Twitter Engagement In Financial Services

Salesforce.com released an interesting study regarding industry differences in Twitter engagement based on its analysis of nearly one and a quarter million tweets sent in 2013 by firms across a number of industries. One of those industries was financial services, who accounted for 94k, or 7.6% of the total number of tweets analyzed.

Oh, who am I kidding. The study is anything but interesting, and is simply the useless analysis of data that was done simply because the data was available to be analyzed. Why did Salesforce perform the analysis? Probably because they knew people would read the report, and that idiots like me would blog about it.

That said, I’m going to continue with this post…and you’re probably going to continue reading it. So much for forewarning.

***

Across the seven industries studied, financial services firms came in last place in average replies per tweet at 1.7. Nice work, financial institutions (FIs)! Companies that sell toilet paper (i.e., consumer product goods) generated more replies per tweet  than you did!

 

                         Avg. Replies     Avg. Retweets
Consumer products goods       2.2              8.8
Media/Entertainment           7.7             23.6
Financial services            1.7             17.1
Retail/eCommerce              3.0             11.5
Education/non-profit          2.8             15.3
Tech/manufacturing            1.9              4.0
Travel/hospitality            1.8              5.6

Source: Salesforce.com

FIs did perform better in terms of retweets, however, with 17.1 retweets per tweet, second only to media and entertainment companies who generated nearly 24 retweets per tweet.

But not so fast. A deeper dive into the data reveals some anomalies. Two months–June and August–are serious outliers. In June 2013, FIs averaged nearly 46 retweets per tweet, while in August, FIs’ tweets generated, on average, almost 64 retweets per tweet!  Take those two months out, and FIs only averaged 9.6 retweets per tweet. Retweets of other industry’s tweets were far more consistent month to month.

20141020 Twitter2Source: Salesforce.com

What happened in June and August? I have no idea. I doubt this really happened, but I can’t help but wonder if FIs were posting pictures of nude celebrities. Why would I even think that?

Financial services companies averaged nearly 47 retweets per photo tweeted in 2013! What in the world were they tweeting pictures of? New check designs? The new digital signage in their branches? I doubt those would generate many retweets. Naked pictures of celebrities, on the other hand…

OK, so maybe it wasn’t naked pictures of celebrities. Could’ve been pictures of celebrities drunk on their weekend binges. Retweets of FIs’ tweets were highest on Monday–averaging a whopping 44 retweets per tweet. And when would those drunk pictures get released? Right. Monday. See my logic here?

20141020 Twitter3Source: Salesforce.com

***

Some of Salesforce’s conclusions and recommendations need some rethinking. SF tells FIs that the “prime times to reach consumers who follow financial services companies are from 12:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. (the period with the most replies and retweets to company tweets) and from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.”

Well, hold on here. The time analysis was done from the perspective of the central (US) time zone. An accurate analysis of tweets would look at the time the tweet was sent in the time zone of the sending firm. And anyway, who the hell is up at 3am reading–and worse, retweeting–tweets from their financial institution?

SF also instructs firms (of all industries) to “designate someone to oversee Twitter every day, during all hours of the day.” Let me get this straight. It’s OK for a company to have limited call center hours, and tell prospects and customers to call back during business hours, but it’s not OK to wait a few hours to respond to somebody’s tweet? Or is SF saying that because people retweet companies’ tweets at 3am, companies need to employ people to tweet at 3am? You’ve heard of scheduling tweets, right?

Bottom line: The good news is you only wasted about 5 minutes of your precious time reading this. Oh, and please be sure to tweet the link to this post. Preferably at 3am when, apparently, there will be a lot of people around to retweet it.

Why Walmart Execs Are Smart To Stay Off Twitter

The Harvard Business Review thinks that Walmart senior execs should be on Twitter. It wrote:

“Last week, Walmart found itself in a Twitter tussle with actor Ashton Kutcher over the company’s controversial low wages. Kutcher tweeted at the company, saying “Walmart is your profit margin so important you can’t Pay Your Employees enough to be above the poverty line?” with a link to a post on The Wire about the employee food drive. The Walmart PR account tweeted back, saying, “It’s unfortunate that an act of human kindness has been taken so out of context. We’re proud of our associates in Canton.” Throughout the back-and-forth, Walmart came off as defensive and tweeted facts that some have recognized as a bit murky: ‘We think you’re missing a few things. The majority of our workforce is full-time and makes more than $25,000/year.'”

