FISHERS, Ind. -- Credit unions are wasting their time and resources chatting about insignificant topics on Twitter and other social media outlets when they should be rallying around issues like secondary capital and member business lending.
That was the message from Robbie Wright, founder of CU Innovators, a consulting services firm, during his presentation at the CU Water Cooler Symposium at FORUM Credit Union.
Wright said that while social media may seem "sexy," it's the unsexy things that will make the difference for credit unions. For example, facilities, he said, can be a "competitive differentiator and key motivator for members."
Wright also discussed fee income, acknowledging that some credit unions might be reluctant to seem like they are focusing on profit. "It's OK for credit unions to talk about making money," he said. "The more money we make, the more money we can return to members."
To illustrate the power of fee income, Wright enlisted Trey Reeme, director of channel integration at TDECU, whose credit union is now making more fee income than it was before the Aug. 15 courtesy pay opt-in deadline. This was accomplished partly by setting up an application, developed in-house, to monitor declined transactions and send automated text messages to the member offering to help.
"We have to avoid thinking that the problem is a sexiness problem we can solve with plastic surgery," Reeme said. "You've got to win on the product and service side before you go all social media."
During the question and answer session that followed, some audience members argued that social media can serve a useful purpose and must not be dismissed out of hand. For example, Amy Leahy-McGraw, marketing director at Public Service Credit Union based in Romulus, Mich., said tweeting about a photo promotion at the CU's car sale resulted in a $11,000 loan.
Brent Dixon, an adviser for Filene Research Institute specializing in young adult issues, asked for a show of hands among attendees to find out how many were at the symposium because of Twitter. The significant number of hands raised, he said, demonstrates that although there is a lot of navel-gazing in the credit union social media space, those online channels can in fact translate into flesh-and-blood gatherings.