Still Avoiding Social Media? Results Won't Have You LOL'ing

It took the humble telephone 89 years to reach the 150 million users that Facebook achieved in just five. The impact of social media can be seen everywhere, in the workplace, at home, even on billboards and TV. For credit unions looking to connect with their members and grow their business, social media is a must.

But what are the dangers, who are at risk, and how can credit unions ensure that embracing Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter doesn't result in a social scandal?

The biggest threat to the use of social media by credit unions is, quite frankly, not to use it all. When used properly the rewards can far outweigh the risks. Social media allow us to engage with members, new and existing, to learn about their desires, dislikes and lifestyles quickly and efficiently. It also allows credit unions to build trust and relationships with them. What's the secret to success? Don't sell to them, engage with them. And that starts with empowering your employees to feel comfortable and confident using social media.

Here are some key elements of social media training to consider:

  • Understand the role of social media in sales and marketing.
  • Establish you social media objectives.
  • Select which social networks are best for you.
  • Avoid regulatory pitfalls.
  • Build a network.
  • Follow best practices to build out and maintain your network.
  • Integrate social media activities with corporate systems.
  • Analyze metrics to assess engagement levels of network.

Another risk associated with social media isn't in the form of malicious behavior but in human error, or the occurrence of inadvertent data leakage. Whether it's a message to the wrong person, a tweet that should have been a direct message, or a misjudged post to Facebook, the route for accidental leakage has never been easier, nor has it had such a potentially wide audience.

How To Mitigate Errors

Although we can never completely prevent human error, the way to mitigate this risk is to ensure your social media strategy includes an understanding of industry regulations and compliance issues. It is also recommended you use a technology solution that allows users to freely exchange information on public social networks with compliance and oversight.

The old adage "ignorance of the law is no excuse" can be applied to governance when it comes to using social media in regulated industries. To better develop compliance and governance policies for your CU, search for social media guidance on the NCUA site at www.ncua.gov, where you will find guidelines from the FFIEC. Remember that in 2014 Dodd-Frank adds a requirement that FIs capture and store of online communications

In determining best practices of information governance, credit unions may want to follow a recent model created by Deloitte. Overall, organizations need to create a structured governance program that allows for open and consistent dialogue about compliance processes from the top down. The program should have a methodology of reporting and a committee that guides it. Further, the program should set oversight responsibilities for board and management and assign specific accountabilities to each. The program should encourage a business-wide acceptance and understanding of governance that is baked into the culture of the organization. And finally, the program should leverage a technology infrastructure that encompasses a defined set of policies and procedures, standards for reporting and communication and tools that align with internal governance and compliance.

Controlling the Wealth

In just a few short years we have seen social media replace the telephone and e-mail as the de facto communications force in engaging members with brand. Further validation about social's use as a mainstream communications tool was the announcement by the SEC that social may be used as a medium for communications to meet Fair Disclosure rules. Typically organizations start with social as a way to educate and create awareness and then, as they become more familiar, move to attracting new consumers, supporting sales and showcasing customers/members.

Credit unions have embraced social media and many are heavily engaged with supporting sales through deep engagement. As this continues we will see them move to using social as an integrated sales and marketing tool to meet business goals. This is especially true when converting the incredibly social Millennials to members, and finding new and creative ways to engage with them via social throughout the life of the membership.

It's only a matter of time before this socially fluent demographic will soon be controlling the wealth of the nation, and what CU doesn't want to be engaged with that?

Sarah Carter is general manager-social business with Actiance, Belmont, Calif.