3 Things Credit Unions Must Know About Social Media

teal computer with yellow social media icons all around

What would you do if Facebook disappeared tomorrow?

It’s a question I posed to my social media team last year and a question that is more relevant today than ever.

As the founder and leader of a credit union marketing firm closing in on 15 years of success, I’m constantly aware of the need to be looking ahead. What legacy ideas, strategies, and platforms are no longer serving us well? What relevant ideas, strategies, and platforms do we need to be moving our credit union marketing clients toward without chasing shiny new toys?

I urge credit union leaders to do the same but ask a lot of questions to ensure you are allocating resources strategically. For example, we recently had a client urgently contact us and ask to have a TikTok account created “pronto.”

I asked, “What is the urgency?”

A board member thought the credit union needed to be on TikTok to grow members.

TikTok isn’t a bad platform. There are no bad platforms as long as it fits the strategy. But some of the more recent social media platforms create a conundrum for credit unions.

For years credit unions have embraced Facebook with posts about National Doughnut Day, holiday closings, and their promotional rate of the week. However, in my experience little thought is given to the engagement levels of this content. Whether it’s your marketing firm or someone internally, that content needs to be curated and posted, costing you either salary or time from your marketing firm. What is the return?

As more social media platforms burst on the scene – some fizzle out, and legacy social media platforms show signs of aging, consider 3 things as you review your credit union social media strategy:

1. Facebook is beginning to show signs of decline. In its Q2 2021 earnings call, Facebook shocked the marketing world with the news that for the very first time there was a decline in daily active users. Daily active users on Facebook dropped very slightly between the final two quarters of last year, from 1.93 billion to 1.929 billion, the first drop in its 18-year history.

Still, think Facebook is a place you can reach younger members? A recent study conducted by Pew Research Center found that of all the Facebook demographics, US users aged 65 or older grew the most, from 26% to nearly 40%.

Earlier in this article, I shared a challenge I gave to my social media team at YMC: re-write a social media strategy without Facebook. That challenge was for two reasons:

First, I believe credit unions have become too dependent on trying to use Facebook for ‘free’ marketing and throwing content out without measuring engagement.

Second, I see Facebook as a social media crutch. It’s still the biggest and easiest platform to use. I always want to be planning ahead to make sure our credit union clients are relevant and using ideas, strategies, and platforms that are helping to achieve their goals.

2. With active daily Facebook users in decline, where are people going? As some people disconnect from the drama of social media, others are turning to newer platforms such as TikTok. Recent data show TikTok is on track to overtake the global advertising scale of Twitter and Snapchat combined this year and match the behemoth YouTube within the next two years.

In terms of users, TikTok ended 2021 with 1.2 billion monthly active users and is forecasting that to climb to 1.5 billion by the end of 2022. It is currently the most downloaded app worldwide.

“Great, get our credit union on TikTok, PRONTO!”

Not so fast.

Successfully engaging on TikTok isn’t as easy as creating an account and posting your rate promos. Authenticity is the key to success on engaging with a tribe on any social media platform, but especially on TikTok. Do you understand the power of hashtags? Are you current on the trending sounds you should incorporate and their origins? Are you comfortable with your credit union brand being associated with those trends? Who is going to be the featured faces in those videos, so they look like the audience you want to connect and engage with? Those questions are just a few to consider before you create an account and start posting.

3. The days of “set it and forget” it are over. Did you know that 63% of customers expect businesses to offer some level of customer service through social media? Not answering a question on your social media platforms from a disgruntled member or member in need is the same as not answering your phone. I can’t stress this enough: If your credit union is going to have a social media presence, you need to be present, responsive, and engaging.

If I’ve got you pondering your credit union marketing and social media efforts, but you’re wondering what to do next, here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Review the engagement on your current social media efforts. How do they compare with national averages? If they’re low, consider a move toward more authentic content. Peel back the curtain and let people in the daily life of your people and your credit union. The content that gets the most engagement for our clients involves the credit union staff and community partners.

2. How many unanswered social media messages are waiting for you? If you haven’t been monitoring them, assign someone to be present and accountable for treating your social media platforms much like you would your phone line or email.

3. What is your social media strategy? There are three words I use when it comes to social media strategy for my credit union marketing clients: Engage, Educate, Convert. If your content isn’t engaging, there’s not much chance of earning clicks from interested members or potential members.

If you can engage someone enough to earn the click, you’ve made it to the education phase. Is your content assuring them you are the authority on the financial topic of interest to them? If so, when they need you, you’ve got a good chance they’ll think of you first and like you the best when that time comes, leading to the conversions you’ve been dreaming of to help grow loans and membership at your credit union.

Social media is no longer a passive activity for credit unions. Build a strategy around your ideal member, your community, and the goals of your credit union. Spend time and put thoughtful energy into creating engaging content. Be prepared to take some risks. Creating authentic and engaging content means you won’t be running it through a committee or always following a formal approval process. Engaging social media content is sometimes spur-of-the-moment to represent your credit union as topical, timely, and relevant.

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Alex VanHaasteren

Senior Web Developer

Alex is YMC’s Senior Web Developer and, as the title suggests, she is an absolute pro! While she initially started in graphic design – working long and hard to expertly bring concepts to life – she also felt drawn to technology and applying her natural ability to problem solve. Web Development proved the perfect blend of her creative passion and technical savvy.

When Alex is out with friends – including her YMC colleagues – she’s up for Greek cuisine or some good pulled pork BBQ washed down with Diet Coke. Or an Old Fashioned, if the occasion demands. Someday, she hopes to go to Africa on a safari. Hopefully she’ll see a giraffe in the wild, because – as she’s pointed out – its neck is too short to reach the ground!

When she isn’t jamming out to T-Swift, she’s happy to impart some marketing words of wisdom, “Aim to create something unforgettable.” For day-to-day inspiration, she would remind you of two fundamental truths: You decide your happiness, and Ice cream is its own food group—not just a dessert.

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