First Arkansas Homepage Goes All In with Social Media

image I don’t know how long First Arkansas Bank & Trust has had a big Facebook-like image dominating its homepage (see below), but it’s timely given all the attention the social network has received of late. Despite a little blip with the IPO, Facebook is one of most significant brands on the planet. So associating your financial brand with it is a good move.

FAB&T is using the homepage to create awareness of its four social network outlets:

  • Facebook | Like
  • Twitter | Follow
  • YouTube | Watch
  • Blog | Read

The huge Socialize With Us image is eye-catching and would garner a fair number of clicks, except for one problem. The entire center graphic, including the social media icons, are not clickable. The only way to get to the sites is to click on their icons in the upper right corner of the homepage (note 1). This is a strange design decision.  

Bottom line: While I like the approach of exposing all the trendy social media icons, I’m not sure FAB&T should be sending people to all four. The bank’s Facebook page is good, with a modern design, frequent updates, and 755 fans (see second screenshot). So, it makes sense to encourage users to visit and like it.

However, the other social media sites are a little anemic. The blog hasn’t been updated since the end of 2011; there has only been one tweet in the past 2 months; and the YouTube channel has limited content.

Like most financial institutions, FAB&T would probably be better served by focusing on Facebook (note 2) and letting the other sites go, or at least stop referring customers to them from the homepage. 

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First Arkansas Bank homepage (31 May 2012)

First Arkansas Bank homepage (31 May 2012)

First Arkansas Bank Facebook page (link)

FAB&T Facebook page  

First Arkansas Bank Twitter page (link)
Note: The bank had one tweet in May, zero in April and a couple in March.

image

First Arkansas Bank Blog (link)
Note: The last post was almost six months ago. And the site is hosted on the Google’s free blogging platform, Blogger, which doesn’t really do much to help with the brand image.

image

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Notes:
image 1. And those all require users to click through a "third-party warning" before redirecting the user to the social network sites. That further gums up the user experience.
2. See our Online Banking Report "Banking in Facebook" published in Feb. 2012 (subscription).

Can Banks Avoid Being Friends with Facebook?

image Last Tuesday, we published our first full report on how financial institutions can leverage Facebook for marketing, delivery and customer service. Then a day later, Facebook changed the rules for brand pages, forcing a redesign to the new "timeline" format (see third screenshot below for example; note 1).

It is largely a cosmetic change, akin to swapping out the window coverings in a branch. But it’s still annoying that the Internet giant only allowed 30 days to make the change. Obviously, the company still doesn’t know (or more likely care) how long it takes to revise marketing materials in the real world. 

While the timeline change doesn’t materially impact the tactics we looked at, it does illustrate a downside of developing on the Facebook platform (note 2):

  • Facebook sets all the rules and you must adapt to them
  • Facebook evolves faster than most brand marketing strategies, so it takes a commitment to keep up with the changes (this can be outsourced of course)
  • Facebook is so popular, and has so many ways to grow revenues, it’s not likely to listen business customers’ feedback (yet)

While those drawbacks may temper your investment for now, it doesn’t change the fact that you MUST pay attention to Facebook.

Why?

Whether you like or not, your bank is already on Facebook. Virtually every business entity of any size has a placeholder page on the social network (see the Fifth Third Bank placeholder below). These pages are closed, no wall posts, and generally pulled from Wikipedia company descriptions. So, they are relatively innocuous and are better than having users instead land on a random "yourbank sucks" page.

However, do you want customers or potential customers, evaluating you based on the intro to your Wikipedia page? And while there are very few (zero?) users searching inside Facebook for a bank, prospects will stumble on to your Facebook page from Google searches (see Astera CU search below).

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Bottom line
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While it’s not going to make a dent in your non-interest income shortfall, a few days spent sprucing up your Facebook page is a cost of running a consumer business in 2012 (see post-Timeline page at Oregon Employees CU below).

