The real use for Twitter in CU’s (and Banks)

Screw banks and CU’s using Twitter.  It is over rated and doesn’t give you any ROI.  I don’t care if you are having a seminar on credit reports or a shred day.  Pilcher’s Twitter directory is fine and dandy and it does a great job demonstrating that nobody is using Twitter except to regurgigate tired marketing messages.  Twitter could be a real communication tool for your members if it is a medium they are currently using.  You’ve surveyed your members and done your market research so you know what percentage of your membership is on Twitter, right?

Why the hell don’t we actually make Twitter a useful communication tool?  Think about how text banking works.  I text bal to MYCUBAL or whatever and 10 or 20 seconds goes by and my balance comes back.  Whoo hoo.  Why don’t we do the same thing with Twitter?  Log into online banking and link your Twitter username to your online banking account.  Tweet a direct message to your credit union with a command like bal or last 5.  The CU’s application grabs the direct message, looks up the Twitter username in online banking and pulls the balance out of the OFX server or directly from the core.  Then the application direct messages the CU member back.

Duh.  Seems like a no brainer to me.  Let’s get off the marketing band wagon with Twitter and figure out how to actually make it a useful tool for our membership.

Update:  I was just catching up on my feeds and noticed the post at The Financial Brand about the How To: Twitter for FI’s guide.  Look at the bullet points:

  • Promote new products and offers
  • Share personal finance tips
  • Express their brand and reveal their personalities
  • Build community outreach programs
  • Provide information about community events and activities
  • Increase exposure for their charitable and philanthropic efforts

Pick one of those that isn’t marketing and show me one useful thing that a member could use any of that for.  Oh wait, you can’t.

18 thoughts on “The real use for Twitter in CU’s (and Banks)”

  1. Nice post Robbie!

    While you make a good point that FIs are not using Twitter to the fullest, and focusing on the same marketing BS and not relationships, I must disagree on your point about using Twitter to get account balance and perform other transactional information.

    As we all know, Twitter is not the most secure platform in the world. It’s been hacked, injected with worms, etc. more and more recently. And this will most likely continue as Twitter grows in popularity.

    I would not be comfortable using Twitter as a “secure communication” platform.

    In addition, while the use you described above is above and beyond what Twitter is currently being used for by FI, why would I (the consumer) want to use Twitter for this function when I am already using text messaging.

    For example, I run both Twitter and SMS on my phone for simular uses, but different channels. SMS of course is one to one and Twitter, for the most part it one to many.

    Yes… SMS is not truly secure either and we are not transmitted any “personal info” but we don’t have to worry about a Twitter U/P that could be compromised on there end.

    While I agree with your statement, “let’s get off the marketing bandwagon” (I too am tired of CUs using Twitter for this), I want to challenge your use as the platfrom described above.

  2. Conceptually, you’re right on. Practically, you’re way off.

    Remind me again, what kind of security controls Twitter has in place? Remind me again, how stable their infrastructure and performance is?

    For account level transactions and interactions, banks and credit unions should stay as far away from Twitter as possible.

    p.s. I’ll give you a sneak preview of some new research I conducted and haven’t even published yet. In a survey of Gen Yers, only 40% said they use Twitter. Of those that do use Twitter, only 12% said that they would have no issue or problem sending service-related questions or requests to their bank through Twitter. So when you do the math here, if banks/CUs did what you suggest, they’d be doing it for just 5% of their Gen Y customer/member base.

    Is the percentage higher for Gen Xers, Boomers, and Seniors? Possibly, but my bet is that while it might be higher for Gen Xers, it wouldn’t be for Boomers or Seniors.

  3. It all hinges on the execution Robbie. If 100% of your Twitter stream is dry, boring, self-serving crap, yes, you’re right, the stream will have no value.

    The bullet list you reprinted includes benefits and opportunities for financial institutions. It is not a list of “what to tweet.”

  4. Robbie, tell us what you really think? Lol! I didn’t noticed you were this fired-up at lunch yesterday. You must have calmed down by then…

    I just haven’t found any real use for Twitter but it’s amazing how much a part of pop culture it’s becomming. Oh wait! There is one good use of Twitter: http://springwise.com/food_beverage/bakertweet/
    Now that’s something I could sign-up for!

  5. @James – You’re correct, Twitter is not a secure communication channel at all. But to your point, either is SMS or RSS or email really for that matter.

    Folks that use Twitter have come to expect downtime. It is a normal thing. While not normal from an FI, a customer/member using Twitter to get their balance would get a massive fail whale and say, “Oh, I guess I actually have to log into online banking now.”

