I think banks being on Twitter is a stunt. It is good for getting the attention of the social media mavens, but can hardly be economic if you have need to reach thousands of customers. It is one of those fashionable things that the "in" banking crowd always jumps right onto the second it comes out, only to quietly drop later on when it turns out to be a fad.
I am reminded, between you and I, of the fervour over virtual worlds. That particular fad is one that you hardly ever hear of now.
Now, I realise that Twitter is getting a lot of press right now. I accept that every man and his dog appears to be talking about it. I'd even concede that there are lots of people actually using it.
But who are these people, when all is said and done? Are they the social-media aware cognoscenti who always adopt everything early? Or are they, actually, ordinary people who open ordinary accounts and do ordinary business with banks? I think the former.
This brings me back to my comments on the economics of Twitter, and previous comments on the economics of social media in general for banks. As I said before, content is interesting to readers when it is relevant to them. Creating relevance is a matter of being personal, of knowing unique things that are interesting to a small number of people. Creating that kind of content at scale is expensive. You can imagine rooms and rooms of people – a Twitter Centre, if you like, of people who only do this kind of work.
I don't think so.
Christophe goes on to present some statistics. Apparently, world-wide, there are some 27,000 people following all these banks on Twitter, which is an average of just over 350 customers each. Only 14 FIs have more than 500 followers.
Now, I'd assume that each of these institutions has someone whose role is, at least partially, dedicated to servicing that Twitter account. With less than 400 customers to serve, I suppose it is possible, even, that they can create some content which is interesting enough to keep their followers signed up. But what if they had thousands of followers, or tens of thousands? Creating relevance for so many is not likely to be something one person can do.
But all of this is irrelevant, really, because the Twitterati aren't interested in content at all. Their primary interest is counting the number of followers they've acquired. It is a badge of honour: you are someone in social media if you have thousands of followers, and noone otherwise. Twitter is a way of keeping score, a means of being part of the "in crowd".
Which brings me back to my initial point.- that Twitter is a stunt for banks. It is an interesting experiment, but surely noone thinks Twitter is going to be a channel choice that many customers are going to use regularly.
Bank innovators would likely be better off getting their mobile-phone houses in order, rather than striving for the coolness of being the biggest financial services thing on Twitter.