Engaging Members in an Oversaturated Digital Space
The financial services industry has a love-hate relationship with social media. It likes how social media enables accountholders to communicate directly with their financial institutions, but fears startups are using it to threaten traditional financial institution relationships.
Almost two-thirds of American adults use social networking sites, per the Pew Research Center. Plus, there are almost 1.9 billion active Facebook users and five billion views on YouTube daily. Causing worry for financial institutions is an Accenture survey that revealed nearly one-third of its respondents would switch to Google, Amazon or Facebook for banking if they could.
However, disintermediation presents a greater threat, according to Larry Pruss, SVP for the Memphis, Tenn.-based Strategic Resource Management, which helps credit unions maximize bottom-line performance.
Pruss explained a credit union's core function is serving as an intermediary for borrowers and lenders. However, social media platforms get caught in the middle and can hurt revenue streams, brands and data.
Disintermediators outside of the financial space include Uber and Airbnb, which use technology to connect buyers and sellers. Fintech disruptors include LendingTree, which links borrowers and lenders, and GoFundMe, the world's largest personal fundraising platform.
Some nontraditional providers also serve unique verticals and segments previously underserved by traditional financial service providers, Pruss said, such as “people who are high credit risks, have a low credit score or are wary of traditional banking models.”
So how are credit unions using social media in an age of disruption?
John F. Kilduff, corporate affairs officer at the $545 million, Chambersburg, Penn.-based Patriot Federal Credit Union, a client of Fiserv and Raddon, a Fiserv company, for research and analytics, discussed the importance of engaging members who are increasingly active on social media. This led to Patriot's launch of a social media initiative last fall.
Kilduff asserted, “You can't simply ignore social media and have the mindset that if we don't have a Facebook page or Twitter channel that your credit union is not in social media. It is, whether you like it or not. You have to address it, manage it and make it work for you. “
The credit union uses Social Assurance, a Fiserv partner, for social media management as part of an overall marketing strategy encompassing public and community relations, and member service. It also uses targeted Facebook advertisements and leverages demographic information and analytics from Facebook.
Over the past six months, Patriot has seen its Facebook followers increase from fewer than 100 to more than 1,000 and Twitter followers jump from 25 to more than 100. “We’ve been successful in re-directing visitors from social media to our web page for content-like articles, tools and loan applications, as well as to other social channels like YouTube to view videos,” Kilduff said.
He added, “One of the nuances of social media that we somewhat underestimated was the preference for some members to use social media in lieu of calling us on the phone or sending an email.”
As a result, Patriot now views social media as an additional service touch point or delivery channel.
Another Fiserv core client, the $1.04 billion, St. Paul, Minn.-based Hiway Federal Credit Union, also engages members through social media.
“Social media is the quickest and most accessible way to engage with a company, which is why we felt the need and desire to be a part of this space,” Deb Cariveau-Rogers, marketing manager at Hiway, said.
For example, a “Hunt for the Gold Puck” promotion engaged members, the community and Minnesota Wild fans. The credit union utilized live video to present weekly clues. Cariveau-Rogers noted a unique aspect of Facebook Live is that it automatically notifies all followers, while written posts only reach a select group.
Hiway bases its social media plan around a monthly content calendar and uses a combination of in-house resources and an outside agency. It also engages with members and activities outside of Hiway. For example, last summer when Pokémon Go was prevalent, the credit union located hotspots around its ATMs and branches.
The credit union utilizes Google Analytics, Facebook insights and Sprout Social, a social analytics platform, to gauge results. Over a year's time, engagements tripled, link clicks doubled and overall impressions grew by six times.
“A social media presence for credit unions is imperative to a successful communication and engagement strategy with your member base. Our social media initiatives have shown us that our members are seeking out ways to engage; all you need to do is open the door,” Cariveau-Rogers added.
Credit unions might also consider the potential influence of the social web, or what some call Web 2.0, which includes social networking sites and wikis that emphasize fintech partnerships and sharing among users. These services can deliver powerful interactive services as well as a variety of consumer touch points involving texting, speaking, listening and viewing.
A new partnership between the New York Credit Union Association and Monett, Mo.-based MEA Financial Enterprises, for example, will help New York's credit unions secure a two-way texting tool that enhances member interaction.
MEA's Text Concierge product, which supports long and short-code messages, allows New York credit union members to request information via text message. Text Concierge also includes Facebook Messenger and chatbot integration, text-enabled direct-dial extensions, a mobile app for credit union staff and a loan transparency tool.
“Texting is unquestionably the preferred method of communication for a large number of Americans, and it only makes sense that credit unions capitalize on this growing channel,” NYCUA President/CEO William J. Mellin said.
The Seattle-based CU Texting, a vendor sourcing consulting firm with two-way SMS core competency, works with credit unions looking to bring their landline and/or toll-free number into the texting medium.
“One of the challenges credit unions are having is bringing their brand, messaging and communication to the texting medium. Not just answering their question [or] providing a solution to that challenge, but bringing that into the social media world,” Mark Johnson, CU Texting president and founder, noted.
Another groundbreaking technology is natural language understanding. The Montreal, Quebec, Canada-based North Side developed VerbalAccess, which enables conversational access to banking through text or by speaking in plain English, to a financial institution's APIs.
VerbalAccess goes beyond single commands or questions by supporting conversations and enabling consumers to clarify their intent. “You don't click anymore, you don't type anymore, you converse, you speak normally,” North Side CEO Eugene Joseph explained.
Three credit unions in the United States have validated the technology. “It's really important that the language understanding be robust and tied to everyday life because then you can do more,” Joseph added.
David Lester, managing director and finance lead at Brightworks Interactive Marketing, suggested credit unions need to make sure they engage and become sticky with their members, especially millennials, noting, “You really need to add value with different apps and create a great online digital experience including social platforms.”