Socializing with Gen Y

Connecting with 'digital natives' requires more than Facebook and Twitter.

March 10, 2013

Generation Y was the first to grow up in a digital world. This generation, born between 1981 and 2000, was born into technology. 

They’re tethered to their smartphones and tablets. And they’re intensely “app happy.”


Mobile Apps or Bust?

It’s easy to think that a Facebook page and Twitter account are among the best ways to connect with them. But the truth is, a tweet is largely ineffective without an underlying Gen Y strategy. 

Gen Yers are nothing like their predecessors. They embrace different life experiences and career paths. They’re highly mobile and willing to move from coast to coast—and then back again. 

Members of Gen Y like to research just about everything, and they’re much more focused on investing and saving than their predecessors. They like to save money, buy homes as soon as possible, and retire early—if possible. 

As such, they have aggressive financial goals, and they’re looking for information, guidance, and access to financial planning tools to help them make decisions. They’re willing to do their homework and conduct thorough research before making these big life decisions. 

Communicate appropriately

Currently, Gen Y members fall into two segments:

Regardless of their life stage, members of Gen Y rely on their parents for advice. They go to their parents first for financial advice, and then they turn to their friends and other family members. After they hear from family and friends, they do their research online to make sure they’re hearing the same message from their online communities.

When your credit union creates its portfolio of products and services geared to Gen Y, it’s essential that you tell your Gen Y members and their parents about it, using the appropriate communication channels for each audience.

Let parents know you have financial products and tools available to help their children. Tell them how to access those tools and provide a contact person for additional information. Use your business intelligence soft ware to identify these parents and push messages to them through all your communication channels (including your front-line staff).

For your Gen Y members, communicate through the same channels they currently use: email, text, or the Web. Speak plainly, directly, and authentically when explaining new offers without being preachy or sounding like you’re selling. Offer to send text alerts when new products or services become available. Then, do it.

Get personal with your website

Consider creating a separate, less traditional website specifically for Gen Yers to satisfy their quest for information and personalization.

Instead of a home page with pages labeled “checking” or “savings,” consider pages labeled “creating a budget,” “qualifying for a home loan,” or “early retirement planning.” Create a blog that chronicles the financial journeys of some young members as they save for a home, start a business, or get out of debt.

In this format, young members tell their stories, use your tools and products, and let readers follow their progress and interact. This kind of blog can even offer an occasional video element, if budget and time allow.

If you offer a website like this or launch a blog, be sure to keep the information fresh, update articles, and add new posts at least twice a week.

That means you have to dedicate resources to this initiative to keep the site relevant and meaningful. If you don’t, you’ll turn off the very group you’re working so hard to attract.

If your blog is interactive, have a process to review user comments before they’re posted. This ensures no one unwittingly posts personal account information or other inappropriate comments.

But, whatever you do, keep the information and dialogue flowing.

NEXT: Marketing fundamentals still apply


Marketing fundamentals still apply

Financial institutions are moving beyond blogs to other forms of social media to connect with younger members and potential members.

Some are employing the same techniques retailers currently use—push messages promoting special offers, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds. Some institutions are organizing branch-to-branch scavenger hunts via Foursquare (a location-based social site) to increase branch traffic.

The question becomes, will these techniques appeal to Gen Y members or not?

Gen Yers don’t want to interact with their financial institutions in the same way they interact with their favorite retailers. An auto loan or checking account isn’t an impulse purchase. Members of Gen Y want their financial institutions to be trusted advisers that take them seriously.

So what’s a credit union to do? The best advice is to use social media in the way that makes the most sense. If you have an event or seminar targeting Gen Y, for example, Twitter is a great communications vehicle.

Customized text messaging also can be effective. If a Gen Y member comes into the branch or posts a comment to your blog, for example, a text message thanking them for the branch visit or post can do a world of good.

You also can use social media to create online communities where Gen Y can interact and share financial-management challenges or success stories. If you have the resources, let Gen Yers create their own profiles, post questions, and build communities using social networking tools.

After you commit the resources to make social media successful, proceed slowly. Social media use by financial institutions is in its infancy. You don’t want to tweet or post without a strategy to support and give direction to what you’re doing. The fundamentals of marketing still apply.

Branches become destinations

Don’t think for a minute that the emergence of Gen Y means the demise of the branch.

While it’s true this generation prefers to conduct transactions electronically and in a self-service mode, Gen Y members want to use the branch for financial guidance and consultation. Your branch becomes a destination and your employees become consultants.

While not all branch visits result in additional accounts or loans right away, they do represent opportunities to build relationships with these otherwise online members.

Some credit unions are physically changing the branch atmosphere: offering coffee, food, kids’ play areas, and Wi-Fi for members waiting to see service representatives. Plenty of opportunities exist for credit unions that offer no-obligation advice and consultation to these knowledge-thirsty members.

Adapted from CUNA’s 2013-2014 Credit Union Environmental Scan.

CHRIS BRACCIA is director of product management with Harland Financial Solutions. Contact him at 407-804-6485.