Using Social Listening as an Industry Research Tool for Financial Brands

Kimberly Surico |
 04/15/16 |
4 min read


As much as any consumer-facing brand, financial and banking brands can benefit from using social listening to uncover consumer sentiment about their organizations – and the industry overall. Yet many aren’t taking advantage of these tools.

They should be – if for no other reason than it’s good customer service. Social monitoring so you can be alerted to, and solve, consumer issues is important – but there’s so much more to be learned when you apply the right social listening tools in the right ways.

Brand research via social listening

Financial marketers, like all marketers, know they need to understand their audience to effectively market to them. They’ve been researching consumers for years using others methods – like focus groups, surveys, etc. – but these methods take time. In the interim, a lot is happening and being shared by their target audiences on social media. This data has to be part of the equation. I would argue it should be the focal point.

What is social media if not a living, breathing, constantly-refreshing focus group? Social listening tools are made to sift through this consumer social data and deliver real-time insights marketers can use. So why aren’t more financial marketers applying this technology as a research tool? Perhaps they think the “old ways” are enough. But social listening is better.

Here’s some proof.

Mobile banking conversations on social

I spent the past six months gathering research for a presentation at The Financial Brand Forum. Using NetBase’s platform for consumer sentiment analysis, I analyzed nearly 30,000 social posts about mobile banking, and made some enlightening discoveries about how consumers feel about the subject.

The overall sentiment snapshot is positive, though not a rave. Net Sentiment – the measure of emotion as positive or negative – came in at +72 (on a -100 to +100 scale). Translation: Most conversations are positive, but there’s still some work to be done.

You can see this when looking at specific mentions of mobile banking brands and apps, which show both positive and negative results:

mobile banking sentiment

This might seem like a low percentage on the negative end, but what’s important is the Passion Intensity – or how strong those negative feelings are. My research found 99 distinct negative conversations around mobile banking apps – with Passion Intensity at +36 (again on a -100 to +100 scale).

This means the people talking negatively about mobile banking are really invested in their negative views. The terms “hate” and “pisses me off” in the mix bear that out.

But this isn’t a case of “haters gonna hate.” When you examine specific conversations there are common threads among these negative posts, like:

  • Apps not working properly, or being incompatible with a user’s operating system
  • Bad app design and/or slow speeds
  • Safety and privacy concerns

What’s the takeaway for financial institutions? Mobile apps aren’t a set-it-and-forget-it offering. Maintenance and consumer experience must be regularly addressed.

Is this love that I’m feeling?

What about that +72 Net Sentiment score? There’s more positive conversation happening than negative, so that’s good, isn’t it?

About that…

Not all of the positive conversations came from consumers. In a typical social analysis in other industries, news sites would make up less than 10% of the conversations. Here I found almost 40% of the conversation came from news sites (52% from Twitter, another 10.2% from discussion forums). Definitely not typical.

What does this tell us? That mobile banking stories are popular with media outlets, and financial institutions are producing a lot of their own content. What it doesn’t tell us is how consumers really feel. If you want that information, you have to eliminate these “false positives” to get to the truth.

The same goes for tweets from banking analysts and financial consultants tweeting #fintech links.

So what happens when we take these false positives out of the equation? Positive sentiment around mobile banking conversations drops 12%. Context is everything.

Making finance consumer-centric

Keyword searches alone don’t help you. They don’t offer nearly enough information to direct your course of action. If you only look at the people talking about mobile banking, or your brand, you don’t get a dimensional view. Maybe you can solve a customer service issue – and that’s critical, obviously – but you lose the opportunity to really connect with what consumers want.

Vespa is a good example of this. In their quest for new customers they looked at what their customers were talking about on social – beyond scooters and transportation.

They learned their audience is majorly into style, fashion, design and art, so they turned their blog into a “style magazine” of sorts, offering content around those themes to attract consumers with similar interests. And it worked. They had more than 2700 new purchase leads within three months – with nearly half from people new to Vespa.

This is the approach all brands must take now – even those in the finance world. And it’s why NetBase’s social listening suite is designed with consumers in mind – because access to the right insights give brands an edge with engaging consumers to grow their brands.

You can’t get to the heart of consumers’ needs if you tune out half the conversation – so get listening, and put your research to good use. Before your competitors do.

Jason Falls is a noted analyst and observer of the social listening space. He authored the first-ever online conversation analysis of the banking industry in 2012 and continues to serve medium to large brands in his role as SVP for Digital Strategy at Elasticity, a digital marketing and PR firm based in St. Louis with offices in Louisville and Chicago. He can be found online at and He is also a featured speaker at The Financial Brand Forum 2016 this May, where he will be presenting his session “The ‘Every Way’ Generation: Connecting With Millennial Consumers.”

Image from Mike Mozart

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