Tweeting in the Financial World

by Michael Hubbard on September 2, 2010

in Social Media

Disclaimer:  Please do not try this at home.  We’d rather you learned from our test than actually make your brand go through this.

I wanted to share with you a little test that we did with a financial client of ours on Twitter.  As financial clients are typically pretty tight lipped, they asked that I not share their name in this post – but they did give me the ok to share my learnings.  I think a lot of you in the social space will enjoy this…

About a year ago, we set up a Twitter account for one of our clients – and the goal was really nothing more than extending their brand reach to consumers who might be exploring the social space.  There was no major sales initiative. The basis of the content was simply tweeting out the content & titles of their blog posts whenever they made updates.  We outreached to active investors who were participating in the twitter universe already, and once we reached 1,000 followers, we essentially let it run itself.  Within no time, we had surpassed 1,500 followers and were being retweeted a number of times a day.  The client still had doubts as to what the value of this extended reach was – so we ran a little test for them.  We shut down their content and completely ignored their twitter account for months (don’t worry current clients – this was an approved plan – we won’t do this to you!).  When the client was satisfied that their twitter account was forgotten by the industry, we turned it back on…   Here is what happened after the first 2 weeks of going live with social media again (and keep in mind, there was no increase in external variables such as paid ads – so this is All Twitter):

  • Traffic to their site from Twitter grew 443.75%.
  • Overall Google Organic traffic  has grown 11.54%
  • Overall Google Organic traffic from our clients brand name has grown 98.18%
  • Overall Organic search traffic only grew 3.24% – amazingly enough – Bing dropped 66.25%!  All other search engines increased.
  • Their “direct” traffic increased 7.74%
  • Overall visits, pageviews, pages/visited, average time on site and bounce rate all improved.

The numbers so far have been staggering, and we’re going to keep this test going for a while longer so that it encompasses the same amount of time that they were inactive to the time it resumed…   But if it makes sense to you that their traffic to their site from Twitter would improve by over 400% – why in people’s right minds would they start a social media campaign and then not do anything with it…  Especially when you see the brand lift and all-in-all overall improvement on their analytics.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Morgan Siem September 3, 2010 at 8:24 am

What’s so interesting about this case study is that this client wasn’t even using social media in a participatory or truly social manner. If these are the results from simply feeding blog updates into a twitter account, then imagine the potential impact when you factor in a social media strategy, outreach efforts and social media accounts managed by dedicated personnel.

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Michael Hubbard Michael Hubbard September 3, 2010 at 8:44 am

That’s probably worth clarifying a little bit… The majority of content continues to be the blog post headlines, however, the restart of the campaign has active engagement including RT’s, outreach and a little personal flare…

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Nathan September 3, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Was this was the start of a campaign/relaunch? Is there a baseline you were working from that factored other media or pushes? More importantly, have these increased metrics turned into real dollars and what was the cost to convert them??

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Michael Hubbard Michael Hubbard September 3, 2010 at 1:16 pm

All great questions! This was a campaign relaunch, and there was definitely a baseline. As there was/is no external media going on other than twitter, it was very clear that just one variable has changed.

As for the “real dollars” – that is yet to be determined. The leads that are coming in will take time for them to close into accounts, but what we will ultimately weigh is the cost of our time to manage the social media account versus the number of leads that come in, and that will give us our cost per lead. We know what the CPL is on a straight media buy – and although a lot of people think social media is “free”, the cost to maintain it is always something.

That will give us a CPL to CPL comparison, and then we’ll rely on the brokerages to provide feedback on the quality of the lead. One interesting stat on the quality is that the majority of traffic (~90%) coming from twitter is US or Canada, which is a more desirable audience for financial institutions that are regulated on where they can market to.

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Wendy Greene September 3, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Thank you for this – it’s not too often I come across social media results related to the financial services industry. Could you expand on the third point you make – “Overall Google Organic traffic from our clients brand name has grown 98.18%?”

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Michael Hubbard Michael Hubbard September 3, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Absolutely – and I feel your pain :) . What we see a lot out of social media is random increases to our brand searches, or increases to unknown traffic. This particular traffic was specifically for the clients brand name. For example, we’ll pretend it’s brand name is “Financial Client”. When we drilled down in Google Analytics for “Financial Client”, we can pull apart paid versus organic traffic, and we can see the number of searches on the specific keywords for just Google’s Organic search traffic. What we saw was a 98% increase on people coming to the site via Google organic search results for the name “Financial Client” versus the time period before. So 98% more visitors.

This was interesting to us because a lot of times its hard to say why people are searching on your brand name, but in this particular case, the ONLY variable that was different was that we were tweeting out from our brand. We are not drawing conclusions, but it is a number that is sticking out greatly, and if the trend continues, it is going to draw us to conclude that Twitter helps this clients brand recognition.

