Article

Build Your Credit Union’s Social Media Brand

marketing team gathered around a table with social media notifications floating above their heads
Contributing Writer

10 minutes

Increasing your credit union’s social presence requires dedicated resources and an integrated digital marketing strategy.

It’s a given these days that credit unions, like any other business, should be active on social media. Now the challenge is to become better at it—to increase your social media presence, engage with followers more effectively, manage the enterprise more efficiently and integrate social media seamlessly into other marketing efforts. 

There are several credit unions who already do this well, deftly managing various social media channels with a consistency that supports the furtherance of their brand. Leading the way is $100 billion Navy Federal Credit Union, Vienna, Virginia, ranked No. 1 in The Financial Brand’s “Top 100 Credit Unions Using Social Media.” What is the key to Navy Federal CU’s success? Suzanne King, manager of digital marketing, says it starts with a well-defined philosophy.

“The philosophy at Navy Federal has always been to foster a community-like feel among our members and followers, and we use social media to enhance that,” King explains. “The nice thing about our followers and our member community is that they’re very vocal. They let us know with their likes, comments and shares what content is resonating with them.”

In Canada, $3.9 billion Libro Credit Union, London, Ontario, also excels in the realm of social media, claiming spot No. 5 on the Financial Brand list. “We primarily use social media and digital marketing to improve brand perception and awareness,” says Tina Van Loon, marketing manager. 

With the help of its outside partner, Arcane Digital, Libro CU has created a brand guide document that defines its social voice. The credit union presents that voice as an extension of its brand personality. According to the document, Libro CU’s social media presence is an “opportunity to create a lasting and memorable relationship with prospective Owners online, and the route to fostering loyalty with existing ones.” (Libro CU’s brand guide is available for CUES members to reference on CUESNet™ Members Share.)

Build a Team

To leverage social media effectively, credit unions need to put a good team in place. “One person can likely manage social media scheduling, but it takes a team to really move the needle,” says Mary York, vice president at William Mills Agency, an Atlanta-based public relations firm specializing in financial services. While York concedes that it may not be feasible for all credit unions to hire a full-blown team just for social media, she points out that there are outsourced content writing services available to help generate blogs and articles that a CU can post and share online.

Social media management works best when organizations staff positions dedicated exclusively to—or at least focused primarily on—that function. “Don’t just add ‘social media posting’ to a current position as an afterthought,” Van Loon advises. At Libro CU, for instance, there is a digital marketing specialist who oversees social media strategy and a digital marketing coordinator responsible for posting, social media listening, tracking results and more.

Navy Federal CU has the resources to staff a team of digital marketing specialists, each of whom has deep expertise in a particular social media channel. “So, across the entire team, somebody is our Instagram expert, somebody is our Pinterest expert, and the same with Facebook, YouTube and Twitter,” King explains.In addition to its social media team, Navy Federal CU has individuals responsible for following up on queries generated by social media. “We have a 24/7/365 social care team whose sole purpose is to be that point of contact for those who have engaged with us on social media and are looking for additional information. … ‘Is there a branch office near me?’ ‘Do I qualify for membership?’ Those are the types of answers that our social care team is there to provide,” King explains. In 2018, “our social media specialists sent out more than 41,000 responses to members on Facebook and Twitter and averaged a response time of about six minutes, improving response time by 25% from the previous year.”

The nice thing about our followers and our member community is that they’re very vocal. They let us know with their likes, comments and shares what content is resonating with them.
Suzanne King
Manager of Digital Marketing
Navy Federal Credit Union

Expand Your Approach

Social media is still a relatively young enterprise. Even the most established platforms—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube—have been part of the public’s consciousness for no more than a decade and a half. Because the social media landscape changes so rapidly, CUs should be prepared to shift and expand their approach. 

Citizens Equity First Credit Union in Peoria, Illinois, began its social media endeavors in 2011 with the launch of its Facebook page. “Since then, we have expanded our reach by trying out new social media platforms and adjusting our content to meet the diverse needs of each platform’s audience,” reports Martha Kamp, community relations manager for the $6.2 billion CU. “Increasing social media reach required additional time and resources, which we’ve been able to adjust over time.” This evolving strategy also secured the credit union a spot on The Financial Brand’s top 100 list.

Because social media is constantly evolving, CEFCU’s preferred social media platforms have evolved as well. “Right now, we are focused on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube because of its broad reach,” Kamp reports. “Instagram is another preferred platform due to its increasing popularity and unique ability to share our brand’s story.”

Determine Content

An important consideration when using social media is not to be overly promotional. “I think there’s a tendency to want to use social media to promote one’s products or services, but it can be overdone to the point that nobody wants to come back,” King explains. “We think it’s important to keep social media social because that’s what it’s meant to be.”

King makes a distinction between two types of social media—organic (non-paid) and paid. “Our organic social media is primarily engagement-based content,” she reports. “We focus on military veterans and families, first and foremost, but also on education, information and … fun stuff as well.” An example of “fun” is a recent Instagram post depicting a dog wearing sunglasses with the Navy Federal Credit Union logo etched on the side.

