The B2B Social Spotlight: Jill Castilla

 

Jill Castilla

Citizens Bank of Edmond has people and businesses personally asking the CEO to take their money.  

Over Twitter.

Really.

How did a 114-year-old, single location suburban community bank get to the point of generating business over social media and compete head to head with institutions many times its size?

President and CEO Jill Castilla says the bank is thriving because she and her staff connect deeply, positively and consistently with the people, businesses, and institutions in and around Edmond and nearby Oklahoma City.

This Army vet and mother of three has kept community banking in the family. She is the 4th generation of ownership and management of the bank, founded in 1901 (before Oklahoma was even a state).

Like many banks, Citizens Bank of Edmond saw difficulty after the Great Recession. Upon returning to Edmond after stints as CFO with a community bank in Minnesota and various posts with Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, she applied the force multiplier of social media.

Leveraging it and positive messaging, Castilla and her staff have made the bank a vibrant and award-winning institution. It competes with 50 different financial institutions, yet is consistently ranked in the top five banks in the region.

Castilla was recently recognized as Woman of the Year award by the Edmond Chamber of Commerce, American Banker Top 25 Women to Watch and was named by Independent Community Bankers of America as a top social media influencer.

What did Citizens Bank of Edmond intentionally set out to do – or do differently – using social media?

I recognized early on, from my first interactions on Facebook and then Twitter, that the next interaction I had after the initial connection could go much deeper. Social Media allows a relationship to grow more quickly than even after years of being in a community. It allowed me to gain a lot of credibility, to connect with service organizations and really become a leader in the community very quickly.

Coming out of the financial crisis, I first used Social Media to optimize our search results to help shift the stories about the bank from negative to positive. From there, that was the focus: deliver positive messages, advocate for the bank, the industry and the community. So, in the beginning it was mostly me on Twitter developing relationships.

I also loved the time efficiency of having meaningful conversations while multitasking at your desk, instead of shaking hands at traditional networking events.

Social is about producing business outcomes, but it begins with developing relationships and supplying valuable content. What did Citizens Bank of Edmond do to build dialogue?

We lift other people up and offer assistance. It’s similar to overhearing someone talk about banking, your community, your industry and then interjecting your perspective/assistance. If there’s a way that you can help them — being very genuine in how you interact with them — you are accepted and welcomed into that world.

With most of my local Twitter community, we’ve gone the next step to meeting in person. It’s how I met one of my greatest mentors. I’ve been following him for a long time and then tweeted that my New Year’s resolution was to meet him. He has a huge following on Twitter, lives in my community and shares wisdom that resonates with me. His response? Let’s make it happen! Now, we meet for coffee frequently, and he’s become a great advocate for our bank and such a great resource for me.

I don’t use Social Media as a targeting mechanism to try to get particular business. I don’t promote our products and services. It’s really just being part of the conversation that people start viewing you as more of an expert, or as a resource at least, for banking, and our community.

What other tools do you use besides Twitter?

While Twitter is my Social Media of choice, we utilize Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+. I also experiment with the Social Media tool du jour so that we can stay relevant and engaged with our target audience.  We use Instagram for many of our photos when we do what we call “Cash Mobs”, which is a way we interact with some of the small businesses. It’s produced amazing results for us, including traditional media coverage.

We give money to our team to go to a particular business on a specific day. And while wearing their Citizens Bank of Edmond T-shirts, and on a prior day, coordinate with the small business so that they know that we’re coming in, our staff goes in and takes pictures, and puts it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and then that business also does the same thing.

I use LinkedIn extensively to connect with peers as well as build on relationships that start via some other interaction, either on Social Media or in real life.

Twitter is the primary driver we utilize to interact with our customers and our community. It’s an amazing way for us to connect with financial technology firms because many of them are early adopters of Twitter, and so they’ll interact with you quite a bit. In some cases, you get to be on the leading edge of adopting a new technology because they feel like they know who you are.

I just got back from a large banking conference, and it’s amazing how many vendors and bankers that I saw there that I had previously interacted with on Social Media. As a new conference attendee, having so many “friends” made it very easy to network and further deepen relationships.

