Turning Likes Into Loans

Follow these steps to calculate the real ROI of your social media efforts.


Social media marketing has always been plagued by the myth that it’s impossible to calculate a return on investment. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. But the reality is credit unions must invest a hefty amount of time and energy developing a proper tracking regimen in order to quantify that return.

Twenty years ago, reaching members was fairly simple. In an era when mobile banking, teller-less kiosks, and virtual branches were more science fiction than standard practice, members came to the credit union to conduct their affairs, whether it was applying for a loan, depositing a check, or paying a bill. In the process, members spent time with credit union employees and built relationships that helped cement loyalty and ensure future business.

Things changed when Apple, with Google and Microsoft in its footsteps, ushered in a new era of mobile devices. Mark Zuckerberg launched the ultimate social network, and Jack Dorsey was close on his heels with a simple site that provided a steady stream of easily digestible content 140 characters at a time. The launch of social websites that relied on quick, easy access to the Internet to succeed corresponded with the rise in popularity and accessibility of devices that made such access possible. These iPhones, Androids, Blackberries, and Zunes slowly trained users to expect quick and easy access to their friends’ lives, the activities of their favorite celebrities, weather reports, news, and most importantly, their finances.

The need for innovation was not lost on credit unions. According to Callahan & Associates’ Peer-to-Peer software, the total number of credit unions providing mobile banking options for their members doubled from 2011 to 2012.

In addition to basic online banking, many members also obtained the option to send text commands, receive alerts on their phones, or make person-to-person payments. Although credit unions are still known for making unparalleled efforts to engage members, this declining need for human interaction creates a conundrum: How can credit unions build relationships with members they never see? Good service and valuable products speak volumes, but social media marketing is the magic ingredient that can turn an institution into a friend.

As more members embrace the mobile lifestyle, it makes sense for credit unions to use social media to engage their members in a way that increases involvement and, eventually, revenue.

Phase 1: How Many Friends Do You Have?

Members may visit the credit union once a month and its website once a week, but chances are they’re popping onto Facebook or Twitter at least once or twice a day. When they do so, the credit union’s social media marketing team must make sure that the institution’s tweets and posts are among the content these members see.

Before any effort is taken to actively engage current and potential members, a credit union should have a profile that properly expresses its mission and personality. The best way to achieve this profile is to create Twitter or Facebook accounts with the entire staff involved. Most online community members tend to prefer one to the other, so the best bet is to use multipurpose content and market to both groups simultaneously. Get everyone to offer one tweet or status update per day and post them all on Twitter and Facebook, with the marketing manager coordinating any responses.

Several programs like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite allow a credit union to post all of its tweets for the week at one time. Facebook pages also allow updates to be scheduled in advance, which means a marketing administrator only needs to set aside an hour to create an entire week’s worth of Facebook posts and Tweets. There are many other social networks out there: LinkedIn, Pinterest, FourSquare, Reddit, and Google+ to name a few, but the time it takes to maintain multiple accounts properly won’t make them worthwhile. Instead, it’s better to have one or two go-to accounts that are maintained fully and waiting for members.

On Twitter, tweets should run the gamut from new product FYIs and status updates to thoughtful questions. Alliant Credit Union ($8.2B, Chicago, IL) presents all three in its Twitter feed @AlliantCU. A recent tweet read, “Finish this sentence: "My credit score will be better if I ...,” and included links to articles about personal finance and upcoming local events. Another multipurpose tweet reading “Anyone attending the Houston RV show this weekend? Don't forget Alliant if you fall in love,” informed members about a local event and reminded them the credit union was ready to help should they need a loan.

Alliant posted those same updates on Facebook to capture both audiences. Human beings don’t think about one thing all the time, so tweets and posts should attempt to appeal to as many audiences as possible while remaining relevant to the credit union.

