Start discussing social media and the talk quickly turns to its merits or lack thereof. Despite their perceived hurdles, with a little strategic creativity, some credit unions have managed to strike the right balance.
Recognizing that getting younger consumers to care about savings, life insurance or even the credit union difference, would be challenge, IC Federal Credit Union turned to robot monsters, clay, zombies, a medieval tale and the blues.
“The majority of videos out there are unwatchable, because no one wants to hear a credit union explaining their services. Moreover, younger consumers either can’t relate or are not even listening, when you start talking about dry topics like budgeting,” said Jim Pond, co-owner of James and Matthew and Co., the Boston-based digital services agency that created the popular videos. “We wanted to create entertaining, engaging, humorous videos based on what the viewers want to watch, that respect their time. It has to be worth watching,” Pond explained.
Since 2010, the $475 million Fitchburg, Mass.-based credit union has been using social media to connect with its broader membership base and further its brand. In 2012, IC FCU and JMC joined forces with an eye on reaching Gen Y through a six-part series of educational videos on YouTube, Pond said. A survey of area youth revealed topics they cared most about ranged from budgeting and life insurance, to how to better manage credit card debt.
“The YouTube strategy was simply this – to build the concept on what they want to watch,” Pond said. “The fact is you can’t manufacture a viral video; we just tried to educate members about finance in a non-traditional way that resonates and is clever and witty. If you sit down and try to make it viral it’s becomes very apparent.”
Launched roughly once a quarter, the latest Credit Card Murphy-Behind the Plastic video released in April has had 422,287 views to date, according to JMC. Some 52.7% of the videos are viewed on smartphones with the rest split between IC FCU’s website, YouTube and Facebook pages and other embedded players.
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The viral videos have also helped the credit union achieve a 26% increase in new Gen Y accounts, of which there was an increase of 51% in new Gen Y members, representing a 12% increase in share deposits and a 68% increase in loans over 2011 for Gen Y. In 2012, 1,008 new and existing Gen Y members opened 2,099 new accounts bringing 1,623 new deposits and 476 new loans, representing more than $2.4 million in deposits and nearly $20 million in loans.
For Brillion, Wis.-based Best Advantage Credit Union, social media has been a way to show locals who they are.
“One of the big things we wanted to do is get our culture out to members,” said Don Emmer, business development leader, at the $68 million credit union. “Not everyone may come into the branch so social media has been a great way to do that.”
After initially getting some guidance from technology-based marketing solutions CUSO Chatter Yak!, Best Advantage had the foundation needed to set off on its own and Dance Party Fridays were born, Emmer said.
Next Page: Just Something Random
“It was just something random and started with a loan sale and we had all the employees dance to the song ‘Jump’ and asked members to come in for a loan,” said Emmer. “In the first week we had 900 views.”
He added that it helped show members and local alike their fun culture. With some 7,000 members, Best Advantage has just under 1,807 fans on Facebook who actively engage with the credit union, Emmer said.
The dance party has given way to its latest community outreach program “Flix in the Stix,” where locals are invited to watch a free outdoor movie. According to Emmer, it’s been a great way to help build community relationships, as concessions are sold at the events by local organizations as a way to help raise funds. Beyond generating goodwill and raising awareness, it’s also helped Best Advantage meet internal goals ahead of schedule such as its MoneyDesktop and eStatement enrollment, he noted.
Bryce Roth, director of marketing and social strategy at Oshkosh, Wis.-based $384 million CitizensFirst Credit Union and chief chatter yak at Chatter Yak!, has also experienced an increase in Facebook fans. Since January, his fan count jumped from 2,106 to 3,173 using Yak tracker, a third-party social media contest management application designed gather statistics, analytics and demographics about those new fans.
“The number of Facebook fans means nothing if those fans aren’t members or in your field of membership,” said Roth. “We’ve got over 10% of our membership as fans and when you look at what Best Advantage has been doing on its own, connecting with 33% of their members on Facebook, that’s great. It’s about bringing the brand into the digital realm.”
With all of its potential outreach benefits, Roth cautioned against jumping into the social media wave because the credit union across the street is doing it because it requires as much planning and strategy as any other marketing endeavor. But that doesn’t mean forgetting the social aspect.
“I see far too many using Facebook to sell loans. I honestly log in to waste time, not to see where to get an auto loan,” said Roth. “You can’t think of what you want to get out of social media but what the user wants out of it. You don’t have people shouting in your lobby ‘pick this checking,' so why do it on Facebook or Twitter?”