LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — New rules from Twitter have thrown a wrench in the social media works for some credit unions that want to use promoted posts to break through the clutter and highlight their offerings on the popular social networking site.
Peach State FCU entered the social media realm in October with Facebook and Twitter profiles, using promoted posts on each site. (A promoted post pays the site to expose the tweet or post to a larger number of users.)
But a recent change to Twitter's rules sometime in November has shut out some credit unions from using this common business marketing practice.
"We had some luck with Twitter in October doing promoted tweets and promoting the account as a whole," said Meredith Olmstead, founder and social media marketing consultant at Social Stairway, who is serving as a social media consultant for Peach State.
"We doubled [Peach State's] followers through the month of October," she said. "We went back [in mid-November] to roll out some promoted posts for the month of November, and Twitter had de-activated the credit union's account [from promoted posts]."
After making inquiries to Twitter, Olmstead was told via form e-mails that the credit union is ineligible to participate in the site's ad programs because of restrictions on financial products.
"We're really trying to build a following, and it's going to be virtually impossible without promoting," said Olmstead. "It can happen organically, but if you work with social media, you know it's almost a waste of their resources to keep the Twitter account open without being able to promote some of what we're doing.
Twitter's rules state that "Twitter restricts the promotion of financial services and related content," with banking services and banking institutions subject to that policy.
The rules, however, also provide loopholes, essentially saying that financial institutions can use promoted posts, but they must go through an approval process with the site to verify that the institution is not violating any of Twitter's rules (including prohibitions of promoting products such as short-term mortgages, payday loans and more).
Jason Spooner, strategic account manager at social media consultants Social Media Explorer, told Credit Union Journal in an e-mail that most CUs should still be able to advertise on Twitter, they'll just need to go through the approval process first.
"Twitter is just trying to limit their risk in this space," Spooner said. "They absolutely want the financial institutions' money [in terms of advertising], they just don't want to be caught on the wrong side of the industry."
When asked about its promotions policy for credit unions and financial services companies, a Twitter spokesperson said in an e-mailed response, "Our focus is on providing a great user experience, and we regularly review and update our ads policies to that end. We'll continue to work with our financial services ad partners on ways of reaching audiences that benefit both advertisers and users."
Nichole Kelly, the CEO of Social Media Explorer, a consultancy firm, noted that credit unions have unfortunately been "lumped into a category of heavy [financial services] abusers," such as debt-relief firms, payday lenders and others.
"I was following the conversations in those spaces for a while and there were a lot of companies not following guidelines and making wild claims in their tweets," Kelly said. "This is likely Twitter trying to protect consumers."
She added that because the majority of credit unions haven't put much money into their social media strategies, there isn't likely to be an exodus of them from the site. "But if there are credit unions that have been really building their audience using promoted posts, it would make it more difficult to build an audience."
More About Service Than Sales
An informal poll via Credit Union Journal's own Twitter page revealed that very few CUs currently use promoted posts,
But Waterloo, Iowa-based Veridian CU is another that has run into problems with promoted posts.
Veridian had held off on using Twitter but finally launched with the site in October 2011, and in September of this year began using promoted posts to try to better target members and non-members geographically. During its brief time on Twitter, Veridian ran three promoted tweet campaigns linked with landing pages for specific products, including Visa credit cards.
"We did see more clicks through the Twitter ads than we would have seen had the tweets not been promoted," said Norah Carroll, Veridian's digital marketing strategist. "We saw increased impressions, saw clicks and got new followers at a higher rate than prior to [using promoted posts]. They were definitely results that we were happy with and wanted to continue seeing, as we increased our investment in Twitter ads in 2014."
Carroll said the 178,000-member, $2.4 billion CU still plans to use Twitter - it is currently investigating how to work within the site's advertising policies - but the primary use going forward may be more from a service perspective rather than advertising.
"We see a lot of benefit as an organization from being on Twitter, and as we diversify our member base more and more of our members are using twitter... we want to make sure we're there and part of the conversation," she said.