The author of the blog post went on to say:

“Think how differently this might have unfolded if a senior executive actually responsible for labor practices had read and responded to Kutcher’s comment — and all of the other tweets that stemmed from the exchange.”

My take: I am thinking how differently things might have unfolded — and can only conclude that nothing would have been different. 

—————

Social media gurus cling to this notion that all senior execs at companies need to be on Twitter. Nonsense. Debunked that bad idea here

In this particular example, however, there’s one overriding reason why Walmart senior execs were wise to stay out of the Twitter fray (and it’s the reason why the PR person should have stayed away, as well):

The cards are stacked against a controversial company. 

By “stacked” I mean, the Twittersphere has already decided innocence or guilt long before the firm in question says anything on Twitter in response to an attack or challenge. 

Other people have observed how left-leaning the Twittersphere is. But even right-leaning, hard-core free-market capitalist tweeters aren’t going to come to Walmart’s defense on Twitter. 

Defending Walmart on Twitter is like rooting for the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. 

—————

At the recent BAI conference, former Walmart CEO Lee Scott told a story about how, back in 2008, he met (secretly) with a Democratic presidential candidate (whom he would not mention by name). 

Scott told of how he came armed with employment statistics disproving the candidate’s public statements regarding Walmart’s employment practices.

According to Scott, the candidate asked “Why are you showing me all of this?” To which Scott reportedly replied “So the next time you say what you said in public both you and I will know you’re lying.” Little surprise that the data presented to him did nothing to change what he said about Walmart. 

—————

Social media gurus preach about how social media can help companies connect with customers and prospects. But they apparently ignore the downside of this proposition.

Namely, that participating in social media may do nothing to improve a controversial reputation, and that, in fact, may actually harm it. 

—————

The author of the HBR blog concludes that:

[T]he key is not immediacy, but seniority.

I see absolutely no evidence supporting this claim.

Did the Twittersphere assume that the Walmart PR response to Kutcher came from low-ranking employees? Doubtful. I would bet that a lot of Tweeters, as I do, assume that the Walmart PR account follows guidelines established by senior execs. And that, possibly, the response was actually vetted with senior execs before it was tweeted.

Ask Brett King, whose blog post about how his travails regarding how his HSBC account was closed, whether or not he cares whether or not the CEO of HSBC responded on Twitter or not. Betcha $5 he says he would have appreciated a timely response from anyone at HSBC over a late response from a senior exec. 

The general public doesn’t know most Fortune 500 execs from Adam. They want a response — which they interpret as being the “official” response — regardless of who at the company comes from.

And in the Walmart/Kutcher case, I would argue that Walmart’s best response would have been “@Ashton We believe your stats are off. But this is not the most effective place to have this discussion. Let’s meet in person.” 

—————

The author of the blog goes on to say:

“We are left with half-truths driving the corporate use of social media. Nominally employed to foster transparency, frontline communicators are actually there all too often to form a barrier between the public and corporate executives.”

Funny, because it’s blog posts like the one in HBR which create the half-truths (like the key is not immediacy, but seniority). 

Again, I see little evidence supporting this claim. I certainly can’t speak to anywhere close to a majority of firms, but the financial services firms I’ve spoken to are hardly creating “barriers” between the public and their senior execs. 

—————

Bottom line: HBR got it wrong. Walmart senior execs shouldn’t be on Twitter. They were wise to stay away.

The Stupidity Of Vigilante Tweeting

Learned a new term the other day: Vigilante tweeting. 

According to an article on PR Daily, vigilante tweeting is:

“Getting revenge by publishing the details of a loudmouth’s ‘private conversations’ to their Twitter feeds and other social networks. Let’s say I’m seated next to a loudmouth attorney on a bus one morning, and he won’t shut up about his latest case. I could punish the attorney’s lack of discretion by sending out a ‘vigilante tweet’ containing the lawyer’s name and the details of the case he revealed on the phone.”

