RBI‘s 100 Most Liked Institutions on Facebook table shows that the financial sector is still focusing on the site to interact with its customers. With an average rise in ‘Likes’ of 66%, it has been a strong showing for the financial sector.

Visa finished top of the table yet again with a total of 19.8 million fans, a rise of 19% compared to last year. MasterCard finished second with 13.4 million fans, a rise of over 25% year-on-year.

While these two remained triumphant again, some institutions saw remarkable rises in the amount of ‘Likes’ they received with both State Bank of India and Intesa Sanpaolo increasing their total fans by over 1000%. The region with the biggest risers was the Middle East and Africa, with six of the ten most improved banks in this realm from this region.

The bank with the highest rating was HDFC in fourth place, closely followed by Banco Bradesco and ICICI, with 6.8 million fans, 41% more fans than the previous year.

The highest placed UK-based bank was Barclays in eleventh, a slight drop from last year. The lender saw a 21% rise in fans to hit 4.3 million.

Why are banks looking at Facebook?
What possible purpose could banks have for Facebook? It seems a step outside of the market’s comfort zone.

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However, social media is a constant in modern life. Recent research from Innovalue reported that almost 2.1 billion people are now engaged with social networking. In addition, wearesocial.net found that 28% of people’s time online is spent on social media, more than half of which is on Facebook.

On the other hand, social media and banking analytics firm, The Financial Brand, state on its website: "As social media marketing continues to gains team in retail banking, financial marketers need to pause and think about how they use social channels and whether this activity is really adding any value."

Samantha Gray, head of social media at Barclays, speaking to RBI, says: "Facebook plays an integral part of our customer service and communications functions. We are able to reach potential and existing customers, with relevant messages specifically created for them; whether this is around education on a new product, a digital initiative or something our customers need to be aware of quickly."

Jacqueline Smale, manager of social media for ING Netherlands, adds: "We mostly use it for interacting with our target groups. Our Facebook Netherlands account is less for stakeholder management; it’s wider than just our customers. We use it for a couple of sections, mainly for our web care, customer service and also for brand and representation management. We publish articles and blog posts to share our opinions and expert information from ING."

Smale believes that Facebook is a good service to deliver up-to-date feedback to ING’s customers. She explains: "We work together with the web care team to see what information is missing on more of the practical stuff and the way people use ING services. Things about how the online and banking app environments work. This is the kind of information that most of our followers really like so they follow us for a couple of reasons.

"They like our brand, they like to be informed, and we proactively inform them when there is a hiccup in our services. For example, if some of the digital services are down for some time, we let people know through social media."

Another factor is the links that ING has through sponsorships, events and the like.

Smale says: "We also use this format for campaigns focused on our products and sponsorships. What we see if that our followers very much appreciate that sort of initiative. A couple of examples are the sponsorship of the national football team, famous museums and even a big event of ours that was sold out in ten minutes."

Erik van Roekel, manager of social media across the entirety of the ING Group, believes that is a ‘big sector’ across the entire brand and not just in Holland.

However, rather than just providing for customers, Facebook allows consumers to help ING in return.

"We ask our community to think along with us in what should be developed for the app or other services. What do our customers see as the most important thing to develop? And this leads to co-creation where people can come see what we’re thinking about and give their input. It’s a more time-consuming effort so we don’t do this every day, but every now and then, and appreciation is really high," says Smale.

Praveen Bhatt, head of marketing and customer service at Axis Bank, also believes Facebook is a good method of making a connection with customers.

He says: "The strategy for Axis Bank is to look at social media as a key medium of reaching out to our customers. We are consistently trying to reach out to younger customers and we want to be positioned as a young and progressive brand. It is extremely important for us to be present on platforms where young and progressive people are present. That is why social media is important."

Truly engaging
While banks, and other organisations, can post as much as they want on Facebook, it doesn’t count for much if nobody even glances at it. With so much posted on social media sites, it can be difficult to truly engage with consumers, or even get their attention.

Smale comments: "It really depends on the content. In the Netherlands, we have approximately 250,000 followers. If you post organically, the people that we reach can range between 30,000 and 100,000.

"The engagement on videos is really high. Also, what works really well is simple saving tips. Every time we post something, we consider what’s in it for the customer. There should always be something useful or beneficial in the content."

Bhatt says: "[The engagement figures] are usually around 12-16% on the content we post on Facebook, but it really depends on the type of content. We do related content or topical, around thing such as Father’s Day, and that sees a far much higher engagement rate."

Gray comments that the engagement levels vary, but ‘on average, we are please with engagement levels’.

Advantages and struggles
On the advantages of maintaining a presence on Facebook, Gray adds: "Facebook and other social media platforms help us to get meaningful messages to the relevant audiences as they offer such strong targeting options.

"We can choose who receives which messages and switch it on and off as appropriate. If for example, we are able to provide information about mortgages to people that are looking to buy a hose, or information on our Blue Rewards offering to those who have been comparing current account they are much more likely to engage and react."

