As seen on CUES
December 2016 – Vol: 39 No. 12
by Stephanie Schwenn Sebring
10 tips to help you gain the most from your social strategy.
Whether it’s sharing money ideas, a member moment or showcasing your credit union’s role in the community, the innovators are getting it right when it comes to social media.
Their mindset? Not that social is a “valid” communications tool; most everyone’s on board with that. But rather, that social media is a valuable, versatile and personal way to reach members—not used to outwardly sell, but as a way of intimately connecting with the people you serve and community at large.
Here are 10 ways to use social media most effectively.
1. Experiment and Research
“Test what works best for your members,” recommends Mike Lawson, host of CUbroadcast. “I understand many credit unions don’t have the resources to experiment with various social media networks, but this is what the experts do.”
See what works, then try it again a different day, time or in a different format, adds Marne Franklin, digital project manager for CUES Supplier member Your Marketing Company, Greenville, S.C. She reiterates that this type of exploration is consequential for credit unions: “Social lends itself perfectly to try new things, a different approach or pretest bigger campaigns.”
Learn from the experts, and let them do the groundwork for you. “Let them fail, make the mistakes and find the solutions,” continues Lawson. “Research is a huge time saver for CUs with limited resources. A little prep work can go a long way in combatting limited resources. Also, learn about the strategic risks, and use these to experiment, discover and ultimately better connect with your members.”
Strategic risks can include managing possible negative comments; the time producing and responding to social media efforts (being consistent and timely); and defining the right permissions, approvals, access, data classifications and collaboration processes.
2. Use the Right Tools
Popular platforms can help you to better manage your social channels, including Everypost, Buffer, Socialoomph, Hootsuite and Sprout Social. “If you’re an ardent Twitter user and manage multiple accounts, Hootsuite is tops,” adds Lawson. “And since CUs are often short-handed, Buffer is another tool that can save time and increase your productivity, and is especially helpful if you’re on multiple networks.”
Tools can also be used to measure success and member engagement, including clicks, views and shares, offers Franklin. “Hootsuite is one of the best products on the market; personally, I use Sendible. But whatever tools a CU decides upon, the decision should be case-by-case, based on needs, dependent on your budget and number of channels in the mix. Don’t overspend if you don’t need to.”
3. Strive for Consistency
Randy Smith, CUDE, co-founder and publisher of CUES Supplier member CUInsight.com, is adamant about the role consistency plays in a CU’s social strategy. “It’s imperative to success that there be a consistent flow of information. It enables your members to find and learn about you and the people inside your CU,” he explains. “You must know where your members are, and be where your members are.”
Brand voice should also remain constant. “It should match the tone of your website and all other marketing channels,” adds Franklin. “This preserves your brand identity, and creating a planned strategy will help keep your brand consistent on all of your channels.” She also advises against giving account admin rights randomly to individuals within the CU who may or may not understand your strategy, voice or direction.
However, if time is an issue, Smith suggests finding a talented employee who is active on a particular channel to champion it—as long as they understand your strategy and can inject your brand voice. “Strategy still falls on the marketers, but seek help from those who know how to use the channel in their personal lives,” says Smith. “Find employees who are active on social media; they can contribute to the flow of information.”
While not as prevalent as in the past, Smith urges CUs not to restrict employees from having access to social channels while at work. “Everyone should have the ability to communicate with members via social like any other communications channel, such as phone or email.”
4. Go for Engagement
It’s why any savvy business is on social media. “Use it as another layer of vibrant, personal and approachable communication with members,” offers Franklin. “Leverage your personality and involvement in the community. Let engagement be a catalyst for organic growth with post clicks and shares. Increase engagement levels by tagging members in posts, which boosts shares and accelerates your post ranking in members’ news feeds. Encourage staff to share posts as well.”
Ask employees to share the post on Facebook or retweet on Twitter, not just copy it into their status. Sharing helps to build engagement and increases the placement of the post in a user’s newsfeed, and, it enables others to share the post in its original format. It also ensures attribution to you, the CU. Those who share the post can add their own comments or endorsement.