My take: I’ve heard of some stupid things before, but this takes the cake. 

First off, lawyers don’t take buses. This kind of blows the whole example the author gives, but let’s roll with it a little longer. 

Second, how is that the author knows the name of this so-called attorney? By the time you’re clued in to some loudmouth’s pri-blic conversation (there’s a term that won’t stick), you didn’t really catch his name.

Third, the vast majority of these loudmouth conversations are not hush-hush details of the government’s case against Taliban terrorists. It’s conversations from some bozo about his drinking exploits from last night. So he probably wants you to publicize it on Twitter for him.

—————

In the scheme of things, the three reasons above are the weakest reasons for why vigilante tweeting is a stupid idea. 

Here’s the best reason: Because your followers couldn’t care less about this conversation, and would rather not waste their time reading about it. 

Vigilante tweeting is a symptom of a bigger issue in the social mediasphere. 

The problem? Too many people have nothing better to do than sit on a bus, tweet stupid shi*t they overhear someone else saying, and needlessly call attention to themselves (not the loudmouth).

—————

It’s sad. 

The old mantra of social media was “join the conversation.” Plenty of folks advised social media newbies to “add value.”

Now it’s “hey! look at me!”

I can only speak for myself, but I’m willing to bet that are a lot of people who will agree with me: I don’t care that your plane is delayed, I don’t care that you’re at [restaurant/SBUX/hotel/whereever], and I really don’t care that there’s an effing moron sitting near you talking loudly. DEAL WITH IT. Don’t annoy me with the little things that annoy you. 

Are you really that starved for attention that you have to engage in vigilante tweeting? Are you really stupid enough to believe that you’re somehow “punishing” the loudmouth? 

The only people you’re “punishing” are your followers. And I can only hope that they punish you by unfollowing you. 

The Wrong Way To Measure The ROI Of Twitter And Vine

In an article titled What Is the Right Way to Measure Your Twitter & Vine Marketing?, HubSpot writes:

“We like to call it closed-loop reporting. Closed-loop reporting on Twitter is the process of tracking the path of a user who clicks on a link in a tweet, visits a page on your website, completes a form on a landing page to become a lead, and, ultimately, converts into a customer — so you can directly attribute customers to your Twitter marketing, and evaluate the effectiveness of Twitter as a marketing channel for your business.”

 My take: Nope. Sorry. Wrong way to measure Twitter/Vine ROI.

Why is this wrong? For one, it ignores how someone came to see the tweet in the first place. Without knowing what other messages/media a prospect has been exposed to, attributing the sale to Twitter is inaccurate.

But there’s something else missing from HubSpot’s methodology. None of the comments on the blog post mentioned this (as of the time I read it), and it’s really too bad that there aren’t more (any!) people calling them out over this. 

The missing element: Cost.

Folks, you cannot — I repeat CANNOT — measure ROI without measuring cost. Cost is the “investment” component of the ROI formula. Sadly, too many social media gurus choose to ignore that.

It’s mind-boggling that the HubSpot makes no mention of capturing the costs involved with using Twitter/Vine as a marketing channel. The cost of sponsored tweets (if used) are easily measured, but allocating the costs of shared (or even dedicated) resources to the channel is no easy matter. 

So what should marketers do? The best answer might be “nothing.”

Accurately measuring the ROI of marketing investments is tricky business. Assume for a moment that you have a $10 million marketing budget, and 40% is in mass media channels, 30% in direct marketing, 25% in various other media/channels, and 4% in social media (excluding Twitter), and 1% in Twitter.

Is your time best spent figuring out the ROI of the 1% or the ROI of the 70% in mass media and direct marketing? Right. 

Back to the ROI drawing board.

The Most Misused Term In Marketing

Compete recently ran article claiming that Mobile Twitter Users Are the Ideal Audience for Advertisers. In it, Compete reports that, compared to other Twitter users,  mobile Twitter users in the U.S. are 86% more likely to be on Twitter several times a day and 57% less likely to use Twitter on a desktop computer.

Compete didn’t stop there. A graphic shows a number of other differences:

My take: The term “more likely” is, in all likelihood (pun intended), inappropriate here. In addition, the term is quite possibly the most misused term in marketing.

