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By John Brookmyre, Head of Capital Markets, IMGROUP

John Brookmyre
John Brookmyre

With two thirds of the UK population now on Facebook and almost one third on Twitter, social media is an obvious platform for companies to engage with their customers and gain valuable insights from a customer’s social data. The banking industry has been slower than others to embrace social media, until now; the top UK retail banks now have developed social media strategies in place.

Most banks are now using social media platforms to engage with their customers and for handling customer service issues. However, some banks are doing this more successfully than others. Independent research recently commissioned by IMGROUP has evaluated how effective the top ten UK banks are at using social media for customer service and engagement across four key online channels: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. The research looked at the number of followers, number of questions, response rate and response time to determine which bank is providing the best online customer service and engagement. Based on these metrics, HSBC performed best overall, followed by Barclays and The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

Twitter is the preferred social media channel for UK banks with all ten major banks having a presence on the platform. Banks use Twitter, to varying degrees, as a way of managing customer service issues online and in order to engage with their customers. Eight out of the ten banks had an above average response rate when compared to the worldwide financial industry average response rate of 42 per cent as calculated by socialbakers.com.
HSBC had an impressive average response time of 30 minutes on Twitter, compared to the worldwide financial industry average of 6 hours and 30 minutes. As a result HSBC is the most engaging and customer serviced focused bank on Twitter, followed by RBS, Lloyds and Barclays based on IMGROUP’s study.

The second most popular social media channel among the banks is Facebook. All the top ten banks have a Facebook presence which they use for customer service issues and customer engagement, other than The Co-Operative and Tesco. The worldwide financial industry average response time is 9 hours 58 minutes on Facebook, whilst the average response rate is 78 per cent.

According to our study, Barclays UK is the bank with the highest number of likes (294,013) and conversations (17,956), which indicates that Barclays has a good following base and a good level of engagement online. However, HSBC had the fastest response time at 1 hour 26 minutes and a 100 per cent response rate, making it the best performing of the banks on Facebook.

LinkedIn and Google+
While Facebook and Twitter are the preferred channels for online customer service, LinkedIn is mainly used for recruitment or information. Only Bank of Scotland and Nationwide use their LinkedIn page to provide customer service, engage and respond to queries. Similarly, only few banks have a relevant Google+ presence, including Barclays, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Nationwide. However, no bank is currently publically engaging in customer service or responding to queries on Google+.

Social Intelligence
Looking beyond customer service and engagement, consumers share valuable information about themselves on social media sites which can be harnessed by banks in order to achieve a deeper understanding of customer behaviour. The ability to harness the social intelligence about your customers and then take action by reaching out to them proactively via the platform can be a powerful marketing tool and something we have helped customers harness. This has given rise to a new concept, Social CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Individuals leave insightful information about themselves on sites like Facebook and Twitter, often ‘Liking’ or ‘Following’ certain brands or products. This is hugely valuable to banks as they are able to conduct much more targeted and effective social media marketing campaigns as a result. Not only does it inform organisations about the customer but also about their immediate peer groups and networks.

The majority of banks are now evaluating the use of Social CRM as part of their social media strategy, initially to create that all important customer knowledge store and then eventually to integrate this into a unified communication strategy. This will allow them to interact with their customers in a much more seamless, targeted and engaging way.
Embracing the future of social data

Engagement via social media is a great place for customers to have real ‘face time’ with their banks and join this up with their multi-channel strategy. While most financial services organisations are using social data in some shape or form, it will be those that fully embrace the opportunities of joined up social intelligence who will become industry leaders. Banks are able to utilise the valuable insight into their customers to offer a more targeted service as well as products. Social data can enable organisations and brands to remain ahead of their customers and gain competitive advantage.
For a more detailed look into the report, please visit: www.imgroup.com