Social Media Statistics: By-the-Numbers, July 2012

It’s been a few months since we published a social media stats post, and there has been a lot of social activity this summer! Below are some interesting statistics on social media usage. Feel free to share your favorite social media statistics in the comments section or Tweet @bankingdotcom.

  • 250,000,000 The number of accounts that have upgraded to or signed up for a Google+ account (Source: Google)
  • 17: the percentage of cell phone owners who do most of their online browsing on their phone, rather than a computer or other device (Source: Pew Internet)
  • 3.6 billion dollars in gross revenue is projected by the end of 2012 for video sharing platform YouTube (Source: Citi)
  • 52: the percentage of all cell phone owners who use their phones while watching television (Source: Pew Internet)
  • 18: the percentage of teens who would stop communicating altogether if their favorite technological channel of communication disappeared (Source: AWeber)
  • 7.56: the average percentage of traffic to Facebook Pages from external referrals (Source: PageLever)
  • 41.7: the percentage of the top 10,000 websites that have some form of Twitter link on their homepage (Source: Pingdom)
  • 36.6 billion online content videos were viewed by US Internet users in May 2012 (Source: comScore)
  • 152,000,000: the number unique US visitors to Facebook.com in May 2012, placing the social network in second place behind Google (Source: Nielsen)

Curious if LinkedIn Groups are useful? Here are some tips on how marketers can benefit from participating in LinkedIn Groups.

How Banks Can Better Connect With Online Customers

In the world of social media, there are some industries that are simply behind the curve. Banking is certainly one. The regulatory issues, lack of clarity in FINRA policies and security concerns on both the technology and communications front have left bank marketers in the grey, if not the dark, about moving forward with social media marketing efforts.

But as consumer behavior continues to shift to include more time and attention on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, banks have been forced to evolve. Fortunately, so have the regulations. FINRA’s updates of early 2010 brought some clarity to what banks could and could not say and do on the social web. As a result, more banks are diving into social. But are they doing so well?

Large brands like Citi, with its hiring of social media customer service pioneer Frank Eliason away from Comcast, and Wells Fargo, with an innovative group blog strategy, have won some early fans from customers in the online space. AMEX’s Open Forum is a solidified business resource for many, offering the brand valuable exposure and trust from online audiences. Even small banks like 1st Mariner in Baltimore have caught the eye of analysts and storytellers from the social media world.

So what can your bank do to better connect with online consumers? Having spent the last few months researching online conversations around banks and bank products, I discovered five core tactics every bank can execute to improve its online credibility with customers.

1. Nail Down Your Policies
No one in your organization will know what to do with online conversations until you tell them what they can do. Whether you empower the entire organization to engage online or just one person from your marketing team, developing a solid social media policy that addresses who, how and why you’ll engage customers online is the first and fundamental step in connecting with customers online.

2. Find The Channel That Matters Most
One of the worst mistakes your bank can make is dividing your attentions among too many channels. You’ll dry up your energy, time and resources tending to a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn page, a Google+ page and more. Do some research to find where the core customers you’re trying to serve are and focus your energies in those one or two places. Having trouble finding where those customers are? Just ask them. They’ll tell you.

3. Sell Your Expertise, Not Your Catalog
Content is what drives social media success, so you’ll need to come up with information to share on these social channels and sites. Your instinct, as a bank marketer, is going to be to tell your audience all about your low rates and your latest promotion. Brace yourself, but your customers don’t want to hear that. They want helpful tips on managing or saving their money. They want to know what the latest legislations means to their bottom line. They want to know why they should care about the European economic crisis. You and people within your bank are really smart about lots of things besides your latest deal. Focus there.

4. Focus On Nimble Technology
The online consumer is pre-disposed to apps, gadgets and tech. So you’re going to need to make sure your online banking, mobile website and even mobile apps are spit-shined or you’ll need to ready yourself for some explaining. While customers are certainly concerned about their privacy and security around their financial information, innovations like mobile apps that help manage your credit cards and online softwares that make personal finance less like spreadsheet hell and more simple are forcing your hand. You’ll need to be up to speed with quick, easy and mobile technology to satisfy that online customer.

5. Be Clear About Fees
If the September 2011 fee increase announcement by Bank of America taught us anything, it’s that $5 is a big deal to most Americans. Consumer perception is that banks are wealthy because they gouge customers for an additional nickel, dime or dollar anywhere they can. Our online analysis of conversations around fees showed over 60% to be negative, far more than other topic areas reflected. Customers don’t like you taking their money, ever. So be sure to adequately communicate what your fees are and why they’re used so your customers are informed and less likely to complain about them. And if you want to make a big splash, get rid of a few (like ATM fees). It shows up in the online buzz!

