Banks bank on viral fame with Instagram videos and influencers

Julie Waddle didn’t expect her Venmo video to go viral.

FNB Community Bank’s digital marketing manager filmed a short excerpt to the tune of Nicki Minaj’s “I Get Crazy” for the bank’s Instagram account in August 2021. Her post warned viewers not to leave balances in their Venmo accounts as funds are not guaranteed the same manner as the funds held at the ETF. This video racked up nearly 4 million views and banked about 8,000 new subscribers who stuck around. When she reused the clip on TikTok, it gained an additional 500,000 views.

A photo from Julie Waddle’s viral Instagram reel about why consumers shouldn’t leave Venmo on sale.

Bankers across the country are capitalizing on the social media channel. Dunroe, a social media analytics firm, tracks more than 1,400 institutions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Instagram, which CEO Cameron MacNiven says is nearly complete. But banks continue to add accounts and use videos and influencers to boost brand awareness among Instagram’s billions of monthly users.

The First National Bank of Omaha in Nebraska, for example, spent seven years fine-tuning its strategy. The $26.8 billion asset bank finds that giveaways of personalized boxes or giveaways get the most engagement. FNBO frequently recruits influencers to generate excitement for these products (and the bank) on social media. He almost doubled his number of followers in 2021.

Institutions such as Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay, Alabama, FNB Community Bank in Midwest City, Oklahoma, and First National Bank of Omaha say it’s hard to calculate how likes and comments translate to new business for the bank. Still, they believe that posting community photos and advice hubs on Instagram on a regular basis helps them reach a younger demographic, humanize the brand, and keep the institution top of mind with potential customers or potential employees.

“Everyone in financial services, banks in particular, has been working to develop a friendlier face,” said Ellie Bamford, global head of media and relations at brand consultancy R/GA. . “Instagram is becoming a primary platform where brands feel they can provide that personal human connection.”

Tactics that rock Instagram

Instagram is like a collection of channels, Bamford said. There are regular photo or video posts, “Stories” that disappear in 24 hours, shortened video “Reels”, and more.

Emphasizing video is one of Bamford’s golden rules when it comes to Instagram. The same goes for new Instagram features, as they take priority in the algorithm.

Waddle jumped onto Instagram’s reels shortly after debuting for this reason. She regularly scours the social media platform to see what’s trending and thinks about how she can adapt those ideas for the bank. She stars in many videos from her bank and saves them on her phone.

“Before posting, I try to think, is this about more than a few people and is this something people would share to educate their friends?” she says.

FNB, with assets of $575 million, racked up 10,000 new followers on Instagram after Waddle’s Venmo video. He has since lost 2,000, but retains thousands more than before the video was released.

“Our biggest goal is brand awareness,” Waddle said. “It’s so hard to track accounts or loans opened from a social media post. Someone may see it and open an account three months later when they are in need, but may not remember to say it is because they saw this video.

Dunroe found that FNB Community Bank had the highest “reach rate” for FDIC-insured (or Canadian equivalent, SADC) banks that it tracks with a subscriber count of over 1,000 between March 2021 and March 2022. She attributes this rate largely to the engagement surrounding the Venmo post.

Emily Mays, chief administrative officer and chief marketing officer at Community Spirit, which has $182 million in assets, agrees that brand recognition is her main goal when she posts daily on the bank’s Instagram feed.

“The reward is that I couldn’t tell you the number of people who say, ‘I’ve never been to your bank and I feel like I know your bank’ or ‘If I went to work for a bank, it would be your bank,” she says.

Mays finds that messages celebrating a promotion or success among employees do particularly well. “Instagram feels like a warmer, more connected place” than other social media platforms “and isn’t driven by as many agendas,” she said.

First National of Omaha has a presence on several social media platforms, but Instagram has seen the strongest growth. The main goals are to reach a younger demographic, emphasize the bank’s financial expertise, and position the bank of Nebraska as an attractive place to work.

Regina DeMars, director of content marketing and social media at First National Bank of Omaha, frequently turns to influencers to spice up the bank’s presence through giveaways and unboxing efforts. These generate more engagement than calls to action, like sending a photo.

“People seem to respond more when there’s something cool they can visually show online,” she said.

For campaigns around the bank’s themed debit cards, DeMars chooses people who embody the spirit of the card and have a voice in their communities. For example, it recruited college athletes from Nebraska and Colorado, where the bank has a strong presence, to pique their subscribers’ interest in the bank’s college fan cards. When two basketball players posted card information on Instagram and Twitter during the NCAA Men’s Tournament in March, the bank saw a 44% increase in checking account request submissions that week compared to the previous week. .

The bank also commissioned a rainbow mural, filled with butterflies and flapping birds, to decorate a brick wall outside Early Bird, a brunch restaurant (and business client FNBO ) in the Blackstone District of Omaha. DeMars was inspired after seeing people line up to pose against a mural of angel wings in Nashville, and recruited the same artist. The project was completed in early April after pandemic delays.

“I try to look at trends that are happening outside of banking,” DeMars said. “What are consumers interested in? How can we make this work for the FNBO? The bank’s influencers pose against the wall for posts promoting its Be Kind debit card series and the importance of kindness. Passers-by tag the bank in their own photos.

Sarah Tvrdik

“FNBO’s new mural shares the theme of their Be Kind Visa debit card – supporting women’s empowerment organizations, Youth Frontiers, Boys Town National Hotline and The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,” Sarah Tvrdik wrote in an Instagram post. which accompanies his photo outside the FNBO mural in the Blackstone neighborhood of Omaha. “Isn’t it amazing?” Tvrdik is one of FNBO’s paid influencers.

The limits of Instagram

No matter how many heart emojis or enthusiastic comments a bank racks up on its posts, it’s hard to determine if engaged followers translate into new customers.

Brian Reilly, managing director of BankBound, a digital marketing agency for banks, finds that organic social media performs below other digital channels in terms of online engagement and new business generated.

“An active social media presence helps demonstrate credibility with prospects and retain customers and employees, but it’s easily surpassed by search engine optimization, digital ads, and email,” said he declared.

Instead, “Instagram and other social channels offer a lot of value to human resources departments who are struggling to find and retain employees, because the job market is currently very competitive and the corporate culture is a primary consideration for many candidates,” he said.

Still, some banks have followed or heavily inferred new business from their social media posts. Central Pacific Bank in Honolulu recruited 50 well-known Hawaiians in 2021 to hype his new digital checking account on Instagram. By March, the Shaka checking account had racked up 3,700 Hawaiian users in four months, more than 60% of whom are new to the bank. By comparison, Central Pacific’s consumer checking accounts normally grow by 1,000 net new accounts each year.

DeMars found she could more easily assess new business after YouTube influencers reviewed First National Bank of Omaha’s Evergreen credit card in 2021 (the first time the bank used YouTube in this way) because they could insert a follow link, while not all Instagram influencers want to do that. The YouTube campaign promoting the Evergreen credit card generated 106 account sign-ups.

Overall, “If we can leverage influencers to grow our following, we see that as a huge ROI,” DeMars said. “It’s cheap to engage with influencers and have them reach that younger demographic that’s harder to find.”

John C. Dent