Social Networking Media – Not Why, but Why Not?

Social networking sites now exist as a new lynchpin of communication for thousands of businesses and millions of individuals. It's time to add social networking services to your marketing communications arsenal, to give yourself an advantage or simply keep up.


Increased Engagement with Marketers

Social networking sites now exist as a new lynchpin of communication for thousands of businesses and millions of individuals. The digital world is expanding due to new social networking Web sites. It's time to add social networking services to your marketing communications arsenal, to give yourself an advantage or simply keep up. Those who do not have an active online presence risk falling behind their competition. Just a few payoffs of social networking include opportunities to enhance collaboration, the discovery of innovations, communication with important audiences, mutual learning, public trust and awareness.

Despite rumors to the contrary, people are indeed interested in interaction with social network marketers; not just their friends or family. "According to Anderson Analytics' May 2009 survey, 52% of social network users had become a fan or follower of a company or brand, while 46% had said something good about a brand or company on a social networking Web site – double the percentage who had said something negative (23%)."1 Therefore, rather than asking, "Why should we invest in social media?" the question, "Why haven't we already added social networking utilities to our marketing communications mix?" seems more relevant today.

The most visited social network services such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and MySpace are now indispensable to many businesspeople. These sites are being used by businesses to introduce and market their products or services to a growing online public. Facebook is now the #1 global social networking site as of September 2009, with more than 300 million active users and more than 10 million users becoming fans of Facebook Business Pages each day.

Nielsen Online data from May 2009 shows people spending more time on social networking or blogs than ever before. Total minutes increased 82% and the average time per person increased 67%, May 2009 vs. May 2008. Twitter was the fastest-growing Web brand in May 2009, increasing 1,448% to 18.2 million unique visitors, May 2009 vs. May 2008.2 If you haven't considered making social network communication part of your media mix in 2010 or sooner, now would be the perfect time to plan, reach out, and increase your credit union's or CUSO's online awareness, public interest, and communication.

"Free" Social Media & Other Benefits

Social media vehicles, when added to your traditional media mix, offer a new method to heighten awareness and confidence for your credit union or CUSO brand, and the potential to attract a broader audience. The major benefit to marketing through social networks? They're free!

Compared to traditional media it's an easy decision to try social media, at least from a cost entry standpoint. Since social networks are free, hundreds of new subscribers from across the country join daily. Social network marketing will build on your foundation of existing members then increase the chance of your posted network communications being read and responded to by new, relevant contacts. Your Internet media reach and frequency to potential new members increases for next to nothing.

Social media allows you to communicate important information, including newsworthy publicity, with subscribers on a specific social networking site, thereby increasing the visibility of your financial institution. It allows you to share with, assist, and help others that may need financial education or support, and becomes a useful listening tool to learn about member problems or issues that you can address rapidly. You become their expert point of contact, allowing you to build your brand image and reputation as a helpful member of the community.

Most people believe a trusted friend or family member recommending a dentist or jeweler much more than they trust an advertised business they are not familiar with. Positive consumer word-of-mouth promotes products and services that prove beneficial and of value. Social media provides a tool for credit unions and CUSOs to increase the word-of-mouth they receive, making it possible to establish relationships and build trust online much faster than ever before. Gaining trust and word-of-mouth alone make it a valuable communication resource worth trying.

Simply advertising your credit union's Twitter name on your Web site will improve search engine optimization (SEO), plus it will increase the number of members attracted to Twitter and that follow your messages. Conversely, marketing through social networking media provides an effective method of marketing your Web site. Integrate social media into every appropriate marketing strategy you choose. If other credit unions, CUSOs, and your competitors are taking advantage of social networking benefits, you can too.

ROI Still Applies

If there's a cost associated with social networking, it's the amount of labor you invest to stay engaged with your audience on any given social media vehicle. It takes time to return "tweets," or answer a valid question posed to your credit union's Facebook page. Even though the metrics that marketers can track on social networks are currently described as "soft ROI," meaning the results may not drop to the bottom line, the use of social networking services is highly recommended. There are enough metrics to allow some basic analysis against your investment of time, etc. The social sites' user profiles may also reveal data about members and potential members that can be used to target your messages and communicate with a specific audience more effectively. User profiles may also be valuable and useful in direct marketing efforts going forward.

Convenience Quest

Using social media in marketing communications now brings new benefits to your credit union and your members. One of the biggest benefits is convenience. People are on a constant quest for affordable methods and tools to make their busy lives more convenient. Just think back on the transition from printed and mailed account statements to online banking. Not only are people able to communicate with one another more rapidly due to advances in computer and mobile technology, but credit union marketers may now enjoy social networking's two-way convenience. It develops better relationships with existing members and cultivates interest relationships among potential members. This strategy can help reduce marketing expenses, create efficiencies, provide convenience for your audience, and improve service.

Manage to Your Capabilities

Your marketing strategies also will need to dovetail with a new social media strategy to truly work effectively. For example, integrate your promotional campaigns with social media messages about your product or service offers. Maintenance is a must for your communications to stay fresh, updated and consistent. Make certain you or a well-versed associate respond to every legitimate inquiry received. Then ensure your team consistently monitors the give-and-take so your credit union remains actively involved, updated and a valuable resource for online members, friends and followers. Social media allows you to engage as large or as small a commitment as you feel your organization can handle. Subscribe only to as many online social networks as you can keep up with. Then inform your audience that you exist, why you are unique, and the on-going benefits of credit union membership. The secret is to jump in and give online social networking services a try.

1. Source: Anderson Analytics, "Social Network Services (SNS) A&U Profiler", provided to eMarketer, July 13, 2009
2. Source: The Nielsen Company

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