Banks and Credit Unions on Twitter

image If you haven’t been following Twitter the last few months, you may not realize it now has almost eight million monthly unique visitors according to Compete. That’s almost double the traffic it had just two months ago and a nearly a nine-fold gain from a year ago.

To put that traffic in perspective, it’s more than half that of the NY Times and slightly more than banking giant Wachovia (see Compete chart below).


Banking activity
Financial institutions are pretty new to the micro-blogging platform. In a search today, we found 15 U.S. banks and 22 credit unions with active Twitter feeds (see notes 1, 6-8). There were also and nine international banks for a total of 46.

See the table below for the non-inclusive list ranked by number of Twitter users that follow the bank’s feed (note 2). Wachovia (now owned by Wells Fargo), the only major bank that has promoted Twitter on its main website, leads with 2,000 followers (see previous post on Wachovia’s foray on to Twitter).

Participating in Twitter is a low-cost entry into social media that can actually help save a customer relationship or three. Compared to blogging, it is much less labor intensive. It’s also less of a marketing platform given the 140-character limit in posts. But in the current environment, perhaps less truly is more. By all means, find a gung-ho Facebook devotee in your bank and let him or her get you into the Tweeting game.

Table: Banks and Credit Unions using Twitter (updated 16 March 2009)

Name Twitter URL (4) Updates Followers
1. Wachovia (Wells Fargo) /wachovia 257 2,058
2. Bank of America /bofa_help 557 1,486
3. Wells Fargo (3) /wellsfargo 4 548
4. ING Direct (6) /ingdirect 50 451
5. North Shore Bank /northshorebank 194 319
6. MSU Federal CU (7) /msufcu 180 270
7. Chase /chasebank 11 260
8. Pioneer Credit Union /pioneercu 225 251
9. 1st Mariner Bank /1stmarinerbank 140 227
10. Group Health CU /ghcu 353 219
11. GLS Bank (Germany) /glsbank 279 204
12. Brewery Credit Union /brewerycu 65 194
13. Bellco Credit Union /bellco_cu 67 192
14. Banco de Chile (Chile) /bancodechile 175 181
15. First Federal /firstfederal 89 177
16. Oklahoma Employees CU /oecu 14 148
17. CU Credit Union /mycucommunity 73 147
18. Allegiance CU (7) /allegiancecu 29 141
19. Heartland CU (7) /heartlandcu 33 125
20. Hopewell Federal CU (7) /hopewellfedcu 74 122
21. Tech CU (7) /techcu 62 115
22. Ubank (Australia, 8) /ubank 151 113
23. Banco Sabadell (Spain) /bancosabadell 2,272 111
24. FORUM Credit Union /forumtalk 19 97
25. Citibank /citi_forward 16 96
26. Fidelity Bank /fidelity_bank 11 92
27. Northeast Bank /northeast_bank 5 84
28. Banco Popular (Puerto Rico) /mi_banco 15 65
29. U.S. First Credit Union /schecking 43 61
30. Oklahoma Central CU (7) /okcentralcu 5 60
31. First Arkansas Bank /fabandt 27 59
32. SEB Bank (Germany) /seb_bank 37 59
33. 66 Fed Credit Union /66fcu 8 47
34. Telesis Credit Union /telesiscu 18 46
35. University CU (7) /universitycu 18 46
36. Nicolet Bank /nicoletbank 15 43
37. Chesapeake Bank /chesbank 8 41
38. Libra Bank (Romania) /librabank 14 38
39. KU Credit Union /kucreditunion 8 32
40. TwinStar CU (7) /twinstarcu 19 32
41. Capital Credit Union /captialcu 7 30
42. NW GA Credit Union /nwgacu 18 30
43. Banco de Guayaquil (Ecuador) /bancoguayaquil 77 28
44. COP Credit Union /copcu 7 26
45. Webster Bank /websterbank 3 20
46. Friesland Bank (Netherlands) /frieslandbank 8 10

Source: Online Banking Report, 13 March 2009 (see notes 6,7,8)

1. To be considered active, the bank or credit union had to have set up a Twitter account, customized it with its logo, have made more than 1 update or “Tweet,” and have at least 10 followers. 
2. This is not a complete list. With a few exceptions, we only looked for financial institutions with “bank” or “credit union” in their name.
3. Wells Fargo’s Twitter page says it will be launching soon.
4. Twitter URL =<shown below>
5. For more on bank blogging, see our Online Banking Report on Banking 2.0
6. List and totals updated with ING Direct and First Federal on 16 March 2009
7. Searched on “CU” and found eight more credit unions on 17 March 2009. Thanks Gabriel Garcia.
8. Added NAB’s Ubank from comments, unsure why it didn’t show up on “bank” search

SmartyPig Releases Social Savings Metrics; Launches in Australia with ANZ Bank

image SmartyPig, which launched its social savings program in March 2008 (previous post) and debuted at Finovate Startup (video here), hit the world stage Dec. 16.

