Social Media “Besties” – What Worked for Financial Services Companies in 2009?

As we round the bend into the holiday season, the media is no doubt preparing an onslaught of year- end round-up stories pointing out the highs (there were a few….) and lows (there were a lot…) that the financial services industry went through.

But with its challenges came some incredible opportunities (to use that adage one more time…), especially in the way we – and our clients – connect with stakeholders.

The general consensus is that social media is important to our businesses – but that not every channel, or every strategy, makes sense for every brand. 2009 was a year where many organizations learned what works – and what doesn’t. Number-one lesson? It’s about the communications goal, not the communications channel.

To kick-off the year-end roundups, we compiled a list of what we believe are the “best of” social media strategies. What makes these “best of”? These companies put the stakeholders and clients first – not the brand or the channel.


1. Best Use of Twitter: Bank of America. BofA launched its customer-centric Twitter feed @BofA_help in January as a way to help customers find solutions to problems. While it was a risky concept, the strategy of helping customers when and where they want has paid off. A team of dedicated Bank of America customer service representatives are mining Twitter for customer complaints and responding to them (just ask my colleague Paige!) and are responding to DMs from customers. The strategy seems to be paying off – according to a recent case study, customers are not just using Twitter to complain. They’re also inquiring about products and services they can buy.

2. Best Use of Facebook: Progressive Insurance.  Since Progressive introduced “Flo” – the quirky sales assistant featured in its commercials – in 2008, the percentage of quotes completed on its website has risen as much as 137%, according to an article on The company extended Flo’s reach via its Facebook page, where more than 5,000 Facebook members have become fans. And 200 submitted photos of themselves in Flo costumes for Halloween. At a time when the financial services industry is madly attempting to regain consumer trust, Flo seems to be a major driver of engagement and potentially, sales.

3.  Best Social Media Microsite: American Express’s Open Forum. This online community, for American Express small business members, provides loads of content from small business experts, videos from small business owners, and a great way for small business owners to connect with one another. The move to launch Open Forum in July 2009 – when American Express, like all other major banks, was forced to cut its small business loans – was a smart one. has increased visitors to its site by 94% in the past 3 months, according to

4. Best Use of YouTube: MassMutual. The sponsored channel on YouTube strays from the pack in its “man on the street” and advice-driven approach. Instead of simply posting commercials – like most other financial services channels – Mass Mutual’s video content provides viewers with retirement advice from experts and “regular people.” While its subscriber base is less than that of E-Trade (which is probably one of the more popular financial services YouTube channels, due to the E-Trade “baby” commercials), the channel has gotten significant play.

5. Best Use of LinkedIn: It’s tough to find a “winner” in this category. Most financial services companies are using LinkedIn as a recruitment tool and/or a networking site for current employees and alumni. These are likely very useful applications from an HR standpoint. One group that looks like it’s trying hard to use LinkedIn to drive business is financial advisors and registered reps. However, they’re facing steep challenges due to regulations that don’t allow them to provide written “testimonials” for themselves and their work. But social networking is all about creating and maintaining connections – so we wouldn’t be surprised if these highly motivated individuals take LinkedIn to a new level.

Disagree with any of our choices? Have another company or category to nominate? Reply below or send an email to


To reach Meghan:

Phone: 212.840.1661
Twitter: @meghanlantier
LinkedIn: Meghan Lantier