While so many things about banking have changed in recent years, social media continues to grow in its impact on prospects, customers and employees. And that means it can be a challenge to keep up with the latest trends in social media marketing.
That’s the purpose of the Social Bankers, a group of community bankers founded in 2018 that undertakes regular exchanges of social media best practices and insights. The group has a Slack channel, monthly video meetings and a new open-to-all Facebook page. Membership is open to non-competing community bankers throughout the United States.
“When we share information, we can make the industry better,” says Tim Martinson, one of the group’s founders and the marketing manager at $1 billion-asset North American Banking Company in Roseville, Minn. “We have everyone from people who are right out of college to people who are over 50,” he says. “There’s a diversity of geography, experience and opinions, which is especially important for the many of us who are a one-person or a very small department within our banks.”
“We have people telling us that since they’ve joined the group, they’ve been promoted from social media manager to marketing manager, or from marketing manager to another position of accountability within their bank. They’re getting the tools they need to make that step.”
—Tim Martinson, North American Banking Company
Martinson shares one example of how the group helps its members: “Just today, I saw a posting from someone who had joined the group three weeks ago, asking about using gift cards for a quarterly giveaway. She had replies from within 10 minutes to two hours. Before this group existed, she might not have had that helpful information and would have had to develop her proposal in the dark.”
How to join the Social Bankers
In addition to being a great resource for answering common questions, the group also helps with soft skills. “I’ll see comments like, ‘I love that post; how did you pitch it internally?’” Martinson observes. “We have people telling us that since they’ve joined the group, they’ve been promoted from social media manager to marketing manager, or from marketing manager to another position of accountability within their bank. They’re getting the tools they need to make that step.”
In the years since its launch, the Social Bankers have seen “must-have” social platforms come and go, while focusing on ones that have staying power with their customer base. Here are four insights from active members.
1. Newsletters are powerful
“We’ve been able to cover hot topics in the industry, like financial literacy and cybersecurity, through our monthly email newsletters,” says Jennifer Wheeler, Social Bankers member and marketing and social media specialist at $624 million-asset Stillman Bank in Stillman Valley, Ill. “We started our newsletters in September of 2021, and I’d have to say that the pandemic really kicked us into gear from ‘This is a great someday project’ to ‘We have to get this up and running now.’”
According to Wheeler, Stillman Bank uses the Constant Contact platform, which provides it with an easy-to-monitor email heat map that links back to the community bank’s website and shows them which stories were the most visited.
“For example, if we need to see if people resonated more with information on how to have a smooth closing over [an article] on how to improve credit scores, we have that data readily available,” she says.
Another bonus of the newsletter is the ability to elevate employees as subject-matter experts. “A lot of our articles, especially the mortgage ones, are written by our employees,” Wheeler says. “It’s a way for us to use the resources we have at our fingertips, which is our people. Employees can share the articles they’ve written on their own social and LinkedIn feeds, and they feel proud that they were able to share some knowledge with customers.”
2. DEI matters on social
“If your bank has a DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] council, collaborate with them on how you can make your social space more inclusive throughout the year,” says Autumn Jose, Social Bankers member and social media and marketing coordinator at $3 billion-asset Civista Bank in Sandusky, Ohio. “If you don’t have a council, talk to your management about developing one, along with a mission for the bank and the communities you serve.”
3. Social media can be a recruiting tool
“Our Slack channel for Social Bankers has been lighting up with ideas on how to recruit new talent and retain the talent we have,” Martinson says. “With the labor market tightening up, there’s more of a demand on marketing staff to create content about the bank that speaks to potential employees and demonstrates what the employee experience is like. We’ve been doing 30-second clips of employees talking about working here and what professional development opportunities we offer.”
Martinson also recommends cleaning up issues with your website and social media profiles, including those of key employees and executives. “Potential employees care about things like a website that doesn’t render on mobile properly, or LinkedIn profiles that aren’t professional,” he says.
4. Content ideas should come from inside
“Collaborate with your internal teams, such as mortgage and commercial lending, to determine topics for new rounds of content,” Jose suggests. “Learn what they would like to see on social channels and in the markets they serve. Providing content that they can share creates a more personalized way to engage with their followers.”