The company, operating out of world headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, partnered with ANZ Bank to launch SmartyPig in Australia. ANZ was able to lay claim to being the first to offer social savings down under (see note 1).


The site is nearly identical to the stateside version, but ANZ has a smidgen more branding (see screenshot below). Also note the new emphasis on being 100% free, a benefit echoed on the U.S. site as well.

However, unlike U.S. partner and part owner, West Bank (note 2), which has the SmartyPig logo plastered all over its site (see screenshot below), the ANZ site has no mention of the product, it even draws a blank using ANZ site search.

Social savings metrics from SmartyPig
Because SmartyPig’s sole emphasis is on goal-based savings, its results provide unique insights into the market. While the company has not released account totals, its partner, West Bank disclosed that total deposit in the program amounted to $5.6 million at the end of Q3.

While that’s less than $1 million per month since launch, since many accounts start very small, it could be a healthy number of accounts. And with the requirement of automated savings additions, the growth potential is excellent. Assuming a $1,000 average account balance (note 3), the company would have attracted more than 5,000 total accounts during its first six months.

After the initial launch spike, site traffic has been steadily increasing to 25,000 monthly visitors in December (see chart below).

SmartyPig has made available information on the savings goals made by users. The data is through Oct. 2008 (except total deposit amount) and includes only the totals from the U.S. site. 

Total amount on deposit (30 Sep 2008, per West Bank 10Q): $5.6 million

Primary account holder by age*:

18-25 >>> 30%
26-35 >>> 37%
36-45 >>> 20%
46+ >>>>> 13%

*By law, primary account holders must be 18 or over,
so children’s goals are owned by their parents

Average goal amount across all holders on the following dates:

April 1 >>>  $3,900
May 1 >>>> $7,300
June 1 >>> $7,400
July 1 >>>> $7,400
Aug 1 >>>> $7,900
Sep 1 >>>> $7,700
Oct 1 >>>> $8,600

Goal amount by category:

Travel >>>>>>>>>>>>> 21%  (Avg = $4,400)
Holiday spending >>> 12%   (Avg = $900)
Electronics >>>>>>>> 10%    (Avg = $2,500)
Home improvement >> 6%  (Avg = $12,900)
Unspecified >>>>>>>>> 5%   (Avg =  $9,800)
Weddings >>>>>>>>>>> 5%   (Avg = $7,900)
House down payment or addition >>> 4%  (Avg = $22,200)
Emergency fund >>>>> 3%   (Avg = $6,600)
Babies >>>>>>>>>>>>>> 3%   (Avg = $5,100)
Home furnishings >>>> 2%   (Avg = $3,500)
Car or car expenses >> 2%   (Avg = $6,800)
College >>>>>>>>>>>>> 1%   (Avg = $9,700)
Other >>>>>>>>>>>>>> 26%  (Avg $10,700)

Average projected time until goal met based on savings rate: Just over 4 years


SmartyPig ANZ Version (13 Jan 2009)


USA partner West Bank’s homepage (14 Jan 2009)


Traffic chart from Compete (14 Jan 2009)


1. See our most recent Online Banking Report: Growing Deposits in the Digital Age, for more info on social savings, along with 16 other strategies.

2. Des Moines, Iowa-based West Bank owns 18% of SmartyPig according to its 30 June 2008 SEC filing.

3. My guess, not a number that has been disclosed.

Wachovia’s Initial Foray into Social Media is Impressive, Now Twitter That

Link to Wachovia Twitter page Taking a page from Wells Fargo’s playbook, Wachovia has ventured into social media, giving Twitter a try (see screenshot below and previous Twitter coverage here). The bank has sent 94 updates (aka Tweets) via its Twitter page since it began Aug. 18 and has amassed 340 followers.

But more importantly, they are leveraging the minimal customer-support expense to support Twitter (see note 1) with a nifty badge on its Contact Us page (see inset and screenshot below). That little bit of online marketing, demonstrating the Web-savviness of the banking colossus, is probably worth 1000x whatever goodwill they earn actually talking to customers via Twitter.

