By the time the average credit union CEO is comfortable with one form of social media, it's likely the young people the CU is seeking to attract has moved on to a new one.
As the social media landscape continues to evolve, Credit Union Journal talked with experts about where the new opportunities lie, which sites may already be withering on the vine and strategies for leveraging these sites.
Now, a big headache for consumers could be a huge opportunity for CUs.
As consumers continue to see cards reissued due to data breaches and the upcoming EMV liability shift, one analyst suggested CUs use social media to help members understand why they keep getting new plastic in the mail.
"From a content perspective it really opens up a unique opportunity for credit unions where these bigger banks seem to be more vulnerable to security breaches," said Nichole Kelly, CEO at Social Media Explorer. "This might be a good time to start talking about the security of your debit card and how credit unions are protecting [members from breaches] and not replacing your card every month because something happened completely unrelated to your account."
But regardless of the message, CUs should accept that using social media costs money.
"Most credit unions need to be jumping more fully into the ad-support realm of their social media, and I think you're going to find that on all the different platforms," Meredith Olmstead, a social media marketing consultant and founding partner at Social Stairway told CU Journal. "We've seen Twitter now open up, and we're seeing a lot more promotions from credit unions and their affiliates on Twitter and of course on Facebook."
Redirecting marketing dollars
That's part of a larger trend, continued Olmstead, as institutions gradually redirect marketing dollars away from traditional outlets to online platforms "and then try to figure out how to bring all of those fans and followers to their owned media — their blogs, their websites — and how to turn them into leads and potential members, or trying to drive them to revenue-generating sources on their websites."
According to Kelly, organic reach via Facebook generally tops out at around 6%, and she said many page administrators are stuck with poor outreach because marketing budgets often don't account for social media expenses. But many social media managers also have lamented that it's increasingly difficult to cut through the clutter and get their message out, even if they're willing to pay.
"I understand the frustration for people who many times have paid to build their following and then can't reach their audience," said Kelly. "We could argue that Facebook is making it harder for us, but what they're saying is: 'You need to find that content that drives audience engagement, and if we see it, we're going to give you organic reach.' "
For brands that don't have the skills, time or resources to do that, she added, those CUs may begin to shift toward other channels in order to better target their messaging, such as using Pinterest to reach out to young mothers, because that site is favored by women between their 20s and 40s.
Some CUs and state leagues have also had success using YouTube pre-rolls and streaming online radio sites like Pandora. But Kelly and Olmstead cautioned that even though those sites are similar to old-school TV and radio, they aren't necessarily a slam dunk.
Sites like Pandora and Spotify are "capturing a listener for hours, because people listen to them while they're working and your commercial keeps coming back to them," said Kelly. "If I'm listening to it for a really long time, I'll hear the same commercial six to 10 times, so the impact on brand awareness is much higher."
The challenge, she said, is that it's nearly impossible to track. "You're really relying on that consumer, and when they come in and you ask 'Where did you hear about us?' they may not say Pandora," she explained.
Olmstead said she hasn't seen widespread success using sites like Pandora, and believes many media buyers are pushing CUs toward those sorts of sites, which are more traditional but target a modern audience.
While CUs have been successful with high clickthrough rates via YouTube pre-roll videos, Olmstead added Facebook is also becoming a big player with posting video directly, noting the site is expected to roll out an option to pay to boost native video posts as part of a strategy to compete with YouTube.
While Facebook and Twitter remain the dominant social networking platforms, there are some changes at work, and Olmstead said CUs should expect to see one player bowing out before long.
"I think Google Plus is on the way out, to be honest," she said. "I think it's important to have your Google Plus page and share there while you're sharing other places, which is easy enough to do, because it is a place that has influence over [Google] searches, but I just don't see Google Plus really coming on strong. I don't think it ever has. If anything is fading, it may be that one."
Both Olmstead and Kelly pointed to Instagram as one social utility that could help expand CUs' reach with young consumers.
"It just depends on the level of comfort of your staff ... and what your goals are," Olmstead said of Instagram. "But if credit unions are serious about trying to reach the next generation of members, they will need to be on places like Instagram and YouTube. Those are going to be around for the long haul."
Youth Attracts Youth
First Capital FCU in York, Pa., ran an Instagram-based campaign earlier this year targeting high school students. The promotion was suggested by the CU's Youth Financial Advisory Board, which advised skipping sites like Facebook, as they aren't as relevant to younger millennials.
Because Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest are highly visual, Kelly noted that "in order for credit unions to be successful, they're going to have to invest resources in designers."
One option, she said, is to hire a college student on a freelance basis, both for the cheaper cost and getting a young person's perspective.
While a small number of credit unions have begun to use Tumblr, Kelly offered a few words of caution about that site. While it has a younger audience than many social networking sites — particularly high school and college-age consumers — it also "really requires a credit union to think outside the box; this is not the place to go to provide financial tips. This is a place to create something funny, unique, and maybe even poke fun at how that audience manages finance."
Olmstead cautioned there may not be a big future for CUs on Tumblr, but said LinkedIn may be one resource CUs have underutilized. "There is some potential for curating some really cool LinkedIn groups about... all those different kinds of topics that credit unions can weigh in on as thought leaders," such as financial planning or responsible lending, she said.
Some CUs have shied away from LinkedIn because of its status as a B2B networking site, but Olmstead reminded that "businesses are made up of consumers, so it's not like a business is reading your LinkedIn page — it's a consumer who works for that business."
Kelly advised that whatever social platforms CUs choose to focus on, they should think visually. "Pull back from 'This is our loan rate' and all of that and really think about what the audience needs and how you can design a compelling graphic image to solve that for them," she advised.