Positive Power

“You are more likely to win over customers if you are engaging with them. I think it’s important for us to think more like customers, and social media gives us a glimpse into how they see us.” —Susan Guess, Paducah Bank Photo by Brad Rankin Studio
“You are more likely to win over customers if you are engaging with them. I think it’s important for us to think more like customers, and social media gives us a glimpse into how they see us.”
—Susan Guess, Paducah Bank
Photo by Brad Rankin Studio

Growing relationships is social media’s goal, but with various routes of getting there

By Ed Avis

Susan Guess, senior vice president and marketing director of $540 million-asset Paducah Bank in Paducah, Ky., remembers her social media “aha!” moment. It was about a year ago, on a holiday weekend, when she noticed a post on her community bank’s Facebook page from a customer whose debit card had been eaten by an ATM.

Paducah Bank’s offices were closed, but the man was in need of customer service, Guess called the nearest branch manager and asked him to help, and the manager quickly fixed the customer’s problem.

“That’s how Facebook can really help a customer,” Guess says. “That was a real example of us showing how Paducah Bank really is, not just the 9-to-5 scenario people think of.”

Paducah Bank, Univest Bank and Trust in Souderton, Pa., and Frost Bank in San Antonio, Texas, are among the 50 community banks recognized this year as ICBA Social Media Leader institutions. Advancing a community bank’s image is a primary objective of using any social media platform, marketing leaders at each of those three community banks agree. They say promoting their bank’s products on social media is much less important than using the medium to connect with customers in new and interactive ways.

“You are more likely to win over customers if you are engaging with them,” Guess explains. “I think it’s important for us to think more like the customers, and social media gives us a glimpse into how they see us. And it provides a powerful way to influence how they see us.”

But while the overall objective of using social media is the same among community banks leading in social media, they also agree that successful social media strategies vary, from the creation of day-by-day calendars to a “let’s see what happens today” approach.

Strategy, or not

Nicole O’Neil, public relations and social media manager for Univest Bank, a $2.8 billion-asset community bank, likes to map out the bank’s social media activities well in advance. “I plan out an editorial calendar, and try to get a couple of months ahead,” she says. “I reach out to people in the various lines of business we work with, such as someone from insurance, someone from community banking and someone from wealth management.

“I throw out some ideas, but it’s really the people who are experts who put the draft together.”

ICBA 2015 Social Media Leaders

For the third consecutive year, ICBA is recognizing Social Media Leaders for institutions and for individuals nationwide. The honor calls out industry-leading activities in social media at community banks and by individuals throughout the country.

The year’s panel of four judges researched and evaluated the social media activities of several candidates before selecting those that received final recognition. The judges were from the ICBA marketing department staff: Ben Pankonin, CEO, with Social Assurance, a social media management company in Lincoln, Neb.; and Patrick Dix, senior public relations manager, from SHAZAM, the electronic network in Johnston, Iowa, and the sponsor of this year’s ICBA Social Media Leader recognitions.

O’Neil edits the social content—making sure any compliance issues are addressed—and then posts it on Univest Bank’s blog. The blog is like the hub of her institution’s social media wheel; the blog posts are subsequently shared on the bank’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. That way the work that went into the blog’s articles benefits all of the bank’s social media platforms.

The articles are developed to position Univest Bank as a source of broad knowledge about financial matters. Recent headlines on the bank’s blog include “Tips to Achieve a Seven-Figure Retirement” and “What Does the Turmoil in Greece Mean for Local Investors?” However, heavy financial topics are not the only issues addressed on the bank’s social media sites. Information about community events, news from local nonprofits, and photos from the bank’s charitable efforts also appear.

One of the most popular topics is Univest Bank’s Caring for Community Giveaway program. This effort awards $5,000 to the nonprofit organization that receives the most votes during the campaign, which runs all December. “This is by far the most successful campaign we do,” O’Neil explains. “Last year we got 14,226 votes for 154 different nonprofit organizations in our area. The one that won was the Grannie Project, which rescues senior citizens’ pets, mostly older cats.”

O’Neil’s efforts have evidently worked. The bank’s Facebook page had 270 followers when she began working for Univest Bank three years ago, and now it has close to 5,000.

