Local Businesses using Social Media Right

When it comes to businesses, social media is a means of brand awareness and advertising.  To further permeate areas where people dwell with their ads, coupons, services, and so on.  I personally feel some big named brands are a bit late with coming to the party, but many aren’t even entertained by the notion.

Consumers are using the Internet and social media every day.  At work, at home, and even on their phones.  The traditional means of advertising are now being filtered out, so these new mediums are where to find your audience. Case and point is Webster Bank.  A local bank here in Connecticut that’s been in business for over 75 years. I’m not going to get into their banking success or their great reputation with engaging the community too much – I’ll let them continue to do that. However I will comment on their use of social media.

Recently I received an email from Twitter informing me that Webster Bank @WebsterBank was now following me.  At first glance I thought it was a fake Twitter handle, or at best a Webster employee looking to find new clients.  To my surprise it was actually an official account from the bank.  Had a couple hundred tweets.  Engaging other users that I knew or were familiar to my Twitter stream, and even had a good bio.

Webster Twitter Stream

This was ok, but I figured I should kick it up a n0tch and @ reply them. They actually responded, and not computer type of response but like from a real person.

Just about everyone within Connecticut has probably heard of Webster Bank, and though not everyone may bank with them, they’ve seen the branches in their neighborhoods.  Now here’s where Webster can start to take advantage of their market where some other banks may not particularly care about social media.

  • Feedback: They can better understand customer comments and complaints, that they may normally have never heard within their branches or telephone customer support
  • Engage: They can engage both existing clients and potential new ones in a medium that can be familiar and friendly without the need to “sell”
  • Awareness: They can continue to build company and product awareness. This could also lead to the perception of having authority on their regional/local market
  • Promotions: They can host contests or specials
  • Growth: They can further grow their community of loyal customers, and those customers will easily tell their friends about their bank in a way that is free advertising to the bank (word of mouth)

Just to make it clear, I’m not being paid by Webster to write this in any way. Really I’m using them as a live case study to prove a point in how marketing is adapting more from tradition means to social media.  There are plenty of businesses big and small that don’t think this is a worthy investment in time and resources.  And there are businesses like this one, who are taking the risk, maybe even on a small scale to at least have a social presence to engage an audience where they’re most comfortable and prevalent.

As always I’d like to get your thoughts on this, so please feel free to agree or disagree in the comments below.

12 replies
    • jpDesignTheory
      jpDesignTheory says:

      Thanks Chris! I actually reached out to them, and to my surprise they were really pleasant and receptive. I hope more local businesses big or small see this and get inspired. I hope to interview more like Webster Bank for more posts like this.

  1. Rick Schwartz
    Rick Schwartz says:

    Right on target. Many people have the misconception that an online community can’t include people from around the corner.

    • jpDesignTheory
      jpDesignTheory says:

      Thanks for commenting Rick! In this case, I actually remember having a banker years ago that my parents would also go see personally at our local branch (in Florida). As I got older I also confided in her for banking and questions.

      Now with my busy lifestyle these days, how cool would it be that I can send her a Tweet about a general question, and get a response? Or hear about upcoming specials, deals, interests rates, etc, in a medium that I spend a lot of time in.

      • Greg Jacobi
        Greg Jacobi says:

        jpDesignTheory,

        [Full Disclosure: I Work for Webster Bank. I am not officially representing the bank here :]

        I loved that you brought up your experience with a particular local branch. It speaks to the personal relationships that are so important in building trust around financial matters.

        So, I’ll take your idea about being able to tweet a general question to the bank and raise you one. I think the really powerful connections that can be made online are the same they have always been: one-to-one. What I’d love to see is that when you tweet that question or click the chat button is that you are connected directly to people that you know and have the benefit of years of experience working directly with you. After all, that is what the social web has allowed us to do connect directly with people know and make the Internet a much more intimate experience.

        We are not there yet in our industry, but we are working on it!

        Greg

        • jpDesignTheory
          jpDesignTheory says:

          Good point Greg. First, thanks for commenting! I believe it is totally possible for a business to be that “connected” to their customers and audience. In times like this, customer service goes a long way so I believe it will be appreciated. Not as a replacement though for that one-to-one. My biggest fear though is that big business outsources this to people overseas that are even further out of touch with the social media to genuine experience concept.

  2. Dawn
    Dawn says:

    Hi Everyone,

    I am actually the real human behind @WebsterBank! I think customer service is HUGE in any business, and are the reason you are in business. And I can’t stand when companies outsource customer service to India either, so frustrating!

    Now that we’re starting to do many of our transactions online, it’s important for businesses to establish relationships with their customers online as well, establish trust and build a community.

    I always said that social media is like a party. If you walk in and just start blurting out all these great things about yourself, people will think you’re crazy. What you want to do is get to know people, find out what they’re all about, and that usually starts with a simple introduction. After you show interest in others and listen, they may start to become more interested in what you have to say.

    Thanks so much for writing this post, it’s great to hear feedback. If you have any thoughts or questions, please tweet them to me http://www.twitter.com/WebsterBank

    • jpDesignTheory
      jpDesignTheory says:

      This is awesome! Thanks for commenting Dawn on behalf of your role in Webster Bank. I agree with everything you said about establishing trust and building a community. I hope more people read this post and comments and see how social media is really helping to extend quality customer service in a new area. The fact that your company is utilizing this “the right way” will surely bring back great returns on their investments – especially in the form of brand recognition, personality, and community.

  3. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    I love when businesses actually use twitter they way they should! More local businesses should follow in their footsteps!

    • jpDesignTheory
      jpDesignTheory says:

      Hey Cheryl, thanks for commenting! We really all should. I think there’s a growing recognition and acceptance of social media, and I hope it continues to get adopted into customer service.

  4. Kathy Hokunson
    Kathy Hokunson says:

    Jean-
    This is an excellent post on how local and real the big world of social media really is. I love the real time case study – you did a nice job with this!
    K

    • jpDesignTheory
      jpDesignTheory says:

      Thank you so much Kathy! That means a lot to me coming from you. I hope to find more local businesses like this to create case studies and write-ups about in the future. The funny thing about this one though, is that I currently am not a customer of Webster Bank, but am a little jealous that my bank (which is also a local one) doesn’t also take advantage of this medium. I imagine they will in time, but like ever other industry, those that get in first get the chance to create brand residency or authority (sort of speak).

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