How did you arrive at your content and engagement strategy?

We have a social media plan, and structure, but we have no contrived content strategy. I have never scheduled a tweet.  I enjoy being in the moment and accessible so that I can have authentic engagements.

We’ll talk about what’s happening in town beyond the events calendar. We celebrate others – it’s the whole “rising tide lifts all boats” strategy.

I think other banks can make a mistake in maybe engaging a third-party service that’s going to provide generic financial information and banking information that’s being broadcast by five thousand other people, and kind of generically put out there. We want our personality to shine through.

How have your social media activities influenced your company’s bottom line?

I can easily say yes. I probably don’t measure our success in social media like people typically track their success on social media by boasting about the number of followers or interactions. I get at least one new account per week from a relationship that originated from social media.

I consistently gain loan referrals from my interactions on Twitter and LinkedIn. It opens many doors with the prospect of millions in commercial loans for our institution. It also solidifies relationships to acquire that next loan with little to no competition. Social media has made my bank more profitable and increased our loan volume.. The possibilities to develop the pipeline through it are a gold mine.

What’s the one thing people would never know about marketing a bank?

We’re regulated, and that can be scary. But I think the thing that would surprise everyone is how much freedom you have to communicate via social media that don’t trigger the regulatory concerns.

What is one thing your social followers don’t know about you?

I love rap music. My family has rap battles at home.

What three blogs would you recommend?  

Scott Williams and bigisthenewsmall.com is my favorite.

Oomphcast.com, is an Oklahoma-based marketing podcast.

Becky McCrea, at beckymccray.com and smallbizsurvival.com, talks about entrepreneurship and small business issues.

How can people connect with you?

Twitter is super easy, @JillCastilla, and via LinkedIn. Email is the most terrible way ever.

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Do you know of other B2B marketers who are effectively integrating and using social media to fuel their businesses? I want to talk to them and share their story. Drop me a note at bob@rurelevant.com or via Twitter at @RAReed.

Twitter Interview with Jason Baer

As a lead-up to the PRSA Counselors Academy Conference, an annual meeting of independent PR agency owners (and an event I try to never miss), I interviewed social media superstar Jay Baer (@jaybaer) of Convince and Convert, who is presenting at this year’s confab. He is among a small group of forward-thinking social media strategists and luminaries who are helping the rest of us harness the  power of the social Web.

This is a recap of our conversation, matching the style of Jason’s well known Twitter interviews, on how PR agencies need to think about the practice of social and digital media.  Even if you aren’t with a PR agency, this has noteworthy information nonetheless.  It originally appeared on the PRSA blog, “Comprehension.”

@RAReed: We’re transitioning from thinking and talking about social media to doing and measuring its effect. What are agencies getting right?

  • @jaybaer: Social media is so all encompassing that it’s lost meaning to say that you’re good at social media. There are so many facets to it now.
  • The best break social media into pieces and focus on possibilities and outcomes, influence or outreach, brand community or social CRM.

@RAReed: On the flip-side, what are the biggest missteps agencies are making with social media?

  • @jaybaer: Agencies tend to silo their social expertise where they only have a couple people who are the social media experts.
  • There is too much focus on social outposts like Twitter accounts, a Facebook page or YouTube channel versus opportunities to be social.

@RAReed Larger agencies seemingly have the horse power to get a leg up on social media practices.  Where can smaller agencies catch up?

  • @jaybaer: I think smaller- and medium-sized agencies make the transition from traditional to social-enabled PR much easier than larger agencies.
  • Smaller agencies are closer to customers.  They adopt new services more easily  and can change what they do for the client with less internal friction.
  • Large agencies can dedicate staff to social media but that’s not necessarily good.  But they have clients that can experiment more.

@RAReed: What skill sets related to social media do the majority of agencies still need to develop? SEO immediately comes to mind.

  • Content optimization and analytics in all forms and fashion. It’s being better at Excel instead of Word.
  • Marketing is not a campaign any more.  Think of it more as a river and that changes everything.  Monitor and respond in real time.

