Why Community Banks Need to Embrace Social Media

March 13th, 2017

social-media-3-10-17.pngSocial media allows banks to appeal and engage with millennials, who constitute a quarter of the U.S. population.

Banks are actively stepping into the social media game by creating Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and YouTube channels to reach the masses with company updates, money management tips and education. IBM suggests that banks need to use social media not only for outreach—but customer service as well. The tech giant notes that millennials are more apt to air their grievances via social media than call a bank directly and wait on hold. Banks can use their twitter accounts as a customer sounding board and to address issues directly?thus, keeping customers happy and their money in the bank.

Social Media Data for Underwriting
It is projected that in 2015, there were 26 million credit invisible consumers in the United States alone. About 8 percent of the adult population in the country have credit records that can’t be scored based on a widely used credit scoring model. Those records are almost evenly split between the 9.9 million that have an insufficient credit history and the 9.6 million that lack a recent credit history.

While large financial institutions are heavily focused on serving the credit-eligible population across the country, community banks play a critical role in the welfare of those left beyond the borders of eligibility. The opportunity to expand access to financial services in communities with an ineligible population is a critical step towards financial inclusion in those communities.

Social media channels are gaining an important role as alternative sources of data on credit eligibility. Who you know matters (especially in defined communities), and companies like Lenddo, FriendlyScore, ModernLend and credit scoring solution providers are leveraging this idea with the use of non-traditional sources of data to provide credit scoring and verification along with basic financial services. Social media also gives lenders an insight into how an applicant spends their time, which can be used as an alternative way to indicate someone’s financial trustworthiness, expanding opportunities for banks to reach new categories of customers.

While loan officers at megabanks apply impersonal qualification criteria without regard to individual circumstances, community banks are initially better positioned to benefit from the use of social media channels to get to know their customers even closer than they already do.

As emphasized by the team at Let’s Talk Payments, a source of information and research online about emerging financial services and payments, the following are some of the tangible opportunities for banks embracing social media data for creditworthiness assessment:

  • The opportunity to capture a new customer segment
  • Differentiated customer experience
  • Strengthening the existing underwriting process
  • Enhanced fraud prevention
  • Stronger engagement with the community

Given the scale of credit invisibility in the country, an innovative approach to potential customer profiling in communities where banks operate could serve as a competitive edge for those banks. Social media data can be used to extend loans to previously ignored groups in the population, improving household resilience and building stronger ties between community banks and their immediate communities.

Social Media is About Relevancy and Accessibility
There are two elements to relevancy and accessibility: an opportunity to gather feedback to improve products and services and the opportunity to increase accessibility and transparency to customers.

“Customer feedback is indispensable for any business that wants to grow, and the same holds true of community banks. Social media interactions are your doorway to customer conversations and feedback, which can help you fine tune your business. Tapping into online conversations on social media should shed light on customer problem points, helping resolve issues before they escalate,” said Jay Majumdar, vice president of sales at ICUC, a social media management services company.

Ignoring conversations about your bank on social media is a dangerous path—it removes control over the message and brand image, and it damages your reputation as a customer-centric business. It’s especially damaging for community banks that are dependent on community loyalty and long-standing relationships with customers. Jill Castilla, president and CEO of Citizens Bank of Edmond, echoes this point, saying that “social media is not about putting a message out there and leaving it. It’s a conversation.” She also emphasizes that “social media is about relevancy and the accessibility that you expect from your hometown community bank. It’s a tangible way that our community can see we’re living up to be the community bank you used to think about. That’s what social media allows us to achieve.”

emesropyan

Elena Mesropyan is a market research analyst at LetsTalkPayments.com. She is a research professional with a background in social sciences and extensive experience in consumer behavior studies and marketing analytics.