Social media tips from your peers

Social bankers

A group of community bank marketers scattered across the country are connecting online to figure out how to best answer their social media-related conundrums.

By Beth Mattson-Teig

“How do I create more engaging social media content?” “How frequently should I post?” “Do I have to worry about our bank’s tweets or posts creating regulatory issues?” These are just a few of the questions that social media marketing managers frequently ask, and finding the answers isn’t always easy.

Bank employees tasked with social media marketing often feel like they are on their own island trying to figure things out. That was the case with Tim Martinson, marketing manager at $596 million-asset North American Banking Company in Roseville, Minn. Turning to the internet in search of answers, Martinson stumbled across fellow marketing managers who were dealing with the same issues.

Those initial online connections sparked the idea to create #SocialBankers, an informal group that has grown to about a dozen community bankers from across the country. Members participate in monthly video calls and keep a running online dialogue via a private Twitter chat. “It’s really beneficial to have access to the group almost in real time,” Martinson says.

Like many businesses, community banks are relying more on social media to connect with customers in their communities. However, they face the added pressure of balancing social media with regulatory compliance.

“Social media is still so incredibly new that there isn’t a lot of regulation out there written for us yet,” says Katelin Cwieka, assistant vice president and communications manager at $1.6 billion-asset Avidia Bank in Hudson, Mass. “So, this is a great way for us to collaborate and have a focus group on what the best approach is for things where guidelines and standards aren’t clear yet.”

‘A great place to ask questions’

One of the biggest boons members get out of the group is sharing ideas that help others navigate the dynamic environment of social media. For example, when a community bank sees that Facebook has changed how posts show up, or if there’s a sudden drop in Instagram engagement, the group can talk through it, Cwieka says.

Group members bring a range of asset and market sizes to the table, as well as varied professional backgrounds. For example, Natalie Bartholomew, a member who serves as the chief administrative officer at $511 million-asset Grand Savings Bank in Bentonville, Ark., and has developed her own social media following as a blogger. “Everyone in the group has a unique perspective, and we all get to learn from all of those different perspectives,” says Emily Mays, vice president and senior marketing director at $148 million-asset Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay, Ala.

“Everyone in the group has a unique perspective, and we all get to learn from all of those different perspectives.”
—Emily Mays, Community Spirit Bank

The group of community bankers discusses a variety of topics ranging from best practices for managing workflows to strategies for digital advertising. “It’s a great place to ask questions and share ideas,” Mays says.

Martinson expects #SocialBankers to continue to expand as more people hear about the group. New members are welcome as long as they are not a direct competitor of an existing member. The group is exploring how to open up the discussion to a bigger forum of community bankers.

For example, the group organized a live public Twitter chat in September 2019 using the #SocialBankers hashtag and invited others to follow along. The hour-long chat focused on how to create compelling content and attracted 20 to 30 participants. Martinson expects #SocialBankers to host similar group chats on specific social media topics in 2020 so bankers can continue to learn from each other.

8 social media tips from the #SocialBankers

  1. Keep content relevant. Develop an outline focused on central branding themes that relate to the community bank’s overall mission, what the bank stands for and/or what it wants people to think about the bank.
  2. Show, don’t tell. Use real examples to paint a picture. For example, post a video chat with a business customer to illustrate how the bank or a particular product has helped their business to grow.
  3. Create a content calendar to stay organized. Develop a list of goals for social media for each month or quarter and then start planning, writing and scheduling content for those goals.
  4. Train employees on how to use social media. You don’t want employees to be afraid of social media. At the same time, it’s important to make sure that content is written or reviewed by someone with a compliance background.
  5. Strive for eye-catching content. There’s a lot of competition in the online scrolling world. It’s important to post content that adds interest or value to someone’s world.
  6. Provide a peek behind the scenes. People like to see a bigger story. Show what employees are doing when they aren’t behind their desk.
  7. Be consistent. Don’t post sporadically.
  8. Be authentic. Social media is less about posting polished images and content and more about content that is personable, fun and authentic.

Beth Mattson-Teig is a writer in Minnesota.