The Journey to Social Business in Banking

The path to social business isn’t always pretty, but taking advantage of technology and pairing it with the right resources and processes will produce a community that translates into real business results.

We are ever-evolving our social media strategies to keep pace with the changing landscape and the demands of consumers. The increasing volume of service inquiries has led to the need for more people, tools, and technology to facilitate these social interactions.

Last year Navy Federal saw a 14% jump in inquiries via social media. Because of the increase in volume, we rely on enterprise grade social media management solutions and analytics tools to monitor conversations, log service interactions, and measure the impact of these conversations.

Humble Beginnings

Social media hasn’t always had organization-wide exposure and importance at Navy Federal, or at other banks or credit unions. For many financial institutions, the only users were employees who made up the first Facebook “likes”. Since then, the use and role social media plays in sustaining positive sentiment, member satisfaction, and growing the business is a vital one.

We started out with just two social media strategists, and a commitment to curating authentic content with a focus on building relationships instead of sales. We’ve multiplied to include more strategists and social care specialists, providing 24/7 coverage of our social channels.

This increase in resources – as well as having the right technological and organizational infrastructure (more details in a bit) – has allowed us to continue delivering an industry-leading response time – one of our organizational priorities.

Striking a good balance between education, entertainment, and member service led to the ground swelling of our social community. Once you’ve got that down to an art, your attention should to shift what benchmarks and measurements you are using. What are the indicators of growth? What is the overall sentiment among your users? How do you gauge your success?

The Integration of Technologies, Resources and Processes

With increased traffic comes the need to improve capabilities and functions across channels. We focus on integrating social with our other business units to create cross-functional teams that understand the social media landscape, while still being focused on answering questions, solving problems, and identifying member escalations.

This involves a critical partnership with our member service team and having them use the same social media management solution as we do. By getting everyone on the same platform and cross-training, they’re a dedicated, knowledgeable, and fully equipped team able to respond to inquiries and escalate messages.

We’ve also woven social listening tools into the mix. They function as an early warning system, alerting product owners to changes in the marketplace and member feedback. Using social listening data allows us to have a deeper understanding of our members and be better attuned with their needs.

The next steps brands should focus on is the integration of social marketing platforms with other marketing and non-marketing technologies, i.e., marketing automation platforms, content management system (CMS), and perhaps most importantly, a client relationship management (CRM) tool.

Begin a social strategy by conducting an audience analysis in order to group people by their interests and behaviors. This type of analysis allows you to reach the right audience with the right message. Also look at the conversation that is already happening around your brand before engaging in any marketing conversation. You want to be sure you understand what your members or customers are already saying about your brand, which allows you to interact with them on topics they are already discussing.

In terms of competitor analysis, keep up to date on competitors within the industry to see what types of content they are sharing and how they are engaging with their consumers. Once you’ve gathered insight on your audience, competitors, and the conversations they are having, you are now able to use this insight to create and execute the social strategy. Measure which brand activities are resonating, which posts members or customers are engaging with, and ultimately which activities are driving real business results.

The integration of all these technologies, resources, and processes produces results on social that help inform business decisions and create better goals.

Staying Connected

Credit union members and bank customers continue to become more socially engaged, and the need to provide them with meaningful brand experiences, whether in a branch or online, continues to grow. In fact, according to CEB TowerGroup, half of all banking customers who use social have used it to research or discuss a product or service in the past six months. You have to know who your audience is, and where they’re hanging out on social media in order to continue engaging with them.

One way to continue to engage and build real relationships with your membership or customer base is through user-generated content.

As an example, we recently launched the #JoinTheFamily membership campaign, which features an immersive photo gallery environment for our members and prospects to share a story about their families, and explore the stories of other members. By inviting members to share their stories, and using our social presence to highlight these heartwarming photos, we are building a strong sense of community and hopefully creating that emotional connection that all brands strive for.

As your social efforts mature – moving from simple amplification of existing marketing efforts to a deeper dialog with your members or customers – be sure to work to maintain a human voice on social channels while providing direct support. Focus on engagement by sharing valuable content and promote the economic wellbeing of your members or customers. You need to understand the value of connecting and engaging in real relationship building via social media.

Next Steps

The ultimate goal for any business is to ensure that consumers have a consistently satisfying experience. It’s why we’ve invested so much into building and maintaining our social program. We not only want to show that we stand behind our products and services, but also that we are truly committed to the member experience. As Cutler Dawson, Navy Federal’s president and CEO, said, “Social media is where we listen and learn to serve our members better.”

The new social and digital business world has to acknowledge that things are changing at a faster pace than ever before.

If there is one piece of advice other financial institutions should take to heart, it’s this: Always strive to deliver the best experiences. Ask yourself, “Is what I’m providing making the consumer better and more fulfilled?”

Is your content providing an easier way to accomplish something?


Mike Toner

Based in Alexandria, Virginia Michael is the Manager of Social Media at Navy Federal Credit Union. By evening, he's a husband, dog owner and runner. Toner writes about social media strategy, tools, training and best practices for social and digital marketing programs.


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