Regulatory concerns and loss of control are the main reasons for inertia toward social media in the banking sector, according to the Social Media: Catching up with the Banks report from MHP Communications. Over half (52 percent) cite regulatory issues as an area for concern with 56 percent believing loss of control to be the greatest issue with social media engagement.

The vast majority of banks (73 percent) think that compared with other industries they are behind but catching up in their social media activity. No bank thinks they are doing a better job than most, reflecting the cautious attitude and insecurity towards social media that is deep-seated within the industry.

But the sector realizes that social media will not disappear: 16 percent have a social media strategy in place, 28 percent are in the early stages of implementation, and 41 percent are in the process of creating a social media strategy. This compares with 3 percent who have decided against a social media strategy and 13 percent who haven’t started thinking about it.

For the majority of banks social media is about building awareness with customers (61 percent) and creating visibility with partners (55 percent). Nearly 50 percent see social media as an extended PR tool or one that should help strengthen relations with the “traditional” media.

Nevertheless, for the majority of respondents, print coverage in national newspapers has the highest impact on their reputation and brand. Broadcast exposure comes next, print coverage in a trade publication is third with a blog mention fourth, Twitter mentions fifth and, finally, wall posts, viral videos and other social media ‘buzz’ coming last.

When assessing the importance of the various social media platforms over the next 12 months, Twitter is the clear winner; 58 percent of the bank respondents think the platform will become more or much more important, compared with 48 percent who think LinkedIn will become more or much more important.

According to Andrew Nicolls, managing director at MHP: “The banking industry has acknowledged the potential of social media and banks are increasingly stepping up activity in this space. There are now a host of successful examples of how banks can benefit from carefully planned social media engagement programmes. These range from improving corporate reputation to creating a better customer experience to using platforms as easily accessible news distribution channels.

“At the same time social media has become so common that it is now by definition mainstream, and the line between traditional and digital media has undoubtedly blurred at the edges.”