"Who knew such a simple idea-to create a single place to track all of the credit unions and only credit unions implementing Twitter-would get such a positive response," Conant said. "There are many opinions floating around about the use of Twitter by credit unions: what works, what doesn't and how do you measure success. I don't think anyone knows exactly where all of this is headed but no one wants to miss out."
With the intent to create a simple but inclusive meeting place for credit unions to gather and compare notes, Conant got tweeting. Within just two weeks, his @CUTweetTrack on Twitter was following more than 200 credit unions. CUTweetTrack continues to gain traction, now following more than 300 credit unions and leagues, with nearly 300 followers and more than 200 updates.
"I genuinely believe that communication and collaboration have always been the keys to credit unions' success," Conant said. "I know just enough about Twitter to be dangerous, and I quickly realized that for credit unions to collaborate they'd need a central hub where they could find out which of their peers were tweeting."
As he's been tracking credit union tweeters, Conant said, potentially productive patterns are emerging, from serving as a tool for credit unions to exchange ideas with each other, members and potential members, to helping support awareness campaigns. He added that some credit unions are even turning to Twitter to help fill their employment needs.
"What I see is that Twitter for credit unions is still yet to be defined. People are very anxious to define the expectations of Twitter. Some say to judge its success based on how well it connects with Gen Y. Others look at the number of followers as a benchmark of success. But in my opinion, the bottom line is that this is something that is still evolving, and we shouldn't be rushing to judge the success or failure of Twitter for credit unions quite yet," Conant said.
He added that while the initial concept was just to track how many credit unions were on Twitter, he saw an opportunity to help credit unions do more through discussions about connecting and building relationships with their members. Conversations with fellow marketers and social marketing consultant James Robert Lay of PTP NEW MEDIA resulted in Conant launching the CUTweetTrack blog (CUTweetTrack.com).
"We just needed something that will allow for extended conversations greater than 140 characters, and the blog is still the most effective form of social media for that," Conant said. "There are those in the CU community who are really clicking with their Twitter strategy, but they are all spread out. This is a way to centralize the effort more."
Conant said CUTweetTrack blog topics will focus more on information than opinion. The first blog post kicked off with an in-depth interview with Bellco CU Direct Marketing Specialist/Twittermaster Peter Hodges discussing everything from why credit unions that tweet should have a Twitter link on their home page and the difference between Facebook and Twitter to what go-to tools are part of his credit union's Twitter toolbox.
"In the future, we will be bringing other persons in the CU Tweeting space to the blog," Conant said. "I'd like to stay out of posting my own opinions and conclusions and stay true to facilitating the conversations. I'm excited about how quickly we're evolving."
As part of that evolution, CUTweetTrack is branching out by offering CUTweetMasters, a private group on Continuity Engine's Community (http://community.continuity.net), to further the collaborative dialogue on social media use in the credit union industry. Conant said the platform serves as a way for credit unions to network and collaborate on industry issues.
"We've established a pretty valid critical base. Now we're going to encourage the collaborators to discuss and share ideas," Conant said. "We are also going to dig deeper into the data we are accumulating."