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In these tumultuous times we’re seeing social media harnessed for more than just sharing what you had for lunch yesterday or what your weekend plans are. These relatively new channels are being harnessed for some seriously powerful organization for public movements. By now, you’ve probably heard about the Occupy Wall Street protests that are sweeping the globe, but have you heard about Bank Transfer Day?

On July 21st, President Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a sweeping overhaul of Wall Street. This law brought with it a cap the amount of fees a bank can collect from a merchant. The banks tried to delay this action from taking effect, but they lost. In an effort to recoup these costs, major banks like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Chase announced they would be passing on the charge to consumers in the form of a $5.00 a month debit card fee.

This news angered one online community you don’t want to mess with, the personal finance blogging community. Personal finance bloggers unleashed a torrent of angry posts about the fee announcements which snowballed into one woman calling for everyone to transfer their funds to local credit unions. The movement, National Bank Transfer Day, began on Facebook and has been gaining ground. The switch will take place tomorrow, November 5th.

National Bank Transfer Day has been so powerful and drawn so much participation that the major banks have since recalled the announcements of the new fees and will not be charging debit card users a monthly fee.

In the middle of all this, opportunity has sprung up for the smaller institutions that are not charging these fees. Some of which have harnessed this opportunity in their latest marketing activities.

ING and eFirst have seized the opportunity to run AdWords ads on the keyword ‘bank transfer day’.

These smaller banks are advertising free checking accounts that are void of all fees, including fees on debit card use. Here ING is offering a $50 bonus for switching to their free checking account complete with activism inspired graphics proclaiming, “The Best Things In Life Are FREE.”

Smart marketing on social movements and current events is definitely working out for these banks with reports surfacing about sharp spikes in new accounts.

BECU, the largest credit union in Washington, saw a 200% increase over average in growth. PerkStreet Financial, also saw a 100% increase on Sept. 30 and a month over month increase beyond that of another 100% for October.

These banks have seen how powerful these movements can be. Proving it pays to keep up with what’s happening online and in the news and take advantage of such buzz when it’s relevant to your business. It will positively hit your bottom line!

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