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Banks Mining Social Networks with Analytics Tools

With the help of social media analytics tools, savvy banks including Citi, SunTrust, ING Direct and First Tennessee are listening to and gleaning useful insight from social media conversations.

In March [after BS&T's conversation with Marks], San Francisco-based Salesforce announced its plan to purchase Radian6. Salesforce already had introduced tools for its CRM platform that incorporate social media monitoring into the sales and service platform. With those pieces in place, if a customer complains about a service issue on a social media site, Salesforce can pick up the complaint and automatically push the social media history to a customer service rep. Presumably, with Salesforce's purchase of Radian6, Salesforce will add richer analytics tools that integrate with its CRM platform.

The tool that First Tennessee uses for general web analytics, Waltham, Mass.-based Unica NetInsight, an IBM company, recently introduced some limited social media monitoring capability, the bank's Marks notes. According to SunTrust's Buckridee, her bank gets analytics from its social media engagement platform, CoTweet, but also uses its own in-house analytics solution.

ING Direct Canada's Nicholson says his bank started out using Scout Labs to analyze social media activity, but today it uses several platforms, including Radian6, to listen to, monitor and measure social media interactions. Nicholson says he likes the Radian6 tool's graphical user interface and robust features. "We wanted a tool where we could establish some trends; something that would not just be a snapshot but let us go back 30 to 90 days and see how the conversation is changing over time," he relates. "This tool allows us to do that easily."

The product can search news sites, blogs and forums, as well as social media sites. "We're scouring anything we can get our hands on," Nicholson notes.

When he evaluates social media analytics tools, First Tennessee's Marks says, he looks for simplicity and "powerful enough." "We don't need a global level of sophistication, and we want to understand key metrics at a reasonable price point," he says. He recognizes that only 1 percent to 2 percent of his bank's customers have friended its Facebook page. "We're still early in adoption," he notes.

"I would encourage every bank to go through an evaluation process because the space is changing so rapidly," Marks adds of the social media analytics space. In the evaluation process, he says, banks should view demonstrations of the software to get a feel for how it might fit their needs.

One critical requirement for any social media tool, according to Citi's Eliason, is a full Twitter feed. "So much data goes through Twitter that not all tools can get the full feed," he says. When he's evaluating a tool that monitors Twitter, he will perform the same search in Twitter Search and compare. If there's a lengthy delay or missing results in the tool under scrutiny, that's a problem, he says.

Eliason also advises banks to find their own solution rather than simply copy what other banks have done. "Figure out what your own goals are, what are you trying to achieve, and how you would measure that," he says. "Then work your way into the tools."

Turning Insight Into Action

At First Tennessee, social media's most useful role to date has been in understanding customer "hot buttons," according to the bank's Marks. Comments in social networks, he says, can help the bank gauge customers' reactions to a recent update to the bank's checking products, for example.

ING Direct Canada's Nicholson says his bank has been leveraging social networks to crowdsource product development. When the bank recently launched a new checking account, Nicholson says, he searched for related comments about the product in Radian6 and sent them to the product development team so it could make improvements.

"Where possible, we're acting on comments, to make the product better," Nicholson reports. "This is a whole other realm of information we wouldn't have otherwise."

When ING Direct Canada first launched the checking product, it offered 20 checks in the first check booklet. "We got tons of comments saying 20 is not cutting it, this is a real weak spot of this product," Nicholson relates. "So we changed the product to provide 50 checks in the first booklet."

But it takes bravery to release a new product and face customers' immediate reactions. "You definitely have to be OK with a transparent process," Nicholson says. "You have to be honest. We had an issue with billers, and instead of waiting for 300 calls to come into the call center, we actively went out and told people over social media. Then we only got two calls about it."

While most banks would like to tie social media conversations to product sales, that direct connection is largely out of reach. For one thing, linking online personas to bank customer records is a huge challenge, partly due to the anonymous nature of the typical Twitter account (e.g., @bgood78 accompanied by a photo of a hamster).

SunTrust does make connections between people's Twitter and Facebook names and customer accounts. "But if you're in social media and you're using it for customer service, you walk that fine line of coming across as Big Brotherish," warns the bank's Buckridee. "You want to get their permission before you do that."

But there are useful ways of linking social media activity generally to customer behavior, including purchases. At First Tennessee, Marks watches traffic that comes into the bank's website from its social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube so he can see their effectiveness as referral sources. The bank also has begun using unique tracking codes for offers made on Facebook that it collects in the online application process or from coupons printed out and brought into a branch.

So how do you measure the return on investment for the time and software required for social media monitoring and analytics? "That's the million dollar question," says ING Direct Canada's Nicholson.

Where's the ROI?

"There are some intangibles and tangibles," Nicholson continues. "When we execute a campaign, we know what our results are and where they're coming from.

"But there are a lot of other things we're doing in social media that we don't demand ROI on, such as engagement and talking to Canadians about finance," he adds. "This is just the right thing to do." According to Nicholson, the bank's Radian6 licensing model represents a small investment compared to the return it has enjoyed on the product.

Citi's Eliason stresses that ROI is the wrong metric to look for in social media. "Quantification and goals need to be aligned with the space itself," he says. Eliason advocates that banks should look at customers' net promoter scores.

Net promoter scores group customers into categories: promoters are loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying from the institution and refer others; passives are satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable to competitive offerings; and detractors are unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede growth through negative word of mouth. "That shows the value and connection they have to you as a brand," Eliason says. "If they promote you, that could lead to sales. But you might not be able to associate that to one interaction."

Though she gets asked a lot about the ROI of social media, SunTrust's Buckridee acknowledges that it's hard to measure the ROI on goodwill generated through positive social media conversations. "My question is, how do you measure the ROI of a hug?" she asks. "Because that's what we're doing with the Twitter team. We're putting a face to the brand -- giving them a human voice and talking to them. We're focused on building loyalty. ... We're starting to turn that thorny dialogue into happy customer tweets."

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