Matt Gunn, Managing Editor | TechComply

Social media is evolving fast. Federal guidance on social media for financial institutions is, too.

Many of the nation’s largest banks and credit unions got into the game early. Those institutions, which include the likes Bank of America, Citibank, Chase and even Navy Federal Credit Union have long engaged customers and the general public through social media, using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for various interactive marketing, educational and general interest campaigns. At those types of institutions, you’re likely to find a team of marketing, customer service or even banking staff dedicated to deploying and monitoring various messaging through popular social platforms. Some institutions even turn to outside firms to help develop strategy and monitor social activity. Most certainly, each of those banks and credit unions has some level of buy-in from the top, whether it’s senior management, the executive team or board of directors.

But let’s be realistic. Not every bank or credit union has the means to do that. Further, with the ROI of social media still difficult to pin down (hint: it’s not direct sales), many smaller institutions simply don’t see the need to get active on the social Internet.

Those institutions might soon be out of luck.

The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) released its first proposed guidance on social media in January, effectively opening up a 60 day comment period. That preliminary comment window closed at the end of March. The official guidance can’t be too far off.

As highlighted in the Compliance Guru’s coverage of the proposed guidance, one basic tenet of social media that all financial institutions will likely need to learn is how to monitor all that activity. The proposed guidance calls for banks and credit unions to monitor all social media activity the institution (or any third-party vendor) engages in, as well as protect against reputation risks that might arise on the social web. If that sounds fairly broad, it’s because it is. Social platforms, blogs and videos democratize the whole process of creating and publishing information. Any person can create whatever identity they want on a site like Twitter, and it’s not rare to see strong opinions for or against other people, businesses or products on blogs or Facebook. That reputation risk could come from people posting sensitive account information in the open, a bad actor creating a fake account or page posing as a financial institution, or even employees saying or doing things on a social site that violate the bank or credit union’s policy.

Of course, with great risk comes great opportunity, as well. Social media is a fairly simple and low cost way to interact with customers or potential customers to share news or information about your institution’s services. It’s the online extension of the community that banks and credit unions already serve. And if your institution isn’t out there actively defining itself, someone else might do it for you. And it might not always be good.

We’ll save the deep details for future posts. For now, here are three no-cost tools available to monitor what’s going on in social media. None of these services require the user to give away sensitive information or user info, and each are fairly easy to use. (Note: Mention does not imply endorsement)

HootSuite

hootsuite-general-dashboard

HootSuite (hootsuite.com) is a one-stop shop for monitoring, posting and scheduling activity on multiple social platforms. It’s easy to set up, and comes in multiple pricing tiers. The free version of HootSuite allows one user to monitor and control up to five existing social profiles on sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and more. It’s simple enough for a novice to learn, but still provides some great features to help banks and credit unions (especially those already using multiple social networks) monitor activity and interact with others.

The free version of HootSuite also provides basic analytics reports for those interested in tracking the results of their social media efforts. Upgrading to the $8.99/month pro version gives two people access to the HootSuite dashboard, as well as deeper analytics and other advanced options. HootSuite is good for monitoring activity on existing social accounts and searching various topics on Twitter or profiles on Facebook.

Social Mention

SocialMention

Social Mention (socialmention.com) is a simple tool financial institutions can use to search specific topics, brand names or other relevant company information. Like a traditional search engine, simply enter the specific topic into Social Mention, and the service then aggregates relevant information from more than 80 social media platforms, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Google+ and more.

Each Social Mention search gives real-time information on a subject, as well as insight on the subject’s strength (likelihood your brand is being discussed on social media), sentiment (ratio of positive comments to negative), passion (likelihood that those talking about your brand will do so repeatedly) and reach (the measure of influence of those discussing your brand). It’s a very easy tool to get started with, and a good, quick way to jump online and assess whether people are discussing your financial institution online and what they are saying.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts

Sometimes the old tricks are the best tricks. Google Alerts (google.com/alerts) remain one of the easiest ways to get started monitoring your brand, products and services on the Internet.

Whether you’re looking for recent blog posts, videos or even reviews on sites like Yelp, Google Alerts are an easy way to get started tracking online activity. Simply sign up for individual alerts on a specific topic, bank or credit union name, person’s name or any other relevant subject you can think of, and then schedule alerts to be sent directly to your email inbox whenever you choose.

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