MADISON, Wis. (6/12/09)--Credit unions nationwide are embracing social media through Facebook and Twitter, two free websites that allow users to post updates and information about themselves. Credit unions are using the sites to connect with the communities and members they serve. The sites also are employed to reach potential members--especially the younger generations. DATCU, Denton, Texas, has been using Twitter for about two months. "We're trying to get it out to the community," Casey Braswell, DATCU marketing assistant, told News Now
. DATCU began using social media to promote three new accounts for members under 24. The credit union also posts community events--with the goal of their Twitter and Facebook pages becoming sites that community members visit when they want to find local happenings. "We care about the community, and we want to be involved," Braswell said. She handles the Facebook and Twitter updates every day unless she is out of the office. It takes her about five minutes per day to post the information. Once a month, she creates a schedule with community events and other items she's researched to post. Every morning, Braswell also checks Twitter and Facebook for any messages or replies people have posted. Twitter has helped DATCU answer a lot of members' technology-related questions. DATCU recently launched Quicken and Microsoft Money, so members have posted questions about them. DATCU responds to posts within 24 hours. Credit unions should respond to posts and make the answers public in case others have the same questions, Braswell said. "It only takes a few seconds to reply," she added. DATCU, which is about 30 miles from Dallas, also hopes to use the sites to reach students at local universities and a junior college. When using Twitter or Facebook, credit unions should avoid making their pages solely about products. "Let it be a communication tool between you and your members," Braswell said. A class of business students at Southern Illinois University (SIU) at Carbondale helped launch SIU CU's Facebook page last October. SIU, which serves the university community, also hired a marketing intern who regularly updates the credit union's MySpace, Facebook and Twitter profiles. "It's another layer to our marketing effort," Chris Sievers, SIU CU director of marketing, told News Now
. The social media sites, especially Facebook, have allowed the credit union to reach new students it normally wouldn't be able to because of costs. "A lot of SIU students are from Chicago," Sievers said. "We couldn't afford to put a billboard in downtown Chicago. With Facebook, we've been able to target them [at a much lower cost]." About 60% of SIU CU's Facebook and Twitter followers are members. SIU CU posts news stories about the financial industry and promotions the credit union is offering. SIU CU has two Facebook profiles--a main profile for the credit union, and another page called "Smart Young Investors," which offers products and services to the college-aged. Credit unions looking to start social networking need to be dedicated, according to Sievers. "Social networking takes time," Sievers said. "Don't create a page and then just leave it static." Laura Higgins, director of marketing at Bellco CU, Greenwood Village, Colo., agrees. "The one thing you cannot allow is your content to get stale--nothing's worse than a dusty old site that hasn't been updated in months," Higgins said. "Fortunately, the costs are minimal--all this really takes is staff time." Bellco CU is active on several sites, including Twitter and Facebook. The tools are "ubiquitous," Higgins said. "Any public-facing organization that in 2009 has not yet embraced the full complement of online marketing channels is an organization that is shrinking instead of growing," she said. Members have responded positively to Bellco's social marketing efforts because "we're careful to put a real face on our social media entries," Higgins said. She warned against using "sanitized marketing-speak." "Credibility comes from having real human beings interacting enthusiastically on behalf of their credit union," she said. Bellco continually looks for ways to engage in more social networking. "There are hundreds of these sorts of social media and networking sites out there, with more cropping up every week," Higgins said. A Wednesday USA Today
article, "There's an art to writing on Facebook or Twitter--really" addressed the effectiveness of Twitter and Facebook status updates, offering users several tips:
* Give visitors a hook--a tip, a laugh or a link; * Be thought-provoking; * Include interesting detail; * Use complete sentences with the best possible grammar; and * Post optimistic messages.
The newspaper warned Twitterers against sharing too much information, ranting, speaking in code or using slang.