Nancy Tovar Huxen

Nancy Tovar Huxen on being the first social executive at Comerica Bank

Vice President/Social Media Manager Nancy Tovar Huxen sat down with us to talk about what it's like to be the first social executive at Comerica Bank. She joins Burger King, Kia Motors of America, New Balance Athletic Shoe, and other big brands as a member of the Purple Council.

In his ethics briefing at every Member Meeting, CEO Andy Sernovitz says that some of the first social media leaders at big brands fought hard for their role in social, while others had social media responsibilities fall into their lap with a thud.

“For me, it was kind of a perfect storm,” says Nancy Tovar Huxen on becoming the first social media executive at Comerica Bank.

Starting at Comerica in corporate communications and public relations in 2010, she recognized the need for a social media presence and quickly found an internal champion to back her up, Comerica's Chief Marketing Officer, Jim Weber.

“He let me try things out, like live tweeting from events, to let those social interactions build a case he could take back to leadership,” she says. “I was very fortunate to be there at the right time, with the right leadership.”

Supportive leadership and the right metrics helped Nancy make the case for social at Comerica.

She says that unlike the PR they get from something like a newspaper feature, with social, she could put some hard numbers behind the people they were reaching.

“I'm a numbers geek. So I loved being able to share that with people. Rather than just going by the numbers some publication was giving you, I could get hard data on our reach, which was beneficial for making the case for social.”

Day One: “The first thing I did was make sure we had a plan,” says Nancy.

She says that, contrary to popular belief, social media doesn't just happen — like other traditional media, it takes strategy. Once she had the green light to build a social media program, she started there.

“If you don't have a strategy behind what you're doing, you lose focus,” Nancy explains.

She says it's about more than the minute Facebook post or tweet, but to have an overall understanding of a page's purpose, what makes sense for each channel, what stories are appropriate, and making sure those stories are targeted to the right audiences.

“By laying down that groundwork, it makes it much easier to plug as you go, instead of flying by your seat. I think it makes it a lot harder if you don't know your destination.”

Social media in a regulated industry, according to Nancy, is like a double-edged sword.

“As a financial institution, we're in a highly regulated environment. For example, our bankers can't talk about our products or services. So we focus on what we're doing in the community, which allows us to show how committed our employees are to volunteerism,” Nancy explains.

She says those regulations helped her shape a plan for each of their social presences. For example, on Facebook, Comerica focuses on their employees and worthy non-profits, while their LinkedIn efforts are focused on providing value for the businesses they serve and their workforce.

“We're not going to be able to compete with some larger national banks on follower numbers. But our engagement rate is very high.”

On Facebook, with about 2,300 fans, Nancy says Comerica still sees a reach of about 20-30 percent with an engagement rate that usually exceeds 10 percent.

“For us, that's a success. Even if it's a smaller number, the people who are looking at our page are reading it, liking it, and sharing it with their friends. And for me, that's what's important.”

Another success: incredibly responsive social customer service.

Nancy says, on average, they get back to customers with complaints or concerns, no matter what platform, within an hour.

“What makes my day is when someone says they have an issue, we respond to them quickly — whether it's on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter — and they come back to thank us for helping them,” says Nancy.

Her advice for other pioneering social media executives: Don't ever be afraid to ask questions.

“Someone's already been there, probably done it, and if not, they're working on it. Don't feel like you're by yourself. Even the most experienced social media person has something to learn,” says Nancy.

“We have a lot of opportunities. Not a lot of people get to be the first, and that's very exciting.”

Find Nancy on Twitter and ask about Comerica's latest charitable efforts with Batkid.