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Customer Tactics

Seize the Conversation

It's long been said, typically by the derided, that everyone's a critic. Now, with social media networks like Twitter, Yelp and Facebook, everyone's a published critic. As Tom Coombes, CEO of financial PR firm Cognito says, "Social media has given us all a newswire."

Yet more banks are proving they understand the upsides, as well as the downsides, to the freedom of expression offered by Web 2.0 networks. Early adopters are harnessing the technology to spread their banks' messages-versus simply defending their brands-across commercial as well as retail business lines.

For instance, Citigroup's Global Transaction Services unit monitors social media to "directly address customer service issues and apply the knowledge to product improvement," says Leslie Klein, marketing chief for the bank's securities, cash and trade finance unit. The group has begun using Twitter to release "breaking news" and market events, and GTS uploads videos to YouTube featuring executives speaking on market issues and touting the unit's services. "We'll be closely monitoring these channels for feedback on the news and content we are distributing, and on what additional topics and issues customers want GTS to cover," Klein says. Citi wouldn't specify GTS' tool, but it's tapped Sysomos, Scout Labs, Global News Intelligence and Brandtology to monitor social media across different business lines and locales.

As Citi's vendor roster indicates, banks now have a slew of tools to choose from that track, monitor and enable posting on social media each time their brand is mentioned. The apps quantify the number of postings and articles on companies and their competitors. They analyze the attitudes expressed in media coverage and display the results graphically in screen-based dashboards users can log into from their computers. Mark Schwanhausser, senior analyst at Javelin Research, says banks help themselves by "joining the conversation," whereas letting others dominate it is "potentially a very big mistake."

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Attensity Group released last month Attensity Respond for Social Media, aimed at enabling users to join brand discussions by posting quick cyber replies. Respond works with monitoring app Attensity360 and integrates with commercial CRM platforms for policy-compliant responses, tracking and customer profile building.

"This is designed for banks to pick something off the queue and take action," says Michelle de Haaff, Attensity's CMO. Attensity Respond is deployed in beta across 200 contact centers; Deutsche Bank is a user. Attensity's acquisition of Redwood City, Calif.-based Biz360 in May boosted its coverage to 75 million Web sites and 18 languages.

Most monitoring providers use natural language processing algorithms that scour the Web to find mentions of firms. They tag, measure and display any discernible opinions toward the brands. To come up with sentiment ratings, for instance, Market Sentinel basically subtracts or adds points for negative or positive comments, respectively, and multiplies that by a credibility rating it assigns to the commenter, based on a system called MozRank, which counts the number of links that refer to the Web page or link where the comments originated, factoring in each page's popularity by their own total link referrals.

Mark Rogers, CEO of London-based Market Sentinel, says good apps should help stakeholders chart course changes if necessary from answering questions, like: "Have I gotten away with inching up my prices? Are customers talking about closing their bank accounts? How can I make the conversation more positive?" Nationwide Building Society uses LiveBuzz, Market Sentinel's social media monitor, to improve CRM.

PR firms like Cognito have also extended their services to social media monitoring. Traditional press clipping services like Durrants, which acquired social media specialist Metrica last year, media data aggregators like Nielsen Buzzmetrics, and Web marketing firms like Regalix have done the same. The crowded space also includes Web text specialists like Attensity, and companies focused exclusively on social media tracking or management, like Brandwatch, Jive Software, Sysomos, Market Sentinel, Radian6, Sentiment Metrics and Spiral16. Large software firms like SAS have also added social media monitoring systems among business intelligence suites.

London-based Cognito uses third-party services, including press cutting firm Precise, which itself employs Moreover Technologies' social media monitoring tool. It also leverages data from financial clients.