Social media practitioners will tell you the best way to connect with consumers online is to just be present, be honest and be consistent. But you also have to make those connections mean something to your bottom line. Whether you approach social media marketing as an effort in customer retention or customer acquisition, that philosophical position will lay a nice foundation. Following the steps above will fine tune your efforts and help you begin to turn conversations into conversions.

Jason Falls is the CEO of Social Media Explorer and author of The Conversation Report: What Consumers Are Saying About Banking, a new market research report from his company. You can find Jason on Twitter @JasonFalls, Facebook or connect with him on his blog, Social Media Explorer.

What Real Customers Are Saying About Banks

If you asked the average American if they felt positively or negatively about their bank, how do you think they would answer? Now consider the same question while keeping in mind the country is currently clawing its way out of a recession, the mortgage crisis is still affecting millions of Americans and their bottom lines and the Occupy Wall Street movement hasn’t exactly disappeared?

Would it shock you to know that most Americans would answer that they feel positively about their bank? That’s what my company’s recent research into online conversations about banks revealed. In fact, looking at conversations that feature the top 25 banks according to assets as ranked by the FDIC, only two have less than 60% positive marks. Even major banks, like Citi and PNC, were above 70% positive in online conversations.

Granted, Bank of America, which in many ways instigated the Occupy Wall Street movement with its September 2011 rate hike (quickly rescinded but not before the public conversation could go awry) dominated online conversations in 2011 among the banks and it was one of the two under that 60% positive threshold. But even with BOA’s miserable year in the public eye, its positive to negative ratio was 1:1. Half of the people talking about Bank of America last year were speaking of the company in positive light.

Anecdotal assumptions like, “no one likes their bank,” or “no one likes Bank of America,” can be more easily overturned today thanks to online monitoring and listening platforms. That’s why we spent the last few months researching what consumers were saying about banks and bank products. Among some of the other surprises we found include:

Customers Are Fickle - Several banks we reviewed got high marks for customer service. But, they also got low marks for it. This tells bank marketers that no matter how good you are, someone will always think you’re bad. Having processes and policies to deal with negative feedback is an imperative.

You Don’t Have To Be Big To Make An Impact – After finding the major products and themes consumers of the top 25 banks discussed, we removed any brand bias and searched the web for conversations about the topics. While analyzing conversations about Automated Teller Machines, First Fidelity Bank (Oklahoma) appeared multiple times. Its ATM fee policy thrilled fans enough to elicit online responses. And ones that were found by a national research focus. The insight for marketers here is that thrilling your customers creates buzz and not many of your competitors are doing that.

Advertising Works – The single biggest online conversation impact we found among the larger banks was the amount of positive conversation that focused on the advertising campaigns for Capital One and HSBC. Capital One’s “What’s In Your Wallet” vikings and Jimmy Fallon ads accounted for over 60% of the positive online conversation around the brand. But it’s not just funny TV spots that emerged as effective in driving online buzz. HSBC’s advertising campaign focuses on posters and billboards primarily placed around airports. The “Different Points of View” campaign accounted for 23% of its positive online buzz. Apparently, good ads are worth the investment.

Certainly, looking at online conversations comes with its own limitations and biases. We were not able to ask direct questions of consumers as with traditional market research made of focus groups and surveys. But with our approach comes certain bias elimination, too. Finding online conversations means the consumer isn’t biased to answer one way or another because they know they’re being monitored or interviewed. We mined raw conversations of people speaking freely on their respective social networking site, forum or blog.

This in-the-wild conversational analysis isn’t necessarily better than other forms of consumer insight. But it sure is different and as revealing. It shows us that our assumptions are often wrong, consumers will always surprise you and there are plenty of opportunities to be had for brands in the online space.

Jason Falls is the CEO of Social Media Explorer and author of The Conversation Report: What Consumers Are Saying About Banking, a new market research report from his company. You can find Jason on Twitter @JasonFalls, Facebook or connect with him on his blog, Social Media Explorer.

