The best bank on Twitter these days has to be Bank of America, which has parked its Twitter strategy not in the realm of Web 2.0 or social networking strategy but with Holly Hastings, the national customer experience executive for BofA. Viewing Twitter as a customer service channel, and putting an actual employee - David Knapp, complete with his picture as opposed to the bank logo - is counter-intuitive, but genius as it leverages both Twitter's one-to-many and one-to-one capabilities. Knapp now has about 1,630 followers, and as mid-April had posted more than 700 responses since the bank went live on Twitter in January.

"The beauty of it is it's individual and collective at the same time," Hastings says. "We get to listen to our customers and respond to them. And if one person has a positive interaction they can let 9,000 other people know."

When BofA launched its presence on Twitter, Hastings thought it would only be a forum for customers to look for resolution to problems - about service charges or errors for example - but soon found that customers would also proactively seek information about products and services. "What was probably most resonating was how quickly it grew into another way which people wanted to get information about the bank," Hastings says.

Putting Knapp out there as a highly visible, high-touch face of the bank is certainly an expensive way to handle customer service - what about the drive to reduce call center volume as a way of cutting costs? But BofA sees Twitter as a powerful social media tool that "lets us meet our customers where they are," Hastings says. But at this point it has to be an experiment. Knapp owns the resolution to every problem that comes his way; if Twitter continues to grow at its current pace that certainly won't be sustainable. But Hasting's isn't worried about that, she's got her eye on "the next Twitter" where the bank should be meeting its customers. "It's still to be determined," she says. "From Twitter, what are the next places to go to help proactively solve our customers problems?"

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