Building a Following

Connected team members at First Security Bank in Arkansas (from left): Tim Reilly, Annette King, Kristi Thurmon and Scott Brady.
Connected team members at First Security Bank in Arkansas (from left): Tim Reilly, Annette King, Kristi Thurmon and Scott Brady.

Post by post, community banks nationwide steadily expand their social media activities, experiences and successes

By Beth Mattson-Teig

Top Community Bank Leaders in Social Media

ICBA is proud to introduce its second annual Top Community Bank Leaders in Social Media. Based on fans and followers, engagement, content and frequency of posts, the list highlights community banks that are highly successful in their social media outreach.

Nearly 7,000 community banks throughout the nation were eligible to be part of ICBA’s list. Community banks were chosen based on their engagement with fans and followers, the content distributed on their social media platforms, the number of fans or followers they have, and the frequency of posting new content.

“ICBA is proud to highlight those community banks and bankers who are blazing a critical trail forward by making social media an integral part of their brand and communications strategy,” says Chris Lorence, ICBA’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

Check out the list of top leaders with live links to their social media accounts at

ICBA’s Top 50 Community Banks in Social Media

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ICBA’s Top 25 Individual Influencers in Social Media

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It wasn’t long ago that both community bank teams along with individual community bankers were quietly and cautiously taking their first tentative steps onto Facebook and Twitter. These days, many are practically sprinting in their use of social media, and are quietly but rapidly accumulating bigger and bigger audiences along the way.

Their social media activity is evident in this year’s second-annual ICBA tandem lists of top 50 community bank leaders in social media and top 25 influencers to follow on Twitter. Last year’s industry-leading institutions and individuals were active primarily on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

“Now you can see that most community banks are robustly engaging in a lot of different channels,” says Ann Chen, ICBA’s director of social media engagement. “They are going where their customers are going, and their presence is growing in general.”

This year’s ICBA top community bank social media players are expanding their presence to additional channels such as Instagram, Pinterest and G+. A case in point is Umpqua Bank in Portland, Ore. Last year the $12 billion-asset community bank was active on Facebook and Twitter while supporting a blog. Since then the bank has added YouTube and LinkedIn, and is rapidly approaching 40,000 “likes” on its Facebook page.

In addition to growing their individual social media presence, community bankers are also making notable strides in advancing all different aspects of those platforms. The industry’s use of social media is evolving to include more targeted marketing strategies, detailed compliance procedures, efficient methods for tracking social media traffic and creative content. “Community banks just seem to be more in tune with what they are posting to engage their customers,” Chen points out.

Creating engaging content

Since first establishing a Facebook page in 2010, First Security Bank in Searcy, Ark., has grown from about 780 likes during its first year on Facebook to more than 17,700 in 2014. The $4.6 billion-asset community bank is zeroing in on its goal to reach 20,000 likes by the end of the year. In addition, First Security is now active on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and G+. It also has created its own blog to promote its “Only in Arkansas” campaign.

The most common question that First Security is asked is, “How do you know what to post?” says Kristi Thurmon, the bank’s marketing officer and social media manager. “We are lucky, because we are so involved in the community, and our people want to see what we’re doing. I think that is the best place to start.”

For example, First Security produced a fun video last year when its Facebook page reached 10,000 fans. The video featured several of the bank’s employees in front of landmarks from around the state that included people holding cards that spelled out a message along with an original song. The video, which the bank posted on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, went viral. On Facebook alone the video ended up reaching 128,000 people, and generating 796 likes and 129 shares.

One of the keys to success in social media is making sure that the content that you post is engaging, so followers continue to read posts—as well as leave comments, share and like posts—rather than dropping off or tuning out, says Amy Guenther, a vice president and regional director of marketing at Pinnacle Bank in Lincoln, Neb.

Many community banks tend to use social media to highlight what they do best, which is supporting their local communities. For example, Pinnacle Bank uses both social media and traditional print media such as billboards, TV and radio ads to promote its “Why Community Matters?” campaign launched last summer. The $3.8 billion-asset community bank uses YouTube to post videos from residents, business owners and other civic leaders to talk about their town or neighborhood. It also uses social media to post bank news, financial tips, contests and giveaways.

Using outside resources

A growing challenge for many community banks today is how to effectively and efficiently manage the content, traffic and feedback on their various social media channels. For example, Pinnacle Bank first launched a Facebook page in 2011 and has since added a Twitter account, a YouTube channel and a blog.

“When we started this, we did everything internal and posted everything manually,” Guenther says.

