Zions Bank Creates Brand Advocates with Social Media


Social media remains one of the hottest topics in financial services -- and it's not likely to go away anytime soon. Financial institutions of all sizes are grappling with why, how and where to get started in social media. At the Fiserv Forum client conference later this month, a panel of our clients will share their experiences integrating social media into their overall business strategy.

(You can follow all the conversations at conference by searching the #FiservForum hashtag on Twitter or like Fiserv on Facebook for regular updates.)

Matt Wilcox, Zions Bancorpation One of the featured panelists is Matt Wilcox, Director of eBusiness Strategy at Zions Bancorporation. Salt Lake City-based Zions Bank is well positioned to offer guidance on social media. The bank’s social platforms are a place to share content and initiate discussions around issues, products and services. Matt leads a team of employees who assist with strategic development, content creation, real-time monitoring as well as reporting on metrics and analytics.

In advance of the conference panel, I recently caught up with Matt and asked him a few questions about Zions Bank’s experiences in getting started and maintaining an active social media presence.

Zions Bank got started fairly early in social media. How did your activities evolve? Were there any major obstacles you had to overcome?

Our initial strategies were built around the question, “Why would you want to be friends with your bank?” We didn’t necessarily want our fans and followers to see us as simply their bank, but more of a go-to resource for some of the most important aspects in their daily lives. We provide content that’s relevant to our target audience—we encourage engagement by offering personality behind our brand. We don’t push product—instead we provide valuable financial info and tips, offer giveaways and promotions, and request regular feedback and insights from our clients.

One of the challenges we have faced is figuring out how to accurately measure the ROI of social media. We knew we wouldn’t see results overnight and although we can utilize metrics such as relationships saved, costs deflected from call centers, accounts opened, etc., these numbers aren’t immediately apparent. We learned to watch for increases in brand awareness and how our customers were engaging with us in the social media space. It’s a shift from ROI to ROE (Return on Engagement), which we had to explain to executive management, meanwhile determining how to adjust our reporting accordingly.

Social media is unique in that it allows customers the opportunity to provide feedback directly to you in an open forum for the entire world to see. Some customers resort to Facebook or Twitter to vent frustrations—how do you handle negative comments?

You can’t be afraid of losing control of your brand messaging. I’ve met so many executives and management teams that worry about potentially negative comments targeted at their brands. I can guarantee that you’ll have people tweet complaints about your products or services, or talk about the bad customer service they received at your store on your Facebook wall. But wouldn’t it be worse if they weren’t talking about you at all?

The key is to handle negative chatter in a timely, personable manner. Most of the time, customers just want to be heard, and social media allows them the opportunity. Reach out to frustrated customers and find out how you can help. Many times you can remedy the situation just by offering assistance and letting them know you’re listening.

Social media has a number of evangelists and almost as many skeptics. How would you make the case that social media is important to financial services and worth the time and effort for financial marketers?

I can’t really emphasize this enough: There’s no reason that a business or brand should not be using social media. It allows for a deeper engagement with current and prospective clients, much more so than a piece of direct mail or email blast. It offers alternate customer service portals, provides a sense of transparency for your brand—which is what consumers want—and allows businesses to leverage consumer insights for things like product development and testing. Bottom line, it’s allowing you to reach an exponentially larger audience for much less money.

What’s your advice to other financial institutions that are interested in social media but not sure how to get started?

It’s critical to your future success to get key management and stakeholders informed and engaged at an early stage—especially in a regulated industry such as banking and finance. You will need their sponsorship and support in order to develop long-term strategies. Once you have executive buy-in, you can work on developing a strategy to use as a sort of safety net. Such a strategy can provide the framework for logistical workflow, keeping you focused while helping you to achieve your objectives.

Don’t be hesitant to dive in head first. Just be sure you’re providing the type of content that caters to your specific audience. Develop initial acquisition campaigns to draw fans and followers in. But remember, once you’ve built your fan base, you have to give them a reason to stay: Become a valuable, relevant resource for them and they’ll, in turn, be your biggest brand advocates.

 

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