Unicredit Swipes Left, Leaving Some Social Media

Italy's largest bank bucks the trend towards greater social media presence.

UniCredit, Italy’s largest bank, is stepping away from Facebook and related social media channels Messenger and Instagram, the first known step of this kind taken by a large banking group.

Unicredit’s social media footprint is large, too. When the bank, which has more than 26 million customers, makes the change on June 1, it will be closing 14 different Facebook accounts in 14 different countries as well as eight Instagram accounts. These accounts have a total of about 1.1 million followers. The bank plans to focus on its proprietary channels, such as websites and corporate chats. “We believe that accessible and responsive proprietary touchpoints (…) represent the best way to serve our clients. This is why UniCredit is consistently investing in the enhancement of its proprietary digital channels to ensure a reserved, high-quality dialogue,” the bank said on its LinkedIn page, which will remain open, along with the bank’s Twitter accounts.

The decision follows 2018 remarks by Jean Pierre Mustier, UniCredit’s CEO, after the Cambridge Analytica scandal surfaced, imploring the bank suspend all Facebook ads. “Facebook is not acting in an ethical way,” Mustier said at the presentation of Q2 results. “We will not use it until it has proper ethical behavior.” The scandal emerged with the revelation that Facebook compromised the data of more than 80 million users.

At the time, Commerzbank also suspended its ads on Facebook; but the German bank then reopened its contacts, saying that Facebook took their reservations seriously. UniCredit went in the other direction.

“There is no question that Facebook has to fix the privacy aspects, and banks and health care companies in highly regulated environments are certainly correct to be worried about it, but this does not take away from the fact that social media is critical for most audiences,” says Dan Gingiss, a social media marketing expert and author of Winning at Social Customer Care. “They are telling customers where they need to be, rather than being where their customers are.”

Privacy concerns are particularly evident in Europe, where the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 strengthened the rights of citizens using internet services.