Key Banking Topics in Social Media

*Guest post by Karen Licker, Social Banker & Content Contributor (Independent) at J.D. Power and Associates

The challenges confronting banks that seek to bolster their bottom-line profitability, retain customers, and stay competitive in the marketplace are formidable. Research conducted by J.D. Power‘s Consumer Insight and Strategies Group to track social media activity regarding banking issues between April 2011 and March 2012 finds that:

  • Online sentiment was distinctly negative not only regarding fees, but also for bank technology
  • Complaints associated with website or online issues were a major source of discontent in technology-related messages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With customer feedback on critical topics discussed online going from technology to fees and service, banks should see the handwriting on the wall and provide an appropriate outlet for these customers, along with an acknowledgement and guidance for direction for immediate response.

Retail Banks aren’t the only ones that have an opportunity to engage with the vocal online customer. Credit card holders appear to be even more outspoken online, but card issuers appear to have learned this a bit faster than their Retail Banking peers.

  • 43% more credit card customers indicated that their financial institution responded to their online post than for Retail Bank customers (J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Credit Card Satisfaction Study). This may not be surprising, however, given the more virtual nature of interaction associated with credit card servicing.
  • Mobile apps for payments, online sites for daily transactions and much heavier reliance on phone-based rather than in-person interaction all combine to make the credit card environment more conducive to engaging the customer online.

Financial services, however, need to step up to the plate more and address the disgruntled customer. While these percentages are a step in the right direction, there is much more to be done to placate this online audience and turn the negative intensity and passion around.

National Day of Unplugging

Tonight marks the start of a day called the National Day of Unplugging. This movement encourages people to disconnect from technology and connect with the offline world. For many tech savvy users the ideas of shutting off for 24 hours seems like eternity. No phone, Twitter, Facebook or apps.

To showcase how difficult it will be for Americans to turn off, we’ve included an infographic called Instant America which has statistics that showcase how quickly Americans expect to receive information in this digital era. After reading these stats, it’s no wonder that movements such as the National Day of Unplugging are taking place.

The infographic below highlights that, “Google found that slowing search results by just 4/10ths of a second would reduce the number of searches by 8,000,000 a day.”

Instant America
Created by: OnlineGraduatePrograms.com

After taking time to digest these stats, are you going to unplug tonight?

Finding Social Media ROI is like Hunting a Unicorn (Part IV)

Post four wraps up this wild ride with some advice on how to put your social media efforts into proper perspective. This is the final blog post on why social media ROI is as challenging as corralling a mythical unicorn. Read Part I, Part II, & Part III here.

In Conclusion: Building, implementing, maintaining a social media strategy is a time-intensive endeavor, especially when the payoff isn’t there yet for most every Financial Institution. The first two blog posts I shared have this correct.  I know of a handful of banks with consistently worthy social media efforts. They are the true unicorns…and they are rare.

Not everyone can or should lead social media ventures…as indicated by the third item.  Technical proficiency in generating a page and “likes” isn’t what you or your institution should be shooting for.

Finally, our industry has gone so far past ROI when it comes to social media that we’ve forgotten about the limited resources we have to generate revenue for our institutions!  I rarely hear people talk about time management.  Perhaps this is because our industry has downsized so much that most people are so busy chasing unicorns that it seems as if everyone is working hard!  Have we become afraid to say, “that’s not the best use of our time” for fear of being viewed as incapable of working as hard as Sue or Bob down the hall?  Saying no to non-revenue generating activities is a valued skill.

It’s refreshing to see articles that question the validity of Social Media as a revenue generating strategy.  And, it was enough to shake me out of my non-blogging ways to reengage my four readers!

Feel free to comment. I’m sure some will say that Social Media isn’t meant to generate revenue but to generate engagement. Well, what is the true, main job of a great marketer? To generate results that impact the bottom line? Or to generate minimal engagement amongst a limited segment of your customer base? To generate “likes”?  And, what if you only have time for one of these? Which do you think would save your job if it were ever on the chopping block?

Footnote 1: OK, so maybe I’ve used my own social media endeavors to uncover a unicorn or two…I have booked some speaking gigs because of what someone saw on my LinkedIn profile or because of a recommendation.  More likely, these weren’t unicorns but like a Guide Horse (aka. Miniature Helper Pony for the Blind). My social media strategies center on looking for a way to increase my visibility but in ways that wouldn’t require more resources than I had to devote…or more succinctly put, strategies that I could ignore when higher ROI activities presented themselves. This blog is great, but can be abandoned for 160+ days when sales become so busy that you can’t devote resources to maintain regular posts. Banks and CUs don’t have the luxury of abandoning their social media efforts for months at a time.

