The road to earnings through online channels is a complex one, but almost any credit union can implement basic online contact points to create better word-of-mouth promotion, brand exposure, and reduced operational cost.
Roughly 65% of credit unions will spend more on IT in 2011 than they did 2010, reports Aite Group, but when it comes to actually benchmarking balance sheet results for these investments, not every project will end profitably. Better implementation of low cost online or existing social media resources is one option that allows any sized institution to garner better use of and return from its online channels without excessive time or money commitments.
The key to a sucessful social media strategy is actionable next steps (i.e., ask a question, examine products and services, find a branch) that drive members through to other physical or online channels. Credit unions must remember that the relationships that start and end in social media, without translating into visits to another contact point, yield few members and little business growth.
Make Existing Sites Work for You
Facebook is one of the most popular free online communication channels, but the sheer volume of users and information coupled with the lack of actionable items for page visitors can limit its usefulness. Still, it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Through some low cost modifications, in connection with a larger online strategy, Facebook can become the stepping stone that drives more business through your online channels.
For two years, Belvoir Federal Credit Union ($274M, Woodbridge, VA) has sponsored a web hunt promotion that increases its Facebook page views and drives traffic to its redesigned homepage. The web hunt works like this: Players examine content throughout many pages of Belvoir’s website to find clues. The clues will eventually spell out a phrase that can be entered in a custom application on the cooperative’s Facebook page for the chance to win prizes.
During this year's competition, Belvoir experienced a 348% boost in “likes” on its Facebook page, it explained in a release, but more importantly increased home page traffic by 100,000 views (total 347,000). At the home page, a wealth of other information and actionable items await to help turn players into engaged members.
In a different approach, Fairwinds Credit Union ($1.6B, Orlando, FL) incorporated an interactive information feature from its website into its Facebook page, making it a more effective extension of the home site.
“We had 5,000 likes on Facebook, but were left asking what does this actually mean for the credit union?” says Jim Thornberry, SVP of branch services. “With the addition of this feature, we are able to finally drive some member functionality from the page. It’s working really well.”
Now Facebook visitors can not only “like” the page, but can ask questions and receive answers from an extensive database system, driving down call center volume. Related ads also open the door to targeted cross-sell according to the visitor’s needs.
When in Doubt, Build Your Own
Sometimes, third party social platforms are too constricting, especially for institutions with precise goals, like member acquisition or loan recapture. In these cases, it may pay for a credit union to strike out on its own with a slightly more costly micro site or an additional feature for its home web platform.
If existing social channels aren’t what you need, take out the middle man.
Summit Credit Union ($1.7B, Madison, WI) took its online strategy to another level by integrating the best aspects of popular social media sites into its own homepage. Much more than a forum for financial services, Summit provides a community resource for product reviews, group interaction and events, and crowd sourced articles, with topics ranging from money management to personal relationships. It’s not just a resource for members' online needs, but a three way channel of interaction between the credit union, members, and potential members from its community.