Whether your credit union decides to launch a social media initiative or not, it is important to monitor what is being said about your credit union online. As consumers increasingly conduct online research for products, it becomes even more important to protect your brand online. What information appears when your credit union name is Googled?
Credit unions should be regularly searching sites for comments, using variations of their name. A number of free online tools can aid this effort, such as Google alerts and TweetDeck. Some places to start:
- Websites such as yelp.com
- Forums such as Fatwallet.com, mint.com
- Blogs such as Bankrate.com
- Local media outlets (even when the article is positive, people can post negative comments
- Credit union industry blogs may have postings on your credit union strategy or other controversies
Some credit unions take a more proactive stance toward monitoring their local media channels and posting information about credit union offerings. When there are local articles about bank industry practices that their credit union doesn’t engage in, one credit union we talked to posts comments that explain their credit union’s differences. Local media outlets may be looking to generate controversy to enhance readership, so offering positive examples such as your own may take a back seat.
While credit unions should not spend time chasing down every individual comment made online, there are certain situations which represent flashpoints for commentary. Negative financial news, fraud or security breaches, and name changes are all examples. When you find such commentary, you need to decide whether to respond.
Obviously, misinformation should be corrected. However, sometimes responding to an inflammatory posting can lead to an online war of words, where some posters insist on having the last word. Credit unions should respond calmly, with straightforward wording and offers to escalate the discussion by phone.
Wildfire Credit Union’s Name Change
Wildfire Credit Union’s recent experience with a name change demonstrates how quickly a topic can be picked up by the media and move in unintended directions. When Communications Family Credit Union ($523M, Saginaw, MI) changed their name to Wildfire Credit Union, they embarked on a campaign to introduce it to their 31,000 members.
While every credit union name change garners its share of those who like it and those who do not, today there are dozens of public forums where those opposed can make their feelings known. In this instance, an article in the local Saginaw News received 66 member comments about the name, both positive and negative.
The screenshot below provides a snapshot into the feelings of members, some of whom had heated exchanges. Credit union and other financial industry bloggers also weighed in on the matter, with the result that a Google search of the Wildfire name brings up a range of commentary.
Responding to Reports of A Security Breach
Recently, Ent Federal Credit Union experienced firsthand the difficulties in controlling a viral network. A local merchant had a security breach which compromised the debit cards of Ent and other local financial institutions. While Ent was not the only financial institution affected, it was the only mentioned by name on the local TV broadcast.
The local station broadcast the security breach, on air and through Twitter, before Ent could contact the affected members. The “tweet” was retweeted—with Ent’s name in the message—reaching an ever larger audience. People outside of Ent’s local market began discussing the incident and members started commenting through Twitter as well as on the newspaper website article.
Ent used their Facebook page and Twitter to respond to member questions and comments, sometimes contacting members offline to resolve their questions. Ent also linked to their blog (http://enttalk.wordpress.com/) where they posted a more detailed explanation of the security breach.
As Victoria Selfridge, Ent’s director of marketing and eCommerce notes, “Our approach is to make sure our local market is informed. One challenge with social media is to decide how you want to react when information is spreading outside your market.”
Ent’s public relations department needed to act quickly to respond to negative information, manage the local media coverage, and ensure questions from members were being handled effectively.
These two examples illustrate the need to not only monitor social media, but develop an action plan for responding to online threats to the credit union’s image. Your credit union’s public relations department should have a plan for using social media to respond to negative publicity, information about security breaches, and other types of potentially damaging situations. When implemented properly, social media can be an effective way to quickly reach members with critical information and updates.