Web content is an essential tool for drawing existing and potential customers to your community bank’s website and keeping them informed about your products and services. Community bank experts share their blogging best practices.
By Ed Avis
OneUnited Bank does a lot to support urban communities across the country, from putting on financial literacy contests for children to hosting virtual personal finance conferences with famous presenters. To spread the word about these efforts, the $653 million-asset community bank in Boston counts on its three blogs.
of bloggers report their blog drives marketing results
of bloggers said how-to articles are their most popular format
“There really isn’t a substitute for blog articles to share information with customers,” says Teri Williams, OneUnited Bank’s president and chief operating officer. “Back in the day, it may have been a newsletter, but today, because everything is digital and people are reading on their phone, the blog has become the substitute for the paper newsletter.”
Blogging can be an effective way to share news, build a bank’s brand and promote products and services. Here are five tips to create a successful community bank blog.
1. Blog with purpose
Don’t create a blog or a post simply to fill space, says Rob Birgfeld, ICBA’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “You never want to write a blog post just to write a blog post; that’s not a goal in itself,” he says. “Be mindful of who your audience is and what value you’re delivering with this post.”
One reason $7.5 billion-asset Origin Bank in Ruston, La., blogs is to position itself as a thought leader on financial matters. “You want your bankers to be trusted advisors for the community,” says Michelle Allen-Cassel, senior vice president and marketing director, “and blogging is a way to do that.”
2. Create content that matters
Rarely is a bank blog so popular that people read it just because it’s there. Instead, they read a given post because it answers some question they have, Birgfeld says.
For example, if data from your website’s internal search function reveals that lots of people seek information about opening a checking account, consider an article on that topic. If your call center data shows that many prospective customers ask about getting a mortgage, create posts about applying for a mortgage.
“Leverage your data. Let it enhance and guide your strategy,” says Aleis Stokes, ICBA’s senior vice president of communications. “If you see that your customers are clicking on articles about homeownership, give them what they’re looking for.”
Another way to find story ideas is to listen to bank staff, who have their ears to the ground, Allen-Cassel says. For example, she remembers when a couple of employees mentioned that fraud was a growing concern. That led to successful posts on the topic.
Regardless of how you generate ideas, create a content calendar that helps you plan ahead.
“Things get busy, but if you have a roadmap for the year, you can spread the blogging opportunities among others in your organization,” Stokes says. “For example, June is [National Homeownership Month], which would be a great opportunity for your head mortgage lender to provide tips for homeowners.”
3. Be succinct and specific
Concise posts that answer specific questions are more successful than those that try to cover a lot of ground, Birgfeld says.
For example, a post titled “How to be financially successful” will face enormous competition from other online content, whereas a post titled “5 ways to get the lowest mortgage rate” might not.
Furthermore, if you localize your posts—“How to select the best checking account in Springfield, Ill.,” for example—you’ll attract more hits from potential local customers.
“If you’re casting a wide net that doesn’t let your post cut through the noise, you’re not doing yourself any favors,” Birgfeld says.
4. Promote aggressively
There are two audiences for your blog: Existing customers visiting your website or social media pages and people searching for something online. You can attract more readers from the first group by creating articles based on your internal search and call center data, as Stokes suggests, and posting summaries on your social media. The latter group is better reached by paying attention to search engine optimization (SEO).
“All of our blogs live on the website, but we pull out a summary of each post and put it on social media to get people interested,” Allen-Cassel says. “Once we started doing that, we saw an increase in engagement with the blog posts.”
“We’ve had countless customers reach out and indicate that our blogs have helped them in some way, either personally or in their business.”
—Ryan Kilpatrick, Origin Bank
5. Measure effectiveness
Measuring how well your blog is working is essential. Tracking engagement, such as customer comments and number of clicks, is one way.
“We’ve had countless customers reach out and indicate that our blogs have helped them in some way, either personally or in their business,” says Ryan Kilpatrick, Origin Bank’s chief brand and communications officer.
Birgfeld says community bankers should consider metrics beyond simply engagement.
“There should be a measurable call to action,” he says. “Is it contacts to a loan office? If the post answers a frequently asked question in our call center, have those questions reduced? For the most part, you want to tie your blog to a concrete business practice.”
Ed Avis is a writer in Illinois.