Bank Watch

As social media popularity grows, BofA beefs up staff in Charlotte

Bank of America says it is increasing its staff dedicated to social media as it also joins new social media platforms. Its latest is Pinterest, which it began using late last year.
Bank of America says it is increasing its staff dedicated to social media as it also joins new social media platforms. Its latest is Pinterest, which it began using late last year. AP

When Bank of America responds to your comment on Twitter or Facebook, odds are the person who wrote that reply works right here in Charlotte.

I learned Tuesday that the majority of the bank’s employees who staff its social media activities are based in the bank’s headquarters city. I also learned that the Charlotte operation is getting bigger.

“We are adding to the folks in Charlotte to be focused on social media,” Chris Smith, the bank’s social media head, told me in an interview. He declined to disclose how many people the bank has dedicated to social media.

The bank also has social media staff in New York, Smith said. Overall, Bank of America employs about 15,000 people in the Charlotte metropolitan area.

Smith, who left AOL to join Bank of America in 2008 and is also based in Charlotte, said the bank is beefing up its social media staff in an era when about 30 percent of people who are online are spending that time on social media.

“That’s a huge number,” he said. As that figure grows, he said, the bank has to make sure it is being useful on social media.

Bank of America is among other major U.S. companies that have adopted social media, a tool that some companies have used simply to promote their brands. Others have turned their social media accounts into ways to interact with customers, fielding questions about products and addressing complaints.

The increased use of social media by Bank of America and other corporations has others paying close attention, issuing scores and rankings that can salute or embarrass the companies.

Just this week, a ranking published on the website for Harvard Business Review lists Bank of America as one of the 50 most empathetic companies on Twitter. Bank of America was 11th. In the financial services category, only Lloyds Banking Group scored higher, at No. 9.

Bank of America’s ranking was based on two of its Twitter handles: BofA_Help, where its activity includes responding to customer questions, and BofA_News, where it posts a variety of content, from links to its own press releases to re-tweets of news stories.

A different report issued earlier this month showed Bank of America has yet to dominate some of its smaller competitors when it comes to social media performance.

For banks in particular, being on social media could help them pitch their products and services to customers at a time when many are avoiding branches and, instead, conducting their transactions on automated teller machines, smartphones and other devices.

Communicating with customers on social media, though, can come with pitfalls, as history has shown. (Think the obscene picture sent last year from US Airways’ account in response to a customer complaint.)

Smith said Bank of America’s social media team is given autonomy to post some types of content without a prior review. The bank has processes in place to make sure content that shouldn’t be put on social media isn’t, he said.

As for Bank of America’s regular employees, some of them are restricted by the bank from posting to social media, Smith said. Other banks have also put such limits in place.

For example, Bank of America does not currently allow its investment bankers unit to use social media, he said.

As Bank of America increases its social media staff, it is also pushing into new platforms.

Its most recent is Pinterest, which Smith said it began using late last year.

Roberts: 704-358-5248;

Twitter: @DeonERoberts