Drew Neisser: Growing Small Business Through Social Media

Drew Neisser: Growing Small Business Through Social Media

The CEO of Renegade, a social media and marketing agency, interviews Jennifer Spencer of PerkStreet Financial about the benefits of keeping things compact.

Drew Neisser, Renegade
  • 12 october 2012

Starting a new company can be a daunting challenge unless the entrepreneur capitalizes on the inherent advantages of being small–you can and should be more nimble, more innovative and less risk adverse.  One clear example of that approach is PerkStreet Financial, an online bank that according to Jennifer Spencer, Digital Communications and Community Manager, has “grown our customer base and our staff while spending less on traditional media to focus on how to get the biggest bang from unexpected places, like social media channels.”  I caught up with Jennifer at a recent BDI conference and found what she had to say extremely enlightening and inspiring.  Hope you do too.

Can you give me a bit of background on Perk Street?

Our CEO, Dan O’Malley, was an executive at CapitalOne, and although his career was going great, the higher he climbed at that company, the less he liked what he saw. He didn’t feel good about seeing people get into debt to ‘earn’ rewards, so he left to start PerkStreet. Our company emerged from his idea that smart spending – using a debit card, living within your means, and avoiding credit cards – should come with rewards. So he founded PerkStreet Financial in 2008, and launched our game-changing cash-back debit card. Today, we’re giving our customers over a million dollars per year in rewards for avoiding debt and spending on debit.

When I found PerkStreet (on Twitter!) I was a debit user who wasn’t getting anything back from my big bank except the runaround when I needed help and fees just to keep my money there. I loved being a customer at PerkStreet so much that I sent them my resume. That’s the kind of passion we all have working at PerkStreet, and a lot of our customer community reflects that sentiment.

So as an online financial institution, what role does social play in your marketing mix?

Opening a checking account isn’t a snap decision. Social lets potential customers join our community and get to know us before they apply. It also lets people share their excitement about earning cash back on debit, and spread our content to their friends easily.

Do you think social plays a bigger role because you are an online institution?

I think it does. I don’t know about you, but I certainly feel better about trusting my money to people who put a face behind a name. Everything we do in social, from signing our names to all Facebook responses to using Twitter at live events to help people find us quickly, does that.

How are you measuring the impact of social on your marketing?  Can you share some results? 

Our social measurement is focused on engagement. We use Google Analytics and SproutSocial to pull those numbers together for us. We are always testing, and seeing what messages perform best in which channels, and what that means as far as traffic to our blog, our site, and applications. We get a lot of current customer traffic to our blog, for instance – Facebook is the largest driver of traffic to our blog this quarter, followed by Twitter at 2nd, and Pinterest at 5th.

A lot of banks/financial institutions  are still afraid of social from a compliance/regulatory standpoint. How are you all overcoming those concerns?  Does it come from having a start-up mentality?

I think it comes more from every department understanding how important it is to our brand and our business to make connections with our community. Our compliance team really “gets it” when it comes to social, and having open communication with them helps. We respect what the other is trying to do and we collaborate to find ways we can work together, since ultimately it will benefit our company and our customers.

Can you give my readers an example of 1 or 2 social programs that you have done that really worked well for you?

Any time we use social to gather user generated content, it’s a success. Our graphics team is doing some really great stuff with inspirational quotes to help spark conversation (here’s one our fans loved!) and we’ve used VideoGenie to let our customers easily record their own stories for us to add to our website.

Is social also a customer service channel for you?  If so how does that fit into your overall plan?

Social is a customer service channel as well. Any place where customers can ask questions then becomes a customer service channel, and we need to be there to respond. We use tools like SproutSocial and HelpScout to assign tickets among the social and customer service teams so we can get the best answer out as quickly as possible. With so many banks out there getting slammed for terrible customer service, social channels are a low barrier way for potential customers to see how we treat our current customers. It’s all part of people joining PerkStreet not just because we have good banking products, but because they see that being a PerkStreet customer is a great experience.

Are you doing things with visual channels like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr?  If so, what / why and did they achieve your goals?

As far as visual social media, we’re sticking with Pinterest for right now (although the Timeline update to Facebook has arguably made that a visual channel.) No one likes to talk about personal finance, but people are always talking about the things finance affects: home, heart, and health. That kind of content is getting shared like crazy on Pinterest, and we’re excited to be a trusted resource for it.  Our goals for Pinterest, while we still get to know the medium, include driving traffic and using what we find there to inspire visual content on our blog, both of which have happened.

You talked about quarterly planning-can you elaborate on your campaign approach to social?

We don’t have a campaign approach to social, but rather a social approach to campaigns. As I mentioned above, we do a lot of engagement measuring. We take that into consideration as we approach a campaign, and figure out what messages work best in which channels. A campaign has to move beyond social, even if it starts there.

What kinds of social things are on your radar for 2013? Or what’s on your social wish list? Bigger footprint?  More engagement? Better analytics?

Like most folks who work with Facebook every day, “more data from Facebook” is always at the top of my wishlist. Right under “Commute to work by unicorn.” Seriously, though, I think the road ahead for PerkStreet will involve more ways we can engage current and potential customers on a very personal level. That might look like an expanded Twitter presence, online chats, and lots of video.

