If you struggle with the thought of taking your credit union onto social media, here's good news. You already know how to do it. In fact, you've been doing it very well for many years.

You've just called it something else. Like "small talk" or "chit chat" — the informal, personal interaction with members in your branch. Of course, small talk isn't small at all. It's the connective tissue that endears you to your members.

The thing my daughter loves most about our credit union is walking into the branch, and being asked how school is going, or how her car is running. Along the way, she's picked up tips about building her credit, and good moves when she upgrades from her first car.

There. Social media. Done, and done well. Now, let's take it online.

Just like a conversation in your branch, you want to accomplish 3 things with online social media.

1. Show you know your stuff. Like helpful advice from a friendly teller, social media can position you as the trusted advisor. But don't be like an overbearing sales guy your members want to avoid when they come to the branch. That means no posts that are all chest pounding. Forget selling and concentrate on teaching. Your members will trust you, greatly increasing the chance they'll turn to you for their next loan.

2. Show you're human. This comes down to style, and this may be the hardest element to get right in social media. See, during conversations, we pick up cues from the listener that help us edit our message on the fly.

The listener fidgets if we're long winded.

They glance at their phone if the topic isn't of interest.

But we don't get that kind of immediate feedback on social media. So instead, we have to go with qualities that never fail you in a conversation:

  • Keep it quick
  • Keep it light
  • Keep it interesting
  • Keep it varied

You would be amazed at how often a credit union's social media manages to be none of those things. Posting images of sales posters isn't a quick or light message. It's probably not very interesting. And collections of pictures of the staff cutting birthday cake is not terribly interesting or varied.
Look at your credit union's Facebook page right now. Did it have those 4 qualities?

3. Show you know your community. This should be the easiest part for you. Credit unions usually rock this topic. Maybe it's a shout out to a local team that's heading to a conference championship, promoting a local festival or highlighting a red letter date in your city's history. If in doubt, ask your most outgoing and beloved teller what people are talking about when they come up to the counter.

Pulling it off

And now, the tricky part. With offline social media — speaking to members in your branch — it's easy to create a message. Just converse. But online social media takes more. Oh so very much more.

Online social media is visual communication, and there's a hierarchy to that:

  • Plain old text posts are the lowly serfs of the social media kingdom. They can get the day to day work done, but heads don't turn when they come into view.
  • Images, with or without text, are like knights. They get noticed, are more powerful and more effective. But there's room for improvement.
  • Video is the monarch. The visual movement commands attention, it communicates more in a few seconds than any other form of communication, and isn't easily ignored.

Here's where many credit unions throw up their hands because they don't have staff nor budget to create anything other than occasional text posts. If that sounds like you, take comfort knowing there are 4 ways you CAN change it up.
First, go on a dinosaur hunt in your marketing budget. The Internet was an asteroid strike to the marketing world. Social media is the nimble up-and-coming species. Are your dollars still going to the dinosaurs? This is the most difficult, but most long-term solution.

Second, you can selectively share articles from other sources. While this shows you're actively watching for content your members would like to know, it isn't ideal, since you're helping to establish sites like Bankrate.com or CNN/Money as trusted advisors, rather than yourself.

Third, look for services that offer libraries of ready-made content for financial institutions' social media. I know at least one exists. The videos, animations and graphics are an instant, and effective, quality social media feed. They are an easy way to elevate the educational value of your feed.

Fourth, you can occasionally create content yourself with just your phone. For photos, apps as simple as Snapseed or more robust as Photoshop Touch can help you take your images up a notch. And yes, you can even shoot and edit videos with your phone, but I HIGHLY caution you about that. Video is particularly hard to do well, and the quality of the end product will reflect on your credit union. A video with poor lighting and audio can make your credit union look bush league — hardly what you're hoping to accomplish.

Confidence is everything. As you stare into the maw of a blank YouTube channel or Facebook feed, be comforted knowing you are swimming in familiar waters. Extend the welcoming, nurturing environment of your branch to your online presence, and take the relationship you have with your members to a new level.

You got this.

Scott Hanson is President of ClickVue, a provider of educational videos for credit unions' social media and websites. Learn more at www.clickvue.com, or reach Scott directly at scott@clickvue.com.