It’s possible that my analysis — in THIS case — is wrong, but I know for a fact that it happens in the reporting of many other studies. So, if I’m wrong here, my apologies to Compete. But the explanation will go to show why so many others go wrong.

—————

How did Compete determine that mobile Twitter users are THREE times more likely to use Twitter when commuting?

In all probability (the puns don’t stop, do they), they asked consumers: “Do you use Twitter when commuting?” If 30% of mobile Twitter users and 10% of other Twitter users said “Yes”, then Compete would have concluded that mobile users are “3X more likely to use when commuting.”

If 20% of non-mobile Twitter users use the service at work or school, and and 52% of mobile users do so, then mobile users are “160% more likely to use Twitter at work or school” (32% is 160% of 20%, so added on to 20% equals 52%).

—————

The problem with all this is that none of it actually captures likelihood of doing something.

How much “more likely” are mobile Twitter users to use Twitter on a mobile device than other Twitter users? Since 100% of mobile Twitter users use a mobile device and 0% of other users do, the answer isn’t calculable.

These statistics (and the underlying questions) don’t capture “likelihood.”

If the question had been “How likely are you to check Twitter before going to sleep tonight?” and 100% of one group said “100% chance” and 50% of the second group said “100% chance” then maybe you could say the first group is twice as likely as the second.

But it seems doubtful to me that that’s how the questions were asked.

—————

Regardless of whether or not I’m correct in my interpretation in this instance, there’s no denying that this happens all the  time when marketers report out the results of their studies.

[Hell, I do it myself from time to time, and thankfully I have a colleague who is great at catching it and making me change it.]

Marketers may overuse the terms “disruptive” and “transform” and whatever, but I’m throwing “more likely” into the hat as the most misused term in marketing.

————–

There is another issue with the Compete that bears mentioning, by the way.

It’s bad enough that the term “more likely” is (most likely) being misused.

But the underlying contention that all these “more likely” statistics add to make mobile Twitter users worth focusing on is missing one key element: How big is this segment?

You actually have to click over to the Twitter blog post on this study to find out. There, Twitter says that “60%of our 200 million active users log in via a mobile device at least once every month.”

Hmmm. Those 200 million users span how many different countries? And you, Mr. or Ms. Marketers, are serving consumers in how many of them? 

The key thing to understand here, as a marketer, is what percentage of your customers and prospects are mobile Twitter users, not how many of Twitter’s users are mobile Twitter users. 

It’s conceivable that your customers and prospects that are mobile Twitter users aren’t representative of the total pool of mobile Twitter users. 

————–

So go ahead, Compete, and hate me for tearing apart your research. Join the club.

Facebook Fans Aren’t Better Customers, Better Customers Are Facebook Fans

Marketers who obsess over driving social media connections (like Facebook likes and Twitter follows) because they see or hear that social media likers/followers are more likely to buy, are better customers, or whatever, are missing an important point:

Social media connections don’t cause the desirable behavior/attitudes — they’re the result of something else. That “something else” is customer engagement.

In a survey of more than 1,100 US consumers, Aite Group asked respondents how frequently they performed financial management activities like creating/managing a household budget, categorizing/forecasting their spending, analyzing the return on their savings and investments, and seeking help and guidance in making financial decisions (there were 13 activities, overall).

Based on their responses, respondents received a score for each activity and an overall Financial Activities Score. That score qualified them for one of three groups (with the percentage of the population each group represents): Level 1: Inactive (30%); Level 2: Moderately Active (50%); and Level 3: Highly Active (20%).

Highly Active consumers (Level 3) are the most likely to:

Grow their relationship with their primary financial institution. Just 4% of Inactive consumers expanded their relationship with their primary FI in the past 12 months (by increasing balances and/or number of accounts). Among Moderately Active consumers, that percentage is 11%, and among Highly Active consumers it’s 14%.

Refer their FI. Highly Active consumers are 1.5 times more likely to refer their primary FI to family/friends than Moderately Active consumers, and twice as likely as Inactive consumers. 