In contrast to O’Neil’s months-ahead planning strategy, Guess manages Paducah Bank’s social media pages on a more day-to-day basis. “I get a lot of calls from other banks anticipating that I have a big strategy, but the truth is there is no great strategy,” she says. “We have enough going on that it’s easy to find things to post.”

Guess does use Paducah Bank’s Facebook page to disseminate financial advice, as O’Neil does at Univest Bank. For example, Guess sometimes posts warnings about financial scams, such as phony million-dollar-prize announcements that ask the recipient to send in $500 to claim. “Those are some of our most-shared posts, because there is real value in them,” she says. “Facebook is a great way to share information like that quickly. And the great thing about the ‘shares’ is that they go to other people” who are not Paducah Bank customers.

Top 50 Community Bank Social Media Leaders—Institutions

Community Banks Home Office Social Media Channel
Frost Bank San Antonio, Texas FrostBank
Univest Bank and Trust Co. Souderton, Pa. @UnivestCorp
First National Bank of Omaha Omaha, Neb. FNB OMAHA
Bank of Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, Mich. Bank of Ann Arbor
IBERIABANK Lafayette, La. @IBERIABANK
First Security Bank Searcy, Ark. First Security Bank
Pinnacle Bank Lincoln, Neb. Pinnacle Bank
MB Financial Bank Chicago, Ill. @mbfinancialbank
Bank of Colorado Fort Collins, Colo. Bank of Colorado
FirstMerit Bank Akron, Ohio @FirstMerit
Amarillo National Bank Amarillo, Texas Amarillo National Bank
Citizens Bank of Edmond Edmond, Okla. Citizens Bank of Edmond
The Equitable Bank Wauwatosa, Wis. The Equitable Bank
Busey Bank Champaign, Ill. @Busey
MainSource Bank Greensburg, Ind. MainSource Bank
Bank of Springfield Springfield, Ill. @bankwithBOS
Union Bank & Trust Richmond, Va. Union Bank & Trust
Banner Bank Walla Walla, Wash. Banner Bank
The Bank of Missouri Perryville, Mo. The Bank of Missouri
HomeStreet Bank Seattle, Wash. @HomeStreetBank
Chemical Bank Midland, Mich. @ChemicalBank
Paducah Bank Paducah, Ky. Paducah Bank
City Bank Lubbock, Texas City Bank Texas
Lone Star National Bank Pharr, Texas @lsnbank
Quail Creek Bank Oklahoma City, Okla. Quail Creek Bank
First National Bank and Trust Co. Beloit, Wis. @fnbtsoundadvice
Provident Bank Iselin, N.J. @ProvidentNJ
CharterBank West Point, Ga. CharterBank
Centier Bank Merrillville, Ind. Centier
California Bank & Trust La Mesa, Calif. California Bank & Trust
Washington Federal Seattle, Wash. @WaFed
OneUnited Bank Boston, Mass. OneUnited Bank
Ulster Savings Bank Kingston, N.Y. @AskUlster
Mercantile Bank of Michigan Grand Rapids, Mich. MercBankMI
Old National Bank Evansville, Ind. Old National Bank
Citywide Banks Aurora, Colo. Citywide Banks
Woodforest National Bank The Woodlands, Texas Woodforest National Bank
Horizon Bank Michigan City, Ind. Horizon Bank
Union Bank & Trust Lincoln, Neb. @UnionBankTrust
First State Bank Gainesville, Texas @fsbtexas
Intrust Bank Wichita, Kan. @INTRUSTbank
Washington Trust Bank Spokane, Wash. @watrust
Rockland Trust Rockland, Mass. @RocklandTrust
Bangor Savings Bank Bangor, Maine Bangor Savings Bank
Berkshire Bank Pittsfield, Mass. Berkshire Bank Foundation
First American Bank Elk Grove Village, Ill. @FirstAmBank
C1 Bank St. Petersburg, Fla. C1 Bank
First Hawaiian Bank Honolulu, Hawaii @FHBHawaii
Machias Savings Bank Machias, Maine Machias Savings Bank
BankPlus Belzoni, Miss. BankPlus

Having a good time, too

But Guess also posts more fun items, such as photos of an ice cream truck the bank owns that distributes free ice cream to school groups, clubs, nursing homes and other such groups. “We are the only locally owned bank left in Paducah, and photos of our ice cream truck on Facebook are a great way to show that,” she explains.

