Evaluating Social Media

After an initial flurry of activity, it’s time to gauge its effectiveness.

June 13, 2012

So your credit union now uses social media in an attempt to bring in much-coveted younger members. You’ve set up a branded page on Facebook. You’re tweeting about your latest product promotions on Twitter. You might even have a strong following by now.

But what does this really mean for your credit union and its business goals? Do the results thus far justify the resources you’ve allocated to social media?

The unfortunate answer at this stage of the game: probably not. It takes time, commitment, and effort to make social media a valuable piece of your marketing mix.

Before you can gauge the effectiveness of your social media efforts, it would be helpful to know what success looks like. These experts and credit union marketers offer some guidance:

Be social

Critical to the success of your social media efforts is a simple practice: Move beyond promoting your own products and interact with other communities and posts, says Nancy Dibert, owner of Epic Marketing. In other words, be “social.”

It’s like being at a community networking event, but in a different venue. Actively participating in other forums, groups, and blogs will keep you current on strategies others are using, she says.

Dibert employs a specific strategy as she helps clients set up social media programs. “We grow membership for our clients via Twitter by following others first,” she says. “We use proprietary software that allows us to monitor the stream within a zip code or range of zip codes. And we monitor these people to see if they tweet something financial.


Be “social”: Network with your followers—virtually, but like you would at a live social event.

Define your objectives for your social media program, with clear goals and measurable deliverables.

Board focus: Support social media use within the parameters of your credit union’s policies.

“Then we’re able to reach out to them,” she continues. This allows the credit union to contact people who are looking for loans or who might be frustrated with their current financial institutions.

Engaging in communities and following influencers is key to Twitter success, she says. Twitter has performed better for one-to-one engagement with individual members, whereas Facebook allows for better engagement with select employee groups.

The Summit Federal Credit Union, Rochester, N.Y., lives by the “social” approach. The $650 million asset credit union uses social media predominantly to be relevant to members. One of the credit union’s main objectives is to add younger members. And to reach this market, the credit union believes it must use social media to be seen as fun, energetic, and relevant.

To achieve this and capture young potential members’ attention, The Summit Federal is creating a series of humorous posts, comments, and videos to send members via social media.

“We make it entertaining,” explains Randy Saltzman, vice president of marketing and business relationships. “We don’t sell. We do things that are engaging, and we use a cross-platform approach.”

“It’s trial and error,” adds Mike Vadala, president/CEO. “From a management perspective, you have to be able to give your staff some rope, be willing to take a little risk, and live with unpredictability.

“Ultimately, our goal is to be the source of something that 100,000 people want to share with others,” he adds. “But to achieve that, you have to do something no one has done before. It has to be really fun, engaging, touching, and big.”

Be prepared for negative posts, cautions Laura Seymour, The Summit Federal’s social media expert. “People have more guts to complain online. Be prepared with a policy, and respond within 24 hours. We usually respond within two hours.”

NEXT: Clear goals


Clear goals

Before you launch your social media program, be sure to set clear business goals for your efforts. It isn’t an “if you build it, they will come” phenomenon, say social media experts.

Setting clear goals is where businesses need the most help, says Steven Ramirez, CEO of management consulting firm Beyond The Arc. His firm helps clients better define their business objectives and how they plan to use social media, asking them if they want to use social media to:

► Promote products and services;
► Create awareness;
► Create new leads;
► Deepen existing relationships; or
► Up-sell or cross-sell.

“You really have to start with what you want to accomplish before using social media,” explains Ramirez.

Ask questions and conduct polls to find out what your members are looking for, he suggests. Then use this data to develop a plan that gives members what they want and helps you achieve your marketing goals.

Polls and blogs

Once you have the framework, remember that people want to be heard. And they appreciate it when you show you’ve heard them. Use social media platforms to speak and sell your message, but start a conversation, too.


The list of third-party applications (app) keeps growing. Consider these tools to boost your credit union’s social media marketing efforts:

Booshaka.comCreates a leader board for followers to measure their participation on your Facebook site.

Northsocial.comProvides custom apps to create fan promotions and engage followers.

