Banks can seem aloof and robotic on social media, but TD Bank has managed to create a human persona that has drawn more than 550,000 Facebook likes. Its efforts put it at the top of a recent analysis of North American banks' social media efforts.
We asked Vinoo Vijay, the Cherry Hill, N.J.-based bank's chief marketing officer, and Bryan Segal, CEO of Engagement Labs, the company that did the analysis, how the bank manages to stand out:
Faster response times TD Bank responds to social media posts quicker than its competitors. Its average response time on Facebook is an hour and 15 minutes (it has four people dedicated to the site). This may not sound extraordinary, but partly because some banks choose not to respond to messages, the average response time for banks in general is in the 90-hour range, Segal said. Bank of America averages about five hours and four minutes on Facebook, Wells Fargo is five hours and 24 minutes.
TD Bank typically responds to tweets in about 46 minutes, while Wells Fargo takes just over four hours and JPMorgan Chase takes a bit over 10 hours, Segal said.
TD Bank has "quite a large reach, they're very active, their messages are responsive and their response times are good, that's why they showed up really high in our ranking," Segal said.
Keeping things real "When you think of a bank, you think of people in suits and you think of ATMs," said Segal. "There's not a person, there's brick and mortar." TD Bank has done a good job of "making that brick and mortar a person that has a name, somebody you can identify with and communicate with and you start to bring personality."
Vijay said that "our basic brand story is we're a more human bank, we're a more local bank, and we take that customer engagement very seriously because at our core we're about better experiences. On social media, it boils down to this: the conversation has to be genuine. It has to be one where we're listening and presenting content we think is honest and true and relevant to the reader."
How do you keep the interaction from feeling forced or unnatural?
"It reflects our employees; I don't think we could manufacture it," Vijay said. "We're constantly looking for ways to wow our customers, and so much of that is our attitude. Are we smiling and greeting them by name as they walk in the doors? Are we engaging with them as part of the community we serve? Those are things that make us proud of what we do and who we are. The way we train our employees reflects that. What you're seeing in the way these posts come out is the natural state of conversation."
Most employees go through TD University, which steeps them in the bank's culture (which is called Wow!). "When I went to it, I was by far the oldest person at my table so I felt a little uncomfortable, but after an hour and a half we were family," Vijay said. "A lot of people at my table said, before I had a job, now I feel I have a career, this feels more permanent and opportunistic."
Financial education The bank received high marks for its financial education efforts in social media. It conducts financial education classes for kids and adults in schools and its bank branches. It has 2,500 store leaders who taught 4,041 classes to 72,862 students last year. This year so far, 2,200 classes have been taught to 40,000 students. "We're on track to do more this year," Vijay said.
The bank just finished a campaign called fiscal fitness for which it used the hashtag #financialeducation. "The idea was simple: it's good for us from time to time to take a look at our fiscal fitness, just as we look at our physical fitness," Vijay said. "We invited people to come to our stores and have a fiscal fitness test done. As an award for doing that, we gave out Fitbits. It was super popular and very successful from a customer standpoint and something we all should be doing on a regular basis."
Local community involvement The bank's Facebook strategy is very local. In April, its page featured pictures of employees planting trees for Earth Day, updates on Celtics games, and local branch openings.
"Last week, we opened a store in New York, we had our TD mascot run around New York, we gave out free shoe shines, we handed out pizza, we used social channels to communicate these things," Vijay said.
An intelligent response to haters and crises A Facebook page called "I Hate TD Bank!!!" is populated with people venting about the bank. Vijay is philosophical about it. "I think that's fine, it's part of the richness of the platform," he said. "I think the key for us is that we have a place where we're engaging our customers and telling our story. If people want to tell other stories, that's fine."
The bank has a plan in place for dealing with crises such as website outages and bad publicity. "It's not a cookie cutter plan, but we have to let employees, customers, and the community know," said Vijay. "We leverage social media. We leverage our website, our internal connections platform. These are all ways we articulate those stories. The key is not necessarily the use of the platform, but rather the quality and pace of getting it done. That's where we put a lot of our attention and energy. Do we have people on call? Can I get somebody on the phone? We have to be very clear."