According to an October 2009 Internet Strategy Consortium Survey, an average of 52% of credit union members across all ages are using social media websites. Originally dominated by Gen Y, social media sites are rapidly becoming a mainstream communication channel. The study, conducted online with more than 11,000 credit union members, found that members are using multiple sites, including Facebook (91%), YouTube (32%), MySpace (29%), and Twitter (15%).
Social media includes other formats such as video, blogs, communities and message boards. Credit unions are recognizing that each of these can have a place for a specific marketing campaign or to reach particular member segments. Some credit unions are developing microsites that incorporate these features with a particular product focus. Credit unions can leverage these different formats to cross-promote content across all of their channels. For example, a tweet about an upcoming educational program can link back to a Facebook posting with more information, or even back to the credit union website for online sign-up and information.
Below are other reasons why your credit union needs a social media strategy in 2010:
Chances are, you are already there: From rating websites such as yelp.com and Mint to posting article comments, members and the media may be talking about your credit union online. One of the greatest benefits of social media – viral activity - can also damage the credit union's reputation if negative comments or misperceptions are not offset with a credit union response. Someone should be monitoring these conversations to ensure your credit union and policies are accurately being represented.
Develop your personality and promote your brand: Social media offers strong opportunities for credit unions to reinforce their brand positioning and differentiate themselves from other financial institutions, among both members and non-members. Social media can "humanize" the credit union and develop more of a personality. Short-term promotions can be used to shape member perceptions and create a buzz around the credit union image.
Engage members in a different type of relationship: Facebook and Twitter offer the credit union a chance to develop a relationship with online members beyond transactions. The interactive capabilities of social media allow for contacts that members who rely on electronic channels may not typically have over the course of time. For members, it offers the chance to ask questions and post comments. For credit unions, it offers a chance to post ideas and obtain feedback that can assist in marketing or product development.
Get critical information to members quickly: Facebook and Twitter can quickly broadcast a message to a wide group of members. This can be especially helpful for fraud alerts, service outages or weather-related closures. While this won't reach every member, even getting the information to a smaller group reinforces perceptions of member service.
Reach Gen Y and Other Targeted segments: While many credit unions started their Facebook pages as an initiative to reach Gen Y, some are finding that a range of members are becoming Fans. Facebook provides tools to categorize your fans by geography and demographics. Credit union Facebook pages can target specific groups, such as university students or SEG members and offers the ability to target promotions and information.
Social media is meant to be an interactive form of communication, not a one-way posting of the same marketing information that is on your website. Members will post comments on whatever is on their mind, providing an opportunity for the credit union to address problems or correct misperceptions. The general expectation is for a response within 24 hours or less, particularly when a problem has occurred. Credit unions won't want negative comments to go unanswered for very long, as other members may have the same issue.
Credit unions of all sizes are successfully using social media to communicate with members, with some achieving over 1,000 fans or followers. Social media initiatives need to be effectively implemented to have an impact. If done halfheartedly, it can damage the credit union brand rather than enhance it. Despite being touted as "free" advertising, social media represents an investment in the credit union brand that will require company resources to monitor and update. Credit unions need to carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages in order to develop a social media strategy that will accomplish their objectives.
For additional ideas to help you develop or improve on your social media strategy, attend the Dec. 10th webinar Engaging Members through Social Media: Challenges & Opportunities. For examples of credit unions using social media, read the articles: The Twitter Twenty: More Credit Union Mavens to Follow or Tell Your Friends about Travis.