Visible Banking Twitter Watch #12 – August 2009: 684 Financial Institutions / 38 Countries / 218,500+ Followers – Top 10s Banks / Credit Unions / Insurance

Logo-TwitterIn March 2009, I started tracking the financial institutions (FIs) on twitter. From only 54 accounts back then, I am thrilled to announce that I am now tracking over 680 accounts.

I believe my initiative is unique, definitely exciting and rewarding, and full of great insights. I aim to share some key stats with you, my blog readers, mytwitter followers, and my facebook fans, and provide some second-to-none recommendations to my clients.

From now on, I will post regular summaries of the Visible Banking Twitter Watch on my blog. I am aiming for monthly updates. For more regular updates, I invite you to follow me on twitter @Visible_Banking and search twitter for updates with #VBTW.

My ambition is to establish my Visible Banking Social Media Watch Series (TwitterBlogsFacebook and YouTube) as The first point of reference in the Finance industry. I aim to demonstrate that the industry can leverage social media, even though very few FIs do it well mainly due to lack of a subject matter expert. Indeed it is good to know how the likes of Dell, Starbucks and Toyota successfully leverage social media, but the Finance industry is a totally different ball game.

In addition to this ongoing effort, I am currently working on an indepth report on twitter in the finance industry with a key focus on 20 of the most followed FIs. Feel free to contact me if you want to contribute!

You work for a financial institution? You would like to leverage twitter more efficiently, learn how your peers and competitors are using the popular micro-blogging service, or find out more about the best practices and the most successful initiatives in the finance industry?
I invite you to send me an email or call me on +44 7736 446 357.

The global picture
Twitter is a great tool for real time market research, the data is constantly changing. It is a work in progress, so please do not hesitate to flag any missing initiatives.

Please note I started writing this article last week, and I used the data collected on Tuesday 1st September 2009. I was then tracking 684 financial institutions.

You will find below two charts displaying the top countries and the types of financial institutions on twitter, based on my Visible Banking Twitter Watch.

Summary – August 2009
VB-TwitterWatch-CountriesVB-TwitterWatch-TypeAs you would expect, due to the holiday season we noticed less activity in August: less updates, less new following.
But on the other hand, even though we didn’t see the astonishing growth rates from the previous months, most FIs bagged a decent number of new followers in August.

September should give us a more accurate view on how much effort the finance industry is putting on twitter, and how successful FIs are.

Please find below a few facts and news you may have missed.
* Background: check @Ask_WellsFargo‘s which now has one of the very best twitter backgrounds in Finance. Adding the pictures of the WF twitter Team was good, listing their own hashtags was brilliant. Well done! Please note that the same team is now supporting the @Wachovia and the@Ask_WellsFargo accounts.
* Competitions: more and more FIs are launching competitions on twitter to grow their follower base or give more exposure to some other social media initiatives. I listed just a few of the current contests: @Verity CU‘s@VerityMom (check my previous VBTW post for more info),@YoungFreeSC‘s Last Band Standing or @Trupanion Pet Insurance‘s 50$ gift card draw..
Please note that @LendingClub has recently launched its first ever twitter contest to reach their 25,000th member more quickly.
* Content: special kudos to American Express for its excellent content strategy at their newly redesigned OPEN Foum community. I find their posts extremely valuable and insightful. They cleverly use @OPEN Forumto increase awareness and generate traffic to their site.
* Monitor your detractors activity on twitter: it is critical to be aware of what people are saying about you online, and keep track of your detractors which usually prove to be creative and tenacious. The following accounts added a sizable number of followers in August: @STATEFARM_SUCKS,@DearAIG,  @Standard_Blank and @StandardBlank. If they were FIs they would be respectitively 2nd, 6th, 51st and 60th on my 684 FIs-strong list. Please note that I couldn’t find the time to analyse their follower base which may well contain lots of ‘bots’ and non active twitter accounts.  
* 10 accounts ‘discountinued’ in August: affinitybank, barclaysjobs, CIBC_News, HappyBanking, LaVillita / Second Federal, NKpscu, sgvht, SSCFCU / SS Fed Credit Union, tauntonfcu / Taunton Federal CU, USECredit_Union. Please note that some of those accounts may have been renamed.

