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Banks at Leading Edge with Twitter Usage

Public relations firm the William Mills Agency has conducted a study of how banks and other financial institutions are using the social networking tool Twitter. What Mills found was that FIs are fairly ahead of the curve with regard to their use of social networking tools like Twitter.

According to Mills, there is little data available at this point on how FIs use Twitter. The agency hopes its findings in "The Bank and Credit Union Twittersphere: How Financial Institutions Use Twitter" can at least be used to help establish a baseline of this activity.

The study examined 1,176 "tweets" (Twitter posts), created by 63 financial during the period of March 1 to 30, 2009. The 63 financial institution Twitter accounts analyzed included 29 credit unions, 24 community banks, seven national banks and three regional banks. It revealed that the Twitter usage varies greatly among organizations. National banks posted an average of 53 tweets per month, followed by credit unions with 22.5 and community banks with 8.4. The regional banks analyzed did not make any tweets during the sampling frame.

From its research, Mills was able to separate banks' tweet styles into six categories, or personas: problem solvers, community activists, informers, communicators, social butterflies and sideliners/placeholders.

The most active Twitter accounts were: Bank of America's David Knapp (@BofA_help) with 199 posts Group Health Credit Union's Shannon Perry (@ghcu) with 171 posts Wachovia Bank (@Wachovia) with 124 posts 1st Mariner Bank (@1stMarinerBank) with 106 posts CU Community Credit Union's Jenny Reynolds (@mycucommunity) with 60 posts Pioneer Credit Union's Michelle Kozak (@pioneercu) with 54 posts These accounts produced 60.1 percent of the tweets analyzed. The top 20 percent of accounts surveyed produced 80.2 percent of the tweets analyzed, a pattern that follows the 80/20 Rule. The most common type of tweet, according to the study, was a reply to another Twitter user (44.1 percent), followed by links to websites (24.7 percent), internal news (8.1 percent), chatter (6.5 percent) and re-tweets (6.3 percent).

The types of information shared on Twitter by financial institutions include new products or promotions by the organization, links or comments on financial industry news, personal finance tips, links to their blogs or favorable media coverage, personal statements (e.g., remarks about the weather, how busy the day has been), comments on community events, recaps of the financial institution's philanthropic events or community outreach programs and replies to their followers.

"What we found in researching new media tools like Twitter is that there is precious little data out there relative to the financial services industry," said Scott Mills, president of William Mills Agency, in a statement. "I believe we are still on the front edge of the curve in terms of adoption and use of Twitter and it is evident based on our study that some financial institutions are doing a much better job of embracing it and utilizing its capabilities. In conducting the study, it is our hope to contribute to our industry's knowledgebase of social media and its practical applications to financial institutions and those companies that serve them."

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