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Brian McDonald September 7, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Great analysis and thanks for extra clarification in comments. Speaks volumes to having a good branding strategy that increases your brand value using social web. Thanks for sharing the lesson learned here Michael!

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Michael Hubbard Michael Hubbard September 7, 2010 at 1:55 pm

My pleasure – thanks for the feedback!

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Ryan September 7, 2010 at 5:42 pm

So many questions, so little time..

1. If the Twitter account had been “forgotten about” (i.e. zero traffic) than a 443% increase might not mean that much in pure numbers right?

2. I am assuming in the new campaign you pushed Twitter messages directly to the database of 1,500 followers that previously exited correct? If so, doesn’t that diminish the results in that not everyone starting a social media campaign from scratch has a “built-in” audience to tap? Few people have that luxury and must build organically from 0 making big immediate results unreasonable.

3. Twitter up 443% but organic search up only 3.2%?? Granted, 2 weeks is not enough time to get traction as far as SEO is concerned but I hope you are not insinuating that people throw out page optimization and other tried and true marketing efforts (Paid search, targeted email campaigns, etc) and focus Social Media.

4. Finally, what about conversions? Page views are fine but like Nathan, I am curious about actual conversions. Did you see a lift in whatever the goal was (new accounts, new appointments, product literature downloads, etc)? Surely the goal wasn’t just “pageviews’.

In short, whenever I see percentages…especially for new campaigns that start at zero, my antenna goes up. This is especially so when they are so dramatically skewed in one direction and presented by a group that would benefit from such a skew. Like you, I would be very curious to see how these numbers look 3 months from now.

Not trying to be a wet blanket but like they always say; if it seems to good to be true, it usually is.

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Michael Hubbard Michael Hubbard September 7, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Without criticism and scrutiny, there would be no advancement in our industry! Although I was quick to put the disclaimer on that this was very initial in the campaign, and only time would tell if this held up, I like the questioning and I’m happy to answer as much as I can… So to your questions above, here are some responses:

1. Although the account had not fallen completely to zero traffic, it was definitely left for dead. This goes without saying that an account that gets attention will do better than one that gets no attention, but I think the point I was trying to make here was more about all too often businesses start their social media strategy, and then they never see it through. You will get the benefit if you put the time and effort into it. That 443% number is the only number I’m confident that it will continue to rise.

2. Yes – the new push went to the original 1,500 followers that were already built up. I agree, most can’t start from that number, but again, this goes more towards the point of why not continue to engage with the people you’ve put your time and resources into building relationships with.

3. I am not… I repeat – I am not insinuating anything of the such – I am simply stating the numbers that appear in their Google Analytics account. That being said – I am a huge proponent of the benefits of social media to build your SEO prominence – primarily to aid in the distribution of search friendly content… But like everything here at Media Two – there is a proper mix that goes with everything. Don’t forget proper structure, don’t forget link strategies, don’t forget meta data, etc… The advent of universal search has given many social media guru’s quick fame, but the second the content stops – so does their SEO prominence… But this can all be another post in it’s own…

4. Conversions are what I ultimately care about in the end… In this particular case, we can only see leads, and what we’re more interested in is opened accounts. As those take more time, and more human touch points, one of the things we will be anxiously watching is do the leads that come in via Twitter close faster than say a banner ad or a paid search ad. The reason we even care about additional brand recognition or searches is for the final ROI – and at this point – I don’t know if we’ve achieved this (or if they’re going to allow me to share the real numbers when the test is done).

Trust me, I’d like nothing more than to share numbers, but the reality of most case studies are “real” numbers are not used as businesses are too concerned about sharing confidential results… Again – I never worry about the doubters, especially when we’re just talking about numbers – so feel free to keep the conversation going!

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Michael Hubbard Michael Hubbard December 2, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Here is an update of stats 3 months later… None of the major variables changed from my initial report – however, we did play with a series of different types of twitter interactions from scheduled, to RT’s to simple conversation etc. The month of November we went back to simply auto posting, and we found that our numbers were horrible (no accounts generated – not one!). So our audience of twitter followers increased by a net 350, but they also came to expect more from our content. Here’s a look at how the numbers now look now that they’re more statistically relevant than just 2 weeks of data (even with a bad month of November testing to our “credit”):

Traffic to their site from Twitter: Was +443.75%. NOW +493.33%
Overall Google Organic traffic: Was +11.54%. NOW +9.36%
Overall Google Organic traffic from our clients brand name: Was +98.18%. NOW +29.35%
Overall Organic search traffic only: Was +3.24%. NOW -3.11%
Their “direct” traffic: Was +7.74%. NOW -2.54%
Overall visits, pageviews, pages/visited, average time on site and bounce rate all improved. STILL THE SAME.

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