How Social Media Can Boost Public Trust in Your Bank

by | Jun 30, 2020

In the banking world, where handling money safely and securely is a foundational element of the entire industry, having the public’s trust is a nonnegotiable element of success.

The financial industry had to scramble to rebuild this trust after it took a hit during the Great Recession, but efforts paid off slowly but surely. In the past eight years, trust in the financial industry has grown by 12 points. 

There is still work to do, however. Banks can continue waiting for the public to grow more trusting of the financial industry over time, or they can take the lead in accelerating growth by using every tool at their disposal to bring trust to its highest levels yet. We’ve already seen this kind of sprint pay off in the financial technology industry, but traditional brick-and-mortar banks can take note and play their own part in fueling the acceleration of public trust.

As traditional banks started their slow ascent toward trust, fintech companies leaped ahead, building customer relationships that were digital-first and rooted in a stellar experience. By creating well-designed, easy to use apps, these companies not only impressed current users, but also inspired them to spread the word through online reviews and social media. This increased their reach and boosted the public’s trust in them. Fintechs soared in popularity while banks struggled to regain ground — but now, traditional brick-and-mortar financial institutions have the opportunity to leverage similar strategies using social media to build back trust.

Because social media is rooted in authentic conversation, it provides a natural opportunity for banks to shape their stories and engage consumers. What’s more, banks have the upper hand because they have physical locations and teams of employees that can interact with customers and guide them through their financial journeys. Pair this with a solid social strategy to build authenticity, and consumers will see your institution more like a trusted partner and less like an impersonal financial brand.

4 ways to build trust in your bank through social media

Social media isn’t just for young people and early adopters anymore — it reaches everyone. For example, 86% percent of Baby Boomers use social media on a daily basis, which is only 3% less than Generation Z. 

Each social platform has varying demographics that might respond to specific messaging in a different way, which gives banks the opportunity to develop dynamic storytelling opportunities and create two-way conversations at scale. Social media presents a new way for banks to approach the public that moves beyond the old-fashioned notion of sales pitches and traditional advertising. By creating an ever-present, responsive, and helpful dialogue with the public, banks can improve their brand’s visibility and reputation while restoring trust in the industry as a whole at a rate that would have previously seemed impossible.

The question for banks, then, shouldn’t be whether or not to take advantage of this medium, but where to begin. These four social media tips can help your financial institution accelerate trust while creating lifelong customers:

Think “people,” not “brand.” Although having a brand presence on popular social media channels is helpful for boosting visibility, creating trust requires more than that. You need to create a human connection by using people. Encourage your employees to be active on social media on behalf of your brand to not only improve trust, but also increase your reach significantly. According to one study, messages from brands went 561% further when employees shared them than when branded accounts posted the same thing. People also shared the messages employees posted 24 times more often. Audiences relate more to a human being behind a social account than that of an entire financial brand.

Hold your social media experience to the same level as your branch experience. You know the importance of top-notch customer service at your branch. When your bank teller says hello to customers at the door and offers them a hot cup of coffee, they present your bank as a trusted, helpful partner. You should think about your social media presence in the same way. The experience of visiting your brand on social media should be as helpful as visiting your branch in real life.

If someone visits your social media page, for instance, they should be able to reach out to a banker with any questions via direct message. Consumers, especially younger ones, want to be able to communicate with you on social media, so create a welcoming online presence they can interact with at ease. Also, be sure that any information they might need about your bank, such as contact information or location, is easily accessible when they visit your social profiles. That way, they’ll feel at home whether they’re chatting with a teller at your retail location or reaching out online.

Recognize the importance of reviews. In an online world, reviews matter. A recent survey found that 76% of customers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from family and friends. Meanwhile, 82% of people reported that they are likely to avoid local companies that had negative reviews. In other words, positive reviews can be a game-changer when it comes to increasing trust, but negative ones can drag you down.

You can use social media to amplify and solicit positive reviews, which strengthens your online reputation. If you had a positive interaction with a customer online, follow up with them and ask them to leave a review on places such as Yelp, Facebook, or Google. Then, share those positive reviews and other testimonials on social media. Did a customer just have an amazing mortgage closing experience? Share it. Did a branch employee go the extra mile for a local customer? Post about it. These user stories are often the first thing people read about your company — it’s important to make sure what they see is encouraging.

Likewise, if someone posts something negative online, whether on review sites or through social media, follow up quickly to see how you can address their concerns. Sometimes, all it takes to transform a negative review into a positive one is reaching out.

Don’t abandon in-person relationships. Although many customers prefer to do their basic banking online, that doesn’t mean your branches should close up shop any time soon. Most people still prefer a human touch when it comes to more complex transactions (such as financial planning or mortgage origination). In fact, 85% of people in the United States still prefer working with human financial advisors rather than digital ones. 

Use social media to reinforce these kinds of human relationships. Mortgage loan officers, for instance, can share content on their social media pages that helps young people understand how to start the homebuying process. They can encourage engagement on these posts and interact with audiences by answering questions and positioning themselves as the ideal partner for securing a mortgage.

The general public is gaining more trust in financial institutions, but improvement is slow. Banks have a unique opportunity to accelerate that trust-building by improving the overall image of the industry while putting themselves ahead of the competition. By using social media to create human connections and respond to concerns in real time, banks can improve their reputations and push themselves to even greater heights — all while building a loyal customer base in the process.

This article was originally published in International Banker