A quick skim through banks' Facebook and Twitter feeds reveals that most corporate accounts are missing one very important factor: interaction.
Some banks may post about upcoming branch openings, product-related information, and the latest updates on Dodd-Frank. But based on the number of comments, shares, retweets, likes and favorites that these posts receive, it seems most consumers aren't biting on the hooks that banks cast.
Interaction is exactly what bank marketers should be striving for. The chance to engage with current and potential customers is what differentiates social media from all other forms of marketing materials. Social media is a two-way communication tool that gives consumers a choice of whether to engage or ignore bank messages.
Since consumers have a choice, brands and marketers need to compete for the attention of their audience against all the other content circulating online. This means the content they create needs to be not only relevant and useful, but also entertaining a quality that most bank social media accounts lack.
The power of entertainment to sway customer habits is illustrated by Andrew Davis in his book Brandscaping. Davis discusses how the Disney-Pixar movie Finding Nemo made families across the U.S. fall in love with a lost clownfish so much so that many decided they simply had to have a Nemo fish of their own. For a full year after the movie's release, it was almost impossible to find clownfish in pet stores. Many buyers were first-time fish owners, so in addition to the fish they had to purchase tanks, food and supplies. The pet industry saw a significant increase in sales thanks to a story that had inspired viewers to take action.
Now, I'm not suggesting banks go out and create their own Pixar Studio and then develop a cartoon featuring animated dollar bills. But banks do need to start spending more resources on building great content that leaves their audience similarly motivated.
This kind of strategy requires time, investment in storytelling and a significant use of internal and external resources. Instead of shelling out checks to present at charity events and galas, this strategy utilizes digital resources and creative, artful narratives to bring a bank's culture and values to life. This kind of content reaches a much larger audience and has the ability to tug at consumers' heartstrings, facilitating brand loyalty.
For example, Eastern Bank in Boston, Mass., has started a YouTube campaign highlighting random acts of kindness toward their customers. Some of their most popular videos include Gronk's Special Delivery, in which Patriots football player Rob Gronkowski helps a mover deliver a free new couch to a single mom, and DeeDee's Big Surprise, in which bank staffers and volunteers remodeled a pizza parlor owned by a woman who had been recently widowed. With the company's top four videos grossing a combined viewership of over 540,000, Eastern Bank is well on their way to creating brand loyalty amongst consumers.
Another good example is TD Canada, which launched its Automatic Thanking Machine video on YouTube in 2014. The video featuring customers receiving surprise gifts from trips to Disneyland to visits with their favorite baseball players has become the most recognizable content marketing campaign by a bank, receiving over 20 million views to date and reaching viral status on Facebook.
These campaigns have been successful because they use storytelling techniques to engage people's interest. They flip the focus of the story to the consumer, making the bank merely an amplifier of the consumer's tale.
The videos' emphasis on emotion is also vitally important. Psychology Today reports that "positive emotions toward a brand have a greater influence on consumer loyalty than trust and other judgments based on a brand's attributes." Banks already have the trust of many customers-that's why tech startups haven't shut down the industry (at least, not yet). But the way to differentiate your bank from other institutions is to use powerful emotions to inspire people.
If banks keep using social media as a one-way communication tool, they will continue to see a lack of interaction and results. Banks shouldn't be creating social media profiles simply because they feel they have to. They should see them as opportunities to invest in content that makes a real difference to their bottom lines.
Content shapes the way our consumers think and act with regard to our services. And good content will get swallowed whole hook, line and sinker.