While everyone knows that social media should be more than a cool new toy for the marketing department, the challenge we face today is setting measurable goals and expectations for what social media can realistically do for your CU.
Since it's fairly new, methods for measuring results are still changing. We've interviewed CUs that are active on social media to varying degrees and asked them to share their experiences.
Facebook and Twitter are the most commonly used social networks among the CUs we interviewed-mostly because many of their members are already there.
Most CUs spent one to two hours a day on social media. For a few, it's a full-time position, but that includes writing blogs, too. For the most part, we learned that once you're set up to run daily reports and have a source of content, social media can easily be handled in less than an hour a day.
At most CUs, one or two people are responsible for social media, usually the marketing director. In smaller CUs, it could be the CEO, manager, or AVP of operations. There should be at least two people handling your Twitter account and two or more admins on your Facebook page to post timely responses and new content.
Ideas From Everyone, But...
It's a good idea to ask everyone at the credit union to come up with content that can be used for social media. Posting, however, should be limited to only a few key people.
Getting members to follow you on Twitter or to be your fans on Facebook can take time. E-mail, ads, word of mouth, and putting the Twitter and Facebook logos on the CU website were mentioned most often. For some CUs, following people became a way to get others to follow them.
Some included a short article in their newsletter to let members know they are on Facebook or Twitter. Electronic signatures and mobile websites are other ways to build a following. One CU used a full page in its newsletter to print member testimonials from their Facebook page.
Compliance issues are holding some credit unions back. Posting rates, whether on purpose or in the process of having a conversation on a social network, is by far the biggest concern. By simply avoiding any discussion about specific rates, you've avoided the problem.
For compliance reasons, some stay away from giveaways altogether. You can ensure compliance by working closely with the compliance officer and being very familiar with Reg. Z and Reg. E. If it's something you wouldn't print or e-mail without a disclosure, it has no place in your social conversations without a similar disclosure.
While specific ROI is hard to pin down, CUs mentioned many less concrete benefits, such as being seen as a leading-edge financial institution.
Because social media is so targeted, you can sort members easily and market to specific groups. Educating members on what the CU does and offers is another benefit.
Social media also helps credit unions get the word out about community involvement, membership drives and promotions. It's a great forum for feedback, an outlet for members to express themselves and a good way to get more positive member feedback.
Yet, there are risks involved too. Negative feedback was the most mentioned risk of social media. Another is the lack of control over the message and the potential to make the CU look less ss professional.
For Amy Shanks at Belvoir FCU, the risk is in possibly getting complaints over stale content. "In the online world, your content can be a week old and it's stale. If you are not touching your site, you lose people and it's difficult to bring them back."
And then, of course, there's the issue of unsolicited criticisms from disgruntled "fans."
But what about risks of NOT being in social media? Not having a social media presence, Karen Taschler at Hancock CU tells us, is becoming like not having a website. Jim Dufford at Tri-Co says that without social media, youth "would pass us by or never learn about us."
Where To Get Content
The content that credit unions are using on social media focuses on service, youth, financial literacy and related topics. CUs get their content from their leagues, general financial literacy websites, and other providers. Some credit unions create content in-house based upon member feedback.
Social media is also being used to let members know about special events.
While some credit unions have not yet begun to measure results, those that have are measuring page growth, interactions, and how many people communicate with them through social media.
Most credit unions have boards that are supportive of social network involvement. In the best scenarios, the board is excited about social media and receives regular updates.
When asked what advice they would give others, most suggest that you simply get started. If your competitors are on it, YOU need to be on it-especially to attract a new generation.
Your members are already talking. All you need to do is get in on the conversation.
Laura M Enock is CEO of CUcontent.com, which provides content for social media and other communications. For info: www.cucontent.com.