Digital Communications: The New Necessity For Your Credit Union

Embracing mobile and social channels is only scary if you don’t have a strategy.




According to the Pew Research Center’s 2013 Internet & American Life Project, 56% of all adults in the United States now own a smartphone. That figure increases to 80% among those between 18-34 years old. Devices once considered a convenience have quickly become a necessity in a very short timeframe, and the same can be said for some of the capabilities — such as mobile banking — upon which smartphone users now rely.

If your credit union already has a mobile app, you likely possess the ability to send “push” notifications to members’ devices. These are short messages, such as “Your October statement is ready,” that typically appear at the forefront of smartphone screens and practically guarantee some degree of engagement from the user.

Outside of apps, mobile messaging can take more advanced forms when communicating with smartphone users. In addition to text messaging (SMS), which is widely supported across almost all mobile devices, smartphones can accept multimedia messages (MMS) that allow for a greater amount and variety of content. For example, delivering a video directly to members’ smartphones via MMS is an effective way to provide product education and other helpful financial resources in an engaging format.

Of course, smartphones can also be used for more than banking. Data from a 2012 Nielsen report on social media showed that smartphone users spent 30% of their mobile time accessing social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Some form of social media should certainly be a part of your marketing arsenal, but without a strong content strategy behind it, you risk simply adding to the noise rather than providing real value.

Promotion should not necessarily be avoided, as long as the ratio of promotional content to educational/informative content skews toward the latter. If you have the resources to generate your own, exclusive content — video in particular — it can be a tremendous benefit to your social media efforts.

At a minimum, finding member-beneficial content and resources online that can be shared with your audience through social channels will help you increase financial literacy, broaden awareness of the tools and resources you provide, and help ensure members understand that you have their best interests in mind.

And what about the 35% of the adult population who carry mobile devices that are not smartphones? While these products reduce the level of sophistication you can use in communicating with that segment of your member base, they do not prevent you from incorporating SMS into your interactions. Text messages are still ideal for transactional notifications, such as non-sufficient funds, or member-initiated inquiries where an inbound SMS containing a keyword can trigger an outbound auto-response, such as the members’ current account balance.

Dave McCue has worked in digital marketing for SMB and Fortune 500 organizations, and now serves as the Senior Manager of Marketing and Product Development at Harland Clarke Digital.

Financial institutions of all sizes have worked with Harland Clarke Digital to manage account holder communications, compliance, employee training, research analysis and more. Contact Harland Clarke Digital at 630-303-5000 or visit