Financial institutions could do more to connect with consumers by focusing greater attention on social networks, new survey data suggest.

Just as individuals can do, businesses and financial institutions also may create Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to link with customers. However, while 84% of consumers who are connected to the Internet are involved with such social-media networks, only 11% are connected to their financial institutions through those channels, according to the results of a survey Fiserv Inc. conducted with The Marketing Workshop.

In the survey, Fiserv and The Marketing Workshop polled 3,000 U.S. consumers online in August.

Consumers who participate in online social-media networks have deeper relationships with their financial institutions, as they tend to have credit and debit cards and use bill-payment services more so or more often than do other customers, the survey found. Among the 67% of consumers connect to their financial institutions via social-media networks by linking company pages or subscribing to feeds also use online-banking and bill-payment services. Moreover, 45% have a bank debit card, and 35% have a bank-issued credit card.

One of the greatest barriers to connecting to financial institutions through social-media networks is lack of awareness, Daniel Steer, director of product management for Fiserv’s Consumer Insights, tells PaymentsSource. Consumer Insights leverages primary research, data analytics and consumer-marketing capabilities to help financial institutions maximize their consumer interactions within the digital channel.

Of those respondents who wanted to use social-media networks to connect with financial institutions, 71% said they did not know they could, either because their financial institution did not market that availability or because it did not participate in a social network, Steer says.

“The issue is of relationships,” says Steere. “People connect with brands online because they enjoy connecting them with their lifestyle; it’s a huge relational component.”

Financial institutions pursuing transaction opportunities through social-media networks first should make the relationship connection, Steere says. What they should not do is create a social-media network presence and then not invest the time and money to keep it updated, he says.

“There should be a lot of strategy that goes into building those presences,” says Steere. Issues such as who answers Twitter comments over the weekend and how to handle negative comments also must be considered.

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