Key milestones
Congrats to the following financial institutions for reaching an important milestone in August!
* 9,000: Somerset Mortgage (US)
* 7,000: ING DIRECT (US)
* 6,000: usaa_news (US)
* 5,000: Wachovia (US)
* 3,000 Buergschaftsbank (Germany) & StateFarmIns (US), BofA_help (US)
* 2,000: allstate (US), wellsfargo (US)
* 1,000: banco de Chile (Chile), MSUFederalCU (US), FinanceCFCU (US),PioneerCU (US), OPENForum (US), FBD Insur. (US)

Special kudos to the following FIs which haven’t made the top 10 yet, but significantly increased their follower base in August:, 1. @FosterBank(+480%, US), 2. @spardabankhh (+235%, Germany), 3. @Sparkasse Holstein (+179%, Germany), 4. @OPENForum (+160%, US), 5.@LorMetCU (+125%, US), 6. @Synergycu (+122%, US)!

Twitter anniversaries
In case you missed my updates on @Visible_Banking, please find below the list of twitter anniversaries in August:
* Welcome to Twitter alfa_bank (Russia), AllstateNE (US), AllstateSW (US), RaboRandmeren (Netherlands)!
* Happy 1-year anniversary to ALOHAFCU (US), Tinker Federal CU’s BuckTheNorm (US), EducatorsCU (US), FBD Insurance’s fbd_ie (US), Amplify Austin’s goamplify (US), landessparkasse (Germany), Nationwide Insurance (US), VPI Pet Insurance (US), Ohio National (US), PA CUs (US), RBC Innovator (Canada), TDECU’s YoungFreeTexas (US), TwinStarCU (US), TX CU League (US)!

Please do not hesitate to leave a comment and flag any missing key news, milestones or anniversaries!

Top 10s – Most Followed Financial Institutions
Since I started this research, I’ve received regular requests for twitter statistics from all over the word.

Karl Flinders, Deputy News Editor at ComputerWeekly in the UK, has already been using my stats. I invite you to check his recent post Photos: Top 10 Banks on Twitter.

From now on, I will publish my top 10s in three categories: overall, credit unions and insurance. Please feel free to use those insights as long as you mention

My top 10s are based on the total number of followers. On the other hand, the ‘New Following’ and ‘New Updates’ represent the numbers for August (and how they compare to the July numbers) which gives a better indication of the current behaviour of the FIs.
Please note that the data used in this report was collected on 1st September, 3rd August, and 1st July.

Top 10 – Overall
Please find below the top 10 most followed financial institutions on twitter tracked in the Visible Banking Twitter Watch.

Financial Institution
Followers New Following
New Updates
 1. Somerset Mortgage
3. usaa_news
4. Wachovia
5. Advanta’s Ideablob
6. HRBlock
7. StateFarmIns
8. Buergschaftsbank
9. BofA_help
10. Ask_WellsFargo 
9,263 (+20.5%)
7,195 (+12.9%)
6,035 (+12.8%)
5,078   (+5.8%)
3,520      (+3%)
3,474    (+4.5%)
3,213  (+13.9%)
3,106    (+23%)
3,097    (+5.4%) 
2,959  (+13.8%)
1,680 (+1785)
964   (-516)
17    (+29)
28  (-408)
-11    (-74)
129    (-45)
227   (+24)
634 (-1221)
111   (+12)
234   (+50)
     64   (+10)
62    (-84)
31     (+6)
208 (+178)
265 (+101)
15    (+2)
146    (-38)
28   (-56)
278  (+33)
340  (+48)

In August 09, the Top 10 most followed Fis added on average 515 new followers, followed on average 401 more tweeple, and send 7.2 updatesper working day.