Navy Federal CU saves the promotional content for its paid social media, providing its online audience with a chance to learn more about its products and services. “That’s where we go deep on content,” King explains. “We focus on providing them with information that’s going to be helpful in ensuring a financially secure future for themselves and for their families. You’ve likely seen ‘Our Members Are the Mission’ in our TV ads or heard it in our radio ads. Everything we do in social media starts with the member and how we can better serve them. It’s who we are as an organization.”

King reports that the paid social media content has been widely successful. “We measure success in click-throughs: Did enough people take action by clicking on and reading the educational content, like ‘How to get the best deal when buying a car’ or ‘How to avoid social media scams’? And if a product was being offered, did it ultimately result in a product application being submitted?”

Van Loon notes that Libro CU’s social media strategy has evolved to be less promotional over time, and as a result, engagement has increased. “We make sure that 25% of our posts are inspirational, another 25% are educational, and we provide some entertaining posts as well,” she says.

As a means of engaging followers, the CU is directly asking for feedback. “For instance, we recently had a post on Facebook, ‘Comment below what you like best about Libro,’ and within a short time, we had over 300 comments,” Van Loon reports. Libro CU has just under 8,000 Facebook followers.

The CU builds its content out monthly and posts weekly, she adds. The frequency of posts depends upon the platforms—for instance, Facebook, two or three times per week; Twitter, one per day; Instagram, once or twice per week; and LinkedIn, once a week for recruitment purposes and once a month for other items such as corporate and community news.

“Libro has specific target audiences we’re trying to attract, and these social media channels are currently where we find the most value,” Van Loon says.

Management Tools

Just as social media options have exploded, so too have the number of tools for managing the endeavor.

“From HootSuite to Crowdfire, there are a ton of social media management and scheduling tools available, so it can be pretty overwhelming,” says York. “Rather than looking for tools to simply schedule posts, I would take a more strategic approach. Social media is an excellent way to boost engagement and grow membership, so it should be incorporated into a credit union’s overall strategy.

“Marketing automation platforms like HubSpot can be powerful,” York adds. “Going beyond just posting, these platforms monitor and report on the success of social campaigns, allowing credit unions to know if their efforts are working or if tweaks need to be made.” 

CEFCU uses a social media engagement software tool to schedule posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for several weeks in advance.

“We strive for one post per day on Facebook and Twitter, our most-followed social media platforms,” Kamp reports. The content that CEFCU shares on Instagram is unique and creative, requiring additional time and resources. For that reason, CEFCU posts less frequently there—about two to three times a week.

Navy Federal CU’s efforts are aided by the use of an enterprise social media management tool. “We use that tool to manage our social publishing and our social engagement with our members, to provide analytics and to get access to social listening data so that we can track relevant topics, and that helps inform our social engagement strategy as well,” King reports. “Our social care team uses that same tool to respond to inquiries from our members and to tag those conversations for future follow-up if necessary.”

Among the tools that Libro CU uses to manage social media is Sprout Social, which provides a single hub for publishing, analytics and engagement across a variety of social platforms. In addition, the CU draws on the expertise of Arcane Digital to help achieve its goals. “They stay on top of trends and make recommendations we aren’t able to figure out on our own,” Van Loon says.

Integrating Social Media

There is value in integrating social media into a credit union’s overall marketing efforts. Van Loon offers this advice: “Develop a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that includes social media to guide your credit union on how you’ll use it to achieve your objectives, how you’ll evaluate potential new channels, how you’ll handle social media responses and how you’ll allocate resources towards it.”

CEFCU regards social media as an increasingly important marketing tactic. “We chose to venture into Instagram because it fits our most sought-after target audience,” Kamp says. According to the Hootsuite blog, 70% of Instagram’s users are under the age of 35, which includes the coveted millennial member base.

“We have the most followers on Facebook by far, which allows us to reach a broad demographic,” Kamp adds. The CU’s Facebook page is liked and followed by over 45,000 users. “With these things in mind, we determined there is added value when integrating digital marketing on social media with our traditional marketing approach. We have worked with our media buyer and ad agency to strategically place ad campaigns among several different channels, including social media.”

Navy Federal CU uses social media as part of a comprehensive marketing approach. “More often than not, a new campaign will include a social media component, and for three reasons: (1) to drive awareness, (2) to generate excitement, and (3) ultimately to help generate new product conversion,” King says.

By using an integrated, multichannel approach, King reports, “we are giving the member or prospective member the opportunity to engage with us in their channel of choice. We often build those multichannel assets internally so they have a coordinated look and feel that will give our recipients a consistent experience regardless of the channel they are using.”  cues icon 

By the #Numbers

Libro CU:
Facebook: 7,880 likes; 7,928 followers
Twitter: 2,814 followers
Instagram: 1,263 followers
LinkedIn: 4,758 followers

CEFCU:
Facebook: 45,671 likes; 45,127 followers
Twitter: 6,274 followers
Instagram: 1,066 followers
LinkedIn: 1,982 followers

Navy Federal CU:
Facebook: 1,161,246 likes; 1,145,471 followers
Twitter: 79,000 followers
Instagram: 41,400 followers
LinkedIn: 57,270 followers
YouTube: 5,600 subscribers

Diane Franklin is a longtime contributor to CU Management who writes from Missouri.

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