@RAReed: What are you out to convey in the pre-con session that won’t be covered in the regular CA sessions?

  • @jaybaer: We’ll talk through the social media planning process to build a sustainable strategic framework around all social activities.
  • I want people to learn how to be social and not just how to do social.  Forget thinking Facebook, Twitter or Youtube.  Be tool agnostic.

@RAReed: What are the three or four most important things agencies can do to differentiate and market their social media offerings?

  • @Jaybaer: Understand the science and math of social media.  There is a lot there that people don’t gravitate toward as much as they should.
  • Know the data and numbers.  There’s a right time to tweet, a best way to update Facebook and the right way to search optimize a blog.
  • Help clients with social media CRM and customer retention more than campaigns or the customer acquisition component.
  • In the end we’ll wonder why we thought social media was good for customer acquisition when it’s clearly a loyalty and retention tool.

@RAReed:  What are the first, most important steps an agency should engage in to build its social media presence?

  • @Jaybaer: Understand what you’re good at, be specific about it and then create and atomize content that supports that supposition.
  • Whether it be blogs, podcasts, webinars, speeches, know where you have to participate in the inbound marketing domain.
  • Embrace giving away info snacks in order to eat a meal down the road.
  • Drive content awareness via search optimization. People will eventually find and recognize you as actually good at that particular thing.

@RAReed:  I need a one word answer to this last question: In 2010, when it comes to social media, PR agencies must _________.

  • I’ll have to give it to you in two words: embrace math.

Got Klout?

Kout logoI just registered myself on Klout, the analytical tool that measures the influence of Twitter users across the social web.  Klout allows users to track the impact of their opinions, links and recommendations.  Once Klout puts your Twitter stats through its algorithm, it plots you on a quadrant chart and delivers a number of statistics.

I plugged in my Twitter ID, RAReed, and before I saw the results, I already knew where I’d likely end up: border line Casual/Climber (the lower portion) and not Connector/Persona (upper portion).  Bottom line?  I need to be a much more active.

So, it got me thinking. How much does a person need to tweet and what should they tweet about?  Not a new thought, but with so many people signed on to the service, what is a healthy, valuable point of engagement?   The study conducted by Pear Analytics suggests that over 40 percent of Tweets came under the “Pointless Babble” category.  That may be true, but pointless babble scored “shitmydadsays” a CBS sitcom deal.

For the Twitterarti, you know what’s working for you.  For the rest of us making the climb or just getting started, here are some suggestions to either reign in or ramp up your visibility on Twitter.

1. Organize your daily tweets.  Do it in the morning or the previous evening.  I usually take 15 minutes at the end of the day (before I head to bed) to jot down the items that need my attention, so for me, this is a good time to assess what I want to Tweet about.  I typically look at some of the 70 some-odd feeds I subscribe to for inspiration.

2. Pick your tweet times.  To get actual work done, I look at Twitter when I look at my e-mail — morning, noon, quitting time and evening is a sane approach to sharing what’s catching my eye with my followers.

3. What to tweet. I use Twitter for business.  I tend to be more content driven, so retweeting interesting blog posts; posting relevant PR and social news stories; of the day and posting available updates to this blog are the underpinnings of my Twitter engagement.  Depending on the business you’re in, post announcements and events that could be pertinent.  You can also ask questions, but until you get enough followers, don’t expect all that many answers.

4. Mix It Up. Drilling your followers with business-related data with links to longer articles can get a bit ponderous. Recommendations from other PR and social marketing pros are to mix up your Tweets between business and personal.  I’ve learned I need to throw in some balance, such as interesting stories. Honestly, the stuff that turns me off is the near breathless updates of what someone is doing.  One of the people I follow went on about the pending acquisition of a new BMW.  Save it, please.

5. So what’s the count? By looking at the Twitter over users and underachievers through my follow list, it looks like a good daily target is between four and eight tweets per day, depending on your day.  One way around that is to deploy one the available Twitter schedulers that can send your tweet when you’re unavailable.

Like anything else, a good plan should produce good results.  I’ll let you know when I achieve some Twitter clout.