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Addison Avenue Federal Credit Union has found a way to meet its growing online community face-to-face.The Palo Alto, California-based credit union recently hosted a TweetUp at a local Philz Coffee as a way to say thanks.“We’d heard about TweetUps before, in particular Lance Armstrong’s famous TweetUps where he’d tweet a time and location for people to join him on a bike ride,” said Addison Avenue FCU e-Commerce Senior Vice President Stu Fisher. “Understanding that we’re not famous, we did think it would be an interesting way to further our connection with members and to just thank them for following us.”Fisher says the TweetUp also provided an opportunity to partner with a local small business while treating members to a free cup of coffee.“The choice of a local, independent coffee shop that provides individual customized made-to-order coffee, instead of say a Starbucks, is just in keeping with the idea that our credit union is a local partner,” said Fisher. “Besides the fact that we in the e-commerce department are Philz coffee addicts, their great customer service and highly customized coffee matches our sensibility, so deciding to host the TweetUp there was a natural fit.”The event attracted members who follow the credit union on Twitter for news and updates as well as locals passing by. In all, Fisher says over the hour and half that members discussed topics ranging from the economy to Addison Avenue’s bank intervention campaign, the credit union bought some 55 cups of coffee.“This was more of a trial run. We’d like to do more of these around the country and hopefully get to a point where members do the TweetUps, and we’d just support them. Essentially, letting the ideas emanate from the members,” said Fisher.He added that the TweetUp is just another example of how Addison Avenue is willing to do whatever it takes to keep in touch with members. A believer in the value of participating in the community, the $2.2 billion credit union tweets, blogs and reaches out through its online community groups while still building a physical presence in the local areas it serves.“Our online groups serve basically as a way to leverage the age old credit union concept of people helping people,” said Fisher. “Through our partnership with Wesabe, we have all sorts of online discussion groups where people give and get advice on anything and everything.”He says discussion group categories run the gamut from buying a house, death and taxes and frugal foodies to job transitions, charitable giving and how to make Addison Avenue better.“If you have a more traditional thought approach to communication and media management of the message it is a hard box to get out of when you think about turning control over to the world out there, but if you go through that and see what’s on the other side it is pretty compelling,” said Fisher. “For example, you would think people would go into the Addison Avenue group and be negative. But our most engaged members go in there and provide thoughtful insights and advice. To me that is the beauty of social media.”As part of the partnership with Wesabe, the credit union was able to join its existing network of groups and simply create some of their own groups. Addison Avenue FCU’s e-commerce team can monitor community discussions as well as participate in them. With transparency and authenticity key to meaningful interactions, the credit union participants and answers are always clearly identified in the online groups.“The thinking behind our approach is best described this way: It is easier to show up in the middle of a party than being the first one at the party and having no one to talk to,” said Fisher. “We were thoughtful about how do we get back to giving advice not aimed at getting people to buy what we sell but really help improve their financial lives and be the place that you can go, sit and talk to someone about say how to create a budget or other financial advice.”He added that the immediate response helps the credit union share real dialogues with members while building and reinforcing the awareness that their ideas and input matter at Addison Avenue FCU.“Our members live online, with only 30% of them ever visiting a branch,” said Fisher. “We’ll tweet, blog, reach out through our online community groups-whatever it takes to keep in touch with them. It’s been a win-win experience for us to share valuable financial insights, hear concerns and help members get the most from their money.”–[email protected]

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