Social Media, Mobile Were Beacons in Storm

By Adams, John | American Banker, August 30, 2011 | Go to article overview

Social Media, Mobile Were Beacons in Storm


Adams, John, American Banker


Byline: John Adams

A few years ago, a consumer walking around in a hurricane in search of a working ATM would have relied on luck and word of mouth. That was before Twitter.

"Bracing Irene to walk to Boylston, where are the ATMs?" a TD Bank customer in Boston Tweeted this weekend.

Moments later, the bank responded with the web address of a mobile site that showed active automated teller machine locations.

The simple exchange shows the power of new technologies such as mobile devices and social media to keep customer-facing operations up and running during a disaster.

Banks can use social networks and mobile banking platforms to connect staff in safe locations with customers in areas affected by a storm like Hurricane Irene, or another adverse event that knocks out the consumer's power or disables the bank's local branch or ATM.

Mobile and social media "provide more ways to communicate," says Sean Kevelighan, head of consumer communications at Citigroup Inc.

The company used social media sites to announce closures of some branches in the New York area over the weekend as well as to send updates as the storm progressed on Saturday and Sunday.

Other Tweets to TD Bank, whose branch locations include most of Irene's path, had queries on disabled check deposit services at an ATM in Silver Spring, Md., and the status of a temporarily closed store in Edgewater, N.J.

TD Bank says that beyond some limited power outages, it was "business as usual" at the bank. But for consumers who may not have immediately known that, mobile phones and social media sites allowed TD Bank to quickly disseminate information to people who were away from their homes - or in places where the electricity was shut off - without burdening call centers.

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