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Did Australia’s Royal Commission KO the big four bank’s social media?

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It’s tough work competing in the Australian banking sector. Competition in Australia’s ‘heavyweight’ division is particularly challenging. The Australian banking ‘heavyweight’ division is made up of the ‘big four’ – ANZ, Commonwealth (CBA), National Australia Bank (NAB) and Westpac. The Australian banking heavyweights ‘control just over 80% of all owner-occupier home loans and 85% of all investor housing loans’.

Why 2018 was a challenging year for the big four banks social media

The social media teams of the big four are always aware of what the competition is doing. In-depth social insights are critical when seeking incremental growth opportunities in a competitive industry.

2018 was a challenging year for Australia’s big four banks. At the end of 2017, the Australian government created the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. The Royal Commission received over ten thousand submissions with 61% focused on the banking industry.

unsplash-logoJonas Leupe

The Royal Commission’s Executive Summary (published September 2018) stated the Commission’s work ‘has shown conduct by financial services entities that have brought public attention and condemnation. Some conduct was already known to regulators and the public generally; some was not’.

Mike Tyson, a former heavyweight champ said, ‘everybody’s got a plan until they get hit in the mouth’. In the court (ring?) of public opinion, the Royal Commission effectively hit Australia’s big four banks in the mouth.

The two questions used to analyse the big four banks social data

The two questions I formulated to analyse the big four banks social media data includes:

  1. Would the negative media generated by the Royal Commission impact the number of posts/tweets published and fans/audience engagement?
  2. Based on the insights from the data examined above, would the social media performance of big four banking brands stand out from its peers? 

Report methodology

Working with Shareablee, a social intelligence platform, I pulled social account data from the big four branded accounts/pages in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram between January 2014 to October 2018. The Commission submitted its interim report at the end of September 2018. The report does not include dark ads.

For the purposes of this report, I focused on two primary metrics to assess possible changes in 2018 behaviour/performance posts/tweets published and total actions by fans/audience.

Pulling data from 2014 was essential to create a sufficient level of context to interpret the 2018 social data. Long-term trends/insights can be used to place short-term performance into context. Let’s start with comparing the 2018 (January to October) data with the 2017 (January to October) data.

Comparing year on year social data

Chart 1 (see below) explores the year on year (YOY) differences in publishing posts/tweets collectively among the big four banks. 

With the exception of January and February, there is a notable decrease in year on year (YOY) posts/tweets published. An average  -34% between January and October.

Created by Mike Hickinbotham (@m_hickinbotham)

The other point of interest is the similar shape of the 2017 and 2018 lines running along the x-axis. While overall publishing is down, the similar x-axis lines indicate the Royal Commission may have dampened versus KO’d publishing behaviours. 

The release of the Royal Commission’s interim report in September may have temporarily caused the big four banks to stumble. September 2018 experienced the greatest YOY differential of -64% (see chart 1 above). In contrast, September 2017 resulted in the third greatest number of posts in 2017.

Chart 2 (see below) demonstrates an average -64% YOY in total actions. Again, the 2017 and 2018 x-axis lines follow a similar monthly pattern. The -64% YOY decrease in total actions is considerable and may be an indication of the impact the Royal Commission had on the big four banks fans/audience.

Created by Mike Hickinbotham (@m_hickinbotham)

Upon first impressions, it appears the Royal Commission had a strong influence on both the YOY decreases. When incorporating data from 2014, a long-term trend appears with the big four banks posts/tweets published and total actions both declining (see chart 3 below).

Total numbe rof Facebook, Instagram posts and Twitter tweets that were collectively published by Australia's big four banks from January 2014 to October 2018. The line profiles the collective number of total actions from the big four branded accounts in Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Created by Mike Hickinbotham (@m_hickinbotham)

Taking a longer-term view provides greater context to assess the impact the Royal Commission had on the 2017-2018 YOY decrease in posts/tweets distributed and total actions.

The bar chart below (see chart 4) presents a view into the yearly decline in collective posts/tweets published by brand. 

Created by Mike Hickinbotham (@m_hickinbotham)

The shift from organic to paid social, decreasing user engagement in social media and prioritising resources for publishing on branded accounts are all reasonable explanations that explain the long-term trend for decreasing publishing and audience engagement. If you have additional thoughts that explain the collective decrease in publishing, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Why NAB had a standout social media performance in 2018

A decrease in publishing may also be part of an industry move to prioritise quality over quantity. Using an Actions per Post metric (total actions divided into posts/tweets published), the big four banks earned YOY increases until 2018, the year of the Royal Commission (see chart 5 below).

