Over the last couple of years, especially in 2011, many credit unions flocked to social media to extend their presence into the digital realm.
The adoption of new media is certainly a step in the right direction. But what appears to be lacking for a large percentage of these credit unions is a well thought-out plan and strategy for how to use this, well, new media. For years, marketers and advertisers alike could go about their business the same way day in and day out; but all of that has changed now.
Marketing and advertising has over time been slowly transitioning. However, with the proliferation and widespread adoption of new media, this transition has gone into hyper-drive. Many credit unions have already adopted social media with open arms. Others are just now beginning to realize the power of socially networking their business and brand with their membership. Before getting into the benefits of embracing social or new media, let’s address one of biggest and most common issues that has been raised by those who claim new media is today’s snake oil: “Social media does not and cannot generate a return on investment.”
Chances are you’ve heard this. Will a Facebook fan page cause one of your members to go out and finance a new car through your credit union as a consequence of one of your posts? Unless you’re really lucky or really good, the answer is probably not. However, this is where new media naysayers go awry. The purpose of a social media campaign is not and should never be based primarily on pushing more products and services on your members. This type of strategy is what causes most social media campaigns to fail and for good reason; no one goes on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to be directly solicited. If members have “liked,” followed or put your brand in one of their circles, they’ve done so because they want a stronger connection to your brand, not your daily auto loan solicitations.
So where is the return? The return is located in the same place you will find the return on investment for your credit union’s use of billboards, radio time and television commercials. Some, but certainly not all credit unions, have become adept at tracking their members’ purchasing behaviors resulting from their various marketing efforts.
At VacationLand Federal Credit Union, where I work, we have been tracking our marketing efforts in this way for more than a year and a half. When a member enters one of our branches, they are always asked, “What caused you to choose VLFCU for your __________ need today?” By doing this, we can track all of the different forms of marketing and advertisement we utilize and how effective they are at generating loan or deposit growth. Do we hear billboards, radio and monthly statements? Sure we do. Have we ever heard, “I’m here because of your awesome Facebook fan page!” No. However, members have told us that based on positive comments they’ve seen on our Facebook fan page, they have come in, opened accounts and began a relationship with our credit union.
In my humble opinion, any good social media campaign should be focused on communication, not sales. Social media is and should always be about creating an environment where communication and conversation are encouraged. Your members should feel comfortable leaving their thoughts and opinions about their credit union on your wall. And they should feel confident that their credit union will respond to their comments. This is how social media generates a return.
Just because members don’t come bouncing into your branches taking out loans by the dozens, claiming it was your Facebook fan page that encouraged them to do so, does not mean the media holds no value. Marketing and advertising has and always will be about getting a message out to a large number of people in as many ways as possible. While new media offers the same opportunities as more traditional methods, it also contains an additional aspect that makes it even more valuable. With new media, you control the messaging and conversation. Let’s face it, your members and the community at large are talking about your brand. Sometimes it may be negative; other times it’s positive. Why would you not want to be a part of that conversation? When used correctly, social media can be in the eyes of your members a valuable sounding board for how your credit union can improve its operation.
In addition to intrinsic benefits that accompany new media, there are also plenty of other programs and applications that can help you gather invaluable marketing information as well as connect your fans with pertinent financial information they might otherwise not have access to.
Your credit union’s social media efforts will primarily depend on the attitude behind why you have chosen to adopt this new form of media. If you’re in the game to market and advertise as usual, your campaign will be ineffective. However, if you can look a bit further out and see the value of creating meaningful, long-lasting relationships with your members by creating an environment where dialogue is valued, and opportunities for conversations about your credit union are encouraged outside of your branches, then I can assure the return will be invaluable.
Bryce Roth is chief chatter yak of Chatter Yak!
Contact 419-609-9122 or Bryce@chatteryak.com