What we learned by examining 40 credit union social media campaigns from 2021

It’s been a rough start to another uncertain year. If there’s anything we can count on, it’s that all of us are hungry for meaningful connection.

For all its challenges and potential perils, social media, like banking, can be a force for good if we approach it with our credit union principles in mind. Here at PixelSpoke, we’ve been heartened to see many credit unions that are focused on leveraging social media not to push products, but to strengthen community and member connections.

In examining over 40 social media campaigns that credit unions across the country conducted in 2021, we’ve come away with three recommended best practices:

  1. Use giveaways to highlight and support local businesses

Giveaways are a popular strategy for growing your social media following, but not all giveaways are created equal. Think carefully about how you position your giveaway and who you’re trying to reach. Will a $100 gift card giveaway attract followers who are likely to continue engaging with your credit union, or is it more likely to attract followers who just want 100 bucks?

Some of the most successful giveaway campaigns we’ve seen doubled as opportunities to highlight and support local businesses. Think about the restaurants and local retail shops your target audience would be excited about, starting with your members if you offer business services. As part of the giveaway, share a brief story about the business or its founders.

Our client Baton Rouge Telco FCU highlighted a number of local restaurants as part of its #OperationTakeout Instagram campaign. Followers were asked to comment on their favorite local dish at the featured restaurant and were entered to win a $25 gift card to the restaurant for takeout.

When credit unions offer Apple products or Visa gift cards as prizes, it’s a missed opportunity to support the local economy and reinforce your local focus.

Bonus: Any cooperatively owned restaurants or retail shops in your area? In the spirit of “cooperatives helping cooperatives,” use a giveaway to highlight a local co-op and reinforce the cooperative principles!

  1. Members first, products second

Some of the least inspiring campaigns we saw simply looked like product display ads populated across social channels. Some were nicely designed, but they were not particularly successful when it came to inspiring engagement. People come to social media to be, well, social.

Member testimonials, by contrast, tend to play well on social because they feature real people, putting the member first and the product second. We saw both video clips and static images featuring a photo and a quote successfully driving engagement. Even better if you can link the testimonial to a longer story that centers the member as the hero. For more on leading with stories by being Yoda, not Luke, see our previous CUInsight article.

Bonus: You can leverage the testimonials and stories you post to gather new stories. Ask your followers to share their own stories in the comments and follow up on ones that intrigue you. Making these personal connections and featuring real stories is a great way to turn your happy members into super promoters.

  1. Be an active community partner vs. a passive funder

We’ve all seen the “Big Check” photos, and while they’re a nice way to show your members that you’re supporting great causes and local nonprofits, there are more engaging and creative ways to highlight your community partnerships.

The possibilities are wide-ranging depending on the mission and the cause. Our client Freedom FCU conducts an award-winning annual #FreedomtoHelp campaign built around engaging the members and potential members who share their values. By promoting volunteerism and amazing but less-well-known nonprofits, they have generated a ton of earned media while also attracting new social media followers and members.

Asking your followers to share relevant photos or videos to a hashtag is a great way to create word-of-mouth buzz. Perhaps they can share videos of their pups to draw awareness to a local animal shelter, or photos of them wearing pink for breast cancer awareness. Plus, by co-creating a campaign with a local organization you support, each of you have the potential to reach new audiences through your respective social media followings.

People today want community impact to be about more than handing over money to a charity. They also want to actively participate in your community giving efforts. Many credit unions engage members by asking them to vote on which causes to support. While this approach can generate buzz, it also results in “winners” and “losers,” which is somewhat contradictory to the spirit of giving.

We most appreciated campaigns in which local organizations were active partners, not just passive recipients of votes and/or checks. Plus, there are so many opportunities to have some fun and collect a whole library of visuals that you can use (with permission) to highlight your community giving efforts in annual reports, on your website, in brochures, and more.

Bonus: Offer incentives for participation that tie into our first best practice by highlighting local businesses. Even better if they can get in on the fun too and promote the campaign to their own social media followings. That’s a triple win!

Social media can sometimes feel like a time-suck, and the ROI can be muddy. We don’t always expect your credit union to be able to draw a straight line between any of these best practices and an increase in leads or loan applications.

But if your campaigns focus instead on engagement, connection, and brand awareness — while also allowing you to highlight the delighted members and community partnerships that differentiate you from the big banks — you can rest assured that your efforts will pay off over time with members who are more engaged, more loyal, and more likely to refer you to their friends.

Cameron Madill

Cameron Madill

Cameron Madill is the CEO of PixelSpoke, a B Corp, worker-owned marketing agency that builds websites for credit unions and other impact-focused cooperatives. He is also the host of The ... Details

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