Larger investments are harder to justify (obviously). Consumers are not clamoring for "more bank" in their social networks. But based on the history of other media, consumers will put up with plenty of advertising noise as long as there is something in it for them.

We believe that eventually most banks will have at least a semi-sophisticated presence in Facebook (think website circa 2000). But given that the platform is still relatively unstable, there is no huge rush to go beyond the content basics.

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Facebook placeholder for Fifth Third Bank (link)
Note: Surprisingly, 3,400 fans

Fifth Thrid Facebook "placeholder" page

Google search results for "Astera Credit Union"
Note: Astera’s "unmanned" placeholder Facebook page is the sixth link on Google organic search results. LinkedIn is second.

Organic search results for Astera Credit Union

Oregon Employees FCU has the first FI "timeline" page I’ve seen (link)
Note: Like activity is even more prominent than the old format

Oregon Employees FCU is one of the first FI timeline formated pages 
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Notes:
1. There are many resources available for brands looking for timeline tips for example here, here, and here.
2. Those of you with apps in Apple’s iOS store face similar ever-changing platform requirements. However, there is usually more lead time to make changes.  
3. Picture credit: Connect Media Blog

New Online Banking Report Published: Banking on Facebook

image We just published our latest report, Banking on Facebook, which looks at why you should establish a presence on the social network. And more importantly, what you can do to make the effort pay off.

To some extent, this report was overdue. Facebook has been a major social force for four or five years. However, it wasn’t until recently that brands have taken the platform seriously.

And while soft drinks and social games may dominate Facebook brand pages now, every major brand will be there eventually, financial services included. The opening to our report lays out the opportunity:

If there was a neighborhood that 90% of your customers visited frequently, many every day, how much would you pay to have a presence there? If you were small, maybe $10,000; if you were Chase, maybe hundreds of millions.

But what if it cost almost nothing to set up shop there? Basically, that’s Facebook: a place most of your customers frequent and where brands can establish a page for exactly zero dollars.

clip_image002In the 56-page report we cover:

  • 12 main reasons you should invest in a Facebook brand page
  • 12 primary components of a Facebook brand page (see screenshot below)
  • 42 advanced tactics for your Facebook page
  • 47 financial institutions worldwide with more than 100,000 Facebook fans/likes
  • Consumer interest in viewing bank account info, spending info, and credit info within their Facebook page
  • The importance of Facebook’s new "Action" buttons for banks (inset)
  • 23 Facebook terms you need to understand (e.g. social plugins)

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About the report
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Banking on Facebook (link)
It’s time to set up shop in the dominant social network

Author: Jim Bruene, Editor & Founder

Published: 28 Feb 2012

Length: 56 pages, 10 tables, 12,000 words

Cost: No extra charge to OBR subscribers, US$495 for others here

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Sample screenshot
: We use Lending Club to illustrate the basic components of a Facebook brand page

Sample Facebook brand page from Lending Club

India’s ICICI Bank Launches Online Banking via Facebook

image You can really see how the global financial crisis has stunted banking innovation by looking at how little Facebook has been used as a delivery channel (note 1).

The first financial institution in the world to offer Facebook account access, KeyPoint Federal Credit Union (powered by MShift)  launched in Nov 2007 (post here), when the social network had “just” 50 million users.

In the ensuing 4+ years, despite an increase of 800 million more users, not a single major financial institution has followed in KeyPoint’s footsteps (see note 1).

Sure, there’s been some impressive Facebook marketing campaigns. Chase, American Express, and Capital One have all passed the 2-million “like” mark. But no one allows customers to check their balance/transactions right from within the social network (via a Facebook app).

But the drought ended this week, when India’s second largest bank, ICICI Bank, launched comprehensive Facebook services including account info (screenshot #1), offers (see #2), and a general jump-page to the bank’s main website (#3).

