Credit unions and the digital frontier: Strategies for fostering authentic virtual engagement

In an era where 4.89 billion individuals across the globe, ages old and young, are active social media users, the financial world stands at a digital crossroads. An outstanding 32.9% of people between the ages of 35 and 64 choose websites and apps to engage with their financial service provider, and an overwhelming 79% of American Gen-Z and Millennial users turn to social media for financial guidance. Yet only 30% of financial service companies are currently implementing or have a solidified digital transformation strategy for their organization. As seen in these statistics, the digital engagement of our current and prospective members is ever present and increasing. But is our industry ready to answer the call of the digital age and are we ready to invest in strategies that can solidify our presence as we pursue relevance, member retention, and lasting relationships?

Guided by insights from Unitus Community Credit Union, this article explores different tools and strategies that credit unions can leverage to embrace the digital future and successfully retain current members and acquire new ones in the era of the digital media frontier.

  • Intentionally and authentically story tell: In today’s digital age, where users find themselves increasingly interacting with financial service providers digitally, how your organization is portrayed online may be the only means through which users form a perception of you. The way your organization structures its digital environment can either encourage deep, empathetic relationships, or push them towards transactional engagement. The end result depends on how you intentionally tell your credit union’s story through a digital lens. Lori Fink, AVP of Marketing and Brand Development at Unitus Community Credit Union sheds light on their ability to share their brand and mission through intentional storytelling as she notes, The digital space provides a unique opportunity to share this brand message through stories that generate compassion and empathy, feature a strong call-to-action, and include diverse voices, communities, and cultures. At Unitus, our “There is More that Unites Us” messaging is an authentic brand proposition that highlights our belief that we are stronger together and we all face the same struggles. As an inclusive financial institution, our goal is to help every member through each of their life-defining moments.” 
  • Curate a digital space for learning: Zogo Finance, a financial literacy startup, had found that 75% of Gen-Z university peers did not know what a credit union was. Many millennials think credit unions only offer basic services or that they do not qualify to become a member. It’s evident that credit unions are facing both an awareness problem and a pressing need for a fresh approach to help members understand the credit union system and its principles of membership. The solution may lie within the digital realm. Lori Fink shares her thoughts on how Unitus Community Credit Union is leaning into the digital space to educate current and potential members: “We need prospects to better understand the credit union model, its not-for-profit structure, and that we are a full-service financial institution. Our corporate responsibility, community development, and financial education programs show members and prospects that we are here for the greater good. At Unitus, we strive to reach people where they are, putting technology solutions in the palm of their hands. It’s imperative that members and prospects—especially younger generations—understand we have the apps and digital platforms they expect.” Through the curation of learning spaces within your organizations’ digital platforms, users can gain a deeper understanding of credit union fundamentals, align with your mission, and contribute to an increased awareness of both your organization and the broader industry – all at their fingertips.
  • Failing fast and rejecting perfection: Digital media platforms, particularly social media, often promote the idea that all content is expected to be refined from the initial launch. I’m here to assure you that it shouldn’t be the case; in fact, users aren’t seeking perfection in the first place – they’re seeking a more personable and humanized approach to digital media content. Instead of delaying your organization’s entry into the digital media space, consider embracing the “fail fast” mindset, letting go of the pursuit of perfection and letting authenticity and insight take the driver’s seat. The key is to not hold back from sharing content. Embrace the experimentation process to find what fits with your brand and mission. Know that even if the initial returns aren’t as expected, you can pivot and adapt, as long as you remain strategic and authentic to your brand, the people you are aiming to serve, and the feedback you are receiving from your users. Lori Fink speaks to Unitus Community Credit Union’s strategic digital media strategy shift for their respective social media platforms: On LinkedIn, we’ve seen engagement and followers up 20% as we’ve adjusted our strategy to highlight our brand, our community engagement, and our company culture.” It’s not the perfection users are here for, it’s for the story you tell, and how they see themselves as a part of it.

As your organization embarks on its journey into the digital realm, don’t be overwhelmed. It’s more important to get started than to remain stagnant. Even implementing one or two initiatives at a time will help your credit union foster a more meaningful connection with current and potential members. Embrace the digital frontier by having confidence in your ability to connect through authentic content. And most importantly – have trust in the power of your credit union brand, mission, and the content you aim to create.

Olivia Carini

Olivia Carini

As Product Services Specialist, Olivia collaborates with team members to ensure excellent product delivery. She oversees and develops the initial business development process of Coopera to include the creation of ... Web: Details