The Credit Union Social Media Disconnect

Do I really care about the latest marketing campaign that XYZ Credit Union is doing? “Have you seen the video on YouTube by GenY Star? It would make the perfect national marketing campaign,” bleets many of the social media sheep in the credit union industry.

Do you know why most credit union CEO’s don’t blog and aren’t on Twitter? Because nothing important happens in the credit union blogosphere. Yeah, we all get to network, see what each other are doing, and maybe catch a pearl of wisdom here and there. But the bottom line is the important stuff, the game changing stuff, is never really talked about online. Changes to the member business lending cap. That’s a game changer. A partnership developed between FSCC, CUSC, PSCU, Fidelity, etc that enables all credit unions to become shared branches automatically. That’s a game changer.

I’ll bet we could fill an airplane with all the people in the credit union social media space. Literally. What would happen if that plane went down? Nothing. That’s right, nothing.  Now imagine filling that plane with the CEO’s of the credit union leagues, trade associations, CUSO’s, and credit unions. We would have a catastrophe. Innovation would be ground to a halt. The real partnerships and collaborations that were happening, albeit on a small scale, would cease.

Tim McAlpine recent wrote on the CUES blog about using social media to advanced your career. And he is 100% right. Social media can help to get your name out there. But we in the social media blogosphere need a greater goal than getting 500 twitter followers or blog subscribers. Trey Reeme and I recently had a conversation about this issue of social media being disconnected from the important things in the industry. Daily life at a credit union isn’t glamorous and fun. It is trying to find a way to help a teller do a process 1 minute faster. It is about finding a better checking product to match up with the maturity of your credit card portfolio. It is about patterning with neighborhood credit unions to form a multi-owned business CUSO to get around an individual credit union’s business lending cap because a.) business loans are profitable and b.) members need them.

If a flood was coming to the credit union industry, would you be invited onto Noah’s Ark to weather the storm? Right now, I wouldn’t be. And I’m not going to stop fighting for the credit union industry until I am.

Missed Social Media Opportunities

Credit unions have been clammoring to get involved with social media, many times without a cohesive strategy behind the action.  The Financial Brand ran an article about why social media doesn’t have any ROI a while back. The basic gist: have a reason to get into social media.

Neighborhood Watch Sign

Some companies have ample opportunity to get involved in social media, and for some reason or another, have yet to do so. Take your good ol’ Neighborhood Watch. While it is officially called USA on Watch, you will most likely recognize the sign you’ve seen many times on telephone poles and buildings in your area. To quote from the USA on Watch website:

Our nation is built on the strength of our citizens. Every day, we encounter situations calling upon us to be the eyes and ears of law enforcement. Not only does the Neighborhood Watch Program allow citizens to help in the fight against crime, it is also an opportunity for communities to bond through service.

The Neighborhood Watch is the perfect example of an organization that could leverage technology and social media to make it stay relevant. Think of the technology you have in your possesion right now that could be “the eyes and ears of law enforcement”. The Neighborhood Watch has some great opportunities to take advantage of the explosion of location-aware technologies. Consider the following examples:

  • Your local neighborhood watch has a Twitter account. One of the neighborhood watch participants tweets the details about a car break-in and the exact location is automatically included in the tweet.
  • You are walking your dog when you notice a stray in the neighborhood. You snap a picture with it from cell phone and sent it off to Twitter, GPS locations included on the picture itself and your tweet.
  • The neighborhood watch website overlays GIS data from the city (here’s an example in Portland, OR) that combines publicly available sex offender data and crime data to make a snapshot of your neighborhood.

Those are what some may call the “low hanging fruit” for USA on Watch. Many more things can be done using some of the free tools available. This may include using the Twitter API to combine local tweets in real time with Google MaPS and Google Earth that have been tagged a certain way or contain certain keywords. It could also build the ever-popular iPhone application to enable people to join their local neighborhood watch and send out updates to the application when a crime occurs or an Amber Alert is issued.

Goodwill Industries presents another wonderful opportunity to engage in social media to further fulfill their mission. It appears Goodwill has taken too long to create an iPhone app, as a private developer has already beat them to it. iDonatedIt also is stepping on Goodwill’s toes by tracking customer’s donations on their iPhone or iTouch. Goodwill should take a cue from the airline industry and develop their own iPhone and/or Blackberry application that lets customers not only find their store locations, but also enables the customer to receive their receipt via email or a message to their iPhone app.

The wonderful thing about some of the new social media tools available to marketers, technology geeks, and grandmas, is the ability for these tools to make interacting with their favorite and preferred stores or brands much easier. Forget about using Twitter to blast your latest rates or talk about going green with e-statements. Your members want banking to be easy. If you or your team can think of a way to make credit unioning easier for your members using social media, you’re on to something. Create a business plan around your idea and sell it to upper management. By making your social media strategy actionable with a clear goal in mind, you will position your credit union to be the envy of all of your competitors.

The real use for Twitter in CU's (and Banks)

Screw banks and CU’s using Twitter.  It is over rated and doesn’t give you any ROI.  I don’t care if you are having a seminar on credit reports or a shred day.  Pilcher’s Twitter directory is fine and dandy and it does a great job demonstrating that nobody is using Twitter except to regurgigate tired marketing messages.  Twitter could be a real communication tool for your members if it is a medium they are currently using.  You’ve surveyed your members and done your market research so you know what percentage of your membership is on Twitter, right?