    Most of the security issues would be on the shoulders of the FI, just like it is with text banking. Specifically, it comes with “linking” the phone number, or in this case a Twitter username, to an account. A cell phone number could be spoofed and used to get account info as well. Additionally, personal info would never flow over a Twitter channel, or email or sms, so the greatest harm done would be a hacker getting their balance or their last 5 transactions. OFX is a read-only interface as well, so a hacker could never take all the money from an account, unless of course their online banking username and password has been compromised or PIN or some such thing.

    @Ron – So how much would you pay to reach 5% of your member population with a tool they would love? How much to we pay for leather check book covers that we give out for free to our 55+ checking accounts?

    @Jeffry – I guess I have a hard time seeing someone following a Twitter feed to find out what’s happening in their community or to follow a corporate brand. If the FI was able to mix in real purposeful content, like getting account balances or something, with the list you mentioned, I’d imagine they would have a very popular and well-followed Twitter feed. And by the way, I’m just shooting you because you’re the messenger and happened to have a good post I could pick on.

    I feel like I’m talking to a bunch of old guys (sorry) that think Facebook is silly and can’t understand why anyone would want to put a profile of themselves online for everyone to see. Everything online is scary and risky. Even online banking.

  6. @James – You’re correct, Twitter is not a secure communication channel at all. But to your point, either is SMS or RSS or email really for that matter.

    Folks that use Twitter have come to expect downtime. It is a normal thing. While not normal from an FI, a customer/member using Twitter to get their balance would get a massive fail whale and say, “Oh, I guess I actually have to log into online banking now.”

    Most of the security issues would be on the shoulders of the FI, just like it is with text banking. Specifically, it comes with “linking” the phone number, or in this case a Twitter username, to an account. A cell phone number could be spoofed and used to get account info as well. Additionally, personal info would never flow over a Twitter channel, or email or sms, so the greatest harm done would be a hacker getting their balance or their last 5 transactions. OFX is a read-only interface as well, so a hacker could never take all the money from an account, unless of course their online banking username and password has been compromised or PIN or some such thing.

    @Ron – So how much would you pay to reach 5% of your member population with a tool they would love? How much to we pay for leather check book covers that we give out for free to our 55+ checking accounts?

    @Jeffry – I guess I have a hard time seeing someone following a Twitter feed to find out what’s happening in their community or to follow a corporate brand. If the FI was able to mix in real purposeful content, like getting account balances or something, with the list you mentioned, I’d imagine they would have a very popular and well-followed Twitter feed. And by the way, I’m just shooting you because you’re the messenger and happened to have a good post I could pick on.

    I feel like I’m talking to a bunch of old guys (sorry) that think Facebook is silly and can’t understand why anyone would want to put a profile of themselves online for everyone to see. Everything online is scary and risky. Even online banking. We just have to minimize the security concerns for the demographic of the market we’re going after. Twitter users are going to have a lot different expectations of what online could/should do then even Gen X’ers.

  7. I wouldn’t pay a damn penny for it, if for the same amount of money I could build something that 25% or 50% of my customers loved — especially if they’re the customers who have more money and more immediate product needs than the 5% we’re talking about.

    And you’re more than smart enough to know that when forced to make an investment allocation decision you’d give the same answer that I just did.

  8. Such good arguments on both side going on in the comments section. I definitely like the idea of adding service-based features for banks & CUs (and all companies for that matter) on Twitter, Robbie. However, I do think that Ron brings up a good point about the stability (or lack thereof) of Twitter.

    Perhaps adding features like these are the next steps for Twitter, unless it refuses to budge feature-wise. Otherwise, we may find ourselves locked into reading short marketing blurbs and following links until Twitter phases itself out.

  9. I think you’re all missing Robbie’s point. And i don’t think it’s necessarily about the “Twitter product” as much as it is about insipid marketing messages – in any medium. Tweet is the turd du jour.

    So let’s think outside the bird – if I could pre-arrange with my credit union’s network Nazi to have a quick function set up on my phone just to check my balance whenever I want – I would PAY for that. How many phone calls to the call center would we eliminate? (old guys would sign up for it, cuz it’s easy and on their phone!) That alone would pay for it.

    Rock on Robbie……

  10. Twitter is massively over hyped and now has become the cool thing for “progressive” marketers to push. Jumping on the hype bandwagon is one of the easiest ways for vendors to get attention and distinguish themselves.

    However, all of the 3rd-party twitter applications do position twitter as potentially a compelling and central location for people to easily manage various notifications or initiate non-sensitive requests.

    Seeing all the 140 bytes of mindless crap out there, I have a really hard time buying into the fact that the Twitter communications channel will somehow allow credit unions to form new and valuable member connections.

