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Should you social network with your bank?

"It's just any easy way to get information," says Fagala of tweetMyMoney. "If you want a quick look at your account or quickly move money it takes 30 seconds by sending a text message."

In April 2008, the technology company Fiserv, in Brookfield, Wis., came out with its MyMoney application, which lets banks offer customers a way to view account balances, review history, transfer money between accounts and even apply for loans while logged in to Facebook. Like Vantage Credit Union, Fiserv says it's a convenience that banks can now offer its customers. "People spend 25 minutes a day on Facebook, and this allows them to access information from the site they are already in," says Scott Bowen, manager of business development at Fiserv.

Social networks educate, placate

Addison Avenue Federal Credit Union, in Palo Alto, Calif., is also a user of social networks, using Facebook, Twitter and discussion boards to educate customers, improve customer service and to reach out in the case of an emergency. The credit union isn't using it as a way to conduct banking, but it is coming out with a banking application in the coming months for the iPhone that will enable you to conduct banking transactions, find ATMs and branches from your iPhone. The application, which will be free, will include feeds from Twitter and the ability to read and participate in discussion groups.

Currently Addison Avenue Federal Credit Union hosts a series of group discussions forums on its website, focusing on everything from how to pay off debt to suggestions to make the credit union better. The credit union also uses Facebook and Twitter as a way to contact members in the case of an emergency, which was the case this past February. A power outage left the credit union without phones so it turned to Facebook and Twitter to get the word out.

Credit unions and community banks aren't the only ones dabbling in social networking. Large banks including Wells Fargo of San Francisco are using social networks in part to improve customer service.

Wells Fargo's Twitter feed lets customers ask questions in real time, which according to Kimarie Matthews, vice president, customer advocacy and loyalty, enables the bank to be on the ground listening and responding to customer needs and in some cases resolving issues within minutes of it happening.

"Social networks are a place people are talking and engaging in," says Matthews. "It's another place that we are listening and trying to help."

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