Last month I predicted that ING DIRECT would claim the 1st spot soon. At the current rates, the top 3 should remain unchanged for the forseeable future. Once again, Buergschaftsbank is going strong and the German bank could possibly enter the top 5 before the end of the year.

There is still only one insurance company in the top 10 overall. Well done toStateFarmIns.

We still have three customer service accounts in the top 10 w/ Wachovia, BofA_Help and Ask_WellsFargo. It comes to no surprise that those accounts are among the most active accounts on my list with more than 10 updates per day on average. This is without counting the Direct Messages they send.

Somerset Mortgage is back on major growth mode again after stalling for a few months. They will surely become the 1st FI to reach the 10,000 follower mark on twitter. At the current growth rate, it should happen in September. Their successful month is not due to their activity which remained low with an average of 3 updates per working day. Nevertheless following almost 1,700 new accounts surely helped them. But who are those new followers / following? It would be interesting to analyse their follower and following base to better understand who those people are, how many of them are bots and dormant accounts, and identify the real influencers among them.

Following the whole world? Think volume AND quality
On twitter following more people is an efficient way to grow your follower base. But I advise you to do it wisely and ideally produce a strategy around followers and following, before starting following the whole world. One of the basics is making sure not to follow more people than people following you.
Of course volume is important in social media and yes you need to reach that ‘critical mass of users’ asap, whatever that is. But quality is equally important.

By the way, it makes more sense for customer service accounts to follow large number of tweeple. The reason being that both twitter users must follow each other to send direct messages.

Top 10 – Credit Unions

Please find below the top 10 most followed credit unions on twitter tracked in my Visible Banking Twitter Watch.

Credit Union Followers New Following
New Updates
 1. MSUFederalCU
2. FinanceCFCU 
3. PioneerCU
5. YoungFreeSC
7. BellcoCU
8. BreweryCU
9. U22 Updates
1,074 (+13.7%)
1,043  (+9.7%)
1,021  (+5.9%)
978  (+7.1%)
960   (+2.3%)
916     (+7%)
853 (+10.8%)
846   (+9.7%)
680       (N/A)
656   (+3.8%)
 129   (-59)
61  (-359)
-4   (-62)
36   (-15)
34  (N/A)
44   (-44)
53   (-11)
18   (-14)
1    (+8)
 45  (+19)
63  (-77)
66 (+21)

      56  (-17)

97 (N/A)
109  (-57)
90 (+25)
28  (-11)
160 (N/A)
11   (+1)

In August 09, the Top 10 most followed Credit Unions added on average 67new followers, followed on average 41 more tweeple, and send 3.2 updates per working day.

Most of the CUs in the Top 10 are still experiencing a healthy growth rate. Even though it is still a tight top 5, I expect no surprises nor major changes in the ranking next month.

Please note that I added GTEFCU’s U22Update (launched on 01/06/09)which made its way directly to the top 10. Well done. U22 is a checking account designed for 12 to 22 year olds.
@FirstAccess (launched on 11/05/09), a similar initiative from First Mariner Bank, hasn’t enjoyed quite the same level of popularity yet with only 30 followers so far.

Top 10 – Insurance
Please find below the top 10 most followed insurance companies on twitter tracked in the Visible Banking Twitter Watch.

Insurance Company Followers
New Following
New Updates
 1. StateFarmIns
2. allcains 
3. allstate
4. Progressive
5. Nationwide Ins.
6. Petplan
7. VPI Pet Ins.
8. CA Health Ins.
9. FBD Ins.
10. AIGHawaii
  3,213 (+13.9%)
2,391 (+18.3%)
2,158 (+18.7%)
1,511       (N/A)
1,504       (N/A)
1,396   (+8.4%)
1,390    (+10%)
1,275 (+16.3%)
1,017 (+11.8%)
871 (+23.4%)
 227   (+24)
435   (N/A)
467 (+202)
-5     (+4)
39    (+27)
117   (-301)
39     (-52)
257  (+230)
146 (-38)
40 (N/A)
90 (-48)
29 (+3)
36 (+20)
4 (+1)
46 (+3)
28 (+8)

In August 09, the Top 10 most followed Insurance companies added on average 223 new followers, followed on average 197 more tweeple, and send 2.6 updates per working day.