Once a credit union has fully developed Twitter and Facebook profiles, it’s time to start sending traffic in their direction. Post links on the credit union website to your social media accounts. Automatically include the credit union’s Twitter handle in all outgoing email correspondence and partner with local businesses that also have a strong Twitter presence. For example, as part of its social media marketing strategy, Oklahoma Employees Credit Union ($402M, Oklahoma City, OK) partnered with a local bakery.

Their Tweet read, “Key Lime? Coconut Cream? Apple? What'll YOU choose if you win a free pie from @OECU and @PieJunkieOKC? Enter here.” This message helped them successfully reach potential and existing members while displaying a bit of whimsy and fun that no big bank has ever achieved.

At this point, the strategy should be focused 100% on building up the account and finding the institution’s members. If searching for every single member doesn’t seem like an efficient use of time, send out a survey asking members for Twitter or Facebook handles and tell them about yours. While you’re at it, be sure to inform them about new products or the loan application process.

Every time a member likes a post or follows you on Twitter, it’s a step closer to realizing a return on your social media investment. When executives ask their social media marketer for a project report, those two numbers are the ones to watch. If they’re increasing, the credit union is well on its way to a profitable return.

Phase 2: How Many Interactions Did You Have This Week?

Once the credit union has two fully developed accounts, complete with followers and likes, it’s time to start actively engaging with the community. For example, if the credit union sends its members birthday cards, don’t forget to also post on their Facebook pages. Did a member just tweet new baby pictures? Respond and congratulate the person on the happy occasion. These acts take just seconds, but they can achieve years’ worth of relationship building. Did the institution just sign up a new member who provided his or her twitter handle? In addition to standard onboarding procedures, why not tweet them a hello and remind them about the credit union’s latest offer? The nature of engagement will be personalized for your members and your credit union, but the overall effect benefits everyone.

Interactions via social media can take many forms. Any time someone promotes one of the credit union’s posts or tweets, it should be considered a success. At this point, it is crucial that someone keeps track of these interactions, a number that should always be climbing.

Phase 3: How Many Times Do You Promote A New Product Or Service?

Besides interacting with the members, the credit union can and should be using social media as a tool to promote products and services. If there’s a new promotion for auto loans, make sure to tell everyone about it on these accounts. Beyond that, read through members’ profiles and look for anyone mentioning cars, trucks, or upcoming road trips. If it seems like they could be in the market for a new car, it’s worth giving them a call. Members have chosen to put that information out there, and it’s the social marketing manager’s job to find these members and make sure they get special attention.

Having data on hand is the key to proving a return on your investment in social media marketing, so keep records of the total number of times updates regarding specific products and services have been posted. If there are any interactions (i.e., re-tweets or likes) associated with these updates, keep track of those as well.  As the credit union promotes its products, don’t just tell followers and friends about them. Link back to pages on the website that include calls to action. Be sure to create a separate page on the website that is only promoted via social media. Every time someone accesses or fills out a form on that page, it is 99% assured that this interaction came as a result of social media.

If the institution hasn’t done so already, now is the time to enable Google Analytics to assist with better tracking of data. Google Analytics is a free website program from Google, so there is no good reason not to create an account and make use of its automatic Social Sources report. Already formatted to present data from social media sites, Social Sources identifies the source of referral traffic to the website via social media.

Have you ever wondered whether those auto-themed posts on Facebook were really driving traffic to a corresponding page on the credit union’s website? Social Sources can help the credit union prove that a particular marketing effort was effective or irrelevant. If the latter, it’s not a total negative because now the institution has the information it needs to optimize its account and improve its strategy.

Phase 4: What Is The Return On This Investment?  

At this point, all of the data the credit union has been tracking can be used to quantify the effectiveness of a social media campaign. How many friends or followers has the institution attracted in the past month? How many interactions have been achieved as a result of those efforts? How many times has the credit union promoted its target services and products?

