For my column last month, instead of sharing my thoughts I decided to reach out to some of my Gen Y peers to see why they chose their financial institutions.
To my surprise, two out of the five people I spoke with bank at a credit union. Not surprising to me, they bank there because their families do.
About two weeks after the column ran, I got an excited phone call from one of the respondents who said she banked at a credit union. She received a letter from the credit union CEO thanking her for her kind words about the credit union and a box of credit union mugs and materials. The CEO also thanked her family for their commitment and service to the credit union.
She was not only excited that her comments had been read by the CEO, but she felt special that they were acknowledged by the executive.
Her explanation for being a credit union member wasn't because credit unions aren't the greatest ever or that they are way better than banks but was simply because that is where her family had always done their banking. The next time though someone asks her why she banks at a credit union, I bet she will tell the story of how she received a letter and box of goodies from the CEO.
In Pennsylvania, the credit union association has been holding what it calls CEO leadership workshops. A feature at the workshops is Gen Y focus groups, where Laura Huggins, the credit union youth ambassador of Pennsylvania, facilitates a panel of seven young people from local schools.
From the workshop, one of the things the association said the CEOs were surprised to learn was that young people get most of their information from the Internet, their parents and their friends.
To me, this isn't surprising at all, in fact those are three key points I've been trying to drive home in this column.
The top use of social media for credit unions should be to see what is being said about them. Out there somewhere, on Facebook, Twitter, a blog or in a comment section, someone is saying something about your credit union.
For the bad comments, read what is being said, see if it is an issue that can be worked out or resolved, and if it calls for it, contact the person who made the comment and try and patch things up.
Also, reach out to the people who make positive comments. Send them a box of goodies or a letter or e-mail thanking them for their kind words. I bet one of the first things they will do is Twitter or write a status update on Facebook about how excited they are that they got something nice from the credit union.
If they don't take to the Internet to brag, one of the first things they will do is tell their friends. One of the first things the respondent did when she got the letter and box from her credit union's CEO was tell all her college roommates.
One of the other points from one of the forums was that most of the young participants were not aware of credit unions or that they would be eligible to join one.
Membership is something that both sets credit unions apart and holds them back. The idea behind a credit union and membership doesn't translate well to young people.
Being required to join a credit union gives off the impression to some young people that you want something from them, not the impression that they will be getting something from you.
The second young person I talked to that was a credit union member, and the youngest person I talked to at age 15, had to ask his mother where he banked. He banked at a credit union because that's where she set up an account for him when he was born. He personally knew nothing about credit unions, even the fact that is where he keeps his money or the fact that you have to be eligible to join one.
By going through the parents of Gen Yers, you don't have to face the hurdle of having to explain membership or even what a credit union is. All the young person knows is that is where their money is. When it comes time for them to open a checking account or get a car loan that is where they will go if that is where their parents tell them to go.
Getting feedback directly from Gen Y is essential if your credit union is serious about gaining young people as members. Listening to what they say is only half the battle though. You have to take in what they say, figure out how your credit union can implement what they are saying and then go do it.