Smale believes that Facebook has huge potential. She says: "It’s personal communication en masse. The impact is high. It is beneficial, but also a risk, but I think that’s one of the main advantages. It’s where our target group is so that’s one of the main reasons why we’re there. And it allows us a lot of speed."

However, there are downsides. "We can’t control Facebook. We don’t even reach half of our followers. This is because of Facebook algorithms and rules. In that way, there is a struggle. There is a business model on Facebook, if you want to have a higher reach, you have to promote your post and spend more money on it," Smale adds.

"In the past, one of the main benefits was the low cost. It’s still low compared to other forms of mass media, but the price is increasing."

Gray also finds that they are difficulties with Facebook. She says: "Social media is 24/7 so it doesn’t sleep. We ensure that out channels are monitored at all times and we have a team who do this and are available to reply to any queries which come in at any time, making sure customers get a fast reply at all times."

Compliant at great speed
With the overwhelming pace of social media present, it can be tempting to just post whatever comes to mind on Facebook, especially considering the disinhibition effect caused by the internet.

Banks cannot afford to be careless when it comes to this issue. All communication needs to be tightly monitored in order to not break regulation.

Smale says: "We are always cautious with what we publish. We try to educate our customers on how to treat their personal data and information, so we have a lot of guidelines for that that are helpful. We haven’t run into any struggles there.

"Social media is a fast game, so we have processes for it in place, but we are very aware of this issue. There always needs to be checks, we have our procedures like in any other section of the bank where we need to take precaution."

"All channels use the same FAQ and the same knowledge base. Social media, the website and the call centre will all give the same information," van Roekel adds.

