Gen Y Marketing Manager Jonathan Gowins started researching a little over a year and a half ago the merits of social media in reaching out to younger members. This past April, the credit union expanded its outlook and formed a new e-commerce department of which Gowins was named e-commerce social media manager.
"I'd done a ton of research on all things social media specific to Gen Y well before the decision was made to put more resources behind electronic delivery," Gowins said. "What we realized is that there is a new generation of people online. We all have busy lives, all want convenience and banking is a chore to most people. So the question for us was how can we cater to them and provide them with the ultimate convenience so that those members in return will spread good word of mouth."
He added that the underlying goal has been to help keep members informed and deliver service the way members want to interact with the credit union. So instead of lattes, the Addison Caf? (http://theaddisioncafe.com) serves up to Gen Y everything from student and auto loans, mortgages and checking accounts to Visa cards and advice via the Addison Caf? blog. The blog was designed to be an online spot where members and potential members can connect with each other and share practical advice while providing insights into finance, investing and the economy in a fun, conversational way.
The credit union also created a virtual family center that provides children and their parents with educational information on topics ranging from managing money and student loans to scholarship offerings and tips on how to save early and often. In addition, members can find the credit union on Twitter and Facebook.
"With a belief that developing good financial habits starts early, we recognized the need to provide our members with the tools to start their kids on the right foot," Gowins said. "Appealing directly to Gen Y is hard to do, so we're focusing on offering products that benefit them and appeal to parents. For us, it is not about cutting back on our other, more traditional methods but adding to them with such free tools as Twitter and Facebook."
He added that at Addison Avenue FCU, social media provides another way to interact with members and requires a time commitment. But he cautioned against making it part of a to do list.
"I only tweet if it has value and is relevant. I don't sell. And even on the blog, I try to post entertaining information or announcements," said Gowins. "If you're making a rule to say tweet x amount of times, it will have an impact on the value of what you tweet about. So I may tweet once a week or three times a day. What's important is that it adds value and is somehow relevant to our members' lives."
Throughout the process he's found that Twitter has been the more effective communication tool. He can take five minutes and tweet an update, announcement or response to a member inquiry compared to updating the cafe blog, which requires a little more thought and serves as more of a news source.
"We try to provide nuggets of wisdom to members on the different channels of their choice to get the valuable financial information they want and need," said Gowins. "It is still early on, but we think it is like the saying every penny counts. So we've been seeing people on Twitter actually talking about how much they love our e-deposit product, and when we respond to them, they are thrilled. They then become evangelists for our credit union and talk about how they love their credit union."
He said what makes it even more exciting is that it has been a slow organic growth. The credit union hasn't really promoted its Twitter or Facebook presence, and now has about 100 followers on Twitter and 18 on Facebook. He admitted that the numbers aren't huge but are just encouraging enough. Plans are underway to start spreading the word via e-mail alerts, initially inviting online banking members to follow Addison Avenue on Twitter.
"This isn't something that can be forced, so what we've been doing is if someone mentions us I respond," said Gowins. "My advice to other credit unions thinking about using social media as a tool is to be relevant, make sure whatever you do in that space has value and recognize that looking at these and other communication channels is worth investigating."