When it comes to social media, always think strategy and content first.
It also helps to know your audience, create post and content calendars for the year, have a social media policy in place, and a dedicated person or team, whose sole function is to gather data, monitor, manage and deliver on strategic goals, experts advise.
“You have to ask ‘what's the business purpose behind being on various social media platforms’ and determine how they can be used to further the organization's goals. If we keep our focus on the member, our efforts are going to be successful,” said Nicole Cypers, public relations and social media manager at the $5.9 billion Riverdale, Utah-based America First Credit Union.
From a solid strategic foundation, anything becomes possible, even sales across social channels.
In 2012, the $55 billion, Vienna, Va.-based Navy Federal Credit Union said it launched its “4 Million Members, 4 Million Stories” campaign as a way to thank its members for helping to reach the member milestone. The concept revolved around members submitting videos to share what they loved about Navy Federal on Facebook and to vote for their favorites to win prizes ranging from $4,000 and $1,000 certificates of deposit to $100 gift cards. During the giveaway, the credit union took the opportunity to promote auto loan refinancing and CDs via a mix of strategically crafted posts and paid Facebook ads.
“That member appreciation event on Facebook, I think was so successful because it tied all our other promotions together and that is what helped generate the $200 million,” said Katie Seeger, social media community manager at Navy Federal.
In addition to $90 million in CDs and $96 million in auto refinancing loans, some 60,000 new members joined credit union and the 300 videos submitted during the six-week campaign generated 45,000 votes.
In 2013, through the use of Facebook's custom audiences, Navy Federal tripled daily downloads of its mobile banking app while increasing its Facebook fans from 450,000 in 2013 to 1,016,858 as of Jan. 13.
A similar explosion of growth has been experienced on Twitter as well, where 2013 started with 4,200 followers, and as of Jan. 13, Navy Federal said it has 38,360 followers.
“The reason we got into social media back in 2011 is we discovered our members were having conversations about us and we wanted to be part of that conversation, listen, speak where they are and build deeper relations,” said Seeger. “I think what's true for any brand, but particularly with financial institutions, is this question of ‘do consumers really want to talk to their bank on social media?’ And we’ve found the answer is yes, absolutely. We’ve learned there is a place for financial institutions to connect and engage with members through social media channels.”
While Facebook and Twitter are the more frequently used channels, Navy Federal has continued its exploration into others such as Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vine and Four Square.
“It boils down to having a real understanding of your members,” said Sue Voss, assistant vice president of marketing and advertising at Navy Federal. “I think a big part of why we can promote services on Facebook is we are open about what we do well and how we help our members. We believe in the member experience and chat with them.”
Through the use of Facebook's custom audiences, Navy Federal tripled daily downloads of its mobile banking app while increasing its Facebook fans in 2013.
Navy Federal is constantly reviewing and evaluating the channels it is on to discover what works well and what needs improvement based on the conversations members are having with the credit union, Voss said.
America First said it has also found by focusing on its members with an eye on the three goals of education, engagement and growth, the efforts have helped with sales.
“For us, social media has evolved into another communication channel and member touch point that's experienced in real time,” said Rich Syme, senior vice president automated services and product management at America First. “It's another way to tell the story of who we are and what we do. We focus on educating our members on how we can help them in a fun, nonthreatening way. There are ways to engage members to generate interest in our products and services without pushing the hard sell.”
For example, a simple strategic post asking members to share images of their first car and what the experience was like got members talking about where they got their financing and opened the door to share information about America First car loans.
In addition, the credit union has recently introduced a customizable credit card concept called Picture Perfect Visa, which allows members to personalize the photo on their debit and credit cards and share the image on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
“We are the first credit union and second financial institution to have the ability for members to put their own pictures on the Visa card and share it on Facebook,” said Cypers. “Our members love it and we plan to keep finding new and different ways to engage with them.”
Members can also rate and review the credit union's products and services. Syme said all reviews, whether good or bad, are posted in their entirety.
“Members took the time to write a review, so we owe it them to post it,” said Syme. “We’re completely transparent and often, we’ve made changes and process improvements based on the member feedback posted. Using a five-star rating and review tool is just how we do business and a way to let members know we’re here and we’re listening.”
The strategy seems to be working as America First, with over 103,000 likes and many fans sharing posts with friends and family, has high engagement compared to other financial institutions.
“We’re proud of our engagement. We’ve got a team of three people committed to working on our social media efforts and with over 628,000 members, there's a lot of moving parts to keep track of,” said Syme. “It's ever changing but very fun for us to work with members and stand alongside them as part of the community.”