The Social CEO

Here’s the kind of Americana we all love: Citizens Bank of Edmond, Oklahoma, is actually older than Oklahoma. The bank opened its doors in April 1901, while the state took another six years to be born.

Here’s more: At the time of the bank’s founding, the town of Edmond had only about 1,000 residents, and Citizens stood at 102 S. Broadway. Today the population is around 90 times that size, and the original location is on the National Register of Historic Places. The bank moved through a merger to a new location in 1914—to be clear, that’s 102 years ago—and it’s been bustling ever since.

And here’s one last piece of cool trivia: President and CEO Jill Castilla is the fourth generation of her family to hold a leadership position with the bank.

So with all that history, can Citizens break new ground in today’s business world? Indeed it can, and does. That’s because the boss is a social media dynamo.

Ms. Castilla is ranked #1 by the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) in its list of Twitter influencers. She’s also been named one of the “Most Admired CEOs in Oklahoma,” “Most Innovative CEOs in Banking,” “Community Banker of the Year” and “Most Powerful Women in Banking” in 2015. During her tenure, she has transformed the company from having virtually no digital audience to more than 40,000 views on YouTube and 30,000-plus followers who engage with the bank through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

She will be there to talk about all these initiatives and others at #BankSocial, or the Bank Social Media Conference, set for April 7-8 in Newark, N.J. It’s the only event dedicated specifically to social media and content marketing for banks and credit unions, with a speakers’ roster that includes best-selling authors, cutting-edge data scientists, and industry leaders. It’s the ideal environment to network and build, and the agenda covers everything from success stories to lessons learned.

Ms. Castilla surely has a treasure trove of stories in every category. “Our tradition is not something we shy away from—we leverage our rich history to develop creativity and progressiveness,” she emphasizes.” During its storied past, Citizens has overcome challenges from the Great Depression to the most recent recession, and in the process it has become, she says, “the MacGyver of banking.” That’s a true problem solver.

“Social media can be very intimidating for many bankers,” she notes, since they see it as a social capability rather than the source of business opportunities. Facebook pages can indeed draw negative comments, but they also offer a chance to engage with the customer and present the bank’s point of view directly, in a transparent manner. Without such efforts, those negative sentiments would still be out there, but lack a response.

With active social media outreach, Citizens Bank of Edmond has reduced its marketing budget while increasing its points of contact. A typical event with regular promotion draws a crowd of 20,000.  “Heard on Hurd,” the Citizens’ community appreciation event, drew more than 100,000 attendees in 2015 and generated more than $2.4 million in economic activity.

Citizens also uses its social media programs to initiate contact with new businesses setting up in town. It serves as a civic booster for the town and gains visibility in the process. It clearly conveys the impression that it is technologically superior to its competitors and in step with its customer base. Finally, the CEO says she gets most of her industry information from her Twitter feed.

Yet for all those successes, Ms. Castilla says she personally spends barely 15 minutes a day on the different social platforms. Her talk at #BankSocial will go a little longer, and it’ll definitely be worth the time.

Written by Jack Dougal

Jack Dougal

Jack Dougal is's resident news reporter. He writes regular blogs covering the latest stories and key developments in the global financial services industry.

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