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Banks Don't "Totally Suck" Anymore

Banking, banking, banking; what do consumers really think and what do they need? Social media provides a bevy of insight to consumer perceptions around their banks and financial matters. The good, the bad and the ugly – social listening and monitoring captures it all.

While most large financial institutions actively monitor social media discussions, how they use social insight varies greatly. At a high level, all banks need to do is look at what consumers are saying across social, blogs, forums and news sites and compare those conversations to the content brands are actually distributing.

Alignment of content and conversation within the social community provide banks with a great opportunity to reach consumers online – but only if they listen and thoughtfully connect.

Overall Sentiment

Consumer banking discussions have recovered quite well from the negativity around the Great Recession from 2008 – 2011. In fact, negative sentiment accounted for only 10% of all mentions in the last six months of 2013. So far this year, we've seen overall negative sentiment drop to 4% of the total mentions across the industry, which is a sizable improvement of 60%.

If we just focus on emotionally driven discussions, the larger players experienced a significant shift in positive mentions. While net sentiment may not yet be neutral, the Top 3 banks saw improvements of more than 30% in net sentiment. So far in 2014, Wells Fargo alone has seen an improvement of more than 75% in positive mentions.

Consumer Conversation

Yes, mortgages and online banking are hot topics across consumers and brands – and a few regulators, too. However, consumer-driven conversation is split across gender and heavily skewed towards male users over female. Specifically, women are driving discussions around hidden fees and overdrafts, while men seem more interested with Bank of America and its lawsuit.

But how well are brands delivering relevant content? That is still open for discussion. Why? Take mobile as an example. Consumers are increasingly hot for mobile banking and are consumed with how their devices function as an extension of their lives. Despite this valuable insight, banks seem only to be talking to themselves with every tweet or post about their store hours. Listening programs should help banks be a “fast follower” in this situation. Banks have the chance to create a more meaningful two-way dialogue by paying closer attention to active banking and money discussions that are already occurring online as well as generating more relevant content for the consumer.

Opportunity for Change

Social media will continue to act as a dynamic platform for consumers and businesses alike to capture, share and discuss personal and professional matters. This channel presents brands with readily available consumer insights that can help them lean a little bit closer to their key audiences.

Across financial services, three elements have become table stakes:

1. Help address customer challenges head on

Fees suck, everybody gets that! However, not all fees are punitive and banks do provide a service after all. Consumers need to better understand and be reminded by the question… What exactly incurs a fee and how much will it cost? And when something does go wrong for a customer and it is expressed on social, be responsive about it. Have a defined process, stick to it and bring resolution to the situation with a single unified voice. Social should not be the next IVR, so be direct and personal in your delivery.

2. Serve relevant content with purpose

It is a global truth: Cats do not prepare nor have financial plans. So why are banks putting them in your timeline with a tweet or video? Package content that is relevant and helpful to your customers in achieving their financial goals, both short and long term. Yes, package. Not all content needs to be shared in social. Be selective and take steps to align your content to how and what consumers are looking for across social channels.

3. Show you care about their priorities and interests

Coming out of the recession and hopefully with the tapering of legal and regulatory settlements – please, no chest pounding. Consumers are looking for banks to go beyond highlighting charitable contributions (for the Top 6 banks this equates to roughly $750 million) and CRA requirements. Consumers are looking for a more genuine affinity between their causes of concern and the brands themselves. This allows the brand to amplify the consumer – both in their time and their money – to help local causes.

Sentiment shifts clearly imply that banks have a better footing today to genuinely engage with consumers across social. Leverage it, truly put the customer first – as it has been the case offline – and make it all about the relationship. Listen and meaningfully discuss with consumers around their pain, the complexities and the opportunities for better managing their money, now and well into retirement.