Wachovia Contact us page with Twitter badge 17 Sep 2008

I’ll admit, I was expecting the usual corporate marketing-speak. But Wachovia is actually using the medium very well. So far, the bank has provided a realistic mix of low-key promotional items such as the following “Ike update” with real customer service response (see second example below).

Example 1 (earlier today): Promotional Tweet today mentioning the bank’s Hurricane Ike response with link to more info, e.g., <>: 


Example 2 (this morning): Responding to a customer complaint: 


This last message is directed back to a customer who posted a complaint about Wachovia in his public Twitter stream. Wachovia could have sent it privately, but they elected to respond publicly.

This is surprisingly bold, considering that the bank risks elevating the issue. For example, anyone following Wachovia’s updates can click on bastille71’s username and see that she is upset about a $250 overdraft charge. It’s unlikely anyone outside bastille71’s friends would have known about that had Wachovia not responded publicly via Twitter.

Twitter user bastille71 But anyone who really believes in social media will argue that the bank has far more to gain by demonstrating real commitment to solving customer problems.

Looking further at the above example, bastille71 (inset) has 135 followers on Twitter, her own blog, and who knows how many friends on Facebook. What are the chances that if Wachovia ends up refunding her $250, bastille71 (aka Miss Rehobeth) will write it up in her blog, Twitter it, and even talk about it with her co-workers and friends? 

And if you need more ROI than that, Wachovia has already received a good payback on its Twitter investment (note 1) with a nearly full-page article in American Banker last week during an otherwise not-so-positive news cycle for banks. In addition, the customer service innovation made several blogs and of course the bank’s been Twittered about in a positive way.

1. There’s no real cost to using Twitter other than staffing it with a social-media-savvy customer-service rep and someone in marketing/PR to look over his or her shoulders. 

Small Business Networks from American Express, Capital One, Advanta, Bank of America, QuickBooks, and HSBC

Earlier this week, Visa launched its Facebook Business Network. While the first to use Facebook, several other major financial institutions have opened small biz networks on the Web in the past six months:

  • image Advanta’s Ideablob launched last September at DEMOfall (previous post here). It’s a unique website with monthly contests awarding $10,000 to the best idea, as voted on by users. It’s an intriguing concept with decent traction, almost 30,000 unique visitors last month according to Compete (see chart below). (Full disclosure: I just realized I’m wearing an Ideablob t-shirt; schwag can still pay off!)
  • image American Express’s OpenForum: As the name suggests, it’s a business forum and resource directory, not unlike Bank of America’s (see below). American Express has added posts from several prominent bloggers such as John Battelle’s Searchblog and Anita Campbell’s Small Biz Trends to keep the site fresh. The site has 5,400 members and monthly traffic of about 11,000 unique visitors, up threefold from a year ago.  
  • image Bank of America’s Small Business Online Community, a general forum and resource directory, launched in October 2007 (see original post here). It’s primarily a forum, with some additional articles on the side. Total membership is just under 15,000.
  • image Capital One’s Slingshot, launched in February, is primarily a business directory. But it does aim for community involvement with user-submitted business reviews and comments on certain topics.
  • image HSBC’s (UK) Business Network: Another forum-and-blog site similar to AmEx’s OpenForum. So far it appears lightly used, with just six blog entries this year and 270 member profiles.
  • image Intuit’s Quickbooks Group: Although not a financial institution, the Quickbooks site is a good example of an active community with more content, including ten blogs, and as much traffic as the others combined (not including BofA which is unknown) with nearly 90,000 unique visitors, almost double the number a year ago.

 Unique website visitors in May 2008 (source: Compete)


New Online Banking Report Published: Social Investing Communities

imageThe latest research from our Online Banking Report division is now available. It’s a double issue (#152/153) released today entitled:

Online Investing Communities: Will social networking revolutionize saving & investing?

We believe social networking will eventually play a large role in online investing, and evidently we are not alone. We found 54 companies involved in investment-information exchange and only six of those have monthly traffic of 100,000 or more.

So, while we like the idea, it will take awhile to catch on. Only about 25% of the U.S. population owns individual stocks, and only a small subset of those make a trade every year. Furthermore, the prime social networking demographics, those younger than 35, are less likely to own or follow stocks. As a result, we project that it will be well into the next decade before adoption passes the 10% mark.

