Most banks are on at least one social media platform, whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram or any number of newer platforms available — but there’s a big difference between starting an account and really engaging with and growing an audience.
It may seem like a big staff or a substantial amount of time is needed to be successful on social media, but there are plenty of banks doing a lot without a big staff or a big budget. And with fewer customers coming into the bank, social media can be a great way to communicate with customers, whether it’s letting them know how the bank is handling COVID-19, showing how the bank is supporting local businesses or sharing entertaining posts to showcase the bank’s culture.
“The pandemic allowed us to ramp up digital marketing because people weren’t coming into the brick and mortar building anymore, so this allowed us to reassure our customers that we were here for them in any way possible,” Texas Bank and Trust’s Vice President and Marketing Research Manager Becky Berry said.
Regardless of how long a bank has been on social media, implementing the following strategies can help community banks grow and engage with their audience.
It’s easy to think that getting started on social media means creating accounts on every platform available. However, some are better suited for businesses than others. It can be overwhelming to go from not posting at all to trying to post on several accounts at once. Start slowly and see which accounts make sense, using where customers already are as a guide.
SouthStar Bank decided to focus on LinkedIn for the business side of banking, such as celebrating employee milestones and sharing information about loans, while its Facebook page is more lighthearted, allowing them to engage more with the community.
“On Facebook, we want to give our brand more of a personality,” SouthStar Bank Marketing Director Chelsey Carothers said. “I think social media plays a role in the community because it’s not just hanging a sign on the ball field [when the bank sponsors a team]. They can actually engage with us. We wanted to show our staff as humans, who are more relatable, by showing that they volunteer in the community or paddleboard on the weekends.”
Texas Bank and Trust began a YouTube channel in 2015 to teach its customers how to online bank via a year-long animated series called the Adventures of my Friend FIN.
“We’re currently working on a series called Healing Hands spotlighting staff — who they are, what they’re doing in the community and how they’re making an impact,” Berry said. “We have 20 branches across unique communities, so social media has allowed us to celebrate our unique locations and what our staff is doing.”
While social media gives the impression of being very spur of the moment, most successful social media accounts start with a detailed plan. This can be as simple as saying the bank will post a photo every Monday, videos on Wednesdays and upcoming community events on Fridays.
Carothers attributes SouthStar Bank’s social media success to having a calendar and planning ahead. This allows the bank, which uses Facebook and LinkedIn, to post photos and information from its different branches.
“Having a schedule helps me fill in the holes and when a branch sends in a photo to post, staff members from other branches get ideas and are able to see that they also have content to share,” Carothers said. “If you don’t have a plan, you’ll be chasing down ideas all the time.”
She says when they first started out, they would post several times a day or every few days, but eventually found that somewhere in between was right for their community.
It’s easy to believe that just having an account and posting will lead to followers, but most of the time, that’s not enough.
“One way to get started is by following, liking and sharing the groups you’re already connected with, like the Chamber of Commerce,” Carothers said.
While the goal of social media may be to market your bank, pushing products isn’t always the best way to reach customers — they likely already know that banks offer loans and checking accounts. What they may not know is how much the bank does in its community or that local bankers are real people, just like them.
Social media is also a great way to showcase what’s different about a community bank.
Like Lovelady State Bank, which sponsored a new pickleball court in the city park earlier this year for its community. Not only does the bank post updates about the court on their Facebook page, but they are planning on doing a giveaway of pickleball paddles later this year to encourage the community to use the court when it’s safe to do so.
“A lot of times people don’t know how much community banks really give back to their community, but social media allows them to really see how involved we are,” Lovelady State Bank President Norma Lane said.
The bank has also posted customer recipes in a Cooking with Customers campaign and photos of antique car owners, who stopped in at the bank, for a Cruising with Customers campaign. And their creative efforts have paid off — Lovelady State Bank has about 1,500 followers on its Facebook page — more than double the town’s population.
Moody Bank Heroes, which recognizes six community members each year — an outstanding volunteer, a community hero, an outstanding student, an outstanding community partner, a community impact organization and an outstanding teacher — has allowed Moody National Bank to interact with its community as well. Typically, the bank does a video on each of the winners, but this year they were unable to do so with social distancing, so they shared the award winners on Facebook. All of their posts — from nominations and voting to announcing the winners — shared a superhero theme.
Social media is a two-way street. It’s not enough to publish a post and then forget about it. People expect to have an ongoing conversation and they expect quick responses to their questions. Someone should be appointed to monitor social media on an ongoing basis. Immediate responses are great but not always realistic, so determine a timeline, such as all questions will be responded to within 24 hours. This should be enough time to find the appropriate person to answer the question, draft an appropriate response and get it approved by senior staff.
Once there’s an established schedule, you’ll want to start increasing the number of followers. A great way to do so is to have staff engage with posts, allowing their networks to see what is happening at the bank.
The best way to ensure staff and the bank are on the same page as to appropriate and inappropriate use of social media is to have guidelines from the start.
A social media policy was one of the first things Moody Bank Senior Vice President and Marketing Director Lauren Suderman Millo implemented when she started her role in marketing at the bank. At the time, she was the only person on the marketing staff, so it was important to have other staff members involved in social media. However, she wanted to make sure employees knew when and how to handle different scenarios.
For example, only staff who are on the marketing team respond to any negative comments that may come up. Additionally, they have a rule to only respond to a message twice, regardless of the complaint — this keeps staff from going back and forth with a customer, which is likely to escalate the situation. Each year, the marketing team trains staff either in person or via video conference to go over the social media policy and answer any questions that arise.
“We focus a lot on what you do on your personal page,” Suderman Millo said, acknowledging that their staff are representatives of the bank any time they are in public. “We work with a wide range of staff, so we want them to know that if they say something like, ‘I’m dreading going into work on Monday,’ that can reflect poorly on the bank.”
Texas Bank & Trust also encourages its employees to engage with social media by liking and sharing content and are in talks about having an ambassador program for its staff as well.
According to Forbes magazine, a third of online activity is now spent watching video. That is why a lot of businesses are adding videos to their social media content.
Suderman Millo’s favorite video campaign so far has been Moody Bank Stories, which features a business customer of the bank, showcasing how the business has succeeded with help from the bank. One features a former NBA player, who transitioned from professional sports into a business owner of an automotive shop.
They came up with the idea when brainstorming how to add more video in 2018.
“It was new and fresh, and studies were showing people interact more with videos than anything else,” Suderman Millo said.
Setting realistic goals for each account is important to ensure social media efforts are paying off. Not every post will go viral, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a goal to grow an audience. But don’t just stop at increasing the number of followers. While people seeing your message is great, having an engaged community is even better.
This means watching what posts people comment on and “like” and then focusing on sharing more of those types of posts so that your audience stays engaged. If videos get the most likes, photos get almost as many likes and text-only posts are getting no traction, brainstorm how to add more videos and fewer text-only posts.
Social media does take effort, but it can really pay off in keeping your customers engaged and informed.
“Just start somewhere,” Suderman Millo said. “Don’t be overwhelmed by all the algorithms — maybe do a campaign to get your employees and customers following you — but start somewhere.”