Footnote 2: I’ve been trying to figure out a way to toss this social media story into the “Internets” since I heard it in the fall of 2011 at a banking conference.  I didn’t figure out a seamless way to work it into the above post so here it is on its own in the footnotes area.

I saw a panel of bank social media experts talk about their experience with social media.  At the end of the panel discussion, an attendee asked the panel, “How do you address the question of ROI?”

The first participant to speak said, “How do you measure the ROI of a hug? Because that’s what we’re doing out there on twitter.”

Holy crap? Really? Banking may need a softer image but it’s not going to be about hugs and unicorns.

About Mark Zmarzly: Mark Zmarzly is VP of Financial Services at ACTON Marketing, and an accomplished marketing, business development, banking, and creative professional with demonstrated success solving customer acquisition, marketing, and profitability problems. He has worked with financial institutions from 1 branch up to 1,700+ branches in the areas of marketing, copywriting, account management, consulting, teaching, social media, and business development. You can find his insights on issues facing the financial industry at www.ihelpbanks.com and on Twitter @BankMarketing. You can also connect with him at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markzmarzly

Finding Social Media ROI is like Hunting a Unicorn (Part III)

Part three of four on why social media ROI is as challenging as corralling a mythical unicorn. Read Part I and Part II here.

Item 3: Sorry that you can’t see the board post on this third citation. Perhaps you’re on the board and have seen it. If not, my summary is that one person asked for “ideas to help drive people to our Facebook page.” Many people replied with ideas that worked for them to get to 1,000 likes in X number of days. The conversation on the board reminded me of this great email exchange I had with an industry contact of mine in regard to his questions about Facebook strategies and my follow up questions about what his goals are. He said:

“I’m going to have to get my Senior Management Team to agree on the ‘Goal’.  I find that a lot of my friends up this way have jumped into the Social Media craze, but when I ask them what their goal is, they have no idea.  My management team has a history of introducing new products and services, and when I ask them what the goal is, they look at me like I have ten heads.  I always ask them, ‘how will you determine if this is a success or not?’ and I just get stares.”

Unfortunately, the focus of the board post became getting “likes,” which we will assume has become the unofficial currency of most bank Social Media efforts.  I did like one poster’s closing comment to “Have fun and look for a ROI!”  Unfortunately, liking unicorns and finding unicorns are not the same thing.

ROSMI Summary: CMO, “I like unicorns.”  Another CMO, “Me, too.  Hey, look, a Leprechaun! Sorry, I’m easily distracted.  Hey, look, a shiny object.”

Item 4: If you’re not reading Dave Martin on American Banker or through his www.ncbs.com site, then you’re missing out! (Subscribe to “Dave’s Instore Newsletter” on the right side of the page…even if your financial institution doesn’t have any “in-store” branches.) I’ve never met Dave but have been reading his newsletter for years now and he’s a great blend of sales and marketing…something all marketers should strive for.

You must click and read this article…come on, you’ve come this far.  Here it is again: Dave Martin on American Banker’s Bank Think titled “Your Staff’s Time is as Valuable as the Customer’s

Here is the most important statement in that article in case you missed it or didn’t click the link despite my pleadings:

“When managers express concern about employees feeling micro-managed about their time, I smile and say, “Well, that’s easy. Don’t micro-manage.” I simply suggest that we stress to folks that their talents and desire to succeed may be unlimited. But their time is not.

Employees don’t need (and, in fact, resent) being told what to do with each minute of their day. But regularly reminding them, in word and action, that their time is a valuable asset improves the chances that they (and you) will get the most out of it.”

I was speaking to a group of college English majors last week – Yes, I’m a former English major who ended up with a decent career story so I get invited back to speak occasionally – and one of the questions was whether hard work or talent was more important to get ahead.  While I could have taken that question in any manner of different directions – creativity is king, saying no to idiots is kind of valuable, brownnosing will save us all – I answered it in the most honest fashion by stating that both are important. But, that talent and hard work must meet at a supply and demand intersection of sorts.  “Hard work” as defined by looking busy all the time and answering emails at night is no substitution for leveraging your talents to achieve high level results.  Your talents should be abundant to you but also limited to the company – if there is only one of your talents, that’s not just job security but job creation!  Then the ultimate goal is to apply your talent with focus so you’re not defined as a hard worker but as a producer of results.

Simply stated:

[Your ability to utilize your limited amount of time] X [the high-payoff talents you possess] = How you will be judged by your organization

Just because you have “social media technical skills” doesn’t mean they are high-payoff activities for your organization.  And, the ability to utilize your limited amount of time means you need to have awareness of how to create results that matter…to your employer!  Where does generating “likes” fall into this equation?  It doesn’t.