Use and reap the benefits of PFM. Nearly two-thirds of Level 3 consumers use an online PFM tool, in contrast to just one in four Level 2 consumers, and one in 10 Level 1 consumers. More importantly, Highly Active consumers reap the benefits of PFM. In a soon-to-be-published Aite Group report, I defined three levels of benefits that users achieve from PFM: 1) Oversight: The ability to know where their money is and where it goes; 2) Insight: The ability to better control and manage their financial accounts; and 3) Foresight: The ability to make better financial decisions. Among PFM users, Highly Active consumers are four times as likely as Level 1 and 2 consumers to have reached the Foresight level of benefits. The benefit to FIs of PFM users reaching the Foresight level will be described in the report.

Connect with FIs on social media. Among Highly Active consumers, nearly three in 10 are Facebook fans of their primary FI, and one in five follow the FI on Twitter. Among other consumers, those percentages are in the low single digits.  Looking at it from a different perspective, of the customers that follow their primary FI on Twitter, 95% are Moderately Active or Highly Active consumers. Ninety percent of Facebook fans come from these two segments.

Bottom line: Encouraging customers who aren’t actively involved in the management of their financial lives to “Like us on Facebook!” or “Follow us on Twitter!” is a waste of financial services marketers’ time and efforts. The customers who make those connections are already good customers. 

Customer engagement — engagement with one’s financial life — is what financial marketers should be encouraging.

 

 

Here’s What I Believe (About Marketing And Social Media)

I’ve seen a number of posts lately perpetuating a “here’s what I believe” (usually about social media) meme, and I couldn’t help but weigh in with my own post.

Here’s what I believe…

…that just because a company doesn’t adopt social media with the speed and force that you think it should (often based on no rationale or business logic), that doesn’t make that company a dinosaur or a laggard, nor does it mean it will be “left behind” or “disappear.”

…that “conversation” is the most overused word in marketing. Just because someone (who is often just starved for attention) mentions a brand in a tweet (often to complain about the brand) that doesn’t mean that person is looking for, or starting a conversation.

…that marketers who think that brands have “conversations” but say that companies aren’t “people” are hypocrites. You can’t have it both ways.

…that there is no such thing as a social media strategy. There is only business strategy, and an allocation of resources (possibly to social media channels and tactics) to support that strategy. So, if you’re in the business of helping companies with their social media “strategy,” you’re hosed.

…that Steve Knox — who said “victory in marketing doesn’t happen when you sell something, but when you cultivate advocates for your brand” — is wrong. Any day of the week I’ll take someone who buys my product/service and doesn’t talk about it over someone who talks about it but doesn’t buy it. Any-day-of-the-freaking-week.

…that I have no idea what Mack Collier is saying when he writes “Marketing is a tax that brands pay for not speaking in the voice of their customers.” Huh? I’d hate to be a marketing major in college these days, paying $40k a year, to find out that the business discipline I’m studying is a tax that brands pay for…oh, forget it, I don’t even understand what the rest of the quote is referring to.

…that Twitter is an absolutely horrible advertising platform. One well-known blogger recently called Twitter “a stronger platform for advertisers than Facebook will ever be.” Nonsense. First of all, we don’t want to read. It’s too much effort. TV and radio ads — and increasingly online ads — are verbal. Print ads are predominantly visual. Sure, there are many good text-intensive print ads, but those are typically for certain types of products. Second, there is no accountability on Twitter. The likelihood that someone will see your tweet is actually pretty small. But you’ll never know.

…that Twitter does not make you a better writer. The same blogger referenced in the previous point also said  “140 character Tweets make you a better communicator and a better writer.” More nonsense. Writing/editing/writing/editing/reading/getting feedback/writing/editing — and repeating the process over and over and over — makes you a better writer.

…that people should think more critically before regurgitating pablum. Like when Mack (sorry to pick on Mack) says “new customers cost 6-7 times more to acquire versus retaining an existing customer.”  Why do people continue to cite this bullshit? Here are some facts: Acquisition and retention costs vary by industry, ebb and flow with economic cycles, and are — for the most part — incalculable in the first place. Here’s a more detailed explanation.

There are probably more things that I believe, but there’s only so much I can try to cram down your throats in a single blog post.