Wildfireapp.comHelps grow, engage, and monetize your social media audience.

Shortstack.comCustomizes your Facebook page with contests, sweepstakes, videos, and custom forms. Incorporates social media marketing alongside email marketing.

Hootsuite.comAllows you to manage multiple social profiles, schedule messages and tweets, track brand mentions, and analyze social media traffic.

Polls and blogs designed to promote conversation about what your followers want to see can be valuable. You might also learn what the competition isn’t doing that can give your credit union a competitive advantage.

Make sure you create content your audience is interested in, suggests Linda Douglas, vice president of marketing at $644 million asset Michigan First Credit Union, Lathrup Village. Social media, incorporated as part of your credit union’s marketing mix, promotes a dialogue about your members’ needs.

The credit union also works with businesses in the community to cross-post information—deepening relationships with businesses and members. High-quality, useful content comes first.

“Content is key,” she says, “so we make sure we aren’t promoting only Michigan First in our posts.”

Mike Powers, vice president of marketing and lending at $211 million asset Garden Savings Federal Credit Union, Parsippany, N.J., agrees. “It’s all about content. If your posts are content-driven, you’ll engage your followers. We focus on financially relevant content that people would find interesting.

“Be vigilant with your social media efforts,” he adds. “Make sure you monitor social media content, be active with it, and don’t let it get stale.”

Another way to engage your followers and get them talking about you is to implement credit union programs that generate excitement. That’s exactly what BuzzBanking is doing for credit union members, says Jay Valanju, CEO of the firm.

A CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider, BuzzBanking offers a social media marketing and real-time rewards program with incentives for members when they use their credit unions’ products and services.

The rewards can be redeemed for gift cards to local and national merchants. This creates a win-win for the credit union, the members, and the merchants. The programs become more exciting to members when shared via social media, Valanju explains. Credit unions can offer extra points to members who allow postings in their names, which creates even more online engagement.

NEXT: Measure ROI

Measure ROI

Of course, to truly say a social media program has been successful, you have to measure it, says Victoria Selfridge, director of marketing for $3.3 billion asset Ent Federal Credit Union, Colorado Springs, Colo.

As in other marketing mediums, you can’t simply implement brand awareness in the social media space and expect it to translate into sales. You need to have more lead-generating activities, analyze them, and monitor their success.

Ent Federal is incorporating social media into its overall marketing plan because it wouldn’t be a relevant, living brand if it didn’t, according to Selfridge. The credit union has used Facebook ads to raise awareness among the young adult population in Southern Colorado. The ads also raise awareness of Ent Federal as a financing choice for used-car loans.

One ad encouraged consumers to think about their current vehicle needs and whether it was time to “upgrade my ride.”

Ent Federal ran a Facebook contest inviting its followers in its local community to upload photos of their current “rides” to the contest site. Then they were asked to participate in a public vote on the top rides most in need of (or deserving of) money for upgrades. The “ride” with the most votes won $1,000, second place won $250, and third place won $100.

After analyzing the promotion, Selfridge says she received 41 photos for the contest and the average age of submitters was about 35, with an even male/female split. Individual votes on the photos totaled 883, and these individuals sent 782 “invitations” to their friends inviting them to vote—ultimately spreading the word about Ent Federal. Two used-auto loans were opened within four months by individuals who had submitted “rides” in the contest.

Through this analysis, Ent now has a better idea of its return on investment and can plan accordingly in the future to determine the best use of its resources.

But above all, stay in the social media loop, urges Douglas. “One of the most important aspects of social media is that, even if you aren’t actively posting to your accounts, it’s critical to have monitoring in place so you’re participating in any conversations going on about your brand.”

Click here for more ideas on how to measure the effectiveness of your social media efforts.

Aberdeen Group
Beyond The Arc
BuzzBanking Inc., a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider
1. 2012-2013 Credit Union Environmental Scan
2. “Social media guidelines and policies” whitepaper; select “whitepapers” under “tools and resources”
Epic Marketing Consultants Corp.
Filene Research Institute