Will Twitter Help Banks Improve Their Reputations?

May 14, 2009 3:37 AM ETC, BAC, WFC, AXP, TWTR1 Comment
Julia Boorstin profile picture
Julia Boorstin

Twitter offers an unprecedented opportunity for companies and brands to communicate directly with their constituents. And it doesn't hurt that the micro-blogging service has a cult following.

In the latest sign of Twitter's reach and the desperation of the financial crisis, certain recipients of the federal bank bailout have turned to social networking tools. Wells Fargo (WFC) and Bank of America (BAC) are slowly growing an audience for their Twitter Profiles that specialize in customer service. They both also have Facebook pages, as do most other financial institutions, from Citigroup (C), to ING Direct, to American Express (AXP).

This social networking play makes sense for banks. They need to improve their image, reassure consumers, and they don't have lots of money to spend on huge ad campaigns. Hiring an employee to man a Twitter post or set up a Facebook profile costs next to nothing, and depending on how interested consumers are, the impact could be huge. The fast pace of social networks means banks don't have time to have an ad agency craft every Tweet responding to customer concerns. This fact that Twitter interactions are less filtered is exactly what consumers like, and exactly why the banks need to be especially careful. A dumb Tweet or Facebook posting would certainly fly around the web with viral speed, and land on the cable networks if not network news.

Over the past few days I've been monitoring Wells Fargo and Bank of America's tweets - if you're interested the handles are "Ask_WellsFargo" and "BofA_help." The tone for both is unfailingly cheery, enthusiastic and helpful. They answer questions and point frustrated customers in the right direction. And yes, the tweets read like ads. "Glad 2 hear that you are happy with personal & business banking @ Wells Fargo. We appreciate your business!" Bank of America's Twitter rep, David, Tweets: "Thank you! We're glad we can help, listen, and learn from our customers."

Both Wells Fargo and B of A's Twitter profiles look to personalize the experience - it's Jay and David tweeting. But they also keep it professional, Wells' Tweet page is cluttered with disclosures and David reminds users never to share account information on unsecured sites. Bank of America has attracted almost 2,000 followers, Wells has just under 1,400. It's just a drop in the bucket, but it will grow as Twitter's audience grows.

And if the banks are lucky, it'll be another key way for them to manage customers without spending a fortune.

This article was written by

Julia Boorstin profile picture
Julia Boorstin joined CNBC in May 2006 as a general assignment reporter. In December 2006, Boorstin became CNBC's media and entertainment reporter working from CNBC's Los Angeles Bureau. Boorstin covers media with a special focus on the intersection of media and technology. In 2003, 2004 and 2006, The Journalist and Financial Reporting newsletter named Boorstin to the "TJFR 30 under 30" list of the most promising business journalists under 30 years old. She has also worked for the State Department's delegation to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (O.E.C.D.) and for Vice President Gore's Domestic Policy office. She graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in history. She was also an editor on The Daily Princetonian.

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