"With regard to social media, it is something that credit unions should absolutely be involved in. But it should also be realized with all the buzz around social media, it's simply another channel for communication, and the basics are still getting people's time and attention," said brass founder/CEO Bryan Sims. "With all the information out there, it's harder and harder to reach people. Social media is another way to listen and when appropriate, interact in conversations about your credit union."
Callahan & Associates CYouth analysts Elliot Kashner and Dane Coalson added that the true first step to reaching out to younger members is ensuring that the products and services offered are appropriate and relevant for each age group. With a big financial education gap and financial services at the top of mind of younger people, credit unions should take the opportunity to demonstrate how they are different in ways that resonate.
"Don't rely on only one channel just because of the media attention. There is a real tendency for credit unions to say, 'Let's just build a social media campaign.' Take an integrated approach, where you funnel them toward something, would deliver more value," said Kashner.
"For instance, you have to give Gen Y a reason to engage on, say, your credit union's Facebook page," said Coalson. "Why should they look at it? Why come back? It is not as simple as just reaching out you also have to have the products and services to back it up."
The credit union challenge in reaching Gen Y is greater, said Catalyst Consulting Group Partner and Senior Consultant Mike Scheuerman, because they are in a commodity business in which the only way to win is providing superior value and service.
"Today's generation of credit union members grew up with Internet access and cell phones. They're in many ways more demanding than their parents," said Scheuerman. "Credit unions need to adapt delivery channels to where members are used to instant access to information and service. Those overlapping channels such as online banking, podcasts, physical branches, mobile services all contribute to credit unions providing the level of service members desire when, where and how they want."
Far from discouraging credit unions from wading into social media, experts said it is really a matter of more effectively fine tuning its use as a sliver of their overall strategic outreach efforts. Beyond Marketing Director of Strategy Curtis Hays advised CUs to know who your credit union is trying to serve and figure out if your brand, products and services are aligned with meeting their needs.
"Determine if you offer something they can use or if this is what they are looking for in life today," said Hays. "Approach your social networking strategy from a standpoint of how am I helping versus selling something. And don't try to present your credit union as something it is not. You'll do more damage than good."
Along the lines of creating a presence that is true to a credit union's brand identity, Hays suggested keeping corporate communications or marketing departments off the social networking highway.
"They are great at what they do, but they'll try to manage the message. It will be painfully obvious, and the very audience you're trying to connect with will smell it out like a rat, and you'll lose them," said Hays. "Authenticity matters most-don't try to be who you think they want you to be. Authentically listen and share. So if there is a great communicator in your teller line or back office, why not let them head your social networking presence?"
Sims added that the social media entry basics are to make sure there is a person responsible for keeping things updated and that there are multiple people involved so it's sustainable even if someone leaves the credit union. He also suggested finding unique ways to add more value.
"The key is making sure communication channels are cross-linked. If someone becomes a fan of your credit union on Facebook, send them a hand-written card, a Starbucks card or something tangible. Why? Because no one sends hand-written cards anymore, but everyone has a Facebook fan page. It's all just about providing something of value and taking service to the next level," said Sims. "The biggest cost in social media is time commitment and realizing it's not just one time but an ongoing commitment. Have a strategy and purpose from the beginning about what you're trying to accomplish rather than just jumping into the next thing."
Scheuerman said one of the things credit unions need to remember is that convenience is key. So one of the basics any credit union should have in its outreach arsenal is a fully functional Web site that provides all transactional information and has transaction capability.
"The Gen Yer is more into 'let me do what I think I need to do, how I want and I'd also like to have some advice on how to accomplish my goals," said Scheuerman. "But making that transition from the transactional to trusted adviser role is one that takes time that you need to build loyalty to accomplish. It's your members providing positive word of mouth about the community your credit union supports that Gen Y will refer to and trust."
He said credit unions should think about how they can provide something competitive that will add value to the number of services members use.
"Don't believe that Gen Y is exceedingly fickle, which may be true to some extent because of the way they communicate and interact with one another. But they are more likely to be the most loyal credit union members once you have built that communication," said Scheuerman.
CYouth's Coalson added that with social media in order to keep Gen Y coming back, credit unions need to add something they consider valuable. Then the relevant products, services and messaging need to be in place for these new relationships to have meaning. Think of the social media campaign as building on the essentials, which should already be in place.