For 2013, the new social media mantra has to be strategy first.
“Too many organizations, including credit unions, get into something like social media because they think they ‘should’ or say it is ‘free’ so it is worth doing,” said Melina Young, director of marketing at Seattle-based Verity Credit Union. “Social media isn’t really a free medium because it takes time and effort to maintain. If you aren’t able to do it right, you probably shouldn’t be doing it at all. You need to have a plan for social media, what your expectations are and what you want it to achieve for your credit union.”
Matt Hodson, director of marketing at Salt Lake City-based Health Care Credit Union agreed.
“Credit unions should be asking, Where are our members? What do they want to hear from the credit union? And you can actually ask them. What do we want to come from our social media efforts? Is it lower member service costs? New accounts?” asked Hodson. “Credit unions also need to rethink the need to be on every social media channel. There is no need to be everywhere, especially when you don’t have the resources to do so.”
At Verity Credit Union, the plan for social media early on was a way to continue the conversation with members and for the most part the credit union has kept the channel along those lines.
“We try to post information that our current and potential members will care about and want to be there to answer any questions or concerns they may have quickly. It’s a way we’re able to demonstrate our flexibility and responsiveness to the public,” said Young. “It also provides us with an avenue to humanize the Verity brand and let people see what we are about and what makes us different. It gives us a voice. The success is in the conversations that happen through our social media every day and we just make sure that we stay on top of it.”
In considering how social media would be incorporated into the overall strategy, everything from how it would benefit members and the time commitment required to setting expectations of how it would benefit Verity and determining not only who would speak for the credit union but what the policy would be, was discussed.
Setting the parameters of return on investment has been a crucial step that many organizations overlook or dismiss as if it doesn’t somehow need to apply to social media efforts.
“Your social media efforts can be tracked. You just need to have the right tools to do it. Determine what the cost is of your member service and begin pushing your members to Facebook or Twitter with their generic questions. If you have one employee online handling the work of two or three people on the phones and in the branch, that is a positive ROI,” said Hodson. “Are you looking to be top-of-mind with members and potential members? Make sure your engagement statistics on Facebook are showing an increase each month. You can then calculate the impressions as you would for a TV or radio spot, though this is never a true indication of ROI. Run a campaign online that then sends members and potential members to a microsite. Track the analytics of where they go and if possible, whether they act on your call to action. “
He added that many credit unions have been successfully using Facebook as a means to increase their email marketing list.
“I like this as you have control over your message through email. Otherwise if you rely solely on Facebook as your means of communication, you could very easily lose control over the percentage of people seeing your message,” said Hodson. “Integrating social media into the overall brand voice and marketing campaign should be your top priority. ROI in social media really comes down to what outcome you want. Once you figure that out, find a way to track it.”
At Verity, the social media policy remains relatively open. For example any employee can blog. In addition, every staffer must sign a social media policy for their personal and professional use while employed at Verity.
“This helps prevent employees saying bad things about their employer on their own Facebook page, blog, Twitter, etc. and then claiming that ‘they didn’t know’ they shouldn’t do that. It is really something that we feel every organization should have these days,” Young said. “As for the ROI, I would say that it isn’t something to go into looking strictly at the ROI. It may not have a direct and obvious return but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t provide intangible value to the organization. It goes back to what your expectations are and what you want it to achieve.”
For example, since 2009 the credit union has unapologetically focused on targeting area moms through its Verity Mom program and witnessed the average age of new members drop from 39 to 36 years old. “Verity Mom really works for Verity because it shows that we walk the walk on our mom focus – we don’t just say that we are the financial institution for moms, we provide a part time job for a mom in the community and really care about what the moms in Seattle care about,” said Young. “It is just an engaging program with a spokesperson that moms can really relate to.”
The search for a spokesperson is at the heart of the Verity Mom program which includes a blog, YouTube channel, Twitter and Facebook that are all maintained daily by the Verity Mom.
The female head of household is credited with making more than 80% of financial decisions, the move simply made sense. Verity had to make some adjustments to its products offered and shifted from advertising in a local paper to parenting magazines.