CUNA Mutual Strategists Offer Digital Lab Services
Think there's more to social media than views, likes or followers? Curious to try something new at your credit union but not quite sure it's even possible?
Well, now there's a lab for that courtesy of CUNA Mutual Group.
CMG Digital Media Manager Michael Ogden and Digital Media Strategist Holly Fearing, who have long been vocal about the use of social media to further connections and conversations, have unveiled the Digital Media Test Lab, a full- immersion laboratory dedicated to examining digital communication.
“This is our stake in the ground. To help dig into some of the most important issues facing the future of credit unions and how to approach them through social media,” Fearing said. “We’re going all-in to take a new approach to discover and really understand the ways social media is changing how humans interact and solve problems.”
Holly Fearing and Michael Ogden strike a pose in one of the two interview sets in the Digital Lab at CUNA Mutual Group.
Ogden said the lab provides an opportunity to prove the deeper impacts of social media and test for more-effective ways to measure its value, which ultimately is rooted in human interactions.
“Without the human element, it's just a bunch of machines talking about where we are and what we do,” said Ogden, who together with Fearing has been experimenting and sharing their social media experiences with credit union clients of the Madison, Wis.-based CUNA Mutual.
“We’ve been doing this for a little over two years and the lab came out of frustration with the wrong questions being asked and used in metrics,” he said, “so we decided to create this lab and help credit unions and the industry go deeper.”
The duo don't claim to have all the answers but rather an open mindedness to keep the bigger picture in mind as they collaborate and experiment, testing their theory of how social media can be used to make a bigger impact and rethinking the measurements used in determining ROI effectiveness.
“We want to move beyond the misperception of social media just being a nice-to-have instead of a need-to-have,” Fearing said. “We’re in a digital world. If you look at Yelp for recommendations or search the Internet for any information, it's ‘social media.’ Social media is just a tool to increase the connections human beings already have with one another.”
With the industry as a whole looking to build awareness of the credit union difference, she said there's an opportunity to question and discover the biggest issues people are passionate about, to get together and discuss ways to collaborate for solutions.
Ogden added, “We went with ‘Digital Lab’ as the name because we didn't want to be just pegged as social media because it's about the wider issue of digital communication. It's how we as humans live, play, shop, do transactions and, yes, do social. So we wanted to have that wider scope.”
The approximately 12-foot by 10-foot room contains a 60-inch monitor where graphs, charts and video can be referenced during interviews or presentations, two additional 35-inch monitors, studio lighting, two webcams, a microphone, laptops, iPads and a wall which, with the help of special paint, can be used as a giant whiteboard to brainstorm and keep track of projects.
Dual monitors that can wirelessly display graphics from laptops, iPads, microphones, webcams and studio lighting help make the Digital Lab these researchers’ dream come true.
Ogden and Fearing are proud of the dedicated space to do everything from hosting Google+ Hangouts and recording videos to editing and helping credit unions breathe life into their ideas to connect in their communities. They already are helping some credit unions in Ohio and St. Louis with projects.
“It's about having these minds come together across all industries,” Ogden said. “We will never learn anything just talking to each other and cheerleading as we do. The whole world is sitting out there and yet the industry likes to behave as if it exists in its own special bubble.
“What is the point of being a best-kept secret? Is it a morale issue of turning a failure into a point of pride? If we want to accomplish something, there needs to be less bragging to each other and more outward bragging,” he said.
To Fearing that means working cooperatively.
“We want to open up those conversations and uncover what's happening in the financial industry, technology industry, etc.,” she said. “We can see this developing into more. So other people doing social media for their organization can connect with us and we can do this together – whether it's testing out an idea or proving the worth of social media in a more meaningful way.
“Together we can do the research and share the results. We can't keep using old metrics and apply them to a new way of doing things. With this lab we want to discover more about what are the alternative, more effective metrics.”
Ogden pointed to a recent infographic from SouthbySouthwest 2014 that looked at all the social media mentions of the hashtag #SXSW and the word “love.” Beyond the 7,000 mentions, the experiment revealed most popular session topics, top keywords, most popular session times, top party times, most popular party venues and the like.
“That's just one example of looking beyond the metrics to find out what the larger story is in those numbers,” Ogden said. “The world has already changed. We as an industry have to stop playing like we are in first grade and graduate into college by exploring associations and turning them into something more valuable.”