ROSMI Summary: Hunting mythical unicorns isn’t something most people are well suited for and most likely won’t become a career defining endeavor.  It’s best left to the Care Bears…or whoever hunts them…(I’m not a big Sci Fi fan so may have that one wrong).

Post four of this series wraps up this wild ride with some advice on how to put your social media efforts into proper perspective.

About Mark Zmarzly: Mark Zmarzly is VP of Financial Services at ACTON Marketing, and an accomplished marketing, business development, banking, and creative professional with demonstrated success solving customer acquisition, marketing, and profitability problems. He has worked with financial institutions from 1 branch up to 1,700+ branches in the areas of marketing, copywriting, account management, consulting, teaching, social media, and business development. You can find his insights on issues facing the financial industry at www.ihelpbanks.com and on Twitter @BankMarketing. You can also connect with him at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markzmarzly.

Finding Social Media ROI is like Hunting a Unicorn (Part II)

Part two of four on why social media ROI is as challenging as corralling a mythical unicorn. Read Part one here.

What is ROSMI?  Better put: Who is ROSMI?

Pronunciation: “Rose-Me”

Definition: a mostly mythical and poorly drawn unicorn

Pictorial Definition:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I drew this picture a few months back after my 4-year-old daughter said, “please draw a unicorn.” Me to her, “does it look like a unicorn?” Her, “not very much.” It’s amazing to think that my drawing skills peaked at age 5.

O.K., so now that you know my history with social media and the definition of Rose-Me, let’s get back to the intersection of the four items I discussed up at the top.

Item 1: Hopefully you actually clicked on the link to the great read at TheFinancialBrand.com.  If you did not, allow me to recap:

A 25-year-old bank marketer named Dave – who looks quite scary in the shadowy pictorial representation – said that social media has become an irrational quest by banks.  He said that ROI needs to be the focus of all marketing decisions instead of taking off on a wild quest for a mythical purple Unicorn.

ROSMI Summary: Every bank marketer in America, “Where is that damn mythical purple Unicorn, Rose-Me?”  Dave, “She doesn’t exist. Neither does Santa or the Easter Bunny.”

Item 2: Hopefully the four of you who are reading this also subscribe to Ron Shevlin’s excellent blog www.snarketing2dot0.com. I know at least 25% of you do as Ron is one of the four subscribers. If you are in the other 75% – i.e. you aren’t Ron Shevlin – do yourself a favor and subscribe to his blog.

On his site you can read interesting posts like this recent one that is summarized with the following:

  • Credit Union members don’t engage with their CUs…nor will they do so with large banks.
  • One-half of one percent of all Twitter users follow a bank.
  • Twitter’s usefulness is questionable when you look at the desirable outcomes of any potential marketing banks or CUs can do.
    • Ultimately, Ron sums up the post with this line: “Bank and credit union CEOs need to start asking their CMOs: Is Twitter really the best use of your department’s time and resources?”

ROSMI Summary: Bank CEO to CMO, “If you insist on taking your staff off on a trek to find this mythical unicorn, you’d better bring it back stuffed and mounted so I can show my friends.”

Stay tuned for post three, which deals with where we went wrong and the unspoken fact that people in the Social Media realm seen to want to avoid: you only have a limited amount of time to produce revenue!

About Mark Zmarzly: Mark Zmarzly is VP of Financial Services at ACTON Marketing, and an accomplished marketing, business development, banking, and creative professional with demonstrated success solving customer acquisition, marketing, and profitability problems. He has worked with financial institutions from 1 branch up to 1,700+ branches in the areas of marketing, copywriting, account management, consulting, teaching, social media, and business development. You can find his insights on issues facing the financial industry at www.ihelpbanks.com and on Twitter @BankMarketing. You can also connect with him at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markzmarzly.

Finding Social Media ROI is like Hunting a Unicorn (Part I)

This is the first of a four part series written by Mark Zmarzly (see below for his full bio). Stay tuned for the remainder of the series.

I’ve been intentionally not posting on my blog for a good reason – O.K., that’s not entirely true but I’ll talk more about that at the end of this post – but the intersection of four interesting items all surrounding social media have caused me to violate my posting moratorium.

