Innovation, creativity and, most importantly, action all merged together at the CU Water Cooler Symposium held at the FORUM Conference Center in Fishers, Ind.
The two-day event kicked off with Ron Shevlin, senior analyst at Aite Group, challenging the 144 attendees to dig deeper into scores and metrics behind the numbers presented in surveys and reports to avoid falling for “quantipulation.”
Coined by Shevlin, quantipulation, is the art and act of using unverifiable math and statistics to convince people of what you believe to be true.
“People use math/statistics to sound legitimate or influence opinions. Keep an open mind and be more aware. Don’t believe any number with asking how it was measured, why they are telling me this number and what are they trying to make me believe,” said Shevlin.
He held the commonly believed statistic that it costs five times more to acquire customers than keep existing customers as an example of this.
“There’s simply no way to accurately calculate the cost of acquisition or retention. It involves making too many judgments and decisions on which activities contribute to acquisition and retention. It can’t be done,” said Shevlin.
He added that in general there should be a shift from the typical attitudinal research to more behavioral for greater insight or clues. It could be why so many credit unions still struggle with social media.
“When I ask anyone about the why behind social media, the answer is to increase member engagement. Yet most still take the old world approach of persuasion rather than engaging and interacting with members in meaningful ways to tighten relationships,” said Shevlin.
“Any claim on what percentage of your advertising is wasted, and what isn’t is just a random guess. We simply don’t know–and can’t know. You don’t need a social media strategy. You need a bigger strategy of knowing who you are and what you’re trying to do. Rather than focusing on who gets credit for what, consider PFM, social media, online banking part of the infrastructure required as a part of the organization’s clear, articulated strategic direction,” he said.
Tim McAlpine, president/creative director of Currency Marketing, agreed that too often credit unions jump onboard the social media bus without stepping back to see how it fits in the overall strategy.
With the growing number of community credit unions, Denise Wymore, vice president of marketing at the $388 million Del Norte Credit Union in Santa Fe, N.M., said the definition of common bond has become a greater challenge. Yet to evolve, credit union need to refocus on common bond, stop promoting products and start promoting purpose.
“Members aren’t loyal because you made them that way. Boomers invented credit cards. The American Dream was owning a home, not a mortgage,” said Wymore. “It’s about market differentiation and focusing on the things you do best. Get that feeling of exclusivity back, become more boutique focused and stop trying to be everything to everyone. It’s about action. Acting like a cooperative, not just saying you’re one.”
Jeff Hardin, director of communications at the North Carolina Credit Union League, added that credit unions need to figure out how social media fits within the context of the communities served.
“Even in the community credit union who are the core of people living within that community you are serving,” said Hardin. “That is where your social media needs to be tied to your position as an organization. Use the channels that already exist in your local community like Patch.com or even your local high school athletic page instead of creating the wheel.”
He added that people are looking for relevant messaging, so rather than gimmicks, real buzz can be generated by helping consumers feel empowered or providing the tools and advice to help them dig out of the financial crater left by the economy.
Vancity Credit Union has been on a journey of how to best use social media as part of its overall strategy for some five years. You won’t find the $15 billion credit union based in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Facebook, and its social media efforts rests within the digital and community engagement department, which includes Vancity’s community project grants, sponsorships and events along with digital channels like online banking, mobile and the intranet.
“We’re becoming clearer and clearer about our business strategy and have been very deliberate about where we put our resources. Our CEO always says no mission, no margin. No margin, no mission. So for us, Facebook just didn’t make sense, but Twitter did,” said William Azaroff, director of digital and community engagement at Vancity.
“It’s hard stuff, but it’s rewarding because it feels like the journey is worth it. We’re focused on our business strategy and within that, we find opportunities where social media is the right tool at right time–not a social media strategy. So move at the pace you need to but do move,” Azaroff said.
Azaroff was candid about early and current attempts ranging from the transformation of ChangeEverything.org to The Hub (hub.vancity.com), to using social media internally to help make it easier to locate information and subject matter experts across departments and branches.
“As an organization we realized we weren’t interested in changing everything we are very focused on changing some key core areas, which is where the idea of The Hub, came from. A community where Vancity can really connect in terms of community impact and members beyond just grants,” said Azaroff. “We did something innovative, forward thinking and it doesn’t work. So we’re fixing it.”
What has worked beyond expectations has been the internal MySite social media effort created to help employees easily get the information or contacts they need to better serve members. Each staffer created a MySite page that included their photo, what they do, contact information and they could even start a blog. With an idea of illuminating the network, some employees were selected for a Twitter pilot program, that would expand tweets beyond a particular department. So far some 25 staffers across the organization have volunteered to tweet using the Vancity hashtag.
“The idea is to engage everyone on Twitter and have open communication not just corporate communication. We trust our employees with our members, so why not trust them to represent your credit union on Twitter? That way it’s the real people of Vancity interacting online,” said Azaroff. “We don’t govern it and have been more of a concierge than a security guard. What we found is that social media on the inside has made our culture stronger and leads to more collaboration on the outside.”