A few years ago when social media was entering the mainstream, a credit union director stood up at the end of a social media panel discussion and asked the panelists, “How will Facebook save my credit union?”
Since that time, social media participation has skyrocketed among credit unions. But that director’s rhetorical question reflects a persistent skepticism about social media’s contribution to the bottom line. And that skepticism continues to dampen some credit unions’ social media enthusiasm.
On one side you have marketers extolling the virtues of social media, and on the other side you have chief financial officers (CFOs) asking hard questions about return on investment (ROI). this has created, at some credit unions, a social media stalemate.
There seem to be just as many social media success stories as there are skeptics.
Some credit unions have successfully used social media to improve brand awareness, amplify advocacy efforts, provide better member service, improve crisis communication, solicit feedback on new or proposed products, and bolster search engine optimization efforts.SIDEBAR:
Most credit unions’ social media efforts are designed to increase loyalty levels among members, which increases member engagement, and that leads to increased profitability. But it’s a circuitous route from social media to profitability, and therein lies the rub.
Most credit unions that don’t pay to advertise on social media gauge their effectiveness on penetration and engagement metrics. These metrics can tell you whether or not members are seeing your message but they don’t tell you whether or not they’re acting on it.
Even when credit unions suggestively sell products through contextual posts—such as an article that discusses the pros and cons of a 15-year mortgage with links to loan rates and applications—conversion rates are murky at best.
And while “sales” traditionally has been a fourletter word in social media circles, some sales advocates view social media as a valuable, largely untapped opportunity. These proponents of sales tactics point to new tools that enable segmented marketing, lead generation, and prospect conversion.
Reaching a broader audience
Regardless of a credit union’s strategy, it must broaden its social media audience to make a significant impact.
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of U.S. adults who go online were regularly using social media sites as of September 2013, according to Pew Research. Facebook remains the dominant platform, with 71% of all online adults—101 million daily users—taking part. Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube all have about 20% of online adults.
Some credit unions have developed sizable social media followings. But on the whole, credit unions have barely begun to connect with their own members, let alone the general public.
Financial institutions connect with an average of only 4.7% of their member/customer bases on Facebook, according to a recent study by the financial technology firm Shastic. As for Twitter, credit unions reach an audience equal to 0.8% of their aggregate memberships, reports thee Financial Brand. And of the twothirds of credit unions on Twitter, about 20% of their average of 400 followers are inactive.
“The most important component for any ROI measurement is audience growth,” says John Riordan of DAYTA Marketing, a social media firm that partners with the Minnesota Credit Union Network to maintain credit unions’ social platforms.
The most successful grassroots growth strategies revolve around creating engagement among members, nonmembers, and even credit union employees. Royal Credit Union in Eau Claire, Wis., with $1.3 billion in assets, placed 11th nationally among medium-size businesses in the Business Journal’s Social Madness contest last summer.
To earn that ranking, Andrea Finn, digital marketing specialist at Royal, created instructional videos to teach employees and directors how to use social media and recruited staff to spread the credit union’s message through their accounts.
To maximize eficiency, your social media strategies must align with your credit union’s broader marketing and business plans. “We can be a million different things to a million different people, but what are we known for? And how can we get this message to them?” asks Kenny DeShields, social media specialist at $724 million asset Vantage Credit Union in St. Louis.
NEXT: Enhancing engagement