MONTVALE, N.J. -- Paragon Federal Credit Union, hoping that CU members will want to surf the Facebook and MySpace tide, said it will boot up a social networking site.
The $400 million Paragon has teamed up with Youngworth Public Relations and Leverage Software to launch Memberville. The CU said the national social networking site will allow other credit unions to join in and provide businesses with a platform to connect with credit union members. Since the Internet is an often crowded two-way street, CU members will have the means to directly message those businesses, credit union officials and members of their own and other credit unions. The site is scheduled to launch on June 23.
"With more than 88.5 million credit union members in the U.S. alone, the credit union industry is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the future of social media," said Paragon President/CEO Richard Rays.
The Memberville community will be open to the public (credit union members and nonmembers), business owners, SEGs and vendors that work with and supply credit unions.
"We envision this one CU branded site as the perfect platform to educate the nonmembers on the advantages and differences between us and other financial institutions," said Mike Puzycki, director of marketing for Paragon Federal.
"We feel the collective sharing of real-world stories on how we as individual CUs truly help and care for the consumer is the unified brand and message we need to shout from the mountain top. This is the CU movement after all and what better way to combat the huge bank marketing budgets than a grassroots, authentic collection of real people? Social networking and current technologies are perfect to accomplish this. One community, one voice."
The community will feature a suite of functionality, including personal profile pages, people-matching, blogs, chat rooms, polling, RSS feeds, discussion groups, file sharing, targeted advertising, and customer and community analytics. In addition, Memberville will feature on-line classes and Webinars.
"Memberville will help the credit union industry engage and learn from its single most important asset: members," said Jack Youngworth, president/CEO of Youngworth Public Relations. "Through an innovative suite of online community products, Memberville can help credit unions across the country empower their members to meet one another, build relationships, share ideas, collaborate, provide real-time product feedback, and tell the credit union industry exactly what's on their minds."
Leverage Software, a provider of social networking platforms for a variety of clients, including Microsoft, Time Warner and The New York Times, will provide the platform for the community.
The Memberville community will also allow business owners and corporate executives to learn from industry experts, participate in on-line programs and build relationships. The site will rely on CU employees and approved vendors to post blogs and other content. The sponsors said they will reach out to experts to provide relevant content. They will also fund third-party content providers and actively solicit submissions from industry experts, financial advisers, and corporate leaders.
Credit unions that sign up with the Paragon venture will be able to integrate the community into their existing Web site and customize the Memberville header with their own logo. In addition, all participating credit unions will be supplied with a turn-key advertising and marketing kit, equipped with various ad templates that can be customized with each credit union's logo.
"We are hoping that individual credit unions across the country will participate in the promotion of the community through their own P.R., advertising and marketing efforts," said Puzycki. "By adopting one branded community, the credit union industry can create powerful synergies among its membership base, reinforce the credit union message, and learn more about our members."
There will be what is described as a small user fee for participating credit unions. Paragon said that fee has yet to be determined and will be based on the number of users.
"Memberville will offer a very affordable opportunity for participating credit unions to reap the rewards of one branded and well-maintained social networking site, without incurring the burden and costs associated with the development and upkeep of a social networking site of this magnitude," said Youngworth.
He added that participating credit unions will be rewarded for their early adoption of a powerful tool and can use Memberville as a means of creating goodwill and added value for their members. "This is yet another perk credit unions can offer in their own advertising and promotional campaigns to differentiate themselves and offer added value to their members."
"We feel that by unifying under one community, the credit union brand will benefit as a whole," said Puzycki. "The value of a powerful word-of-mouth engine, such as Memberville, will provide the industry with a tool far more powerful than a national ad campaign aimed at increasing credit union membership across the U.S. and overseas."
Puzycki said that all visitors will have limited access to the site. But only those members that belong to a participating credit union will have full access. In addition, full-access users will be able to form subgroups, which will provide a means for certain groups to interact only with those invited into the subgroup.