Not a bot at BofA, just what "social banking" looks like

So people seem to think the Bank of America Twitter account set up to "help" you with your account is a bot. My money would be on a flesh and blood human but we will probably never know if @BofA_Help was sending out automated tweets, not that you would not be able to tell the difference anyway, writes Billy Bambrough

So people seem to think the Bank of America Twitter account set up to "help" you with your account is a bot. My money would be on a flesh and blood human but we will probably never know if @BofA_Help was sending out automated tweets, not that you would not be able to tell the difference anyway, writes Billy Bambrough

This rumour started on 6 June when tweeter @dathmarkh posted a picture of his chalk artwork outside BofA HQ. After another Tweeter joined in the conversation, @BofA_Help responded with a stock account issue reply, asking if there was anything the bank could do to help.

The tweet went semi-viral and many more people replied to @BofA_Help with increasingly mocking and accusatory messages. The bank, or should I say the junior marketing person, continued to respond with the stock answers that had been meticulously crafted by the marketing team months ago.

I have long said that banks and social networks do not mix. There are a very limited number of things you can interact with your bank about on Twitter. You can thank them for something, to which they will gleefully reply and re-tweet you (hurray, free marketing!); you can ask them which number to call to speak to someone, to which they will dutifully save you a Google search and tweet you a number, and, finally, you can rage at them.

This is what most people do on Twitter most of the time anyway, why wouldn’t people do it to their bank? The bank, not just @BofA_Help but any bank, will respond with a reasonable, robotic reply, politely asking you if there is a problem and directing you to a more secure means of communication. Because this really is all the bank will ever be able to do on Twitter – point you in the direction of somewhere you can talk that isn’t a mass-public forum.

On 6 June people were tweeting the bank with questions that it was wholly unable to deal with. Large corporate communications is a minefield, and because of this the BofA employees whose job it is to reply and re-tweet people have a set number of responses and won’t stray from them for fear of saying the wrong thing.

This misguided belief that banks should be on social media, interacting with their customers about their accounts will be short lived. It is nothing more than a gimmick which will soon fade into obscurity. Once people realise how little help the bank is capable of offering in 140 characters or less, in a message that can be viewed by millions they will abandon it, pausing only to wonder what on earth they expected to happen when they tweeted @ their bank in the first place.

The only question is how soon?