Just when your credit union starts getting the hang of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google+, someone writes a negative post on your page, and all hell breaks loose.
The ability to create a forum where credit unions can communicate directly with members or potential members creates a direct relationship .
But is social media good or evil?
In January 2012, McDonald’s, the fast food chain promoted a Twitter hashtag in hopes that users would use it to share fond memories. The plan backfired. The restaurant ended up receiving a barrage of criticism and negative comments on its food and customer service, among other complaints.
Experts say this is the evil part of social media.
“I can’t recall any credit union specific scenarios, but there have been a couple of high profile brands in the news because of social media mishaps,” said Susan Dyer, communication specialist for the Kansas Credit Union Association in Wichita, Kan.
Dyer said pointed to a story about A Kitchen Aid Twitter post.
“The person behind the Kitchen Aid Twitter account posted an inappropriate tweet about President Obama’s grandmother during the 2012 election,” Dyer said. “The employee mistakenly sent out the Tweet from the Kitchen Aid account, instead of their own personal account. There have been several instances of people mixing up personal accounts and their company accounts.”
Every post, whether on a blog or a Facebook entry, is an opportunity to tell a story and engage a potential member but there are still risks that need to be considered because members are actively engaging in online discussions with their credit unions.
“I guess the downside is it puts you out there, makes you vulnerable,” said Tara Eisenhard marketing manager for the $3.5 billion Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union in Harrisburg, Pa. “But we have found that the members self-moderate and if we see a complaint, social media gives us a chance to take that complaint seriously and address it immediately.”
Some tweets in December on the PSECU Twitter page showed a member who complained that “Mobile deposit doesn’t work.” Within two hours PSECA replied with “What happened when you tried? Did it not come up? Not accept the check? Error message?”
While some credit unions have only a handful of followers, PSECU said it had more than 1,800 ‘likes’ on their Facebook page in December.
Photos of Santa Claus and a funny post about the world ending on Dec. 12, 2012 were posted on the Pennsylvania credit union’s page mixed in with warnings about phishing texts and positive comments about mobile banking.
According to Michael Ogden media relations manager-new media for CUNA Mutual Group, a recent survey of credit unions by the groups marketing research department showed that 94% of credit unions are investing time and money on Facebook as a part of their marketing strategy. Facebook and Twitter are the two most-used social media platforms for credit unions and 55% of credit unions are using some form of Web analytics.
“I really believe that credit unions are on the brink of something fantastic with social media,” Ogden said. “Think about the technological advances we’ve seen with mobile and video capabilities in social media this year. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube and Tumblr have become massive social marketing tools using text, links, photos and videos to connect, communicate and council with members.”
While Ogden is a big fan of credit unions using social media, he advised everyone to have a social media policy in place – just in case.
“It’s important that employees know what they can tweet about work and not to confuse their personal accounts with their credit union accounts,” Ogden said. “There should also be one or two people in charge of the social media accounts so comments can be answered quickly and if it really hits the fan, you know who is responsible for real time responses.”
Dyer agrees that while social media has its upside, there are some issues to watch out for.
“I think the biggest issue for smaller credit unions is the time and resources it takes to effectively manage social media accounts.,” Dyer said. “As for negative comments, those can always show up even if a credit union isn’t using social media. But wouldn’t you want to be able to respond and somewhat control what is being said, instead of not being able to participate at all?”
A negative comment, if handled quickly and effectively, can have a positive effect on a credit union, Dyer offered. Others will see that the credit union responded and solved, or at least attempted to solve the problem. If a negative comment happens on a social network, it should be addressed using that same social network, she suggested.
As for employees posting about work issues, Dyer recommended that the person updating the networks should be a trained communicator skilled in public relations and communications.
“If you have to receive approval or permission every time you’d like to post something about a credit union subject, it can really eat up your time and resources. Social media is a fast moving platform,” Dyer said.
If a credit union is going to use social media, they should trust that the person who is in charge of social media for the organization knows what is appropriate and not appropriate to post.
“A better idea might be to have a policy on what is not approved to post like anything confidential – account numbers or really any information related to accounts at a credit union – or topics that might be controversial or charged in nature. A good rule of thumb is this: If you wouldn’t want it on a public billboard, don’t post it.”