Facebook and Twitter aren't only for socializing or getting the word out in 140 characters or fewer. You can do your banking, too, by checking your balance, transferring money, getting customer service help and applying for a loan, all without leaving the social networks.
Efforts are in the early stages, but a handful of financial institutions, including Vantage Credit Union, Addison Avenue Federal Credit Union and Wells Fargo are making it easier for customers to conduct banking wherever they may be, including in a social network. Some are using the online communities to improve customer service while others let customers conduct transactions.
"There've been a couple of examples where we've seen people talking about us, recommending us or complaining about something and we have been able to jump into the conversation and help a member out," says Matt Fagala, online products and communities manager at Vantage Credit Union in St. Louis. "Some of us here at the credit union are on those sites 24/7 or at least late at night. It may be times business is closed but you'll still get answers to your question."
Checking balances in 140 charactersWhile 20-somethings are the primary users of social networks including Facebook and Twitter, the fastest growing segment, according to Javelin Strategy & Research, is 35- to 44-year-olds.
The financial institutions have an uphill battle in convincing wary consumers that conducting financial transactions on a social network is safe and secure, but Mark Schwanhausser, a senior analyst at Javelin Research says security isn't too much of a concern at this stage of the game. "It's no different than the kind of information being transmitted on ATM receipts," says Schwanhausser. "It's not something that would be easily picked up by someone else and exploited." Because relatively few people are using the services, it's not likely to attract the attention of criminals yet. "If it catches on, the security risk increases," he says.
Last year Vantage Credit Union launched its tweetMyMoney product, betting that customers want to conduct banking while on Twitter. The service lets customers on Twitter text the credit union to get information on their account such as balance, holds, cleared checks and even transfer money between accounts. Vantage Credit Union uses the Twitter's Direct Message feature to return the account information, which means it doesn't go out to the whole Twitter community. The credit union added an extra layer of security by incorporating authentication codes at the end of each message, says Fagala.