Do Blogging and Banking Mix?

As PR professionals working with financial services clients, it’s our job to keep an eye on what’s happening in the industry when it comes to social media engagement. Our clients want to know what their competitors are doing, and how they can improve on it. Our marketing and PR colleagues want to know how these strategies are being implemented, and how to work with legal and compliance to get it done. And we want to know what’s coming next, so we can forecast for our clients.

In that vein, we’re constantly reading blogs (like Visible Banking), following folks on Twitter and chasing down case studies to uncover the buzz. Lately, we’ve heard a lot about Citigroup’s new “Citiblog,” created as a way to “share ideas and create dialogue on all sorts of topics ranging from the global economy to personal finance, from microfinance to mobile technology.” The launch was applauded by most, and traction started off strong among customers and shareholders.

But can Citi maintain a strong following of engaged readers over time? If history is any indication, the answer may be “no.” Reviewing Visible Banking’s list of banking blogs, of the 17 or so banking blogs listed just 6 are still active. Banks that started blogs but stopped posting in 2009 include big players like Bank of America and small community banks like UmpquaBank, out of Washington State (side note: Umpqua’s blog was really neat – worth checking out).

Of the blogs still up and running, Wells Fargo’s group of blogs are the gold standard. Interestingly, Wells Fargo isn’t doing anything we don’t already know about social media engagement strategies — they’re simply being true to the community ideals. Here’s what Citi can learn from them:

  1. Speak to your Audience: Content on Citiblog veers from helpful information on filling out a FAFSA over to an announcement that Citi is helping to finance public housing units in New York City. Information may be more digestible and searchable if it were segmented by topic (i.e. financial management strategies, information for shareholders, corporate announcements). Wells Fargo does a nice job of this through its distinct blogs and communities like the environmental blog, Stagecoach Island game, etc.
  2. Introduce your Blogger: With the exception of a few posts from CEO Vikram Pandit, Citiblog’s posts are un-authored, making the content feel about as personal as a press release. Conversely, Wells Fargo bloggers are company employees with distinct personalities and interests, making them that much more engaging to read.
  3. Make it Worth Your While: We all know how much time and effort go in to creating and maintaining a blog. It’s simply not worth all that time and effort if it’s not going to pay off somehow, through things like customer acquisition, retention and satisfaction. It’s pretty clear through the number of followers that Wells Fargo Wachovia customers see the blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages as ways to interact with their bank. And we know from research that the more consumers interact with their bank the more satisfied they are. Citiblog is so static that it’s difficult to imagine Citi customers seeing the blog as a destination for information.

Blogging is tough – it requires a deep commitment from the bank, its bloggers and its community to keep it fresh, relevant and engaging. Banks looking to engage with customers, potential customers and other stakeholders through blogging would be wise to ensure they have the content and commitment to keep it going – as the saying goes, if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right.

What do you think of Citi’s efforts? Will they pay off?


To reach Meghan:

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