In some ways, banks and financial institutions have a tough road on social media.
Unlike many other sectors, which can use social to make personal connections and develop a fun, casual tone of voice, banks are often constrained by consumer expectations. A voice that would be fine for another brand can seem too flippant for an institution that takes care of people’s money.
Despite the challenges, banks are still gamely using social platforms to reach out to customers – but playing it safe most of the time.
We looked at social performance for banks and financial institutions over the past quarter, using its social media scoreboard to track performance. It found a significant shift in the Australian sector, and it all came down to one bank taking a major stand – and a pretty significant risk of negative sentiment from customers.
Although it’s only one data point, this may be the beginning of a change – where we see more enterprises taking stands on social media.
Analysis of Zavy’s social media scoreboard shows a dramatic jump in social media engagement for one Aussie bank over the last three months.
NAB, previously in fourth place on the scoreboard, leapt to first. This marked a drop-down in the rankings for three other prominent banks – CommBank (previously number one), Westpac (previously number two) and ANZ (previously number three).
Zavy’s social media scoreboard aggregates data from several social platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. While NAB ranked fourth on Facebook, its performance on Instagram was so dominant that it took out the first ranking overall.
So what drove NAB’s big social media leap? It wasn’t playing it safe or telling customers what they wanted to hear – it was going all in on a CSR campaign strategy by taking a stand on a serious social issue: vaccines.
After several years of disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic, lengthy lockdowns in parts of Australia and ongoing controversy around vaccines and mandates, the bank’s decision to come out in support of vaccines couldn’t have been easy.
It didn’t do it by halves either: the bank launched a social media campaign in which it changed its classic ‘NAB’ logo to ‘JAB’ in support of Australia’s 80 per cent vaccination goal.
Changing the literal logo – a distinctive and valuable brand asset – demonstrated its commitment to the cause and grabbed attention. This is what drove up social media engagement, sending NAB to the top of Zavy’s scoreboard and proving the effectiveness of a well-thought out CSR campaign.
The logo change on Facebook drew in over 1,500 comments, and engagement outstripped any other social posts in the banking sector – but social media sentiment was another matter.
While CSR posts from banks usually attract around 18 per cent positive sentiment, the logo post reflected tension around the issue and achieved only seven per cent.
Many comments were furious, negative and slightly over the top. “Never again will I enter your doors,” and “NAB, didn’t think you were a supporter and encourager of discrimination and segregation and coercion,” among others, showed that the sentiment around vaccines has become toxic and divisive.
In a social climate increasingly divided on the issue of vaccines, throwing its support behind the cause was obviously a risk for NAB. The move has driven strong engagement in general, but that engagement was far from universally positive – as the response to the logo post proved.
Of course, the bank would have been aware of the likelihood of negative responses from the beginning, knowing that anti-vaccine customers would be offended or outraged by its stand.
The leadership must have weighed the risk of alienating customers and losing business against the upsides – positive sentiment from pro-vaccine customers, great publicity and engagement and the benefit to public health that comes with the vaccine itself.
Knowing the risks, the move to support vaccines looks even braver: unlike many businesses or public figures, NAB wasn’t afraid to share its stance on a controversial social issue, despite the risk of blowback.
Its gracious response to criticism reflected the significance of the issue for the bank.
“Although we’re a bank, we’re a big part of the community,” NAB’s social team wrote.
“We see the hardship many of our customers are going through, including so many small businesses that have had to shut their doors.
“We support your right to make your own decision, but we also encourage anyone who can, to get vaccinated, because we believe it’s key to Australia’s economic recovery and getting us all closer to life as usual.
“We’ll be sorry to lose you as a customer. But, if you’d like to understand why NAB feels so strongly about vaccinations, visit nab.com.au/jab.”
CSR and sponsorship initiatives have become key factors in social media engagement for many in the banking sector. Often, this type of content represents a safe, positive way for banks and financial institutions to drive engagement and boost positive sentiment.
The stats bear this out: if you look at bank activity without factoring in CSR content, each brand drops by an average of five percentage points (or around a third) in net social media sentiment. Some banks – including Bendigo Bank and Bankwest – drop into negative sentiment without CSR work.
Backing a cause can be a powerful driver of engagement and positive sentiment for banks. Of course, all social causes are not created equal. It’s critical to choose a social movement or cause that the audience cares about, and that aligns with the brand.
Many banks and financial institutions choose to take an easier CSR road by choosing safe, uncontroversial causes that few people would disagree with. Environmental protection, child cancer, sponsorship for youth sport – all these causes are valid and important, but hardly likely to cause offence or lead to lost customers.
NAB, on the other hand, shot to the top of Zavy’s social media scoreboard by taking on a cause that its team felt passionate about. For the bank, supporting vaccines was worth the risk of losing customers and negative backlash.
In the long run, people in Australia will remember NAB for taking a stance in support of public health, when few businesses were brave enough to do so. Whether you agree with them or not, it’s a pretty bold move for a bank.
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