With the average age of members hovering above the mid-40s range, courting a much younger segment has increasingly become a top priority for some credit unions.
One outlet that is proving to be an undeniable lure is the adoption of social media into marketing campaigns. The $120 million VacationLand Federal Credit Union discovered that in a big way nearly two years ago.
The Sandusky, Ohio-based cooperative started a rebranding campaign that included plans to get younger members to join, said Bryce Roth, who was initially hired as a marketing coordinator to help with VacationLand’s efforts. Roth’s role was to bring social media channels, which included Facebook, Twitter and YouTube into the mix.
Roth said the social media inclusion was a success as students and others tuned in and signed on leading to an increase in the amount of young people who joined VacationLand. The average age of members at the credit union is 46, he noted. Through the deployment of social media-centered strategies, membership in the 15- to 45-year-old age group has increased since January. Roughly 62% of net new membership is under the age of 30 and 83% are 45 and younger.
Then, Roth had a light bulb moment. For other credit unions that had good intentions in mind on wanting to woo young people but were either afraid of or not familiar with social media, why not offer some assistance.
“We’re a small credit union nationally but large in Ohio,” Roth said. “We were thinking we could duplicate our efforts for other credit unions.”
After a year of running on all cylinders to bring the idea to fruition, Chatter Yak made its debut Sept. 19. The CUSO will offer a number of services ranging from consultation to community outreach to help credit unions integrate social media into their marketing campaigns. Roth’s official title at the new start-up? Chief Chatter Yak.
For most credit unions, the first step at Chatter Yak starts with a social media consultation and an extensive questionnaire. Roth and his team will learn about their marketing efforts and what they hope to accomplish with the networking channels. A white paper is prepared that offers an assessment of current strategies in place, what credit unions could be doing, and how to prepare for social media.
VacationLand CEO Kevin Ralofsky, who is Chatter Yak’s chief branding yak, said the consultation narrows down goals and gets a handle on the CU's culture.
“I was just so tired of meeting with CEOs who were saying, ‘We have to go out and get a younger crowd,’” Ralofsky recalls of his experience in the banking industry. “There was all talk and no action.”
Credit unions can then take it a step further with management of the social media campaign, focus group surveys and branded website, among other services. Roth said there are three website templates currently available with nine more coming.
For those that want to build an even stronger link to young people in their respective communities, Chatter Yak has created the Change Agent Squad. High school and college students make up the squad and through their credit unions, engage in their areas through outreach such as collecting food donations for homeless shelters or raising funds for local animal shelters.
“It’s the glue for young kids to get together to make a profound difference in their communities,” Ralofsky said. “It’s our obligation as a credit union to educate you financially but it’s also about community.”
Chatter Yak will serve credit unions nationwide. So far, six credit unions in Wisconsin, South Dakota, Michigan and Ohio have signed on with the CUSO. Roth said the Ohio Credit Union League has also endorsed the social media marketing entity.
The biggest skepticism about social media comes from those who just don’t understand how it works, Roth discovered.
“It’s a tough type of marketing to grasp especially if you’ve been doing marketing one way and it’s been working,” Roth said. “But it might not work over the next five years. There’s a very different consumer or member out there right now.”