Lessons In Social Media From Ultimate Fighting Championships

If the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) can get social media right, why can't credit unions?

The UFC encourages social media engagement by granting bonuses for "outstanding Twitter engagement and creativity." The UFC's most-followed fighter, Anderson Silva, has 2.8 million followers.

Your first protest: "That's great, but credit unions aren't nearly as entertaining or interesting as UFC fighters." To be sure, credit unions are not fighting, gladiator-style, in an octagon surrounded by rabid mixed marital arts fans. But what we do is interesting.

Make no mistake; consumers are extremely interested in money and getting ahead financially. Personal finance can be both confusing and embarrassing. Many would like access to easy-to-digest tips and engagement with experts they trust, and who better to provide that than their CU?

Mere presence on social networks is not enough. Presence must move to engagement. Engagement requires mastering the medium and that's hard. A CU Facebook page filled with rate updates will not drive new business. A CU blog that is populated once a month with newsletter content does not drive engagement. Tweets that only announce storm closings and facility openings do not drive word-of-mouth marketing.

Your next protest: There will be no way to control the content from rank-and-file employees. True. Ultimately, if a credit union invites team members to use personal Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts for business purposes, the credit union is giving up some control. However, this can be managed through solid social media policies and guidelines.

The benefit of true engagement through the use of social media exponentially growing the reach of the credit union makes the risk well worth it. How many followers does your credit union have today? How many could it have if you leveraged the social networks of some of the best individuals in your organization?

Your trump card: Our credit union has already tried social media and it doesn't work. Social media does work, but just like a jiu jitsu move, it doesn't work if it isn't practiced, performed well, and used regularly.

Many credit unions give up on social media after brief and ineffective attempts. They relegate the responsibility to one team member as an afterthought. They create a Facebook page but block all access to social media sites for internal staff. They outsource the engagement and expect strong results. They do not spend time creating interesting and fresh content. These efforts do not work because they are poorly executed and not driven from a strategic framework.


Take This Test

Take a moment to score your credit union, which is in the business of serving people, on the use of social media to engage with members on a scale of 1-10. With that score in mind, consider the following:

Who can members and potential members engage with from your credit union through Twitter? Can a potential new hire interact with your recruiting staff through LinkedIn? How does your member service staff use Facebook to help solve member problems? How is your business development team tapping social media to work with prospects?

Social media done right will help CUs get stronger. It can drive engagement. It can drive new business results. It can help recruit stronger team members. It can be a member service tool. It simply cannot succeed when executed poorly. This is why Filene is launching a pilot to help credit unions get stronger with social media. We are exploring whether customized social media training, customized and curated content along with a gamified approach can help CUs utilize social media more effectively.

Credit unions may not have much in common with the UFC, but what we do share is a bottom-line business need to connect and engage with consumers. Social media is the vehicle to do just that. Our members' loyalty and engagement are worth the fight to figure out this medium.

Tansley Stearns is director of innovation and applied research with the Filene Research Institute, Madison, Wis. For info: www.filene.org.