The new Facebook initiative is currently featured in the first promotion served by the bank’s homepage (#4, note 2).  
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1. ICICI Bank’s Your Bank Account page in Facebook (link, 17 Jan 2012)

ICICI Bank's Your Bank Account page in Facebook  

2. Exclusive offers Facebook page (link)

Exclusive offers Facebook page (link)

3. Bank-on-the-go Facebook page: Serves as a launching pad to the specific areas on the bank’s main website

Bank-on-the-go Facebook page: Serves as a launching pad to the specific areas on the bank's main website


4. ICICI Bank displays a Facebook promo when landing on its homepage

  ICICI Bank displays a Facebook promo when landing on its homepage

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Notes:
1. Having been a product manger for several large banks, I get why the “Facebook project” hasn’t moved to the top of the queue; basically, lack of demand. Facebook may have nearly a billion users, but only a few percent are ready to bank there because it’s not seen as secure/private and it’s a place to connect with friends (see note 2). But despite the current lack of demand, we are confident that Web services, including banking & payments, have a promising future on the platform. 
2. ICICI Bank tackles security via a prominent mouseover on the main page:

The ‘Bank Account’ app is hosted on secured ICICI Bank servers and is made available on Facebook through a secure SSL connection. ICICI Bank has not transferred any data to Facebook. Your bank account information can only be accessed by you through your ‘Bank Account’ app on Facebook after successful registration which incorporates strong 2-factor authentication and setting up a personalized password. As long as you don’t share this information with others, no one can access your account through Facebook.

Currently through your ‘Bank Account’ app on Facebook you can view account details, mini statement and few service requests like applying for debit card.

This app lets you access your information only after authenticating your Debit Card Number and Password. As long as you don’t share this information with others, no one can access your account.

3. Viewing the page from a U.S.-based IP address.
4. We cover all the channels in our subscription newsletter, Online Banking Report.

Encouraging Customers to Post Bank Reviews on Yelp and Google

image Third-party review sites have come and gone over the years, but only recently have mainstream consumers been exposed to them through prominent placement in Google organic search results.

As you can see on our search for “Wainwright Bank,” a link to its Yelp review is on the first page of Google organic results. It’s the third-highest result, not including those that link directly to the bank’s own URL (see first screenshot).

Luckily for Wainwright , it’s the top-rated bank in Boston according to Yelp. In fact, because reviews are aggregated by branch, the bank dominates Yelp, hogging the top four slots (see second screenshot).

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Analysis
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Posting bank reviews doesn’t appear to be a compelling activity. Yelpers spend most of their time reviewing eating and drinking establishments. The most-reviewed bank in Boston is the Alewife Brook Parkway branch of Wainwright with a whopping 14 reviews (average: 3.5 stars). And it takes only six reviews to crack the top-10-most-reviewed in Boston. In contrast, the tenth-most-reviewed Boston restaurant has 554.

And because each branch is ranked separately, just a handful or positive, or negative, reviews can have a huge impact on rank.

So, it might be tempting to encourage reviews by your employees, or employees of your vendors. Don’t do it. Not only is it the wrong thing to do, you stand a very good chance of getting caught. And the ensuing blog post exposing the subterfuge will not only be embarrassing, but also is likely to be ranked higher on the Google results page than the Yelp reviews.

However, you can play the game ethically by subtly encouraging customers to post reviews on Yelp, Google and other local review sites. For example, Amplify Credit Union has links on its Contact Us page that make it easy for users to post reviews at Yelp and Google (see third screenshot). Note that the CU does not try to sway users to post only “good” reviews.

Google search for “Wainwright Bank” (16 March 2011 from Seattle IP address)

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Top-rated banks and credit unions in Boston according to Yelp reviewers
Note: There are only 31 total reviews across the top-5 banks

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Amplify Credit Union Contact Us page with links to Yelp and Google (link)

Amplify Credit Union Contact Us page with links to Yelp and Google

Financial Companies Dominate Groundswell Awards in North American B2C Category

imageIt’s not often that financial services companies take home multiple trophies in a cross-industry retail-marketing competition. But last week, they took home almost half the top prizes in Forrester’s Groundswell competition for the best use of “social” techniques in their marketing efforts.