How often should you post?
Resources permitting, Franklin suggests posting five to 10 times a week on Facebook. For Twitter, tweet at least five times a week, but Franklin adds the top guns are tweeting up to four times an hour. “Forty percent of all Twitter accounts are dormant,” she continues. “Don’t start a Twitter account and let it die after just one tweet. That’s worse than not being on (the channel) at all.”
Like all best practices, it’s striking a balance with limited resources. “But don’t worry that your followers will get inundated with your posts or tweets,” says Franklin. “They won’t see them all.”
To stay on track, take 30 minutes each week to schedule posts. “Viewing the entire week will enable you to space and schedule your posts appropriately,” says Franklin. “For promotional messages, sit down and craft your message, so they have the same tone, but not the exact text. Then have matching messages on Facebook, Twitter and possibly Instagram. For posts that perform well with your members, consider putting a few paid advertising dollars behind the post to boost engagement.”
This is a way for your content to reach non-members and members who haven’t yet liked your page, explains Franklin. Because the post doesn’t exist solely on your CU’s wall, it becomes integrated into the newsfeed of the audience you choose to target.
“Even a $50 monthly budget can gain some ground on Facebook,” she continues. “You can target the dollars based on geographic area, interests and life events. And remember, one out of every five page views (20 percent) in the U.S. happen on Facebook. Worldwide, there are over a billion daily users.”
Franklin offers this success story: “When the Wells Fargo scandal broke, one of our CU clients turned to Facebook with the message, ‘Is your money safe? Bank local. Bank with our credit union.’ The original organic post reached 1,200 people. By boosting the post for only $10, the CU was able to reach an additional audience of over 1,550 potential members. That small budget more than doubled the number of people who saw the message.”
5. Identify the Must-Have Channels
Lawson believes Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are still the mainstays right now. But Instagram is closing in fast, and Pinterest may be a contender. Smith says that if you can only pick two, try Facebook and Instagram.
Smith, in particular, loves what CUs are doing with Instagram: When you compare what CUs are doing on Facebook and Twitter to their growth and activity on Instagram, CUs are ahead of the curve there, he says.
“Instagram also fits perfectly with a CU’s community message and member connection. It can present the CU philosophy quickly with photos or graphics in a more candid, expressive or descriptive way.” In 2015, Smith says, only about 10 CUs were active on Instagram. Now, at the close of 2016, almost 600 CUs are actively using the channel as part of their social strategy. As CUs continue to gain momentum, Smith envisions a similar progression with Snapchat.
Why Snapchat? Some CUs are using Snapchat to illustrate their personalities through quick hits of information.
“They’re showcasing community involvement and the CU difference,” explains Smith. He especially likes what CUES Suppler member CUNA Mutual Group and Experian have done with Snapchat, as well as Travis Credit Union, Maps Credit Union and Wings Financial Credit Union.
“With Snapchat, you can’t just ‘search and follow.’ Users connect directly with other users, making it much more about communicating back and forth.”
Snapchat is also attracting the under-35 crowd in droves right now. Bloomberg Technology reports 150 million Snapchat users daily (surpassing Twitter, which has about 140 million). And growth doesn’t seem to be slowing.
Lawson concurs that Snapchat is “very social” and popular with the younger audiences. “However, it’s not a place where educational content resides with great anticipation. For example, my 15-year-old daughter is on Snapchat, and so are all of her friends, and it is the last place she expects financial information to be. But that’s what we used to say about Facebook, and look at credit unions there now—Navy Federal Credit Union made over $200 million in loans from its Facebook page a couple of years ago. That’s what’s fascinating; social media changes, morphs and evolves by the day, it seems. So who knows with Snapchat?”
Snapchat can also be advantageous for certain live marketing scenarios. “Experiment with Snapchat at kids or collegiate-type events or even member appreciation days,” advises Franklin. Use it to broadcast snippets of live happenings, such as a member workshop or behind-the-scenes look at a community or charity event.
