China netizens are very social media oriented, which propels many local banks to play with their flairs in this arena. Among them, Merchant Bank seems to be a super star.

A while ago, I encountered a study done by a local research firm ViewConsult to investigate total 40 banks (domestic and foreign) official presence on Sina Weibo (China’s most influential twitter like social media platform); all the data were collected and complied till July 2012. It concludes Merchant Bank is a top performer with below statistics:

1)       It has the highest number of followers, 1.81 million for all its official accounts on Sina Weibo. The second position is seized by ICBC with 324,644 fans.

2)       Only two foreign banks are managed to be listed in the top 20 ranked by total number of followers and they are:

(Position 10) DBS Bank                                 33,028

(Postion 11) Standard Chartered Bank        22,618

3)       In terms of the ability of accumulating fans, Merchant Bank still sits in the first seat in this top 20 list, and can grow 2170 followers on average on daily basis. Ok, let us do not forget these two foreign banks, as they scored pretty well again:

(Position 10)DBS Bank                                     85 followers on average daily

(Positon 13)Standard Chartered Bank            49 followers on average daily

Therefore I have been thinking what might be those secret nutrients for its social media vigor? Here comes some:

I)fast mover and forward thinker

I recall in China Merchant Bank was one of forerunners among banks to open social media account and was the first bank to debut official account on Wechat (China’s hottest social APP right now). Remember in business, if you act faster, gaining early mover advantage is often no doubt.

II)pervasively focus

China has very fragmented social media structure and coexisted several twitter like platforms. So Merchant Bank’s strategy is “I need to be present on most of them: ifeng, Tencent, Netease, Hexun, Sina etc…hello visibility means to be everywhere”.

Nevertheless since Sina Weibo is still the most dominant one, Merchant Bank treats it as the center stage of social performance. Merchant Bank in fact has opened over 19 subaccounts on Sina Weibo catered to different location, branch, business division. It is said that its credit line products have been effectively promoted via Sina Weibo.

III)Content rules

Needless to say, Merchant Bank has come up various gimmicks to curate its social media content, examples like “Finance and Horoscope”, “Do you know money needs shower too“, “Tell me your vision for our banking services with huge prize to win” etc.

So to sum up, I believe banks will and must become more and more social media savvy, not just in China. Recall last year in May, even one of the most prestigious investment banks Goldman Sachs started to twitter after that scandal of Greg Smith letter.

Some argued it is still not that clear to measure ROI of social media at this stage. Well, communicating with your customers via social media is as if spending your quality time with your beloved ones, whether there is ROI or not, you have to do that, right? And hopefully with the coming age of “big data”, there should be very sophisticated analyzing tools to help us do it in a smart way.


By Cécilia Wu
English & Chinese Editorial Manager