Why the hell don’t we actually make Twitter a useful communication tool?  Think about how text banking works.  I text bal to MYCUBAL or whatever and 10 or 20 seconds goes by and my balance comes back.  Whoo hoo.  Why don’t we do the same thing with Twitter?  Log into online banking and link your Twitter username to your online banking account.  Tweet a direct message to your credit union with a command like bal or last 5.  The CU’s application grabs the direct message, looks up the Twitter username in online banking and pulls the balance out of the OFX server or directly from the core.  Then the application direct messages the CU member back.

Duh.  Seems like a no brainer to me.  Let’s get off the marketing band wagon with Twitter and figure out how to actually make it a useful tool for our membership.

Update:  I was just catching up on my feeds and noticed the post at The Financial Brand about the How To: Twitter for FI’s guide.  Look at the bullet points:

  • Promote new products and offers
  • Share personal finance tips
  • Express their brand and reveal their personalities
  • Build community outreach programs
  • Provide information about community events and activities
  • Increase exposure for their charitable and philanthropic efforts

Pick one of those that isn’t marketing and show me one useful thing that a member could use any of that for.  Oh wait, you can’t.

What to do with cublogs.org

I’ve been sitting on the domain for a while now and the offer to help CU’s spin up a blog for free proved to be less than popular.  I’ve got the domain now and I’m willing to do whatever with it.

I can’t remember where I heard it, but a user-generated site that lists all of the credit unions that blog would be cool.  That way the busy executive can skip having to look around and follow everyone.  Something like Yahoo Pipes would work but somehow let everyone add sites on to the list.

Maybe donate it to CUES or Callahan or somebody and let them run the list?

Thoughts?

Credit Unions on Facebook

So my CU just started a Facebook group. Woo hoo!  Now the question is how do you make your members that are on Facebook aware of this?  Buy ad space?  Adopt the “if you build it, they will come” mentality?  The first idea that actually crossed my mind was to grab the names and emails out of our core or online banking and treat them like regular old contacts which Facebook can upload and find your members that have Facebook accounts.  That way the invite would only go to members already on Facebook.  But then the paranoid side came out of me and I started to think that we’d feel a little wierd uploading a list of our members’ names and email to Facebook.

How would you guys feel if your CU invited you to join their group?  Are credit unions suddenly rubbing off on me and making me overly paranoid about privacy?  We’d invite the members through Facebook so only Facebook members would see the invite.  We would not send it to all of our online banking members as I can see issues arising.

Thoughts?

Running two blogs is tough

Not only do you have to post twice as much, it is kinda a pain to get the relevant topics to each blog.  Then I get an idea for a post I really like and I’m torn which blog to put it on.  I want to put it on the Life & Times because I’ve got pretty good readership, but I also want to get the fi-linx blog up and running so I end up putting it there.  But it doesn’t have the readership so then I’m left doing the old double post, which I hate.  So this time I’m just going to say that I put something on the fi-linx blog that I want everyone to read rather than just double posting and making it look like I’m just running two of the same blog.  Anyways, there’s my rant for today.  Go check out my post on the fi-linx blog.  This whole blogging thing is tough!

What's your criteria for adding to your blogroll?

I received an email last week from a CU vendor that recently launched a new blog and they are trying to get it off the ground.  They asked me to include their blog in my links section and I decided to think about it over the weekend.  I’ve heard the name of the company before, but I wasn’t that familiar with them.  Their site looks great, they’ve got good content in their blog for the niche they fill and they seem like nice people.  But what ultimately makes you add someone to your blogroll?  Quality contributions in comments around the blogosphere?  Good posts on their site?  Pretty mug shots on Twitter and LinkedIn?

Tough decision with cublogs.org

We have had 171 blogs setup on cublogs.org since we started it.  Of all of those blogs, only 7 have actually been setup by real people or credit unions.  The rest have all been spam and it is becoming a slight daily annoyance.  The basic idea behind cublogs.org is to remove the perceived technology barriers of blogging and enable credit unions to use a great blogging tool free of charge.  However, it seems that more spammers are using the tool than CU’s right now. 

So here is what I’m thinking:

  1. Leave cublogs.org up as it is, with no changes, and just deal with the spam.
  2. Kill WordPress Mu, the engine behind cublogs.org that lets people start their own blog on fly.  Instead, offer WordPress expertise, blog hosting, and general help, for free of course through the domain.
  3. Kill the whole site and not renew cublogs.org.
  4. Morph cublogs.org into some type of community listing of all credit union related blogs.  Open Source CU has the best blogroll, but why not use the domain as a massive community generated list?  I’m not sure the best way to do that, but that’s why it is just an idea.

What are everyone else’s thoughts?

What a way to start a blog

The nemesis of most travelers, the TSA, started a blog called the Evolution of Security.  One of the most hated governmental agencies, opened lines of communication with the millions of voices that travel each year.  If your credit union is afraid to start a blog because there is a potential for bad feedback, just look at their first post.  They’ve got 389 comments!  I could only hope for that great a response for any blog that a credit union, or bank, starts!  The TSA’s attitude about all of the feedback, which contains many bad experiences, has been great.  To quote their most recent post, "Thanks again for the great range of insightful, sad, humorous, outrageous comments. Keep them coming and we’ll do our best to try to keep up."

 

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