Regions, Wells Fargo Experiment with Social Media and ATM Mashups

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At some banks these days, ATM could stand for automated tweeting machine.

Banks including Regions Financial (RF) and Wells Fargo (WFC) are using Twitter and other social media in tandem with mobile phones to inform, engage and serve customers. Regions will include Twitter and Facebook promotions in its ATM messaging next year.

"Social and mobile go together," Liliana Grip, Regions' vice president of social media, tells American Banker.

Regions' plans at the moment include asking customers to follow the Birmingham, Ala., bank on Twitter and "like" Regions on Facebook while they are transacting on their ATMs.

Regions, which has more than 2,100 ATMs in 16 states, also plans to do more promotion of its social properties at its branches.
Using social media "extends the experience out of the branch," Grip says.

Measuring "likes" is less important than engagement in the social sphere, Grip says. Indeed, providing customer care was the impetus for launching its social strategy late last year. "We respond to anything and everything we can add value to," Grip says.

Regions has addressed more than 5,000 issues through its social media pages this year, Grip says. Beyond Twitter and Facebook, the bank also participates on YouTube, Google+, Foursquare and Flickr. Six people work on Regions' social channels, though the bank wouldn't disclose its budget allocated for social media efforts.

Regions is certainly not alone in making use of its ATMs' real estate for promoting its social properties. For now, though, the primary point of doing so is for branding purposes.

"It's more of a branding reinforcement than anything else," says David Albertazzi, senior analyst with Aite Group. On the ATM side, banks primarily use social media to inform customers about an ATM perk, offer security tips and alert customers when a cash machine isn't working, he says.

"Banks are using social media to keep customers informed to potential updates to when the ATM" will be back online, Albertazzi says.

Larger banks, like Wells Fargo, have been incorporating their social properties into their ATM messaging for some time. Wells has run advertisements on its ATMs for its @Ask_WellsFargo handle for about the last two years, says Alicia Moore, head of ATM banking at the San Francisco company.

Wells, which has a network of 12,000 ATMs, runs an ad on its ATM that says: "We're on Twitter. We'd love to hear about your experiences with our ATMs. Tweet and follow us at @Ask_WellsFargo."

What does Wells "hear" the most from tweeters viewing an ATM campaign? Surprise on their birthdays. Indeed, Wells wishes customers a happy birthday during their ATM transactions — digital confetti included.

Though "happy birthday" messages prompt a pool of consumers to tweet to Wells while they are at the ATMs, Moore notes that tweeting to a bank isn't for everyone.

Twitter's "a powerful tool, but not every customer wants to use it," Moore says.

That said, Moore says that Wells can send targeted ATM messages to those customers who have shown an appetite for Twitter. In other words, if a customer has previously tweeted to the bank, Wells can reinforce that communication option the next time he visits one of its ATMs, she says.

"The whole concept of personalization has been evolving over the last few years" to remembering customer preferences, Albertazzi says.

And though Wells doesn't yet push its social properties to customers when an ATM is down — largely because there are so many reasons a machine might not be working right — it does make sure an ATM screen points a consumer to the five nearest ATM locations. And, Moore says, Wells is "thinking through" how to become more digital or mobile when ATM glitches occur.

Looking further ahead, banks could take a cue from card issuers and find opportunities in blending offers into their social and mobile initiatives.

Though Grip says she couldn't speak to Regions' plans yet, she did say rewards and social media were on her radar, and pointed to American Express [AXP] as a player that is doing interesting things in the space.

For example, earlier this year Amex rolled out a service that lets eligible cardholders sync their cards with Twitter. By doing so, consumers receive savings from participating merchants when they swipe their Amex card and tweet specific hashtags. Amex introduced a similar campaign for Facebook last year.

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