How to Become a Part of the Online Conversation

March 2018: Vol 41 No 3
Shelly-Ann Wilson Henry
Five best practices for using social media to build your brand
Speech bubbles formed by social media and digital media icons

Often when a credit union’s management is asked the question, “Are you using social media?” the answer is a resounding yes! However, for some, this “yes” just confirms that a Facebook page exists, or that the credit union has established a Twitter account. It doesn’t mean active participation or engagement in the social media space—posting relevant, value-added content consistently, responding to comments from your members or garnering qualified leads from your social media presence. Having Facebook/Instagram/Twitter doesn’t mean that you are a part of the online conversation; if your social content is static, your credit union’s products and services are probably not being mentioned or shared by others. Also, your brand will likely not show up in relevant searches or in online reviews that inform potential members. 

Why is social media important? It is important that your credit union have a strong online presence, because that is the first place your prospective members go when they are in the information-gathering and decision-making stages. Positive views or sentiments expressed about your CU online help to build your brand image and reputation. Having said that, here are a few best practices that you may want to consider as you work towards building your credit union’s social presence.

1. Focus on what your members want rather than what you want to say.
When creating content, focus on your members’ needs. Create buyer personas (profiles of what your targeted customers look like), then produce content that answers questions they would ask, such as “What products or services fulfill my needs or suit my lifestyle?” While covering general topics is good, it is better to create content that help individuals to find solutions to their specific pain points. Think about the personas’ intent, then provide the relevant content to alleviate their issues.

2. Make your brand stand out.
Incorporate your credit union’s name in posts. Build a natural, human and conversational relationship with your members, and think of creative ways to increase engagement. Also, establish a persona for your own brand and stick to it. With the best practices for each social media channel in mind, decide on your tone, look and feel, content and messaging. Members build relationships with brands they can relate to.

3. Proactively drive the online conversation in your favor.
Take control of your content and the medium used to distribute it; don’t just leave it to chance. Include community outreach programs, events and your staff to show the softer side of your credit union and encourage conversation. Use the “people helping people” motto and community mindedness of credit unions to your advantage. Younger demographics, particularly Gen Z, are said to be more local-minded and philanthropic, so this is a good way to reach them and encourage membership. Your online strategy should promote your CU’s ties to the community, so share member experiences and stories of exceptional service, as well as leveraging financial education and thought leadership.

4. Make Instagram a part of your social media strategy.
Why Instagram? First, it is a great medium to use for the community-type content mentioned above, as it is built on a community model driven by photos and videos. Second, according to Brandwatch.com, over 60 percent of Instagram’s 800 million users log in daily, making it the second most-engaged network after Facebook. Engagement with brands on Instagram is 10 times higher than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest, and 84 times higher than Twitter. Third, this medium presents a good opportunity to reach younger demographics.

5. Incorporate paid online advertising into your strategy.
Paid media gives you an opportunity to promote your credit union to a larger but more targeted market. It allows you to use specific metrics to help you to reach your desired audience. Additionally, paid media can help to amplify the reach of owned media (website, blogs, social media sites) and earned media (PR, online reviews, social media comments). Research also shows that social media channel algorithms favor paid media, providing better opportunities for reach and engagement. According to an article about the Facebook news algorithm on Adweek.com, “If you want to get your content in front of more people, you have to pay for it. Like any other marketing platform, Facebook is more effective for businesses that use paid media. With paid media, your business reaches greater audiences with greater accuracy than possible with organic content.”

Incorporating these five best practices is a good start to get your credit union from just having a social media account to having a strong presence and becoming a part of the conversation online. Make 2018 the year you truly embrace and invest in social media. And whether you are going to employ someone dedicated to building and managing your presence, partner with a third party and/or purchase an automation tool, make social media a line item in your budget! 

In her role as PR and communications manager, Shelly-Ann Wilson Henry plays a critical role in the development, distribution and management of the content that supports the thought leadership agenda at CSCU—now Trellance. She is responsible for managing the company’s online presence, fostering media relationships and securing speakership opportunities for CSCU’s thought leaders.