    As was done in the recent CU Times article: Drawing comparisons that CUs turning their back on twitter is like a teller not responding to a member in the branch or a credit union not picking up the phone is absolutely laughable.

  11. @ Chuck – your final paragraph states:

    “As was done in the recent CU Times article: Drawing comparisons that CUs turning their back on twitter is like a teller not responding to a member in the branch or a credit union not picking up the phone is absolutely laughable.”

    I flashed back to the 1990s – the same was said about responding to members emails and NEEDING a website. Many dismissed it early on. But today, if you’re not in it (social media) – you’re toast.

    I don’t know that I’d be laughing too hard just yet – I think maybe the name “Twitter” puts people off. It is hard to hear a politician refer to a Tweet they just made…..but I’m getting used to it.

    Social media – it’s a conversation that’s been going on for years now (Twitter is just the latest device). Markets are conversations today- and these markets are getting smarter, faster…..you should try Twitter.

  12. @Denise

    I use Twitter every day and see the value that I mentioned in my post. In fact, our 7.5 offering will have components that leverage the messaging management capabilities of Twitter and its 3rd-party tools.

    I also see lots of value in using Twitter to networking. However I do not see value in credit unions using it beyond sending and possibly receiving short notifications.

    Sorry, but I believe comparing responding to emails and responding to tweets to be just as laughable. In addition, in order of critical priorities, I have a hard time believing credit unions or their members would put credit unions monitoring and responding to tweets high on that list.

    Time will tell, but I will take that bet any day.

  13. What relevance does a primetime comedy bit on celebrities sharing pointless tweets have to do with financial institutions using Twitter? I’m struggling to see the correlation or how this is “getting real.”

    The problem isn’t who tweets. The problem is what gets tweeted. No one wants to read boring shit, whether that’s from a credit union or a celebrity.

    Chuck, my guess is that you think Twitter is stupid for credit unions because you’ve only seen (or can only imagine) boring shit from them.

    Did you see this?
    http://thefinancialbrand.com/2009/06/11/10-mistakes-when-tweeting/

    The bigger problem is that most financial institutions are boring, not just what they tweet.

  14. @Jeffry

    I was just being flip with my post for Conan’s bit on Twitter. However, some appear to think that there is inherent value to credit unions in these mindless tweets since they can strengthen the business relationship by providing personal insights and familiarity. I personally do not see it.

    I read the posts on your site about Twitter and agree that if you tweet you better make your tweets count, but as stated in my earlier posts I still contend that the potential value of Twitter is limited and often grossly overstated by some as critical for credit unions.

    Just my opinion.

  15. I’d have an issue as well with the argument that Twitter is crucial for a credit union to pursue. Why? Because it hasn’t proven itself yet. But that’s also why it shouldn’t be dismissed yet either. As Robbie’s original post points out, the channel’s potential has not been fully explored. In the last 6-12 months, there have been some interesting and creative Twitter deployments by all sorts of brands. I suspect there’s more creativity to come.

    Anecdotally, I don’t think many financial institutions utilize Facebook very well, but I wouldn’t rush to dismiss it. To your point though, Facebook (like Twitter) is not a critical priority.

    As I’ve often said (it’s in my Twitter report), if you have 5-10 hours to spend on Twitter, you have to ask yourself: “Isn’t there something better I can be doing?” Honestly? There probably is. If you do indeed have the human bandwidth available in your organization, then you should feel encouraged to experiment. Just please don’t be boring.

  16. There are only a very few universal truths in the Credit Union Movement, and “everyone must use Twitter” certainly isn’t one of them.

    If informal and “social” interactions with Members and others is not a significant part of your planned or desired “face” to your market – and after 30 years of interacting with some of you, I can certainly understand why that might be the case (that’s a joke, folks) – then of course NONE of the various and wildly popular social networking channels is worth your time.

    If, on the other hand, your Member demographics, business strategies, desired growth direction, etc., etc., call for focus on younger and/or more tech-savvy Members or potential Members, then of course you must at least be up to speed on (and probably have some level of visibility in) whatever is the current “big deal” from THEIR perspective.

    It’s probably worthwhile to also note the “Future Shock”-type consideration – new and innovative interaction/communications channels come and go pretty darn fast in the 21st century, so there are going to be times where we must cut first and measure second if we hope to have some relevance to our future Members.

    I’ve said it elsewhere; most of the people actually using Twitter regularly today would probably find this conversation hilarious (at best) and a perfect example of why “banks” (yeah, they lump us all together, get over it) will never be more than “a necessary evil” in their life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *