In terms of social media content and creativity, the duo of Michael Ogden and Holly Fearing are among those in the industry leading the way.
Ogden is the media relations manager for new media and Fearing is senior communication specialist at CUNA Mutual Group in Madison, Wis. By sharing their social media experiences, they continue to encourage credit unions to be a part of the conversations. And, yes the conversations are still going.
“The gateway drug to social media is Facebook. It’s a more passive comfort zone to play in,” Ogden said. “The more active and really engaging people in credit unions try to connect with members in different ways like Snapchat or Instagram, which are on track to have some huge growth this next year.”
Their efforts in experimenting with social media haven’t gone unnoticed. In addition to Ogden and Fearing being asked to speak on the topic with various groups, in early 2013 CUNA Mutual was a finalist for the PR News Social Media Icon Award for Google+. The firm was in strong company: NASCAR’s Roush Fenway Racing Team, was the other finalist.
The greatest lesson they’ve learned in working together has been that as in life, no single approach is best when it comes to social media, both agreed. Ogden, who leans toward discovering and exploring new emerging technologies and Fearing, who takes a more organic, typical consumer-approach, have found that balance often leads them to the same place.
“He is very into tech and extrapolating data, and while I love technology, I don’t need to know the ‘how’ or ‘why it works’ because I’m busy. Give me cool stuff that works,” said Fearing.
Digging deep into the ‘why,’ Ogden said predicting how the landscape will shift and change more than a month out will be a challenge.
“I think everything is going to be mobile,” said Ogden. “The desktop and laptop are going away as we move into a more tablet and smartphone heavy environment. While that’s the fun part, it’s also tricky for credit unions in being able to adapt as quickly to an audience that includes everyone from my mom’s age to teenagers.”
With everyone looking to what’s next and new, Ogden suggested taking another look at Internet TV channels like Hulu Plus, where advertisements can specifically be targeted on a pay per audience view basis, much like Facebook.
“It’s an idea that’s not talked about – a way to send targeted ads, within a specific budget, to an audience you know is on social media could be a smart way to go,” said Ogden. “Use of satellite and cable will decline; as the AppleTV, AmazonPrime, Hulu Plus market grows, a credit union spot could run while Modern Family is streaming, and you’d be able to track exact engagement from it.”
Ogden said he is not a fan of the term “social media” but he is still curious to see how the mobile evolution will further shape the social experience.
“So much of the overall conversations regarding social media is still the basics – how to create a user name, tactical stuff and explaining what is social media or why it matters,” said Ogden. To illustrate, he suggested thinking of it as building an online presence. Making the credit union more visible in a Google search helps Web traffic go up and establishes the brand as one that should be taken seriously.
“When you see someone walking up a pier in Australia checking in on Facebook, you realize it’s going to be a Darwin experiment of who survives in the social world if we go mobile and if or how the credit union industry will adapt, Ogden said.
Fearing added that today’s consumers want information instantaneously when they need it and it’s up to the financial institutions to take on the burden of the security behind the scenes.
“My financial institution required me to change my password every 60 days to access information on the website and the process was overly complicated and frustrating,” said Fearing. “I started using Mint because with one secure pin, I can access all my account information and never have to go back to that financial institution’s website. Credit unions have to put themselves in the mind of the average busy consumer and find ways to make their interactions easy and convenient while walking that fine line of compliance and security.”
It’s that interaction with technology in society where social media can play a huge role.
“Where it’s headed is answered in the functionality part of how we consume and we’ve got to be on the mobile end,” said Ogden. “Credit unions have got to stop developing desktop versions of platforms and figure out how to proactively deliver and interact with members in that mobile market.”
Both Ogden and Fearing are hopeful for the day when less time can be spent on the mechanics and on explaining why social media is necessary.
“I want people to move past the functionality to ‘we have this audience, how can we communicate our business values and better connect on a more personal and genuine level to help them financially,’” said Fearing. “I’d love for more credit unions to think about infusing their value and the cooperative principles locally across social media that shows why credit unions are a better choice.”
Something they are doing at CUNA Mutual to better understand their audience is a deep-dive analysis of Twitter.
“We’re looking at what’s been retweeted and digging deeper into everything from the content and length of tweets, to determining if humor or bluntness generates more engagement,” said Fearing.
She added, “We want to see what type of personality gets more traction on Twitter and give those analytics a human element to get to the why behind people responding to certain types of messages. We’d like to then compile that information to build a profile based on interests, not just the number of followers. It’s a step toward taking a more personal approach to social media.