It’s unusual for a financial institution to feature customer testimonial videos on their homepage.  Can you tell me about how you gathered these and the rationale behind it?

For the “Share Your Story” campaign, we awarded the first 50 video submitters an extra $10 in perks in their accounts to help us get the ball rolling. We used VideoGenie to make it easy for our customers to create and submit videos to us, and also accepted submissions from their own cameras or phones, as well as quotes and photos for the video-shy. In the end we received over 200 unique submissions from our customers in about two weeks, with most of them coming in a few days. During the peak, we were getting submissions on average every 8 minutes. There was so much good stuff in there, we couldn’t help but feature it on our homepage.

Do you think these videos have had a measurable impact on new customer acquisition?

We are still testing this homepage to see how it’s impacting conversion. I don’t have any conclusive data to release about it, but if I had to guess, I would say it has performed well from a conversion perspective. There’s little that makes people feel more comfortable about a product than being able to hear from someone they can identify with that the product is working for them. On some level, that’s what social media marketing is all about. Testimonials and reactions from authentic sources influence people all the time in social channels. One thing I love about that homepage is that the content was made by real people in their living rooms, and you can tell immediately. It’s incredibly authentic, because it’s real.

I love all the interesting content on your blog. Do you see this more as a retention tool versus an acquisition one?

It really serves as both in a very interconnected way. A lot of people find our blog when looking for good, frugal life advice and it leads them to learn more about us, to build a deeper relationship, and ultimately, to open an account. Our blog also supplies great information to our current customers, and gives them added value beyond just our banking products. They visit the blog, learn from it and then share our content with their friends, who learn more about us and open accounts of their own. This way, the cycle begins again. Ultimately, we believe that even if we’re measuring our performance by new account acquisition, we are doing a better job all around if what we’re sharing adds to customer retention and loyalty. No matter what your goals are, content is always going to serve a multiplicity of roles. This fact can’t be ignored or the cycle breaks down.

Originally published on The Drew BlogRepublished with kind permission.

Image via The Drew Blog


How Indiegogo Is Becoming An Adult Product Destination

Home september 23, 2016

Watch This Fire Pit Dance Along To Your Favorite Song

Music City Fire is a system that is designed to flicker in time to ambient music

Automotive september 23, 2016

Slick GPS Navigator Gives Directions To Moped Riders

This small, round device attaches to a sideview mirror to display maps for safer traveling


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Home september 23, 2016

A Clock That Beautifully Manages Your Information Overload

The wall-mounted timekeeper is made to help people maintain focus and stay up to date with their appointments

Arts & Culture september 23, 2016

Performance Piece Blends Dancers Into Folds Of Light

The work provides commentary on the increasing connection between programmed and analog dimensions

Related Expert

Nuala O’Connor

Internet Law, Policy, Advocacy

Design & Architecture september 23, 2016

Design Firm Adapts Childhood Homes For Unemployed Young Adults

The studio has unveiled three prototypes of transformed living spaces for people forced to move back in with their families

Health september 23, 2016

These Chocolate Squares Claim To Reverse The Aging Process

A group of researchers from Cambridge University have developed a candy bar that promises to give you a youthful glow

Cities september 23, 2016

Food-Producing Architecture Competition Seeks To Better Feed Cities

A design challenge in Copenhagen highlights the need and beauty of urban farming


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed september 21, 2016

Creative Agency Founder: Using VR As A Race Relationship Tool

Maurice Bernstein, CEO and Founder of Giant Step, explores the value in transforming headsets from high-tech entertainment tools into empathy machines

PSFK Labs september 22, 2016

The Future Of Work: Why Innovation Is Every Employee’s Job

PSFK Labs sits down with management at Johnson & Johnson to learn how the company comes up with their next ‘big idea’

Health september 23, 2016

Wearable Monitors Sun Exposure To Prevent Sunburn

The clip monitors UV rays to make sure you're not receiving too much sunlight

Op-Ed september 23, 2016

Productivity Expert: The Magic Of The Five-Hour Workday

Stephan Aarstol, Founder of Tower Paddle Boards, explains why the modern notion of office hours needs to evolve

Culture september 23, 2016

This Exhibition’s Crowning Jewel Is An 18k Gold-Plated Toilet

The piece, titled 'America,' is meant to raise questions about the country's wealth inequality

Culture september 23, 2016

Match Up With Dates On Tinder Based On Your Music Preferences

A new partnership with Spotify lets people pair up based on shared tastes in artists

Entertainment september 23, 2016

Capture, Cut Up, And Configure Your World In 360 Degrees

To meet a booming 360 and VR video-capturing industry, a multimedia software company bolstered its media editing suite for 360-video creation


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Advertising september 23, 2016

These Trucks Drove Around In Circles For 24 Hours To Keep Time

The giant ticking clock was created by 14 Scania vehicles in a deserted airfield

Advertising september 23, 2016

Buy Movie Tickets Directly From Your Facebook Profile

The new feature is part of a campaign from Fandango to further imbed social media into the ticket vendor's digital presence

Asia september 23, 2016

Co-Working Space Brings The Calming Atmosphere Of Nature Indoors

An architectural firm in China has designed a new type of shared office that prioritizes the natural environment

No search results found.