SAN ANTONIO — Social media is already having a direct impact in the way credit unions communicate with their members and the world at large, even if they don't yet have a social media strategy, a leading author and executive said.
In fact, the likelihood is that if a CU does not have a social media strategy in place, the social media communication already taking place with its members will be of the negative sort, the executive added.
Erik Qualman, global vice president for Online Marketing at EF Education, told executives attending PSCU Financial Service's 2011 Senior Leadership Workshop and Member Forum that the only way to truly mismanage social media was to sit back and do nothing at all about it.
Peppering his talk with examples from YouTube, Twitter and other social media platforms, Qualman urged executives to fail fast and fail often in social media so that they can become that much more proficient in it that much more quickly.
The key, he argued, was just to jump into social media. Stop thinking about it and start trying it, even if that means initial failure.
One of the examples of this he drew upon was of Gary Vaynerchuk, a wine retailer born in Russia, who hit upon the idea of using a video web log to promote his wine business in New Jersey.
Qualman called up the first episode of the online video to show how the effort was pretty much a failure and a much later episode to illustrate how well it had improved. "This is an excellent illustration of the need to get involved with social media," Qualman said. "Get up there and start swinging at it. You will strike out at first, but if you are listening to your members, they will tell you how to hit it out of the park."
He also used some companies as illustrations of what can happen to a firm which did not get involved with social media but which found that social media overtook it. One example was that of United Airlines, whose ground crew damaged the guitar of a singer named Dave Carroll. Unable to get satisfaction from the airline for breaking the guitar, Carroll wrote a song called "United Breaks Guitars" and put it on YouTube where it quickly gained more than 10 million hits and did the airlines brand even further damage than if United had been able to counter the message right away, Qualman observed.
Qualman used the example of Wheat Thins, a brand which could reasonably be expected not to need to use social media to market itself, as a example of what can be done with social media. In one popular advertisement for the crackers, a team from the company picked up on when customers tweeted about the crackers and the delivered a huge supply.
Including YouTube in an advertising campaign is become a requirement as companies realized that their advertisements could become the subjects of social media conversation without having copies available broadly online, Qualman said.
The social media revolution is a true revolution because it brings real power to the consumers of products, services, politics, ideas, charities and movements, Qualman said. He recalled how, as a very junior employee of Cadillac, he drew a visit from the car company's CEO because he had the temerity to attach a company memo to an e-mail to company executives instead of putting in paper copies. He had done it to save himself some time, but he didn't think that the CEO would care about that, and he did not.
"All that saved my job that day," Qualman recalled, was the observation that using e-mail to distribute the memo meant that it could be tracked and discovered who had opened it and who had not."
The fact that the audience had laughed out loud at the absurdity of losing one's job for using e-mail to distribute a memo reflects the depth and breadth and thoroughness of the revolution, he argued.
"One reason, that history repeats itself is because so few of us pay attention the first time."