Aiming to prompt smartphone-toting customers to communicate more than "withdraw $60" while they're frequenting ATMs, banks are playing up their social properties at their physical footprints.
Regions Financial Corp., for example, will include Twitter and Facebook promotions in its ATM messaging next year to encourage social engagement.
"Social and mobile are together," says Liliana Grip, Regions's vice president of social media.
Though the details were limited, Regions says its only plans to date are to ask customers to follow the Birmingham, Ala.-based bank on Twitter and 'like' Regions on Facebook while they are transacting on their ATMs.
Regions, which boasts more than 2,100 ATMs in 16 states, also plans to better promote its social properties at its branches. "[Social] extends the experience out of the branch," Grip says.
Ultimately, Grip says measuring 'likes' takes a backseat in importance to engagements occurring in the socialsphere. Indeed, providing customer care was the impetus for launching its social strategy late last year. "We respond to anything and everything we can add value to," Grip says.
Since 2012's start, Regions has addressed more than 5,000 issues through its social media pages, says Grip. Beyond Twitter and Facebook, the bank also participates on YouTube, Google+, Foursquare and Flickr. Six people work on Regions's social channels, though the bank wouldn't disclose its budget allocated for social media efforts.
Regions is certainly not alone in making use of its ATMs' real estate for promoting its social properties. For now, though, the primary point of doing so is for branding purposes.
"It's more of a branding reinforcement than anything else," David Albertazzi, senior analyst with Aite Group LLC, says. Banks, according to Albertazzi, primarily use social media in reference to their ATM footprint to inform customers about an ATM perk, offer up security tips and alert customers to when an ATM isn't working.
"Banks are using social media to keep customers informed to potential updates to when the ATM [will] be back up online," Albertazzi says.
Larger banks, like Wells Fargo & Co., have been incorporating their social properties into their ATM messaging for some time. Indeed, the San Francisco-based bank has run advertisements on its ATMs for its @Ask_WellsFargo handle for about the last two years, says Alicia Moore, head of ATM Banking at Wells.
Wells, which boasts 12,000 ATMs, runs the following ad on its ATM: "We're on Twitter. We'd love to hear about your experiences with our ATMs. Tweet and follow us at @Ask_WellsFargo."
What Wells "hears" the most from tweeters viewing an ATM campaign? Surprise on their birthdays. Indeed, Wells wishes customers a happy birthday during their ATM transactions — digital confetti included.
Though "happy birthday" messages prompt a pool of consumers to tweet to Wells while they are at the ATMs, Moore notes that tweeting to a bank isn't for everyone.
"[Twitter is] a powerful tool, but not every customer wants to use it," says Moore.
That said, Wells can send targeted ATM messages to those customers who have shown an appetite for Twitter, Moore says. In other words, if a customer has previously tweeted to the bank, Wells can reinforce that communication option the next time he visits one of its ATMs, she says.
"The whole concept of personalization has been evolving over the last few years" to remembering customer preferences, Aite's Albertazzi says.
And though Wells doesn't yet push its social properties to customers when an ATM is down — largely because of the myriad of reasons why a machine might not be working right — the bank does make sure an ATM screen points a consumer to the five nearest ATM locations. Plus, Moore says that Wells is "thinking through" how to become more digital or mobile when ATM glitches occur.
Looking further ahead, banks could take a cue from card issuers and find opportunities in incorporating offers into their social and mobile initiatives.
Though Grip says she couldn't speak to Regions' plans yet, she did say rewards and social media are on her radar, and pointed to American Express Co. as a player that does interesting things in the space.
Amex, for example, launched a service earlier this year that lets eligible cardholders sync their cards with Twitter. By doing so, consumers receive savings from participating merchants when they swipe their Amex card and tweet specific hashtags. Amex introduced a similar campaign for Facebook last year.