February 3, 2011
Credit Union Management’s online-only “PR Insight” column runs the first Thursday of every month.
Given credit unions’ inherently strong dedication to members, social media should be a high priority as it rapidly grows in popularity among all consumers.
A recent study by Pew Research, “Generations 2010,” indicates that while the Millennial generation (ages 18-33) is still in the lead in most categories of online participation, older generations are making rapid gains, too.
As reported by The New York Times, Internet users from all age groups increased participation in social networking sites from December 2008 to May 2010: Millennials rose from 67 percent to 83 percent; every generation 45 and older more than doubled participation; adults 74 and older quadrupled their participation (from 4 percent to 16 percent).
Social media is more important today than ever in all aspects of a credit union’s business, including sales, member support, human resources, member loyalty, business intelligence and public relations. It is clear that using social media is necessary to remain competitive and to communicate effectively with all members, but there must also be a solid method to evaluate its effectiveness. As with all campaigns, achieving results requires planning.
Step 1: Identify Goals
Goals and objectives must be specific, and must be the starting-point to any campaign. Ask yourself: What was the reason to implement social media? Cost reduction? Who do you hope to reach? New members? How do you hope to influence them?
Step 2: Establish Metrics
When measuring social media, the goal is to observe increases in activity and tie the measurement to improvements in business performance (see steps 7 and 8). To identify any correlation, you must first identify what metrics you will use. Metrics for the social media side include Facebook likes, Twitter followers and Web site visitors. For the business side, look at total number of new members, loans, etc., percentage different from previous years or campaigns, and percent to goal.
Step 3: Establish a Baseline
Knowing if there are improvements means knowing where you started. Conduct a social media audit to identify where you are and use this as a baseline that you will periodically measure. For instance, five YouTube subscribers, 20 Twitter followers and a high bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who enter the site and leave the site rather than continue viewing other pages) from your blog.
Step 4: Identify a Social Media Team
Social media is not free and it’s not easy. It takes skilled people, technology and time, but the benefits can significantly outweigh the investment. To ensure success, invest in the necessary resources, starting with identifying a social media manager and a dedicated team to support your efforts.
According to a Forbes article, “Ten Corporate Social Media Mistakes,” the No. 1 error organizations make is not investing in what the article calls a “community manager.” “Community managers are not site administrators but agents of change,” according to Dan Woods, chief technology officer and editor of CITO Research, a research firm focused on the needs of CTOs and CIOs. The alternative of enlisting various employees to manage social media part time could be disastrous.
Step 5: Create Activity Timelines
Track activity in a timeline. When are Twitter posts being updated? When are blogs posted? You must be aware of all activity reaching your members to be able to correlate positive or negative change.
Step 6: Monitor Conversations
This is particularly important when measuring such media as blogs. Monitor the conversations and posts: Are they positive or negative? Are any specific topics or keywords prevalent?
Steps 7 and 8: Measure and Analyze Data
Like most marketing tracking, finding a direct correlation between your social media efforts and your overall goals can be difficult. The trick is to drill down.
One way to test the effectiveness of your social media presence is to try an exclusive offer on Facebook or Twitter.
You can also use your Web site metrics to see how many visitors are coming from Facebook or Twitter. Or use personalized URLs when linking from Facebook or Twitter to know which medium was more effective.
When talking to a member, train employees to ask where they saw an offer (Facebook, Twitter, Web site, e-mail, brochure, etc.).
You can also look at historical data. How many new members came in as a result of your last new membership campaign, the one with a traditional marketing approach? Did you add Facebook and Twitter this year and achieve different results? Did new members start joining after your credit union joined Facebook without any other explanation (such as recent TV commercials)? It could be that people randomly and at the same time decided to join your credit union. But, it’s very likely that your Facebook page had something to do with it.
So measure everything and measure often. Send out a brochure about your mortgage rates? Look for increases in the number of Web site visitors, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, blog visits and comments, and blog-to-Web site click-throughs. Does traffic to your Web site increase soon after you tweet or Facebook an item? What about when you send a marketing e-mail? Try sending the same message via e-mail on Monday, Facebook on Tuesday and Twitter on Wednesday. Then compare the number of visitors from the e-mail to the number of visitors from Facebook and from Twitter.
You might not be able to say with 100 percent certainty that a loan came from one specific marketing piece, but the more you measure and track, the better overall picture you’ll have.
Ultimately your social media efforts need to work with and complement your overall marketing efforts and the CU’s ultimate business goals. Social media won’t replace your traditional marketing outlets but it can definitely enhance them.
Step 9: Identify Areas of Improvement
During the analysis, you should also identify areas in need of improvement and make appropriate changes. For example, are there more clickthroughs to the Web site from Tweets posted in the morning vs. the afternoon? If so, schedule posts during morning hours.
Rarely do we, as communicators, get a chance to build dialogue from the ground up. Social media affords us that opportunity … today! Make the decision to engage your employees, members and prospects in social media. Also, make the decision to monitor, analyze and evaluate these conversations.
Remember that measurement is much more than the number of followers, fans, visitors and click-throughs. Social media has proven to work, but you must prove that it supports your business goals. And if your program proves to not support your goals, make adjustments accordingly – after all, that’s the purpose of evaluating.
Mary E. York is a senior account agent 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.