Twitter is an intriguing customer communication channel, but its potential is uncertain and the rules of engagement are unclear. Experimentation will be needed to sort it out, and one recent test was Wells Fargo's "Mobile Monday."

On that day late in the year, mobile phone product managers sat side-by-side with the Twitter team to ask questions and respond to queries of the nearly 3,800 people who follow Wells on Twitter. The result was valuable customer research and goodwill from two-way dialogue.

Mobile Monday was part of a broader "Voice of the Customer" program at Wells Fargo, says Kimarie Matthews, vp, customer advocacy and loyalty, Wells Fargo Internet services group. As part of that initiative the bank looks for creative ways to engage customers, and Twitter fits the bill. (The bank has had a social media team for four years.) "Traditionally, customers don't always know what becomes of their feedback. Twitter allows them to tell us what they're thinking, but it also shows them we're listening and appreciative," she says.

Arah Erickson, vp and head of mobile banking, says Twitter is particularly well suited to engaging customers about mobile banking. "There's a strong correlation between Wells Fargo's mobile users and Twitter users. It's a great opportunity to listen to and engage with them," she says. Under Secil Watson, svp of Internet and mobile banking, the bank has made a big push into mobile banking. It introduced mobile person-to-person payments in September, and it plans to incorporate reward programs and promotional offers into its mobile banking line up.

George Tubin, senior research director for TowerGroup's delivery channels and financial information security research services, says the concept of Mobile Monday is "brilliant. It doesn't cost anything. It's timelier than a typical focus group, and using social media is extremely inexpensive for the bank." Adds Nick Holland, a senior analyst at Aite Group: "Discussing a specific topic on Twitter is fairly interesting. You're leveraging a huge audience out there. And why not? It's a free survey panel."

In the week leading up to Mobile Monday the Twitter team let Twitter followers know the mobile product managers would be there. As part of the build up the team offered tips on how to use mobile banking and did some polling. When Mobile Monday arrived they opened it up to customers to ask their own general questions. During the day the bank and customers engaged in three ways: They helped customers on the spot with how to use mobile banking features; they learned how customers use mobile banking in their everyday lives-such as checking balances just before the holidays; and they engaged in two-way conversations with customers about the product.

Another insight from the day was how the Twitter community organizes itself. Leading up to Mobile Monday the Twitter team started using #WFCMobile in front of all their Tweets about mobile banking. Without prompting, the Twitter followers began using the same hash tag. As a result, it's easy to scan through the Tweets and pick out the mobile banking conversation. What's more, since the community has organized the discussion around this hash tag "the conversation about mobile banking at Wells Fargo can continue even though Mobile Monday is over," Matthews says. One indication of the day's success, she says, is that there were 8,000 retweets; for the uninitiated, this means that the followers of Wells Fargo were sharing the Mobile Monday conversation with their own followers, creating a kind of viral marketing. (Another Mobile Monday is not yet planned.)

Several analysts cautioned, however, that while there may be a high correlation between those who Twitter and mobile bankers, this group may have less in common with the broader banking community. Tubin of TowerGroup says: "You are getting feedback from Twitter users, which is a very specific segment. How much you can translate that feedback across the entire customer base is something they have to figure out. How much of the feedback is really relevant for non-Twitter users? If it is relevant, they've struck upon a very efficient way to get customer feedback."

Adds Holland of Aite: "On Twitter you'd need to pick your topics very carefully. They may be well informed on mobile banking. But you need to take your Twitter demographics into account. If you ask nerd-oriented questions you're going to get nerd-oriented answers."

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