Natwest’s 7 Regional Twitter Accounts Turn 1, but Show No Activity

Natwest Bank in the UK celebrated the first anniversary of its twitter presence for its 7 regional accounts.  But none of those accounts are active, tweeting just a couple of times a week on average.

Let me clarify one thing first.  The title should read ‘…but Show a Very Low Level of Activity’.  I like this case study as it reflects well one of the most common questions our clients and other event participants ask us: we would like to leverage twitter, so should we launch one main corporate account to do everything? Or should we launch several twitter  accounts to cover specific geographical areas and regions, market segments, or applications like media relations or customer care?

In this particular case, someone at Natwest, quite possible advised by another digital agency with too much influence on their financial services clients, made the decision to launch not one main account, but 7 regional ones.

But please find below some simple stats from the 7 twitter accounts launched by Natwest on 28 March 2011:
* NatWest Midlands (@NatWest_Mids): 293 followers, 81 tweets
* NatWest North West (@NatWest_NW): 194 followers, 32 tweets
* NatWest Wales Media (@NatWest_Wales): 113 followers, 10 tweets
* NatWest East Media (@NatWest_East): 117 followers, 42 tweets
* NatWest South West (@NatWest_SW): 79 followers, 15 tweets
* NatWest Yorks & NE (@NatWest_NE): 140 followers, 15 tweets
* NatWest South East (@NatWest_SE): 106 followers, 16 tweets

My Take
This is consistent with the stats we shared with our readers six months ago: 90% of the twitter accounts in financial services are inactive.  That statistic was extracted from our popular Visible Banking Twitter Watch series (we benchmark over 1,700 accounts in 78 countries).

If there is not one true answer to the question I mentioned at the beginning of this post, one of the things to consider is the countries where you operate and their twitter penetration which will impact the volumes of conversations, I would always recommend to start small, with one official account, get to understand the medium, and then start building a mini ‘twitter empire’ a la Dell with several accounts if it makes sense.

Truth is twitter accounts at large financial institutions are often launched and managed by different parts of the organization: HR, Brand, CSR or customer care.  Social customer care is usually a good place to start for a dedicated account, even though I could share examples were banks provide customer support via:
* their main account (like Australia’s UBank, which still does it well),
* a dedicated account in addition to their main account (like US’s Bmore based First Mariner Bank) which never took off due to low volumes of customer requests,
* a set of personal accounts for their customer care reps (like Italy’s Webank) which again show very limited levels of activity

If you are interested in the topic of social customer care, and in particular customer care via twitter, I invite you to read my recent post ‘Social Customer Care: Now Way Back. Pandora’s Box is Open.‘.

I have always been a big supporter of bridging the gap between social media and the real world, and tapping social media to translate to the digital world your knowledge, your understanding, your support of your local communities and local businesses.  So the idea of one account per region, large city or branch appeals to me tremendously.

But it remains, and it will probably remain, a utopia. Indeed, the practicalities are far too complicated for banks: low local penetration rate and usage of twitter, lack of local understanding of twitter internally, no internal resources to manage the account…

But I have some good news: it wouldn’t take much to turn Natwest’s situation around and take the bank’s presence to the next level, at the regional level, with the right content strategy (type of content, existing content, syntax and frequency of the tweets) and a Know Your Followers (KYF) strategy.

And we all know that social media is not all about size (do we know that?), but FYI to make the Top 10 most followed financial institutions on twitter in the UK (we are currently tracking over 120 accounts), a financial institutions would need over 4,500 followers.

What do you think?

Written by Christophe Langlois

Based in London for almost a decade, Christophe is an entertaining fintech marketing keynote speaker and a trusted advisor to the global financial services industry on the topics of digital marketing, innovation and B2B social media.

Christophe has contributed to over 140 events in 18 countries.

Currently, Christophe is advising a number of fintech startups on marketing and growth hacking and he is the Chief Marketing Officer of The Fintech Power 50, an exclusive annual programme helping fintech scale-ups to accelerate their growth globally.

Christophe's views on are his own.

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