Last month I added two new accounts to my list: Progressive and Nationwide Insurance. Congrats to both companies to make it directly to the top 5 most followed insurance companies on my list!

More Twitter Statistics

* Most Followed FIs: 251 FIs have 200+ followers of which 86 (+23) have 500+ followers.
* The 1,000+ Followers Club: 36 (+8) FIs have 1,000+ followers.
* Restricted tweets: 12 accounts.
* Inactive accounts: 158 (+43) FIs haven’t sent any updates in August 2009. 
* Other awesome twitter lists: I highly recommend you follow Roger Conant who maintains a comprehensive list of credit unions (via@CUTweetTrack),  Sonya J Mills who maintains a list of community banks (via @CommunityBanks), Charis Palmer who maintains a list of banks and bankers in Australia & New Zealand (via @bankingreview), Boris Janekwho maintains a list of German FIs Social Media: Deutsche Banken im Twitter Kurz Test on (via @Electrouncle). Also check Jeffry Pilcher’s twitter list on the Financial Brand blog.

Twitter accounts added in August 09
In August 09, I added the following 108 accounts to my list: AccuQuote, alfa_bank, AllianzAG, AnthemHealth, ANZ_Responds, AS –  AllstateTX, AS – Allstate_Ladies, AS – AllstateAZ, AS – AllstateCareers, AS – ALLSTATEDORAL, AS – AllstateMotor, AS – AllstateNE, AS – AllstateNJ, AS – AllstateSW, AS – allstateVC, AS – AllstateWC, AS – myAllstateAgent, AS – OwnAnAgency, AS – PDXAllstater, ASBBank, asnbank, ASSU2000, Aussie – alcro, Bank of Texas – BOTRecruiter, bankleumiisrael, bankofcanada, bankvtb24, banque_populair, BBVA – actibva, BBVA – CIBBVA, BBVA – TU_Cuentas, BerlinerSpk, blueskyprez, caixablog, CaixaGalicia, CareersSocgen, carte_om, CBSL, Ceskasporitelna, CF – ClevelandFed, CF – ClevFedResearch, choicebank, CleveFed_ComDev, CNLBank, Confused_com, Credit Agricole – CA_ecommerce, Credit Agricole – relationdurable, Credit Agricole – societaires, ErsteBankUa, euroassurance, FIBank, FirstBankpr, FirstCU, firstindy, FNB – OPAFNBPanel, Foerderbank, GTE FCU – U22Updates, Helaba, i4e, irishnationwide, jobsatsantander, KSK_Augsburg, L_Bank, LAtelierBNPP, leumi_secretart, LeumiCard_IL, mbank_cz, mBankpl, mbanksk, MinneapolisFed, moneysupermkt, Nationwide Insurance, NOMOSBANK, North Jersey Community Bank – FrankSIII, NYFed_data, NYFed_news, OURFCU, philadelphiafed, PhilFedResearch, PinnacleBank, PinnacleBankSC, pncbank, Poalim, PrincipalityBS, Progressive, quirinbankAG, RaboRandmeren, reaal, RichmondFed, RiverCityBank, sgvht, SNSBank, Standard_Blank, StandardBlank, suntrustsucks, tacarteVISA, THE_REAL_USBANK, theFSB, toyotafinancial, TruPanion, UBAGroup, UnionBank, uSwitchUK, veritymom, Voba_Triberg, WaterStoneBank, wealthinsights, YoungFreeAB.

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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