Financial companies won nine of 20 possible honors including three of seven category winners and six of 13 runner-up awards (called “finalists“). Four of the winners were in tax prep, a surprisingly social activity.   

The financial category-winners:

Financial runner-ups (aka finalists):

  • Listening (of 3 total)
    — Listening to the Student Pulse by Bank of America and Communispace
  • Talking (of 2 total)
    — American Family Insurance on Facebook by American Family Insurance
  • Energizing (of 2 total)
    — TurboTax Embraces Customer Reviews for Viral Growth by Intuit, Inc.
    — USAA Implements Ratings and Reviews by USAA
  • Supporting (of 2 total)
    — Get it Right Community by H&R Block
    — Taxes on Twitter: @TeamTurboTax Provides Customer Support and Resources by Intuit Inc.

Intuit’s TurboTax division alone accounted for three of the nine financial winners. USAA bagged two awards and H&R Block, Chase, Bank of America and American Family each received one Groundswell award.

With the Launch of Foursquare-powered Social Currency, American Express Now Has 7 iPhone Apps

In the spring, we predicted that 10 to 15 years from now there would be tens of thousands of iPhone apps from financial institutions alone (note 1). Our reasoning: Many (most?) larger FIs would have more than one app, perhaps dozens. At that time, nine financial institutions (note 2) were tied for most-prolific app deployers, each with two iPhone apps.

imageToday, I found out that American Express has blown that record away. With the release this week of a youth-oriented Foursqure-powered app, Social Currency (app link), the card issuer now has seven apps available for the iPhone alone (but still none for the iPad).

AmEx iPhone lineup
Two are from American Express Publishing (making the comparison to other financial institutions a little unfair):

  • Best New Chefs
  • Eat and Drink

Two are published by other companies:

And finally, three more from core card-issuers:

  • American Express used to access most AmEx cards
  • OPEN Forum for small business clients
  • mobileXtend that can only be used by employees of corporate clients who have licensed this service option 

American Express has seven apps available for the iPhone
Note: Shown here in search via iPad (22 Sep 2010)

American Express has seven apps available for the iPhone

Notes:
1. See Online Banking Report: The Case for Mobile Banking (published March 2010)
2. See Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking and Finance Apps (published April 2010)

Social Media Design: HelloWallet Integrates New Blog with its Twitter Feed

imageHelloWallet, an online personal financial management (OFM/PFM) provider that launched in March, sent customers an email today (second screenshot below) announcing several product enhancements including:

  • To-Do List: Added to the dashboard to help you keep track of upcoming bills, goal progress, new savings ideas and so on. Users can manually add any item and receive email reminders. 
  • Progress Charts: Helps monitor progress on savings and debt-reduction goals.
  • Split Transactions: Ability to split transactions into two or more budget categories.
  • More Deals: My Deals database expanded to more than 130,000 financial products.

These are solid enhancements and signal that HelloWallet will be a viable competitor in the OFM/PFM space (see previous post; note 1). I especially like the To-Do list, a relatively simple enhancement that helps increase the utility of the application. The company has attracted a steady flow of visitors, averaging about 25,000 unique visitors per month in May and June (see Compete chart below).

HelloWallet.com traffic estimates (U.S. only)

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Source: Compete (link)

But the main reason for today’s post is to highlight the design of HelloWallet’s new blog at <hellowallet.com/blog>. The layout is visually appealing, incorporates social media sharing tools (Facebook, Twitter, RSS), and does a great job showcasing the company’s Twitter updates in the right-hand column (see first screenshot). This gives the whole blog a vibrant, up-to-the-minute feel, without burdening readers (and staff writers) with too many blog entries.

So far in July, HelloWallet posted four blog entries and tweeted 53 times (2x per day), a good pace. Both the blog posts and Tweets contain a good mix of personal finance material, general info, and company news. 

