners, the card issuer maintains five Facebook pages, three Twitter accounts and presences on LinkedIn, Google+ and Foursquare.
Meanwhile, a separate analysis of social media use at the world's top 50 banks from MyPrivateBanking Research, ranks Citi first, scoring an impressive 47 points out of 50. The US giant, along with BBVA, National Australia Bank, Crédit Agricole and Deutsche Bank, is one of a select group to "have finally grasped the opportunities of social media".
However, the majority of banks evaluated are still lacking an integrated and strategic approach to social media, says the report, with only 16 having any "meaningful" content on all the analysed networks.
Some of the themes in the two reports will be up for debate at Finextra's second annual Social Media Day event on 25 April at Thomson Reuters' meeting centre in Canary Wharf. Picking up from last year's successful inaugural launch event, the meeting will move the discussion along to explore the practical application of social media within the financial services sector and asking is it possible to make money out of it.
To view the full agenda and register for the event - featuring speakers from HSBC, Thomson Reuters and Zopa, among others - go to www.socialmediadays.com. If you can't attend, Finextra will be liveblogging proceedings and you can follow the hashtag #FinxSM for updates.