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PR Insight: Cracking the Social Media Code


January 2014 – Vol: 37 No. 1
by Stephen Sprayberry

Key steps to reaching your internal business goals with a new communication strategy

January 2, 2014

Credit Union Management’s online-only “PR Insight” column runs the first Thursday of every month.

Throughout the past decade, the introduction and adoption of social media have consistently increased year after year, expanding far beyond a channel for sharing photos and socializing with friends and family. But despite the awareness of social media in both consumer and business realms, the Why?, How?, When? and What for? of social media implementation are still a significant concern for many of today’s credit unions.

Social Media in Action: A Case Study

To understand the major impact social media can have on an institution, let’s take a look at the recent successes achieved by $54 billion/4-million-member Navy Federal Credit Union, Vienna, Va., through the use of Facebook.

With the ultimate goal of driving membership and increasing sales for auto loan refinancing and certificates of deposit, Navy FCU employed an alternative campaign strategy to reach members and turned to Facebook. In just six short weeks, the credit union not only reached its four million-member milestone, but also generated nearly $200 million in new loan business and CDs, all through Facebook.  

How? By strategically combining member contests with both paid and unpaid posts to generate buzz around key offerings, Navy FCU was able to not only meet the goals it set at the beginning of the campaign, but also generate more than 300,000 new fans on its Facebook page and increase daily membership referrals from 200 to more than 5,000.

To achieve these types of results and maximize your credit union’s public relations efforts through the use of social media, you must first begin with a comprehensive evaluation of what your social media goal should be, how its implementation fits into your greater business strategy and how its value will be defined.

Getting Started

While no two social media platforms are created equal, the key benefits derived from each can be: integrated, two-way communications with members. Social media is known for its casual, relaxed tone – its authenticity is what makes it so attractive. While company administrators should never be unprofessional in their communication, they should type with an easy cadence to humanize their message.

Additionally, each social media platform must be individually evaluated for its relevance to each initiative to ensure the right message is being used for the right platform.

Overall, any credit union’s participation in social media should:

  • provide a unique perspective;
  • offer meaningful content; and
  • not threaten proprietary information.

Establish Goals and Processes

Before launching a LinkedIn, blog, Twitter, or Facebook corporate profile, your credit union should answer several important questions regarding its social media outreach:

  • What do we hope to achieve from social media usage?
    • Enhanced visibility?
    • Increased sales?
    • Improved member support?
    • Better connection to employees, members and prospects?
  • What is the target for:
    • number of group members/followers/fans?
    • post frequency?
  • Who is in charge of maintaining post frequency?
  • What types of content will best serve the credit union’s interest in social media:
    • Member successes and testimonials?
    • Thought leadership?
    • Market education?
    • Internal achievements?
    • Contests?

To smoothly make the transition into the social media world, credit unions should also work to leverage available materials, such as press releases, newsletters and member testimonials, to avoid inconsistencies in providing new content to members. Additionally, using an Excel or Word document to create an editorial calendar will allow you to plan out when new information will be posted and ensure content is available consistently.  

Gaining Momentum

Now that you have established a presence in the social media world, it’s time to let people know; otherwise your efforts will not result in the desired effect for your members. To inform members of your presence online and further drive new followers for your institution’s page there are several methods to consider, such as:

  • promoting the page on your other social media outlets;
  • including a Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn “button” on your credit union’s website;
  • including a link to the page in employee email signatures;
  • reaching out to employees and members and asking them to “like” the credit union’s page, which enables them to receive the posts and updates in their own newsfeed;
  • “liking” other business or community pages; and
  • having employees participate in social media by liking or commenting on items.

By following these key steps, your credit union can successfully launch its social media presence and begin leveraging outlets to better connect with members and ultimately reach the goals set forth for each specific campaign. While social media provides an ideal form of communication between credit unions and the general public, those managing the institution’s outlets need to keep a close watch on the content being pushed out, as well as the feedback being provided by members. From there, track what tactics work and don’t work for your institution and consistently refine your process.

With consumers continuing to adopt social media at an increasing rate, the time for credit unions to adopt this communication is now. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on significant opportunities to grow your business and, in turn, provide other financial institutions with a competitive advantage against your business.

Stephen Sprayberry is an account representative for William Mills Agency, the nation’s largest independent financial services and technology public relations firm. Follow William Mills Agency on Twitter and check out the agency’s FinTech Marketing blog.

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