Still, if a CU is just starting out on social, Snapchat is probably not the first choice. “As millennials and Snapchat mature, the network could very well become an equally viable place for CUs to go,” says Lawson. The channel right now is in an experimental time for CUs and not an “all-in” place just yet.
6. Don’t Spread Efforts Too Thin
With limited resources, find a network or two and stick with them, says Lawson. Take baby steps. And keep it simple. Schedule posts ahead of time so you’re not on social media all day. Check and post in the morning, at lunch, in the afternoon and maybe once in the evening.
Using the right management tools, like the ones mentioned earlier, can also make multiple networks easier to manage. And whatever channels you choose, Franklin stresses the importance of fully engaging on those channels so that engagement will become a means of organic growth. “For instance, let your social channels be a resource for potential members considering a switch.” She adds that social can’t be considered a “trend” anymore, and if your CU is still viewing it in that manner, it’s a mistake. Consumers are now looking at business Facebook pages as part of their normal buying process.
7. Keep it Real
Authenticity is at the heart of social media. “It’s not overly produced; it’s candid and sincere,” submits Smith. “You don’t overthink or stage things. Social media lets people know who you are and what you’re all about.”
Lawson adds that while content on social channels should be informative and relevant, keeping the personal connection is vital. “Don’t be salesy; be human. Humans connect with other humans, not logos or buildings or ‘buy now’ messages. Social media and sales are like oil and water, not peanut butter and jelly. Have a personality; be genuine. That’s what connects, and that’s your goal.” He also reminds that while CUs “rock with rates,” don’t talk about it. “Social media is the place to tell your story that will connect with members. Not sell.”
8. Use #Hashtags
Relevant hashtags will boost engagement levels. “They’re a way for you to let members find topics important to them or for you to tie in with national initiatives or local events,” says Franklin. “For example, at Your Marketing Company, we use the hashtag “#yeahthatgreenville” (created by VisitGreenvilleSC) to tie in with local events we’re participating in.”
Hashtags have been a mainstay for Twitter but are gaining momentum on Facebook. “Used correctly, they’re a helpful sorting tool,” offers Franklin. “But don’t use hashtags randomly; they should make sense and correlate with your post.” (To see what hashtags are trending in the U.S., try tools like hashtagify.me.)
9. Measure Impact, Not Just Numbers
Social media already has the numbers, says Lawson. Instead, try tracking success on a more personal level: “Look for what people are actually saying in their posts on various networks. Lots of retweets, likes and shares are great, and that increased activity certainly helps in validating your social proof. But going to a deeper level with what people are saying about you gets to the core—positive or negative. It’s a conversation opportunity that everybody sees and many will react to either online or off. That’s where loyalty blooms, trust blossoms and business happens.”
Your content should also position your CU as a trusted teacher, there to help members improve their lives financially. “If you can do that, the business will follow,” continues Lawson. “It’s called ‘reciprocation.’ You do something nice for somebody; that person will do something nice back, especially if what you offer benefits their lives.” It’s about connecting with, helping and influencing followers.
10. Give it Time
Impatience can be any business’s downfall when it comes to developing a robust, committed social strategy. “Many CUs start but don’t continue because of a lackluster response from members,” concludes Lawson. “It can take a bit of time to get going. But be patient. When it does take hold, social media is incredibly beneficial and powerful and enriching for your members.”
Stephanie Schwenn Sebring established and managed the marketing departments for three CUs and served in mentorship roles before launching her business. As owner of Fab Prose & Professional Writing, she assists CUs, industry suppliers, and any company wanting great content and a clear brand voice. Follow her on Twitter @fabprose.
Author: Mike Lawson
Married to a most gorgeous and wonderful wife, raising 5 kiddos (including twins!), enjoy helping others tell their stories, and love surfing SoCal waves. Keep it simple.