B2B social media within the banking industry

I completed some very basic research last week with the goal to discover if and where bankers were using social media to communicate within the industry. To be clear, I was not looking for bankers talking to account holders. There are plenty of good examples of banks using Twitter, Facebook, and blogs to do brand positioning, customer service, and banking education. I was looking for examples of bankers interacting with each other to discuss industry topics and operational challenges. My expectation was to find widespread use on LinkedIn because LinkedIn is an accepted and trusted leader for professional networking and communications. I was wrong.

(credit LeadForce1 Inc.)

I picked four financial institutions at random which included a regional bank, two community banks, and a credit union. For the regional bank I pulled 12 profiles, most of which were VP executives.  The other institutions didn’t have as many profiles to pull, but I found VP level employees for them as well.

The majority of the profiles were sparsely populated with evidence of use. I looked for elements such as profile photos, group membership, recommendations, and number of connections. Over 80% of the profiles I examined had no photo and limited group memberships. Find #1 – Many executive level bankers have LinkedIn profiles, but they don’t appear to use them frequently.

Because I was looking for evidence of B2B collaboration I focused the most on group memberships. So looking across the individuals I found a few common groups and then joined them. When I examined the discussions within each group I found that the contributors were not bankers but instead industry analysts, consultants, and marketing agencies. Find #2 – Bankers are not conversing within the LinkedIn groups for bankers.

Next I looked at media publications such as Credit Union Times, Bank Director, and The Financial Brand. I did find a sparse collection of comments to online posts. Many appeared to be from Bankers, but the profiles of the responder are hidden or not complete so they are not traceable to an individual.

I moved next to examine forums such as bankersonline.com and banking-forum.org. This was where I found the most activity. Bankers talking to each other. Bankers asking questions. But, as with the media publications, the identity of the participant is hidden and in many cases the participants use aliases. Find #3 – Bankers participate where they can conceal their identity and the identity of the institution they represent.

Now, certainly this isn’t a comprehensive study on the topic. But I’m left to wonder if it’s a focused micro-study that represents the banking industry. If so, is the behavior governed by the industry regulations, social media policies, fear of negative comments, etc.? I believe bankers are using digital and social media to consume and participate in industry content. But it appears to be in a very controlled manner.

If you are a banker reading this, I’d love to hear your comments. (You can be anonymous)