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On college campuses there’s new buzz late last month about social networking with the $1.6 billion Michigan State University FCU of East Lansing signing up with YouTube and establishing an e-commerce and marketing division.“We already have about 400 followers on Facebook and about the same on Twitter, and so we are now trying YouTube with some of our commercials,” said April Clobes, vice president of marketing/e-commerce.Her CU began aggressively using the social networks earlier this year after the CU board felt there were untapped opportunities in reaching a youthful market. According to Clobes, MSU also signed up for MySpace podcasts and iTunes in the first quarter.Meanwhile, Leo Ditchcreek, president/CEO of the $450 million Notre Dame FCU said his CU is “ready to start an active social network program this year since it is obvious we have to take advantage of this new medium.”It is vital, said Ditchcreek, that CUs like his keep in step with the viral phenomenon.Clobes said Facebook and Twitter communication with members has been productive.CU marketers, however, stress that in using viral media, the need to stay current with users does require staff time to answer queries, and as one vice president put it, “you can’t just go there every three or four days” without building resistance.Michael Hostetler, marketing manager at Finance Center CU in Indianapolis, said the social networks like Twitter-where the CU has 450 followers-”can be time consuming and does require a staff commitment, which you are not always able to do.”Leslie Smith, director of marketing at Envision CU in Tallahassee, Fla., has been on Facebook for six months, making 108 contacts along with a MySpace blog. She called networks “a great tool to get members.” Envision sends regular messages to users on new products and informs them of “sneak peeks” for new commercials to be aired.Shari Storm, vice president/chief marketing officer at Verity CU in Seattle, said that even though her CU’s own Facebook fan base has only 24 participants after going live a year ago, the network does remain a valuable tool.Even CUNA said it has created a Twitter page for its Home & Family Finance radio show and counts more than 250 followers. And the Missouri Credit Union Association said it has signed up on Facebook, allowing online surfers to become friends with CUs.“Facebook is one of the most popular and fun social networking sites available today,” said Julie Schulte, education and training director for MCUA. “This is a great opportunity for credit union professionals to network and gain additional knowledge about what’s going on in the industry.” Besides, said Schulte, “it’s free.”The MCUA said its link on Facebook provides “information on upcoming training sessions, training podcasts and opportunities to receive training discounts.”–[email protected]

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