In preparing the report, we asked 400 U.S. online users their thoughts about the idea of sharing investment info in a social network setting setting such as Zecco Share or Motley Fool CAPS (see note 1). While there was a decent amount of interest from the under-30 group, 30% were somewhat or very interested, the overall enthusiasm for the idea among all U.S. adults (21+) was only 22%. See the full report for more research results and the resulting 10-year social investing forecast.

About the report
Subscribers may download the report here as part of their annual subscription plan. Others may purchase it here. The printed version will be mailed to subscribers later this week. 

For more information read the abstract here.

1. We asked U.S. online users for their opinions about social networking for investment information (fielded April 18-19, 2008, n = 401). The top-level results are including in the report. For more detail, All-Access subscribers may download a complete summary PDF document of all questions and answers or download an Excel file of the raw data. In addition, All-Access subscribers may use our online research tools to run their own cross-tabs and filters on the dataset. The dataset will be available next week through subscriber accounts at

Suggestion Box 2.0: Is MyStarbucksIdea a Blueprint for Banks?

image One perk of working for a large company is being recognized, or winning prizes, for contributing useful suggestions. While employees can be pretty cynical about the whole process, overall, it’s good for employee relations to solicit and reward suggestions. Employees appreciate the opportunity to voice their ideas to senior management and do their part in making the company/products better. And if they win a free dinner, it’s all that much better. 

The same concept can work even better with customers where you don’t have to worry about favoritism and corporate politics. But how do you solicit meaningful suggestions without getting bogged down in an expensive and time-consuming evaluation process? And more important, how do you prevent the really innovative ides from getting killed in the marketing/customer service/IT department, where the not-invented-here bias rules?

Interactive suggestion box from Starbucks
Amidst a sweeping round of innovations announced at its annual shareholders meeting today (see note 1; press release here), Starbucks provided a glimpse of the future of customer feedback with its MyStarbucksIdea, a user-generated discussion forum revolving around product and service suggestions (see screenshot below).

By involving users every step of the way, the system helps remove the inherent bias that plagues most company-run programs. The key is allowing registered users the power to vote on each idea, the best rise DIGG-like to the top, where other customers, along with the Starbucks top-brass, are likely to see them. Other than light moderating of the forum, Starbucks only has to process the very best ideas.

To provide the all-important company feedback to the community, the Starbucks site (note 2) has an area that will showcase the ideas that are actually implemented. The site says there are no monetary rewards, but I would expect that wining ideas will receive some small token of the company’s appreciation such as a $50 Starbucks card or t-shirt. You don’t want the incentives to be too high, or the system will be gamed and its appeal damaged. 

The most popular idea at Starbucks has to do with providing discounts…no surprise there. But the company has wisely introduced a dozen idea categories to help spur discussion in other areas. For instance, in “Other Product” section (second screenshot below), I found two that I voted for: microwave ovens to re-heat coffee and providing small stickers to keep the coffee from sloshing out the drinking hole while driving.

Implications for financial institutions
I believe that every financial institutions should have some type of suggestion program even if it’s just an email address ( And I think the open Starbucks approach could work very well. However, if there are no ground rules, most banks and credit unions will be innundated with “ideas” to lower fees, raise savings rates, and so on. As much as you don’t want to stifle discussion, you may have to restrict or even forbid suggestions about pricing. Most people will understand that your pricing decisions are not made via the consensus of a public user forum no matter how many votes “interest-free loans” receive. 

To help spur ideas outside the usual complaints, create a list of categories such as online banking, wire transfers, checking accounts, branches, and so on to generate ideas for your different product lines.

MyStarbucksIdea homepage (19 March 2008)

Starbucks mystarbucks idea homepage

Top ideas in “Other Products” category

top ideas in "other products" category


1. Starbucks also announced a set of rewards for users of its prepaid card including free premium drink upgrades such as soy milk, free beverages with the purchase of coffee beans, and the big one for the WiFi set, 2 hours of free Internet access with a purchase.

2. Interestingly, Starbucks new app is built on the platform from

50 Banks and Credit Unions Have Facebook Pages

imageFour months ago (here) I wrote about how easy it was to set up a company page in Facebook. Even a total novice like myself could create one in a few minutes.

