o SaaS tool lets members link e-newsletter articles to their Facebook, other social networking sites.
o Credit union combines in-house, vendor-produced copy on timely financial topics.
o E-newsletter replaces print version, saving more than $100,000 a year.
o Trackable activity expected to lead to enhanced targeting opportunities.
Northwest Community Credit Union members can now use their favorite social networking sites to share such nuggets of information as financial advice and what's up with the credit union's bicycle-powered blenders.
The blenders are used to make smoothies at festivals while the educational articles are courtesy of the Oregon credit union's new electronic newsletter, which now allows members to send content to their friends and colleagues on sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn.
"We're kind of famous for our bicycle-powered blenders at community events and we're also very active bloggers on a variety of topics, and now we have a new way of building on those common interests to help get articles and other relevant financial information to members, and potential new members, in a way that reaches a lot of people across demographics we can really target," said Matthew Purvis, vice president of marketing at the $640 million Northwest Community CU, a 15-branch operation based in Springfield.
The technology company here is IMN, a Waltham, Mass., provider of content-driven e-communications through the Software-as-a-Service channel to a client list of 3,000 that includes names like MetLife, Eaton Vance and New York Life.
Content produced both by the credit union and by IMN is packaged in an electronic newsletter and made accessible to the various social networking sites through a new tool called Credit Union On, which displays a "bookmark and share" icon next to newsletter content, inviting readers to click and copy the link to their social networking sites.
Purvis said Northwest Community encountered "no pushback from members at all" when it eliminated its quarterly print newsletter, saving the credit union more than $100,000 a year now that it no longer has to print and mail the newsletter after producing it completely in-house.
On the other hand, the electronic newsletter, sent out at least monthly, offers financial topics meant to inform members while building on the credit union's "That's So Northwest" marketing and branding effort, Purvis said.
It's also trackable. Website traffic has gone up noticeably since the recent launch, and 50 of the credit union's 68,000 or so members subscribed to the Facebook feed through the radio button on the most recent e-newsletter, Purvis said.
"That's really not bad at all when you consider that our credit union comes out of the timber industry and that our membership is not particularly made up of high-tech early adopters," he added.
And those 50 reach an estimated 6,500 people on Facebook, based on the friends-per-individual rate of 130 to one.
"The exposure is significant even with small rates of customers posting e-newsletter content to their personal profile pages," said Craig Capp, a vice president at IMN.
"The increasing popularity of social media has added a totally new dynamic to online member engagement, and we address this change by providing credit unions with an efficient and effective means of engaging members and prospects through e-mail and social media networks with content that educates readers on personal finance best practices."
Purvis said the ability to track who accesses what will also enable the credit union to offer members more precisely targeted information over time.
"This is all a part of putting a face and our many personalities in front of the public through these tools that augment all that we do in the physical world to amplify awareness of what we are and what we do," he said.
"Unlike a printed piece of material, this thing has legs. You can really connect to and allow people to connect to what they find interesting."
Purvis also said he thinks such tools are particularly well-suited to a credit union like his that's still moving from its SEG history into the community charter realm.
"That's been one of the challenges facing our industry and I really don't think a lot of us have done a great job of changing strategies," he said. "Tools like these are really helpful in reaching out to a broader community to increase awareness of what we do as a credit union, in what we've found to be a world where most people don't understand credit unions very well."