ARVADA, Colo.-Several large Denver-based CUs have partnered with some of their smaller counterparts to provide a leg up with social media strategies.

Sundie Seefried, CEO at $230-million Partner Colorado CU here and a member of the Rocky Mountain Alliance of Credit Unions, noted that there's a division between CUs with resources of $300 million or more and those below that mark that have very limited budgets for anything but core offerings.

The Alliance, comprised primarily of CUs with $250 million in assets or less, launched a project and seminar to team four Alliance member CUs with four larger Colorado CUs that awarded scholarships of $2,000 each to help with social media. Grace Stanton at Stanton & Associates served as a consultant in the effort, and the firm donated an additional $2,000, plus man hours, for a total value of $4,000 for each credit union.

Credit unions receiving the grants were Community Choice CU in Commerce City, sponsored by Denver Community CU; Electrical FCU in Arvada, sponsored by Elevations CU; West Denver Community CU, sponsored by Ent FCU; and Westminster FCU, sponsored by Partner Colorado CU. The winning CUs were randomly selected by the Alliance out of approximately seven that participated in the seminar and were eligible for the grant. Any CU that attended the seminar and had $50 million or less in assets was eligible.

Seefried explained that some small CUs don't have much of an Internet presence beyond just a website, so "the idea was that ... Stanton & Associates would stand with them and figure out a strategy that they could sustain long term and that's appropriate for what they have."

In other words, it was more than just getting the CUs set up with Facebook and Twitter and calling it a day. Seefried said that the combined total of each grant should be enough to help each credit union get established over the course of three of four months and to integrate social media into what they presently do.

Many credit unions have struggled to find the monetary return on social media, and Seefried acknowledged that all CUs at the seminar were warned about that upfront.

'Pick Your Battles Carefully'

"The speakers we had that day got right up there and said that you can't measure the ROI on some of this stuff yet...Everyone in the group cautioned them to pick your battles wisely, because you are pouring time and money into that, and you need to be monitoring the value of that."

Seefried acknowledged that the Alliance has not been able to drive efficiencies at participating CUs as much as organizers had hoped, in part because of pressures of time and money, but also because "with the recession, people are working harder at their desk and they just don't have time to talk. It's amazing how we used to have so much more time together in the industry and now it just seems so distant."

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