Guess also taps the long list of semiofficial national “days” to find posting material. She asks her lenders for names of business customers related to certain days and creates a promotion for them. For example, on National Donut Day, Nov. 5, she posted an item about a $50 gift card giveaway for a local donut shop. That post was shared 173 times, garnered 594 comments and generated 1,371 “likes.”

“To me that was a true success story,” she says. “And it supported a local business customer of ours.”
A third strategy is to hire an outside firm to help manage the bank’s social media. Frost Bank, a $28 billion-asset community bank, counts on its branding agency, McGarrah Jessee, and its communications agency, FleishmanHillard, to create a monthly calendar of social media posts and execute them. The agencies work closely with an internal team from Frost’s marketing department. That team coordinates with segment marketing managers, tracks activities and events at the bank, and feeds that information to the agencies.

“The McGarrah team and the Fleishman team work together to create the calendar, and they give us a draft,” explains Pam Thomas, Frost Bank’s executive vice president and marketing director. “We review it and make sure it’s OK from a compliance standpoint, and then let the agencies push out the posts.”
Thomas says the content on Frost Bank’s social media pages comes in three categories, which she calls “buckets.” “We focus on financial news and information in one bucket, Texas in another bucket, and community involvement in the third bucket,” she says.

And, of course, Frost Bank’s social media efforts are geared toward strengthening relationships. “The way we look at social media is that it’s another place to have a relationship,” Thomas says. “We take a relationship approach to how we take care of business. For example, we have real live people answering our phones. So we want that same conversational opportunity on social media.”

Preferred platforms

Facebook is the most important platform for each of the three ICBA Social Media Leaders. The platform is consumer friendly and enjoys wide use throughout the country. It’s ideal for posting alerts, special promotions and links to heavier content.

“Facebook has evolved to be a comprehensive site for gaining information,” Guess says. “These days people are looking for more than just a conversation; they’re also looking for information that can help their financial needs.”

Facebook’s importance means that many banks are feeling pressured to deal with a new reality: Posts on a bank’s Facebook page are not automatically disseminated to all followers’ pages as they were in the past, unless a fee is paid.

“When we first started, most of our followers saw whatever we put out there, but now just 1 to 5 percent see it organically,” O’Neil says. “So now we have to pay to boost the post. We do have a budget for it, and pretty much every post is boosted in some way, just to guarantee that some people are seeing it.”

Facebook is not the only popular platform. Twitter is also widely used, though its 140-character limit means it is used more for quick announcements such as holiday closing alerts and links to financial reports, than any substantial posts.

LinkedIn is also widely used, especially among community banks courting businesses. O’Neil says Univest Bank has created an archive of regulatory-approved articles that employees can post on their personal LinkedIn pages. “I’m seeing more and more people using LinkedIn as more of an interactive channel, sharing articles and commenting on others,” she says. “So it’s becoming more like Facebook, but for the business world.”

Reaching future customers

Social media trends move quickly, and many community banks are tapping newer platforms to reach a younger audience.

Paducah Bank, for example, has built a following on Instagram, an image-centered platform popular among young adults. “We have 3,000 followers on Instagram,” Guess says. “We have separate contests there, such as for an iTunes gift card, to try to reach younger users.”

When she’s researching the preferences of even younger potential bank clients, Guess has a special assistant: “I have a 12-year-old daughter, so I try to see what she and her friends are using,” she says. Snapchat, another image-centered platform, is widely used among that set, Guess has learned, though Paducah Bank has not yet taken advantage of that knowledge.

What is the bottom line when it comes to social media? Measuring ROI in dollars and cents is difficult, especially because most banks use social media to enhance their images, not directly push products. “We are perhaps lucky in that we haven’t had to connect a solid dollar amount to our social media,” O’Neil says. “We focus more on showing that engagement is increasing and is valuable.”

Guess reports a similar situation at Paducah Bank. “That has been a long-term discussion around here,” she says. “There’s no call to action, so it’s difficult to measure ROI. I just don’t live and breathe and make decisions based on that. I don’t want to spend time doing that; I want to be creative.”


Ed Avis is a writer in Illinois.