VIENNA Va. — One credit union has been so successful promoting itself on Facebook, that even Facebook took notice, publishing a case study based on the results.

In an effort to enhance its social media presence, Navy Federal Credit Union called on intrepid members with video skills to share their stories on Facebook. The result was an exponential growth of the CU's "likes" along with soft-selling services.

"We wanted to hear the stories from our members on how Navy Federal Credit Union affected their lives, and how we met their financial needs," said Don Varela, Navy Federal's lead strategist for social media marketing. "We knew the stories were out there — we have heard these stories in the branches. We wanted to capture it on film."

In June 2012, Navy Federal launched the "Tell Your Story" Facebook campaign. The impetus was celebrating the credit union exceeding four million members. Members could submit one video in categories such as Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force that creatively illustrated how they successfully used services — be it to secure a home loan, buy a car or referring a family member.

Varela explained that over the course of the following months members were invited to submit their videos on Facebook and then vote for their favorites. In total, the approximate 300 videos submitted receiving more than 45,000 votes. Six finalists were selected from each branch of service. One member from each of the four branches of service won a first prize $4,000 certificate.

While all social media channels are constantly evolving, Facebook, as a business tool, has morphed in recent years, explained Jim Pond, partner with the marketing and consulting firm James and Matthew + Company. "Facebook isn't a sales platform. It's primarily a soft sell of services — selling actually doesn't get any softer than on Facebook."

To maximize its effort, Navy Federal worked with TBG Digital running a one-week Facebook Ads campaign offering specials on financial products. For example, they targeted page post ads describing specials, including a $400 auto-finance rebate, to friends of fans.

"Once we published the app on Facebook, we used targeted ads to target all of our members who are fans, and their friends and lookalikes," said Varela adding that he attributes 90% of metric upticks to Facebook. "This generated a lot of feedback from our members. We used advertising to promote the voting and specials."

Nichole Kelly, CEO of Social Media Explorer, agrees with approaches similar to the one taken by Navy Federal, but cautioned credit unions on constantly posting special offers and promotions without taking the time to add value to the channel.

"Let's face it, people don't want their news feed filled with the latest loan offer or CD rate," said Kelly. "It may work for a little while, but eventually people will get tired of seeing you in their feed and will either ignore them or, even worse, hide your updates."

A Well-Liked CU
Today Navy Fed has approximately 1.1 million Facebook "likes." However, in January 2012 it had roughly 22,000 likes. But by July 2013, it had jumped to 770,000 likes and was ranked No. 1 in finance with 191,000 new fans added.

While increasing Facebook likes is a goal all organizations share, what that metric represents is often misleading. "Unless your content is shareable, Facebook is now pay to play," said Pond. "Only seven to 10% of people who like your page will see your posting. So you have to invest real money and talent in social media or no one will hear you."

Navy Federal did invest in the initial campaign, which was so successful that Facebook published a case study. "We weren't really expecting this increase in likes. The concept was new to us," said Varela.

Subscribe Now

Authoritative analysis and perspective for every segment of the credit union industry

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.