Seven Steps to a Successful Blog

Launching a blog and content plan requires a long-term commitment.

October 31, 2013

Since 1946, SAC Federal Credit Union, Bellevue, Neb., has been a trusted financial partner to its membership, which has grown to more than 75,000.

Now the credit union is expanding its commitment to members with a thoroughly modern tool: A community blog where readers can find a wealth of financial information, tips, and tools.

Cynthia Buettner, senior vice president of information technology (IT), marketing, and sales for the $670 million asset credit union, explains how SAC Federal makes the blog a valuable resource members turn to again and again.

CU Mag: Why did you decide to launch a blog?

Buettner: SAC Federal’s mission is to be members’ trusted financial partner, providing tailored solutions to support them throughout their life events. We saw the blog as a way to help fulfill this mission by providing an online resource of financial tips, tools, and information.

The decision to launch the blog was also guided by our long-term goal of having our website serve as a trusted and highly used source of financial-related information.

Knowing that content, social media, and search engine optimization are all important to the success of our online brand, we wanted to launch the blog to create brand awareness and generate more qualified leads.

CU Mag: How have members responded?

Buettner: Our members and internal teams have responded positively.

Our customer service teams use the blog as a resource to answer member questions. Website and blog analytics suggest that members and others are extremely interested in the content we’re creating, as website visits and time on the site have both increased.

When it comes to social media, we have seen an increase in engagement from members who have liked our pages. It quickly became clear that our blog-specific posts got better traction on Facebook than our general, text-only messages.

Members share, like, and comment on our blog-specific posts more often than other posts.

CU Mag: What type of information is most in demand?

Buettner: Here are the top 10 blog posts to date:

CU Mag: How might your blog evolve in the future?

Buettner: We plan to add more content to our current blog categories—about credit unions, credit, financial literacy, identity protection, kids and money, military and money, and resources—as well as include new categories such as member stories, small business resources, and more.

In addition, we’ll be publishing even more articles on timely topics. For example, in November we’ll be uploading an article on how to shop stress-free this holiday season with proper planning and budgeting. It’s these seasonal angles that keep readers informed when they need it most.

CU Mag: Who’s responsible for providing content?

Buettner: The SAC Federal marketing and leadership teams lead content creation with the help of writing and editing partners. Throughout the content creation process, we’ve focused on incorporating insight from our team of subject matter experts.

Most of our blog posts include direct quotes from SAC Federal leadership, including Julie Bruning, vice president of consumer lending; Karen Guy, business and marketing analyst; and Crissy Hayes, vice president of operations. This highlights our team’s commitment to providing top-notch content for members.

Once content is written, the marketing team reviews all blog copy and imagery to ensure accuracy and relevancy. Then it is a matter of posting each blog on its specific date and promoting the content via our social media channels: Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and now Twitter.

NEXT: Seven steps to a successful blog

CU Mag: How has your CU benefited from having this blog?

Buettner: We have seen an increase in both returning and unique visitors to our website, and an increase in the amount of time visitors spend on our site.

We’ve seen new leads being generated through content offers, an enhanced brand presence and engagement, and more thought leadership opportunities through media interest and content production.

We also have a more strategic approach to social media outreach, and we’ve seen growth in social media followers and increased engagement on our social media channels.

CU Mag: What are the biggest challenges in starting and maintaining a blog?

Buettner: We knew going into the process that one of our biggest challenges would be generating and publishing engaging content on a regular basis. Therefore, we took the time needed to set goals, define our strategy, and create a solid execution plan.

In fact, we have our editorial calendars planned for the next six months. However, we are also flexible, so if something newsworthy happens we can shift our content accordingly.

A key challenge to maintaining the blog is monitoring what types of content are most relevant to our audience. It’s important for us to be a valuable resource for current and prospective members, so we regularly review analytics to determine what is working and what isn’t.

We then strategize on how we can shift our editorial plan based on those insights.

CU Mag: What advice do you offer CUs that want to do something similar?

Buettner: Start by creating a solid content plan. We initially developed a six-month editorial calendar that serves as our content marketing roadmap. We use it every day to track content topics and deliverables, schedules, keywords, and team responsibilities.

We also mapped out a six-month content distribution plan, which included social media strategies and traditional media outreach.

Here are seven steps to consider when launching a blog:

For example, we published a series of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn posts on International Credit Union Day to reshare previously written blog content. This was not a part of our original plan, but we saw an opportunity and changed course to take advantage of it.

CU Mag: What are some ‘don’ts’ when launching a blog?

Buettner: Here are a few:

  • Don’t jump in without leadership or organizational buy-in. Make sure key stakeholders are all on the same page. Set goals and a budget up front and secure the proper internal teams and resources.
  • Don’t assume you know what your audience wants. Do some research to know what topics would be most interesting and helpful.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things. This is the time to determine what is and isn’t working—and how you can adjust your program for greater success. For example, we tested a social media blitz and published a series of four posts in one day that greatly increased Facebook engagement.
  • Don’t be afraid of compliance. Launching a blog is a great way to increase your credit union’s digital presence, provide great value, and tap into the online market.

Work with your compliance department to give them enough time to review specific blog posts and to answer any questions.