There hasn't exactly been a rush to do it, but approximately 50 financial institutions have posted a free company page on Facebook (see note 1). Although, most are simple "white page" listings with no more than logo, address, phone number and URL, it's still better than nothing.
(Update Mar 7: Please note, I am talking only about Facebook "pages" here. There are several banking "groups," notably Chase +1 with nearly 50,000 members, that are far more active. Also, some FI pages , such as TD Money Lounge and RBC Bankbook, do not show up in my search using "bank" and "credit union." Consider these counts approximations. )

Credit unions have three times as many as banks. Credit union's can often move faster because of their size and culture. Here's the count by financial institution type:

  • 10 North American banks
  • 32 North American credit unions
  • 8 banks outside North America

The only banks with more than a handful of fans are Jordan's Arab Bank with 145 and HSBC Bank Egypt with 89. Silicon Valley's Valley Credit Union (screenshot below) leads in the U.S. with 45 fans.

Valley Credit Union Facebook page

There's also one bank branch that's taken the initiative to post a Facebook page. U.S. Bank's Beaver Valley, Ohio branch (here) is one of the few to have posted something interesting, a $100 Super Bowl contest. They've also posted their branch hours (see screenshot below). 

US Bank's Beaver Valley branch Facebook page


1. I counted financial institution pages by using Facebook's site search for "bank" and then for "credit union." To qualify the FI had to at least post the bank's logo and URL. There were also a few placeholder pages with no logo.

2. For more information on social media and online personal finance, see our Online Banking Report #144/145.

Advanta Creates Social Network Around Small Business Innovation: Ideablob

I don't know how I missed this one, but Advanta, a major credit card issuer with 1.2 million small business customers, launched a new Web 2.0 microsite on Sept. 24 at the high-tech DEMOfall conference (press release here). Just being there amongst the digerati was a coup for the card issuer, but they did much better, managing to come home with a coveted DemoGod Peoples Choice trophy at the conference.

The Web 2.0-laden site is called ideablob, and it's a place where entrepreneurs, inventors, and anyone else can post their business idea and compete for the monthly $10,000 prizes (contest rules here).

One month after launch, the site is generating a fair amount of activity. The eight October finalists showcased on the homepage (see below) have received the following: 

  • 691 total votes (must be registered to vote, can vote on more than one idea)
  • 216 total comments (must be registered to comment)
  • 10,300 total views (anyone can view the idea)

Traffic to the site should grow rapidly once word of the $10k prize circulates. That's a large incentive for the millions of Internet users who think they have a better idea. 

Advanta, which uses fairly subdued branding on the site (see small "inspired by Advanta" under the main ideablob logo), is positioned to gain in three ways:

  • By associating its brand with innovation, social networks, and a Web 2.0 attitude
  • Assuming a good viral kick, and $10k/mo should do it, the site could generate leads more cost effectively than through other channels
  • Publicity in blogs and traditional media

Bank of America launched a good business networking site recently, but without the fun of the $10,000 in prize money (see previous coverage here).

Advanta's ideablob main page (25 Oct 2007)

An idea page

Web 2.0 Takes Over the Top-10 Internet Domains

Here's a great slide from Mary Meeker's Web 2.0 Summit presentation (download at Morgan Stanley) showing the dominance of social networking sites. If you haven't been able to get management to buy off on your social media plans, circulate this slide.

These are the top 10 domains now compared to two years ago as measured by Alexa. The red sites on the left have dropped out of the top 10 giving way to the green sites. Web 2.0-oriented sites can now claim six of the top-10 slots, including four social networks: FacebookOrkut (Google), Myspace and Hi5, and two user-generated sites:  YouTube and Wikipedia.    

Also according to Morgan Stanley, worldwide Internet use passed the 1 billion mark early last year, and is estimated to hit 1.3 billion this year. The chart also shows the distribution of Internet users by region. Note the dominance of the red part of the bar, and, no, that's not Republicans, it's Asia/Pacific.

Wells Fargo Launches CenterStage, a User-Generated Video Promotion

Tomorrow, Wells Fargo is expected to launch a user-generated video contest that will place the winning entry into a 30-sec commercial that plays during January's Rose Bowl, with an audience of 35 million or more. The winner will be chosen by public voting on the contest website. Entries are due by Nov. 26.

Although, this type of contest has been done before including last year's Super Bowl (see previous coverage of Intuit's TaxRap here and Lending Club here), it's the first time a major U.S. bank has launched such a high-profile effort. It should provide Wells with excellent publicity while supporting its social media and branding efforts.

The whole effort is first class, from the Center Stage website, to the pre-taped audio tracks in various genres, and the contest rules and prizes. And while the sample video's are cute, don't listen to them at bedtime. Trust me, you don't want "The Wells Fargo Wagon" running through your head as you try to get to sleep.