Using Social Media for Brand Differentiation
Posted by heatherribelin
In previous posts, I have mentioned the importance of using social media in the banking industry as a way for banks to better connect with their customers, offer an additional layer of customer service and support, and build trust amongst their customers by becoming more transparent. As more and more banks are beginning to utilize social media, however, the question becomes, “how can they create a presence that stands out from the crowd, in an industry that has very little product differentiation?”
Although banks generally offer the same types of products and services, it is still possible to differentiate the brand via the way social media is used and the choice of markets zeroed in on. For instance, some banks may focus more on consumer banking in their social media efforts, while others may focus more on small business, or commercial markets. In addition, some banks may focus more on informing customers about various products, while others may focus on customer service and support.
To get a better idea on how banks can use social media to differentiate their brand, let’s take a look at two of the largest banks in the United States, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank.
Wells Fargo currently has an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and numerous blogs. It is immediately clear by viewing their various accounts, Wells Fargo prefers to use their social media channels as a way to provide their customers information about financial products and matters in an effort to help them achieve their financial goals, and not as a form of customer service. In fact, they state directly on their Facebook page that it is not to be used as a customer service channel. Instead, according to their 2012 Social Media Fact Sheet, they are “committed to providing practical and comprehensive financial education to help individuals, families, and businesses on the path to financial success.”
While Wells Fargo maintains an active Facebook account with over half a million likes, and Twitter account with over 72K followers, the main meat of their social media presence is in the form of blogs. They currently have a blog dedicated to general market insights (AdvantageVoice), which focuses on breaking financial news, investment trends, and economic insights. In addition, they have a blog directed towards women (BeyondToday), business owners (Commercial Electronic Office), and students (Student LoanDown). Furthermore, Wells Fargo maintains blogs dedicated to their unique history (Guided By History), environmental issues (Wells Fargo Environmental Forum), and a general Wells Fargo blog dedicated to the company’s current events. Overall, Wells Fargo social media presence is about providing the customer information on a plethora of financial matters.
In comparison, U.S. Bank also has an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, with a limited blog presence. They currently have over 150K likes on their main Facebook page, over 7K followers on their main Twitter account and another 3K on their dedicated customer service Twitter account. They also offer numerous videos on YouTube pertaining to various banking products, as well as several (often humorous) videos educating customers on the importance of protecting their financial information. U.S. Bank also maintains an active blog, USBankConnect, which focuses on the small business owner.
So, what is U.S. Bank’s social media angle? According to their Facebook page, “we love to chat with our fans, friends, customers, and employees about all things banking (and occasionally about things not so related to banking).” Furthermore, they indicate that their social media channels are “intended to be a place for our customers and employees to connect with us and each other, and to share ideas on a wide range of products.” As opposed to Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank actually welcomes customers to voice their concerns on their social media channels, as long as the communication remains respectful.
So, as you can see just with these two examples, there are different ways in which banks, who offer very similar products, can use social media to differentiate themselves. Wells Fargo uses social media to inform its customers about financial matters and products that may help them to achieve their financial goals. Their social media channels feel very formal and somewhat less social, ironically, as the communication appears to be more one-way in nature. On the flip side, U.S. Bank uses social media less often to inform (although they still do inform, to an extent) but more often to engage with their customers on a more friendly level. In other words, U.S. Bank uses social media to be – social. Their form of communication tends to be more two-way and more about focusing on customers as people and, thus, getting to know them on a more personal level. Furthermore, they welcome customers to post their concerns and complaints right on their social channels, and then they offer their support (transparency), whereas Wells Fargo clearly expresses their social channels are not to be used in such a way.
So, how does your bank use social media to differentiate their brand? Would you prefer your bank to have a less social, more informative stance like Wells Fargo? Or, would you prefer a more social, less informative stance?