Here is a list of the four items in the order I encountered them:

  1. Post on The Financial Brand titled “Confessions of a Social Media Skeptic
  2. Post on Snarketing 2.0 about how “Banks and Credit Unions Can Forget Twitter for Marketing
  3. A question on a bank marketing board asking other participants for “ideas to help drive people to our Facebook page.”  URL intentionally not shared to protect the innocent and not so innocent discussion participants.
  4. An article by Dave Martin on American Banker’s Bank Think titled “Your Staff’s Time is as Valuable as the Customer’s

I’ll give you a quick bit of background on my own foray into social media and then quickly move on to some comments about these four interesting items and my thoughts on how they are all related.

First, my background on using social media within the banking industry:

  1. It all started when a man by the name of Al Gore and I invented the Internet
  2. Most of my involvement in using social media within the financial services industry would be traced back to my use of LinkedIn in 2008.  An innocent invite from a friend in the technology field introduced me to this professional networking site.  Since that time I’ve grown very fond of LinkedIn; have used it to advertise industry webinars, publications, speaking gigs, etc; and have found it to be a very valuable source of industry credibility.
  3. In May of 2009, I started the Twitter handle @BankMarketing.  This project started from a small observation: that I read a sh*t ton of articles about banking and bank marketing, which many others in our industry don’t see.  I started the account the first night I was at the ABA School of Bank Marketing & Management after mentioning Kasasa  and nobody had heard of it yet.  (Confession: a Google alert on a competitor was how I knew about this product before they had done a large formal launch).  My tweets mainly consist of broadcasting what I’m reading within the industry.  The byproduct is that I’ve connected with a ton of people in the financial industry, increased by industry reach and credibility, and been exposed to a lot of writings that I might have missed.
  4. In late December of 2010 I started the now rarely maintained blog/website www.ihelpbanks.com.  My intentions for this site were to have a presence on the web outside of my employer – both at the time and the new one I was about to join – and to start advertising my speaking services within the industry.  The blogging portion of my site is underutilized because of the main point of this entire post: ROI (Return on Investment).  More correctly, I’d say ROSMI (Return on Social Media Investment).

About Mark Zmarzly: Mark Zmarzly is VP of Financial Services at ACTON Marketing, and an accomplished marketing, business development, banking, and creative professional with demonstrated success solving customer acquisition, marketing, and profitability problems. He has worked with financial institutions from 1 branch up to 1,700+ branches in the areas of marketing, copywriting, account management, consulting, teaching, social media, and business development. You can find his insights on issues facing the financial industry at www.ihelpbanks.com and on Twitter @BankMarketing. You can also connect with him at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markzmarzly

Social Banking

The infographic from ZoneAlarm which we highlighted recently warns users of security concerns related to online banking and has an interesting ranking on online activities. It lists shopping at number one, followed by banking at number two, and social networking at number six.

Actually, this kind of ranking is obsolete. In the real world these activities are distinct; in the digital world, they blend seamlessly, and the sooner professionals in every field adapt to that reality, the better.

Take shopping. Real-world retailers have long been losing market share to their online counterparts, but there’s now a host of social media tools to help them to fight back. A new generation of shoppers—the one that goes shopping with an iPhone and a million applications—can be lured away from what they’ve been doing online.

You like a dress you see in a store? Tried it on, want to buy it? Take a picture, press a button, and there’s an application that tells you instantly how many stores within a one-mile radius has the same dress at a lower price. Perfect fit, instant gratification. Or let’s say you bought a dress last week, and you happen to walking past that store again—an in-store app senses you’re close by and sends you a text: “Thanks again for buying that dress last week. And since you’re so close, if you come in within the next hour, you’ll get these shoes, which match your dress perfectly, for 40 percent off.” Talk about impulse shopping.

OK, so banking isn’t shopping. But just one generation ago, when the Internet itself emerged, remember what it did to stock trading. The economy was bubbling over back then, a ton of dot-coms was galvanizing the marketplace, and people had money to invest. So everyone from Merrill Lynch and Charles Schwab to newer players like eTrade and ScottTrade got in on the action with a raft of online trading tools. Bottom line: people got into the market because they could, they did research because they could, they traded relentlessly because they could.

Social media represents the second coming of the Internet. Retailers, educators, service providers of every stripe are scrambling to offer applications that play to their specific audiences. In many cases, this means getting customers not only to what they’ve done before, but take advantage of entirely new capabilities.

So, a year from now, what will financial institutions enable their customers to do that they can’t do now? And which companies will be first out of the gate with exciting new capabilities? Let’s speculate.