Created by Mike Hickinbotham (@m_hickinbotham)

When reviewing the Actions per Post of the individual big four brands, NAB is the only bank that experienced positive YOY growth (22%) in 2018. NAB’s competitors all experienced a similar YOY decrease (roughly 60%) in Actions per Post in 2018.

From an Actions per Post perspective, NAB’s 2018 performance stands out from its banking heavyweight peers (see chart 6 below).

Created by Mike Hickinbotham (@m_hickinbotham)

In 2017 and 2018, NAB has a notable decrease of almost -60% YOY decrease in the number of posts/tweets published while still earning an increase in actions per post. A decrease in posts published can positively impact the average. A review of the 2018 posts with the highest number of total actions shows NAB published seven of the top ten most engaged posts (see chart 7 below).

Created by Mike Hickinbotham (@m_hickinbotham)

The highest performing content occurred in April and August 2018. The April 2018 content came from NAB’s involvement in the Special Olympics. The August 2018 content came from NAB’s sponsorship of the AFL. The most engaged post between January and October 2018 was NAB congratulating the 2018 NAB AFL Rising Star – Jaidyn Stephenson. In a year where the Royal Commission loomed over the banking industry, NAB effectively leveraged its external partnerships (with sporting organisations).

Congratulations to the 2018 NAB AFL Rising Star, Jaidyn Stephenson!

Posted by NAB on Thursday, 30 August 2018

Why ANZ had a standout social media performance in 2018

As a measure of central tendency, the mean (or average) is useful as it takes into account every data point to form one value. This benefit can also become a problem as outliers or posts that significantly outperform the majority of other posts can skew the data.

If NAB’s content strategy focused on partnering with external partners to produce ‘tentpole’ moments, then using an average will capture the results of this strategy. ANZ was second in average total actions at 245. Westpac (193) and CBA (189) rounded out the rest of the big four.

As a measure of central tendency, the median (or mid-point) is useful as it negates the influence overperforming or outlier data has on the value. For example, if six people in a room all roughly earn a $100,000 yearly salary the median and the average will be around $100,000. If someone making $1,000,000 a year in salary enters the room, the average salary jumps up to over $200,000. The median (mid-point) remains at roughly $100,000.

ANZ’s median total actions in 2018 were 96 from 411 posts/tweets published in 2018 (January to October). Westpac and CBA were next with a respective median of 57 (from 193 posts/tweets) and 55 (from 189 posts/tweets). The NAB had the lowest median at 36 from 215 posts/tweets.

The ANZ produced 36% of posts that generated between 0 to 99 total actions. The ANZ produced 51% of posts that produced between 100 to 199 total actions and 50% of posts between 200 to 299 actions per post. The ANZ  published 41% of the big four’s 2018 posts.

By examining the shape of the data, we can see the average based advantage experienced by NAB and the median based advantage experienced by ANZ. See chart 8 below to compare and contrast the shape of the NAB’s and ANZ’s data. 

Created by Mike Hickinbotham (@m_hickinbotham)

In conclusion

Let’s revisit the two questions used to analyse the big four’s social data.

Question 1 

Would the negative media generated by the Royal Commission impact the number of posts/tweets published and fans/audience engagement?

It appears the Royal Commission accelerated the decrease in posts/tweets published. Although the decrease in publishing is a trend that has occurred since 2014. 

Similar to posts/tweets published, there is a long-term trend that shows total actions had been decreasing since 2014.  Although the -67% 2018 YOY decrease in total actions was the largest YOY decrease. The extent of the decrease may be a result of the Royal Commission’s negative media coverage. To assess the real impact of the Royal Commission, this social data should be compared against channel/brand/customer metrics to assess if the findings in the report are consistent with other customer-based data points. 

Question 2

Based on the insights from the data examined above, would the social media performance of a big four bank stand out from its peers?

Using average as the central tendency, NAB stands out as the clear leader. Using median as the central tendency, ANZ stands out as the clear leader.

If you read this far, congratulations. Here’s the key takeaway …

While social media competitive intelligence is interesting, social insights become actionable when assessed in context with a brand’s social media strategy. Brands ultimately need to take care in selecting the metrics and form on performance analysis that best applies to its social media and content strategy.

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