Banks and credit card issuers don't have a lot of followers on social media relative to their peers in other industries.

In a survey of 500 U.S. credit card accountholders Auriemma Consulting Group conducted online in April, 9% of respondents said they were connected via social media to a bank or credit card company compared with 44% who were connected to other brands, such as retailer Target Corp.

The report marks Auriemma's first foray into exploring cardholders' social-media activity with financial-services companies for its monthly Cardbeat publication that tracks card users' attitudes and preferences, Scott Strumello, an associate at the firm, tells PaymentsSource.

"Banks are still trying to figure out social media, and there are not a lot of conclusions we can draw yet on the relevance of bank and credit card brands' social-media connections to consumers," he says.

Indeed, scattered efforts from financial-services firms to harness social media do not point to any dominant strategy (see story).

Among respondents who said they are linked via social media to banks or credit card issuers, 34% cited JPMorgan Chase & Co. as a company they track followed by American Express Co. and Bank of America Corp., each cited by 17% of respondents.

Sixty percent of respondents that follow a bank or credit card company via social media said they expected to find news or "tips," Auriemma said. About half, or 49%, said they expected to find offers or "instant communications from the organization."

About three-quarters, or 77%, of respondents that followed banks or credit card companies through social media did so via Facebook, Auriemma’s data show, followed by 17% who did so via Twitter, 11% via Google Plus, 6% via LinkedIn, and 3% each for MySpace, YouTube and Yelp.

Some 97% of respondents that used social media cited Facebook as one of the social-media sites they are connected to, followed by 39% who cited Twitter, 35% YouTube, 24% LinkedIn, 16% Google Plus, 15% MySpace, 4% Yelp and 3% Foursquare.

Nearly half, or 48% of social-media users said they visited Facebook at least five times daily, while 35% said they visited it at least once a day. Some 23% of social-media users visited YouTube at least five times daily, while 34% visited it at least once a day, the data show.

Twenty percent of social-media users visited Twitter at least five times daily, while 31% visited it at least once per day, the report said.

More than half of all respondents either read or contributed to online blogs, the data suggest. And 54% read blogs written by others, 14% read journalist-produced news blogs, 9% contributed to a blog, and 9% said they had their own blog.

Among social-media users who responded, 84% said they used it to keep in touch with friends and family; 71% did so to reconnect with friends, classmates and others; 63% to connection with individuals they might not reach otherwise; 49% to pass the time; 44% to store photos, videos and music and to find deals, sweepstakes and promotions; and 10% to promote their companies.

Women responding tended to follow more brands on social media than did the men, with 50% of female social-media users saying they followed at least one brand compared with 38% of males who did so.

Younger respondents were more likely to be connected to social-media sites, with 97% of those younger than 25 claiming to use social media on a regular basis compared with 89% of those ages 25 to 44 and 64% of those at least 45 years old who did.

It is difficult to determine the effect of banks' social-media offerings, Strumello says.

"A bank might do a promotion encouraging customers to 'like' it in Facebook, but that doesn't necessarily add up to ongoing communications and engagement through that channel," he says.

And social-media itself is rapidly evolving, Strumello notes.

Various social-media site are experimenting with new ways to encourage usage.

"Facebook is still trying to figure out a business model," Strumello says, alluding to the company's recent moves and new efforts to monetize its offerings (see story).

"It's easy for a bank to say it has something going on with social media, but consumers are not sure what it means,” he says. “For them, engaging with banks and credit cards so far appears to be more of a curiosity factor than a really significant dialogue. It's clear that financial services are still in the early stages of developing social media."

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