That worked fine initially, but as the bank’s activities grew on the platforms the daily upkeep became a huge time commitment. For example, someone had to log on to Facebook to watch what was happening and see if people were leaving comments or liking posts.

Although Facebook has its own alert system, it is not always reliable, Guenther points out. At the time, Pinnacle Bank also was managing five different Facebook pages for its different charter groups in states such as Nebraska and Colorado. “Once we added Twitter too, it was getting really hard to keep up with it,” she says.

Now Pinnacle Bank relies on additional tools and resources to help manage content and track social media traffic. The bank uses a third-party vendor to help write content, and it also has added a social media management solution. That software is a big timesaver because it manages key tasks such as providing alerts and notifications, scheduling posts and monitoring compliance issues, Guenther adds. The software, for example, can track bank mentions on social media and also keep a record of any interaction that the bank has with an individual.

In addition, Pinnacle Bank has developed its own internal list of “do’s and don’ts” that help with risk management and compliance. For example, if a particular post includes anything that mentions bank products or banking, then that content definitely needs compliance approval. If posts relate to general events happening in the community, such as a local fall festival, then that is something where compliance does not have to get involved.
“We know where the line is,” says Guenther.

Social Media Spotlight

First Security Bank in Searcy, Ark.
Asset size: $4.6 billion
Branches: 73
Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, G+
Bank blog: Only in Arkansas
Synopsis: In April, First Security Bank started a blog devoted exclusively to promoting its “Only in Arkansas” campaign. The site offers in-depth stories on what to see and do in Arkansas, places to eat and profiles of businesses that were started in the state. Although the website is akin to what one might find on a state tourism site, it also ties in to the strong sense of community that is a core part of the bank’s brand. Stats
(April 21–July 9, 2014)
Site visitors: 56,555
Page views: 69,946
Posts: 109 posts, so far
Visits: 31,268 via social network referrals
Content: 42 authors contribute to the site
Popular post: “Top 8 Flea Markets in Northwest Arkansas,” which drew 15,702 page views (

Responding to critics

Another aspect that community banks need to account for is the downside of social media—public criticism and negative comments. Some community banks tend to avoid any kind of customer service issue that happens on social media. “That was one thing that we learned right away is to be open and honest upfront and treat it like any other customer service avenue,” says Guenther. If someone has a complaint that he or she posts online, Pinnacle Bank tries to contact that customer immediately rather than shy away from addressing over a social media channel.
“It is no different than if someone were to call in to the bank with a complaint,” she adds.

Provident Bank of Jersey City, N.J., is a fairly recent entrant to the world of social media. The $7.5 billion-asset community bank joined Facebook and Twitter in 2012, added LinkedIn in 2013, and launched YouTube earlier this year. “We did a lot of pre-work before we went out in social media,” says Robert Capozzoli, the bank’s vice president and digital media manager. The bank conducted a detailed risk assessment and put different procedures in place, including a procedure for handling complaints posted on social media.

If there is a negative tweet or post on Facebook the bank immediately goes into action to reach out to the customer. For example, the bank has had posts where a customer has been fed up and said he was going to close an account. “We don’t get many complaints, but when we do, it is good to resolve the issues publicly, because it shows the people who follow us that we are listening,” says Capozzoli. “We will respond, and we do want to help you.”

Member Resource
ICBA Social Media Monitor Gets an Upgrade

ICBA has enhanced its Social Media Monitor alert system, a free association member benefit, to provide community banks with more management control options. The more than 1,200 community banks that use the service continue to receive a daily email alert for up to five keywords or phrases that they select. However, with the enhancements banks can also:

  • log in and manage keywords and settings,
  • access a dashboard for their mentions, and
  • allow access to multiple team members to receive email alerts.

For more information, visit

One strategy, of course, is to get people offline and communicate with them directly on the phone or in person and not have a running dialogue online. For example, if a customer is having an Internet browser issue that is creating problems with her online banking, the goal is to get her to the appropriate person to help figure out what that problem might be and how they can fix it.

“For those who are just starting with social media, my advice would be to do a very detailed risk assessment and involve all of the appropriate parties—compliance, legal, retail and lending,” Capozzoli says. There are two reasons for that. When you are doing a full assessment, all of these areas can bring up things you might not have thought of in terms of risk to your organization, he says.

“However, the main benefit is that you also are educating everyone on what social media is, so they can understand what you are doing and why.”

Beth Mattson-Teig is a freelance writer in Minnesota.