MADISON, Wis. (6/26/09)--Credit unions interested in using social networking to reach their members and communities must ensure that their social networks are relevant, according to a social media expert. “Communicate specifically to a demographic,” advised Ryan Brown, CEO of MindBlazer in Charlotte, N.C. MindBlazer is an education-based marketing and technology company that provides digital media to help financial institutions communicate. The most successful way to network socially is to create a Facebook page, for instance, that is event-driven, offers financial education, and has specific calls-to-action, Brown told News Now. When Twittering, Brown suggested credit unions come up with a list of 40 “tweets”--such as 40 tips to stretch a dollar. After the tweets are posted, the credit union can invite followers to post suggestions they have to save money. “Go beyond [twittering about] offering great rates on loans,” Brown said. “Be practical.” Being relevant can help credit unions avoid backlash on their social networking spaces. Examples of “backlash” can include a small Facebook friend or Twitter follower list, or one made up solely of employees--it doesn’t bring credibility to a site and takes away value instead of adding it, Brown said. For credit unions using YouTube, backlash could consist of negative comments--or indirect backlash--no comments at all. Credit unions engaged in social media should also integrate videos in their online space and blend them with other media--such as pictures and text. Video is the highest engaged media being used, Brown added. Using sites like Facebook and MySpace may trigger worries about security. While information on Facebook or MySpace can “fall into the wrong hands,” the benefits outweighing the risks are tremendous, Brown said. “It’s another channel,” he said. “Information technology departments need to embrace it. It’s not a distraction; it’s another business tool companies are using.” Credit unions concerned about employees posting personal info on their profiles that could reflect poorly on the credit union could create online policies about what information they should share. Or, employees could create two profiles--one personal and one for business, Brown said. Some financial institutions have began to offer their members the opportunity to bank through Facebook--using applications such as Fiserv’s MyMoney or MShift. The banking applications are still catching on, Brown said. Credit unions need to give their members a reason to use Facebook to do their online banking. “Using online banking [through Facebook] has to be more than just convenience ... it’s not a huge pain to go to a credit union’s website,” Brown said.