Social Media Strategy: Targeted Forethought Needed
As far as which social media channel reigns supreme, years later the answer remains it depends.
While Twitter seems to stand out primarily as a customer service channel, Facebook’s true potential doesn’t seem to have come close to being defined let alone reached and its new Timeline format has shaken things up even more.
According to Matt Hodson, marketing director for Health Care Credit Union in Salt Lake City, setting up a strategy before diving into social media is the first, most basic and important step credit unions can take.
“Know what you want as an outcome from your social efforts but understand that it will not happen overnight,” said Hodson. “The only people who get rich quick on social media are established brands and consultants. Use Facebook and any other social network as a complement to your current marketing efforts, not a supplement.”
The Financial Brand’s Jeffry Pilcher has long questioned the hype around social media, particularly when it’s not part of an overall clear strategic plan.
“We’re five years in and everyone is still finding their social media footing in what works. Instead of starting with the problem, many started with the tool and heaped strategy and rationale on top of justification. If you don’t have a clear idea of what you’re trying to address, the why behind it all, then it’s like the tail wagging the dog,” said Pilcher. “Provided you have a strategy in place, if I had any advice, it would be to focus your energy in the social media space. Instead of dabbling in a lot of social spaces and doing none of them very well, it’s much easier to choose a single social media channel, like Facebook, and do it well.”
With Alexa, a traffic-ranking site, putting Facebook as the world’s second largest website, behind only Google, Pilcher added it’s the one social media channel that makes sense to be on. As for the new Timeline, it does present some unique opportunities and challenges for credit unions. Hodson pointed out that Facebook has announced that updates will be seen by a smaller portion of fans but have offered an advertising platform, Reach Generator, to reach more fans, even on mobile. He said, with its IPO, Facebook is going to focus on advertising and earning revenue. “They will be pushing brands to advertise to really get the most revenue to help their stock price.”
While limiting companies’ reach to just 16% of fans for free, Facebook does offer companies the cover photo.
“Really the cover is the biggest piece of visual real estate in any social profile so there’s tremendous opportunity for creating a visceral branding experience,” said Pilcher. “That being said it can be tough for smaller credit unions that don’t have a large photo library to work with. My advice is don’t feel like you have to use a cover photo. Some of what I’ve seen is more about what’s available than delivering on the right message to project. I’d lean toward no cover photo than just having an image of your headquarters.”
From a marketing and branding perspective, the cover can also be periodically updated to correspond with everything from promotions to seasons.
“The new cover gives a great visual when someone visits your page for the first time but Facebook has limited what you can use the cover for. You currently cannot put contact information, a call to action or price/purchase information. They effectively gave us a billboard and told us we could not advertise on it,” said Hodson. “The new design really lends itself to a credit union's commitment to the community. The ability to share the past, and how the credit union grew from, in most cases, a single SEG with a few members, to a larger institution that grew with the SEG,” Pilcher added that the ability to retroactively enter history also provides a way for credit union Facebook newcomers to appear more established.
“I appreciate it as a researcher but more than just milestones it’s a great way to tell your credit union story and there’s some powerful mojo in sharing that story of how your credit union began,” said Pilcher. “It also helps you not look like Johnny-come-lately if you only just joined Facebook this year.”
With Facebook continually making the sharing of content a priority, generally videos and photos outperform link and status updates in "likes," "comments," and "shares." According to Hodson, credit unions should really be focusing on how they can create shareable content.
“Whether it is videos, photos, or any other content, credit unions need to figure out what their demographic or target demographic will appreciate,” said Hodson. “They definitely need to focus on a mix of fans, likes, comments, and shares. The fans should be targeted to their current SEG or geographical boundaries. I have seen too many credit unions getting people from outside their actual target market as fans to boost up their numbers. This does nothing for your bottom line as they will most likely never become members. Creating shareable videos and content will help the credit unions gain better exposure and give members/nonmembers a reason to follow.”
Generally speaking in at least the financial services arena, Pilcher said, there tends to be more examples of what not to do on Facebook.
“Pay attention to what other banks, credit unions are doing but don’t do the lemming thing, where if 20 others have this, it must be good to do,” said Pilcher. “Keep an open mind, assume there will be flaws in what you find out there but learn from it don’t repeat that mistake. Maybe find a way to reinterpret Facebook. Instead of it being a social media platform maybe create ways to use apps, see it as a new digital contest entry form, or way to toot your own horn about the real good you do in the community. Again don’t get on Facebook to tout cause marketing that you’re not already doing. For me good examples mostly hinge on how social media plays into grander initiatives. Just using social media without talk about the greater strategy–that’s the part that’s been lacking. What I am curious about with Facebook that isn’t possible now but maybe down the road, what will be the value of that social data to financial marketers? Will they use that social profile to make loan decisions?”