Why is it important to have a social strategy for your bank?

Print advertising is powerful, but it pays to have a social strategy in
your marketing arsenal.

By Elizabeth Judd

Say someone visits your community bank’s website and downloads your online guide to financing for poultry farming. If that individual then sees an agribusiness ad from your bank pop up when he or she goes on Facebook, this double exposure just might seal the deal.

The Facebook poultry-farming ad is how Live Oak Bank in Wilmington, N.C., registered on the radar of Eric Cook, owner of a national franchise license with WSI, a digital marketing agency, operates out of his office in Battle Creek, Mich. He notes that this nifty example of “remarketing” keeps a bank from “chasing everyone under the sun” by narrowing its focus to interested leads.

Cook, a former community banker of 15 years, explains that a bank can embed a tracking pixel, or code, that triggers an advertisement when the user visits other sites, into its webpages. This remarketing allows a bank to show an ad to someone who has already been to one of its webpages. If that person is already a customer and doing business with the bank, then the ad will have much more impact.

“We’re proposing that community bankers use remarketing to only show their advertisements to people who have been to their site or who have opened up an email they’ve sent,” says Cook. “Your budget should be more accurate and effective.”

The first step for a community bank to generate quality leads in this way is to offer something of value on its website, such as an in-depth guide to a topic of interest. Cook notes that creating such “lead magnets” can be especially powerful given that so few community banks invest in creating original content.

In return for providing a valuable resource, he says, bankers need to ask visitors for information in exchange for this content: their name and email address.

The downside, says Cook, is that while marketing automation can make the banker “armed and dangerous,” customers can perceive it as “creepy” when a bank knows too much. Phoning a customer and saying that the bank has noticed she’s searching for mortgages may come off as “stalking,” he says. Instead, subtly mentioning a new mortgage product during a casual conversation would be a far better approach.

“We have to make sure we don’t scare our customers,” he says.

Get social
Cook says Facebook is a powerful tool for community banks’ online marketing. “People are not going on Facebook to search for your community bank, but that’s where they’ll probably find you,” he says. One reason Facebook is so powerful is the remarketing pixel, but another is simple math. With 1.86 billion monthly active users, Facebook cuts across demographics.

Beyond Facebook, the best social media approach depends on a bank’s customer base. Cook urges community bankers to assign a millennial employee a research project: Identify the bank’s top 100 customers and find out which social media channels these customers prefer. “If a lot of your customers are spending time on Twitter or Instagram, then that should be the driver for where you should be spending your time,” he says.

But Cook believes social media is not just a way to attract new customers; it’s also a chance to deepen relationships with existing ones. “My father was a banker for 33 years,” he says, “and he said people will choose to bank with their banker more than they’ll choose to bank with their bank. The banker is where the relationship is.

“If I can connect with my banker on Twitter or follow my banker on Instagram, I’ll get to know that [he or she loves] to bicycle and has an obsession with golden retrievers. That builds a personality, as opposed to, ‘I’m just the guy that does loans for you.’”

Download your free marketing toolkit

Using social media to promote your community bank’s mission and initiatives is a great way to deepen relationships with customers and attract new ones. ICBA can help you tell your story.

The Community Banking Month marketing toolkit includes a customizable press release and op-ed, along with sample social media posts and images, an infographic and website references. But remember: While this toolkit celebrates Community Banking Month, it is important to stay active on social media all year long. We hope it will be the start of something great for your community bank. Get your toolkit at icba.org/go-local/spread-the-word/marketing-toolkit

Case study: Heartland Bank

Each week, Heartland Bank in Columbus, Ohio, features a new and timely “homepage story” on its website. This might be something about the importance of relationships at Valentine’s Day or a mortgage story when home-buying season is at its peak. This month the bank is featuring a story about ICBA’s Community Banking Month, says marketing director Gretchen Hof. The $781 million-asset community bank has found its weekly digital stories matter. “Community banking is all about relationships and hometown support,” Hof says.

Heartland focuses on four types of homepage stories: ones about customers, employees, sponsored community events, and initiatives or educational programs. An example of the last type might be a feature on Heartland’s annual Money Matters event with classes, taught by Heartland employees, on topics such as buying a first home.

Heartland is also active on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and makes the most of these platforms. “When we promote a customer on our homepage story, we also link to our and the customer’s social media sites,” says Hof. “For us, social media is another way of telling the Heartland story and letting people know what a great bank we are.”

Elizabeth Judd is a writer in Maryland.