HelloWallet blog front page (link; 26 July 2010)

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Email message announcing new features (26 July 2010)

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Note:
1. For more on the OFM/PFM market, see our recent Online Banking Report

Chase Adds 2 Million Facebook Fans in $5 Million Charity Giveaway

image If a category existed for “corporate wins in social media” in the Guinness Book of World Records, Chase Bank would surely hold the top spot today. In its recently concluded effort, two million users became Facebook Fans of Chase Community Giving in order to direct $5 million in donations to their favorite charities. 

In round one, Chase fans were given 20 votes to parcel out among 500,000 eligible 501(c)(3) charities. First-round voting ended Dec. 12. The 100 charities with the most votes were declared finalists and moved into round two. Round two voting ended Jan. 22, 2010.

The winner was awarded $1 million; five runner-ups received $100,000 each; and 100 finalists received $25,000 each. The winning charity, Invisible Children, received more than 100,000 votes as did second place Isha Foundation. But anyone looking to recreate Chase’s success should think carefully about the official rules. With less than 1200 votes separating the two charities, and with $900,000 at stake, there were accusations of voter fraud in the Chase contest. Future contests will likely give the bank some leeway in declaring a tie and splitting the pot equitably.

Relevance for Netbankers: If you still have social media naysayers in your company, give them the link to Chase’s recap page (screenshot below). That ought to get their attention. 

Contest recap on Chase’s Community Giving Facebook page (link, 31 March 2010)

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Note: For more info on social media strategies for financial institutions, see our subscription site.

Great Recoveries: Major Banks Respond to Negative Blog Items Immediately

image Twice in the past few weeks, I’ve written blog posts that had one or more criticisms about specific experiences with a bank’s product. My complaints weren’t Huff Post calls to arms or anything particularly serious, just small things that had gone wrong (previous posts here and here). And our blog, while well-read in the banking industry, is just a rounding error in terms of mainstream readership.  

But in both these examples, the bank reached out to me almost immediately, offering to help solve the problem. In one case, I received a phone call (several actually) from the bank’s PR department and the other bank left a message on our home phone (note 1) from the “executive office.” 

My take: I am shocked to have heard not once, but twice in the same month from mega-banks looking to solve small, albeit public, customer-service issues. In 15 years of covering the industry, including three with a public blog, I have never had a single “official” call from a bank about a problem I’ve written about (note 2).

Businesses have long debated how to handle negative conversations in social media (see note 3). Do you stay on the sidelines, anonymously participate in the conversation, or reach out with offers to help?

Clearly, offering to help is the way to go. However, you must choose your words carefully because everything you say can and will be used against you by a blogger bent on revenge or ridicule.

But I can tell you now from experience that it’s powerful to be contacted by the business you’ve written about. My reaction goes something like this:

  • “Uh oh, now I’ve offended a reader; I’d better think twice about posting negative comments again.” At the very least, I’ll certainly make sure my coverage is extremely balanced in the future. No potshots, that’s for sure.
  • “Wow, this bank really cares about its customers and reputation.” That makes me feel much better about them.
  • “Seriously, a big bank that calls its customers when it hears about a problem; impressive as hell!”

So going forward:

  • I’m more likely to look for something good to say about the bank to make up for the negative item. 
  • I may post an update to the original entry, or even an entire post like this, complimenting the bank on reaching out to resolve the problem.
  • I’ll probably tell my friends the story, either privately, or more publicly via Twitter, Facebook, etc.

These are pretty good results from a relatively low-cost phone call. Sure, my problems were fairly simple and easily resolved, and it may be harder to appease a blogger whose home was recently foreclosed. But why not try? As long as you stay calm and try to keep things constructive, there’s very little downside and a lot of upside.

So congratulations Citibank and Capital One, your performance has been truly remarkable. (Are we good now?) 

Note:
1. The bank must have looked at our actual account info to get the home phone number.
2. I have received the occasional email from a subscriber, but no proactive effort to provide help.
3. For a wonderful overview of the ins and outs of responding to bloggers, read the two-part post (here and here) from Vancity’s MVP and third-ranked innovator on the planet, William Azaroff.