Many credit unions are using outlets like Facebook, MySpace and blogs to interact and connect with members. Over the past few years, blogs in particular, have become a way for credit unions to develop a voice, reach members and attract younger members. Credit unions that have started these interactive Web pages cautioned it's not as simple as some may think.
"It's frustrating to see some credit unions that just set it up and then don't do anything with it," said Cammie Morrow, marketing and business development director at Hopewell Federal Credit Union.
Morrow was the brain behind Hopewell's blog, hopewellfederal07.wordpress.com. The credit union created a blog as a way for President/CEO Al Smith to communicate with members in the summer of 2007. Hopewell was the first credit union in Ohio to create a blog.
Morrow said she conducted a lot of research before setting up the blog to determine the best way to go about it for the credit union. She decided against creating a Facebook or MySpace page because it wasn't the right fit for the credit union.
"Maybe I watch too much "Dateline," but I don't know that any one wants to be a credit union's friend," Morrow said. "Our blog doesn't have all the fancy bells and whistles, but that's not what ours is about. It's really a place to go to talk to the head of the credit union about financial issues."
Smith writes his own blogs on a weekly basis and responds to posts and questions received from members and nonmembers. Morrow said that occasionally she will jump in to add to the blog, but identifies that the message is coming from her and not Smith.
"People like the aspect of talking to Al. Financial institutions are a big mystery to people especially now. It's a big plus to have him accessible."
In June 2008, Addison Avenue Federal Credit Union also created a blog but with a different focus than Hopewell. The blog theaddisoncafe.com, is written by 27-year-old employee Jonathan Gowins and was created to specifically engage youth in the credit union.
"We decided to go with a personal approach rather than a corporate approach," Gowins said. "Too often credit unions think 'let's get a blog because everyone has a blog,' but if the content is not valuable, then no one will read it."
Gowins will blog once a week about topics that range from debt, giving, pet expenses, travel and financial issues that arise in relationships. Gowins said that one of the posts that he got the most responses to was about his dog.
"The more someone can relate to it, the more responses you'll get."
Morrow agreed that it is the more simple posts that tend to generate the most response.
"What you don't expect people to get passionate about is what gets the most response," Morrow said.
A post about where to find the best free coupons resulted in 247 hits in two days Morrow said.
Both Gowins and Morrow said, though, that generating comments isn't necessarily the most important the about having a blog.
"One of the things Al said was that he thought we would have more comments," Morrow said. "But I had to show him that you have to look at how many people are viewing the blog and not just the ones that are leaving comments."
A CU Tomorrow business brief by Ben Rogers from the Filene Research Institute, entitled Credit Unions and Social Media: Engaging Young Adults, said that spectators are the most prevalent in social media, representing 48% of online users.
"I personally don't think a blog is just for the comments," Gowins said. "Our objective was to engage youth and have them learn something beneficial about their finances."
This week Forum Credit Union launched a revamp of its Unofficial Spokesperson blog and will launch a new version of its Aware Teams blog and two new blogs over the next month. The credit unions' blogs will now be accessed through the credit unions' homepage, www.forumcu.com, instead of being on an outside web page.
The Unofficial Spokesperson blog formerly had two to three contributors, but will now have five to seven contributors in order to generate different perspectives and more comments and conversation.
Andy Mattingly, senior vice president of marketing for Forum, said that they picked contributors who are in a member-service role at the credit union and that had an interest in blogging.
The spokesperson blog, Mattingly said, is meant to broadcast what's going on at the credit union and keep members up-to-date on products and issues, such as security or card breaches.
The credit union created its Aware Team blog as an alternate to its youth advisory board. "We found it was difficult to get the kids to the meetings with the advisory board, so we decided to go digital with it," Mattingly said.
The new Aware Team blog will also have more contributors.
The two new blogs being launched by the credit union will include a financial coach blog and an investment and retirement planning blog.
"We want to have a more timely reaction to what's going on in the market," Mattingly said.
Mattingly said one of the main reasons for the changes was for the credit union to host the blogs on its Web site, but he said that some of the key things they'll be changing is having more contributors and maintaining a clearer focus on what they blog about.
"We want to have a lot of different sources so that people will have one resource for all these different perspectives," Mattingly said. "We want to engage members-more than having a marketing goal-to show them what products we have.
Previously, Mattingly said they were not able to track how many views they were receiving on the different blogs. Moving the blogs to the credit union's site will allow them to track visits and views to the site.
Morrow said that Hopewell uses a completely free service called wordpress to host the blog. Wordpress also allows her to track how many people click on each blog and what links viewers are clicking on.