The Retail Banker International Facebook Top 100 2016

  Bank Pages Total fans 2015 Total fans 2014 Change (%)
1 Visa VISA/Small Business 19893994 16687686 19
2 MasterCard MasterCard 13493178 10740313 26
3 American Express American Express/OPEN/Amex for Business Australia/Amex for Business Canada/Serve 7328919 5829930 26
4 HDFC HDFC Bank/HDFC Life 6801518 4817442 41
5 Banco Bradesco Bradesco/Seguros/Teatro 5350147 5049398 6
6 ICICI ICICI Bank/Fellows/Lombard/NRI 5121033 3555145 44
7 Citigroup Citi/Citibank US/Malaysia/UAE Philippines/careers/Brasil/Thailand/Singapore/India/Magyarország/Every Step/Korea/IPB EMEA/Bike 4825997 3057172 58
8 Capital One Capital One/UK/Canada/Investing for Good/Small Business/360 4766758 3889017 23
9 State Bank of India State Bank of India 4620713 355704 1,199
10 Santander Students/UK/Mexico/GP/Brasil/Chile/Universades/Rio/Totta/US 4581020 3549078 29
11 Barclays UK/Football/Business UK 4356324 3595821 21
12 BBVA Bancomer/Colombia/Compass/Espana/Continental/Provinvial adelante/Chile/Frances/Paraguay/Uruguay 4068594 2341777 74
13 Chase Chase 3863260 4409960 -12
14 GT Bank GT Bank/Ghana/Kenya 3573635 2266373 58
15 AXIS AXIS Bank 3168931 2739262 16
16 Standard Chartered Standard Chartered/UAE/Malaysia/Marathon Pages/India/Pakistan/Kenya/Indonesia/Bangladesh/Nigeria/Vietnam/HongKong/Thailand/Ghana 2961277 1984364 49
17 CIMB Malaysia/Thai/Group/Singapore/Indonesia/Niaga 2875344 2472405 16
18 HSBC Brasil/Students/Mexico/UK/Arena/HSBC/Expat/Argentina/UAE 2178426 2717585 -20
19 Banco do Brasil Banco do Brasil 2029097 1533585 32
20 KBank Live KBank Live 1908917 1647947 16
21 Maybank Maybank/PH/Kim Eng Securities/Maybankard/Indonesia/Championship 1907615 1515917 26
22 Garanti Garanti Bankasi/Garanti Bank 1821917 1696956 7
23 Akbank Akbank/Sanat/Yat?r?mc?/Direkt/Kariyer/Kobi 1706384 1564065 9
24 Yapi Kredi Yapi Kredi/Insan Kaynaklari 1549938 1064443 46
25 BNP Paribas Net/Open/Cardiff/Fortis Belgie/BMCI Groupe/UBCI Groupe/BGZ/Ma /Fortis België/Geojit/Masters/careers 1534725 711304 116
26 Interbank Peru/Interbank 1507452 1380901 9
27 Scotiabank Scotiabank/Jamaica/Mexico/Bahamas/Nuit Blance/Dominican Republic/Chile/Antigua&Barbuda/StVincent&Grenadines/Saddledome 1451529 1074981 35
28 IDBI Bank IDBI Bank 1326055 826373 60
29 Wells Fargo Wells Fargo/Centre/Advisers 1191179 1028586 16
30 Davivienda Davivienda/Costa Rica/Empleos 1182907 1102801 7
31 DenizBank DenizBank/Akademi/Insan Kaynaklari 1161514 1024151 13
32 Multibanca Colpatria Multibanca Copatria 1037134 871733 19
33 RBS Scottish Rugby/6 Nations/Early Careers/Royal Bank of Scotland 1014547 976431 4
34 Intesa Sanpaolo Intesa Sanpaolo/Banka BIH/Romania/Card University Award/Card/Live Inspire 906309 75501 1,100
35 JSC TBC TBC Bank/Kredit/Smart Club 903242 782872 15
36 USAA USAA 902504 705579 28
37 Access Bank Access Bank 862436 143315 502
38 Commonwealth Bank Commonwealth Bank/Business/Indonesia 853104 591905 44
39 First Bank of Nigeria First Bank of Nigeria 836894 380424 120
40 SABB SABB 836203 624885 34
41 Unicredit Austria/Italia/Bulbank/Champions/Universities/Srbija/Bosna I Hercegovina/Ceska Republika/Slovensko/Russia/Romania 788653 487932 62
42 ING Vysya Bank/?l?ski/Turkey/New York City Marathon/Australia/Belgique/Belgie/nederlands/Bank 756834 663871 14
43 Banco Falabella Chile/Peru/Colombia 735910 621940 18
44 Banco Popular Costa Rica/Dominicano/Portugal/Banco Popular PR/Virgin Islands/Honduras 711737 580025 23
45 HBL HBL/ID/Asset Management 708428 594679 19
46 TD Canada TD/Canada Trust 668219 536082 25
47 Kotak Mahindra Kotak Mahindra 626736 287643 118
48 RHB Bank RHB Group 612358 356690 72
49 OCBC OCBC Bank 607511 542595 12
50 Jordan Ahli Bank Jordan Ahli Bank 578575 332409 74
51 Credit Agricole Credit Agricole/Nord de France/Store/Polska/Normandie/Egypt/ACBA/Loire/Lorraine/Normandie Seine/D’ile de France 541313 281431 92
52 Bank of Georgia Bank of Georgia/Bank of Georgia 537633 503058 7
53 Diamond Bank Diamond Bank/???? 508397 381885 33
54 Sterling Bank Sterling Bank 505904 327320 55
55 Mashreq Bank Mashreq Bank 494151 168478 193
56 Sberbank Sberbank/Hrvatsa/Slovensko/u Bih/srbija a.d. 422822 310541 36
57 Finansbank Finansbank/Kariyer/Enpara 414136 339539 22
58 Banco Ciudad Banco Ciudad 408952 237023 73
59 Investec Investec/Super Rugby/Sport/People and Planet 393676 N/A N/A
60 Bank Leumi Leumi Digital/Business/Card 392919 376757 4
61 DNB DNB 347867 289438 20
62 Royal Bank of Canada RBC 338659 244054 39
63 Seylan Bank Seylan Bank 331144 117085 183
64 Commercial Bank of Qatar Commercial Bank of Qatar/Masters 321378 251576 28
65 Natwest Natwest 316882 223835 42
66 CIBC CIBC 312148 272560 15
67 Arab Bank Arab Bank 298614 104815 185
68 PNC Bank PNC/Arena 283182 190862 48
69 mBank Polska mBank Polska/.sk 271479 174761 55
70 Qatar Development Bank Qatar Development Bank 253409 202404 25
71 US Bank US Bank 252079 174269 45
72 La Banque Postale La Banque Postale/Jeunes 243065 224657 8
73 Westpac Westpac 220910 131953 67
74 Absa Absa 217266 N/A N/A
75 Bank Audi Lebanon/Cards 196471 90564 117
76 Standard Bank of South Africa Standard Bank of South Africa 195240 119943 63
77 Magma Magma 182770 197021 -7
78 Crédit Mutuel Credit Mutuel 175818 136727 29
79 Capitec Capitec 174211 121124 44
80 Chebanca! Chebanca! 173738 149900 16
81 Swedbank Sverige/Lithuania/Latvia/Eestis 166852 133254 25
82 Ally Bank Ally Bank 165332 150216 10
83 Nedbank Nedbank/Sport 155042 N/A N/A
84 OTP Bank OTP Bank 147575 124507 19
85 Charles Schwab Charles Schwab 141413 128740 10
86 ASB ASB Bank 140734 127816 10
87 ABN AMRO ABN AMRO/World Tennis/Studenten/Werken Bij 139470 81681 71
88 Axess Axess 127204 101292 26
89 Danske Bank Danske Bank/Suomi/Norge/Sverige 125271 62329 101
90 la Caixa la Caixa 122129 100025 22
91 Kuwait Finance House Kuwait Finance House/Malaysia 115897 103949 11
92 Erste Bank Erste Bank/Austria/Srbija/Open 113270 56890 99
93 Deutsche Bank Deutsche Bank/Careers/Services 113058 84092 34
94 E-trade Financial E-Trade Financial 109191 78638 39
95 AmBank AmBank 108776 93356 17
96 Bank Mandiri Bank Mandiri/Syariah 102574 54410 89
97 Lloyds Lloyds Bank 101338 56123 81
98 Credit Suisse Credit Suisse/Careers 92219 70579 31
99 VUB VUB Banka 77310 76223 1
100 Halifax Halifax 76070 65529 16