Why Regions Bank Excels in Social Media

February 19, 2013
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regions_greenpiggies2JD Power recognized Regions Bank as a leading provider of social media content among banks in a study published on February 14.

The results were based on responses from “more than 23,200 U.S. online consumers who have interacted with a company via the companies’ social media channel.” The institutions recognized in the Banking category were Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, Huntington Bancshares, Inc. and Regions Bank.

Regions is a relative newcomer to the social space, launching the first of its two Twitter feeds, @askregions, in December 2011, and initiating Facebook and YouTube channels in April 2012. (The other Twitter feed is @regionsjobs.) The green piggies at left — Facebook visitors were invited to fill in the pigs’ word balloons — are a popular and recurring presence on Regions’ social media.

“We put the customer at the center of content as we create it,” said Liliana Grip, VP and social media implementation manager for Regions. “We listen – we take deep dives every month into conversations we’re having [with customers] around our brand. We curate content and post about this.”

The result of these conversations is customer-driven content. With the economy still in a fragile state, many homeowners and prospective homeowners are concerned about mortgages and looking to learn more. In response, Regions launched a YouTube series, Talk Homes with Regions’ Bob Cabrera, that explores basic issues of home ownership.

What are Regions customers asking about social media? “People want to know about savings and managing their money better,” Grip told Bank Innovation. “We want to educate our customers, provide access to financial tools, and keep it friendly, simple, open, staying true to the brand. Customers come, they find utility and do something that helps them in some way. We decided early on to not do product sales.”

Service comes first on social media. Grip estimates that 60% of Regions’ social engagement is related to customer care, 30% to guidance and educations, and 10% to fun. Of course, “fun” can also be educational. Regions started using the green piggy banks pictured above that got a lot of traction with customers, and the piggy is often accompanied by messages about saving.

“We give our social care team the flexibility to have conversations with customers,” Grip said. “But we’re very careful about what we post. We know, in our footprint, that customers enjoy photos involving children, pets, and the military.”

Knowing your customers is key, and in this area Regions, a bank with customers located mainly in the southeastern U.S., may have an advantage in the social space over banks with a broader customer base.

Many banks face the challenge of multiple departments wanting voices in the social space. As mentioned, Regions now has two Twitter feeds but there are discussions taking place around opening up more. “Everyone speaks with a different voice. We have to meet their needs but still maintain a consistent brand message,” Grip said. Regions moves slowly and carefully with its social strategy, so don’t expect a proliferation of Twitter accounts any time soon.

“The issue with social is it’s very broad. What you post won’t resonate with everyone. We know our customers. We know what never to post. Our customers let us know when we make a mistake! We try to hashtag things when there is important stuff. You try to appeal to the majority of customers, but let them know, even though social posts go out to everyone, we’re still your local Regions bank.”

Regulators are beginning to take a closer look at social media. One reason Regions launched its social presence so recently was to take into account, as much as possible, regulatory concerns. In mid-2012 the bank went through a painstaking process involving every department to look at risk items and produce a social media strategy that satisfied the bank as a whole.

“We have really good risk control in every aspect of the business, and our customers are being protected when they’re engaging in social just as they would be in a branch,” Grip said.

There were, however, instances of younger Regions customers, excited to receive their first debit cards, posting pictures of the cards on Twitter. Grip laughed. “We reach out to them and let them know we’re sending them a new card.”

It’s notoriously difficult to hire effective social media managers. The skill set is new and constantly evolving. Grip feels her team is well suited to handle any challenges that may arise. “I’m very proud of our social care team. It’s not easy to find people who are witty and can write, and work with customers.”

Regions also employs a personal touch in customer care over social. “We want people to know this isn’t some bot, or outsourced. We give names and show [our reps’] pictures. People really appreciate that. With really angry customers – and we respond to just about everything – when you help them, sometimes they go and repost. We have an incredible team of people doing the work so well, so quickly, and so consistently.”

Banks’ social media audiences are relatively modest. The @askregions account has about 5,800 followers. Regions’ Facebook posts get likes numbering the 30s, and YouTube video views clock in around 200 or 300. The takeaway might be that the social space isn’t ideal for financial services providers, since financial information is among the most private information we have and social is by its nature public. Is the bar set so low that “success” in social is meaningless?

All you have to do is look at the social media efforts of banks that are not making social engagement a priority to see the difference. Regions’ social offerings such as Trivia Tuesdays and financial advice can forge a very strong bond with customers, and incidentally, the JD Power study asserts that younger customers are less likely to interact with companies on social media than those 30 and older. This bucks the widely held perception that the  social media space as a whole is the realm of younger users.

Answering customer concerns, making customers smile with green piggy banks – the ROI may not be cut and dried on the balance sheet, but relatively modest investments in social can help customers actually like their bank. There’s no price tag for that.

Regions Bank has locations in 16 states and $121 billion in assets.

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