Marketing managers can cross-reference that data with overall credit union performance to see if anything stands out. Did an increase in Twitter followers occur at the same rate as an increase in loan applications? Does the Google Social Sources report show an increase in visits to the website from Twitter the same day the credit union began promoting a new savings rate? Positive answers to these questions indicate that a social media strategy is working. Negative answers imply that there’s more work to be done. Either way, the institution is armed with the data it needs to realize how to capitalize on and correlate new business with these efforts.

A sustained social media marketing effort will provide a solid return but only if the goals are identified beforehand and the campaign is tracked throughout.  Without implementing this strategy, there’s no way to connect future successes with current efforts. Twitter and Facebook are here to stay, and their benefits are available to any business with the time and inclination to take advantage of them. 




March 11, 2013


  • What about the fact that SM should be used as another platform to simply build relationships. I believe selling products and services on your FB page is dangerous. People are not on FB to get "sold" to by the people and businesses they have chosen to interact with.
  • Certainly this is the new age. And you are bring forth pertinent information that is gaining in popularity and usage. Thank you again. This is even changing the accounting profession in that the term "write up" was in print last week. (The write-up contains the original content of transactions sorted and categorized). There was the big 8 and now the big 4.
  • Hi everyone, if you are having trouble interacting with your members through social media I would suggest adding SilverCloud's Breeze to your page. This provides a way to interact with your members by immediately answering their questions when they visit the page and also driving them to a place to do business!
    Amber Robinson
  • Hi All, thank you for the comments so far. Zack, I completely agree that Social ROI exists hence the point of this article. In my opinion, any marketing strategy is derived from goals already set in place by the organization be promoting new products, branches, events etc. I doubt any of the marketing managers out there would undertake this process without a goal in mind. If that goal is just to engage with members and make them laugh, cat pictures might do it, but otherwise, you're right, people need to make educated assessments when looking for patterns. Thanks for pointing that out.
  • I have to disagree with a few of the points made in this article. Engagement, likes and share are important, but buzzwords and clicks alone won't help you prove ROI. I don't get why ROI is so difficult to understand. There is, and never will be a one-size-fits-all ROI formula in business! Social media came around everyone wanted some magical metric to appear that would be easy to calculate and prove that marketers weren't just wasting time online. Stop looking at it as another channel, start treating is as an extension of your strategy that just needs a different approach. Guess what? Social ROI exists, but like any other business function, you have to tie your strategy to a specific objective to realize and measure it. Social is just one piece of the bigger digital picture, so you have to look at all the pieces to be able to analyze progress. Specific and focused goals like: 5% increase in new visits to your website in June, sales on red bikes over last quarter, 10% decrease in call volume or (insert any SPECIFIC objective here). From there, you work backwards to identify what tactics to use that will help achieve that goal. While it's great that financial institutions aren't denying the power of social. Maybe it's just that they're not employing the right tools, resources or people to manage their social programs. It's incredibly easy to track specific metrics on social media, but incredibly difficult if you're expecting likes to turn into loans. A sharp increase in loans when you're posting photos of cats or talking about branch closures all the time-I'm sorry, no matter how you cut it that just doesn't correlate to a sound loan growth strategy. My advice? Read this blog post that I wrote about how to create a smarter social program http://bit.ly/10qPbGb. Also, spend $10 and buy 'Social ROI' by Olivier Blanchard (@TheBrandBuilder on Twitter) for the biggest business-related epiphany you'll experience in your lifetime.
  • It's hard to argue with this. If you were easily able to show the powers that be that there is a cause and effect with social media and loans, they would gladly embrace any social media risks. To be honest, they are taking bigger risks by not using social media at all. Nice article Jennifer.
    Matt Andresen
  • This is an excellent introduction to financial institutions who've been slow to get started with social media. Great piece!
    Fatemeh Fakhraie
  • Posting on someone's facebook page that has only liked your page is a bit creepy. Even if it is their birthday there should be some level of 1:1 communication via social before the assumption is made that the member wants their CU to be involved with their social media life. Most social media user's understanding of what others can see of their own page is very low. The impact of your actions by posting on another's page should be considered.