This article is the second in a three-part series in which I am focusing on the use of social media as a tactic to help credit unions achieve three overarching goals common to all credit unions: service, growth, and education. In part one I focused on service (that piece can be found here: http://www.cuinsight.com/social-media-is-not-a-goal-part-1.html). In this article I will cover the process of leveraging social media platforms to drive growth.
To begin with, growth consists of two components: deepening existing member relationships and acquiring new members. This distinction is important for two reasons.
First of all, each audience, existing members in one case and general consumers in the other, have different knowledge and awareness levels of credit union brand distinction. Here is an extreme example to illustrate the point: Existing members know that their credit union is a financial institution; general consumers may not know that a credit union is a financial institution.
The second reason to appreciate the distinction between relationship growth and new member growth involves the language we use. Simply put, we speak and sell differently to people who know us versus those that don’t. Consider your speech in casual conversation. In speaking to a friend we dispense with the formality of introducing ourselves. When speaking to someone new, we usually start off by introducing ourselves and perhaps offer additional background information.
If you craft messages designed to acquire new members but in doing so make the assumption that potential members are as knowledgeable about credit union and brand-specific distinctions as members, you will lose the attention of your audience and likely fail in your objectives. Likewise, if you craft messages with the casual informality afforded to members, you may fail to impart critical brand information consumers are looking for as they seek to establish new connections. In crafting growth-focused messages, then, effective social media communication strategy must consider the knowledge common to target groups and the depth of the relationship with those groups, and any communication copy must be drafted and targeted accordingly.
Now to another component of utilizing social media as a tool to facilitate growth. In part one of this article series I referenced an important element of service, particularly in a social media context: an institution’s service response happens only as a result of a member’s initiation. In other words, “service” is simply effective responsiveness to a consumer request. As a result, service effectiveness requires sound “listening” skills and the capacity to respond — true for in-person interactions and for those occurring on social media platforms.
In the context of growth, however, conversations can be initiated by either consumers or the credit union, or both. Successful facilitation of growth, then, requires credit unions to engage in push/respond … respond/push strategy, where the credit union creates growth-focused messages and responds to growth-related requests. This method is truly different than how most credit unions currently support growth objectives via social media, however, which involves a heavy amount of broadcast “promotion” and little targeted messaging and listening.
For example, consider this broadcast promotion copy. Which is a more effective “push” message for driving interaction with consumers regarding auto loans?
Check out our great car loan rate special!
Buying a car this weekend? Here’s what you need to know before stepping foot on a dealer lot…
Of course the second message is more effectively worded, but we need to understand why. One is clear, unadulterated advertising, which consumers often tune out, while the other suggests an opportunity to gain an advantage in purchasing a car. The objective of both, of course, is growth — specifically to generate auto loan applications/pre-approvals. However, in terms of grabbing consumer interest and generating further opportunity for push/respond engagement, they are clearly not equal.
Regarding the respond/push opportunities for growth-related engagement, consider this tweet (it’s a real one!)
I need a car loan 🙁
While there is some debate as to whether it is “creepy” to attempt to engage consumers, as a brand, when they post comments like this, I say if they are a member and/or a connection, then a response is certainly appropriate. However, it is important not to jump into sales mode. If social media platforms are, in fact, platforms for conversation, then it makes sense to engage in conversation. For example, my first thought in reading this particular tweet was, “Why?” I am curious as to whether this person’s car died, whether they had an accident, etc. I want to know the root cause of the comment and driving force behind the need for a loan. Such curiosity forms the basis for an effective conversation that just so happens to relate to credit union loan growth.
The final point to make for this part of the series is that credit unions must ensure there is call-to-action support for growth-based exchanges. To put it bluntly, if a credit union has no opportunity for members and potential members to apply online for loans and/or membership, then it makes no sense to attempt to use platforms geared to the establishment of online relationships. While some may disagree, any given credit union must get its online house in order for social media efforts to be anything more than a waste of time.
So far I have written about service and growth in the context of social media. The next area of focus is education. While there would appear to be little difference between sales pitches and member “education,” a difference does exist, which I will explore further in the third and final part of this series in next month’s post.