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Credit unions turn to social media for infusion of young blood


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Credit unions turn to social media for infusion of young blood

Manycredit unions are ramping up their presence on social media not only in aneffort to attract younger members but as a cost-effective means of advertising.

Duringthe CO-OP Financial Services Think 16 event last week in Coronado, Calif., best-sellingauthor and social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk told credit unions inthe crowd that no matter how much they are using social media it is probablynot enough. Vaynerchuk, who is also the co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia,said the number of Americans using DVRs in large part so they can skip throughtelevision commercials is ever-growing. So using advertising money intraditional channels such as television is often ineffective and extremelycostly, he said.

Instead,Vaynerchuk suggested using social media sites such as Facebook and Snapchat forthose efforts. When some in the crowd indicated they were unfamiliar withSnapchat, Vaynerchuk remarked that the platform is growing by leaps and bounds,particularly among 13- to 25-year-olds. "So you better figure it the hellout," he said.

President and CEO Kent Oram said in an interview that theChubbuck, Idaho-based credit union jumped on some of the social media channelsearly but that it can be tricky to figure out which ones to chase as the spacecontinues to evolve. And, according to Vaynerchuk, Snapchat is the next bigthing. Oram remarked that he decided to take a look at Snapchat after hearing Vaynerchuk'scomments "and I thought how would we use that?" he said.

IdahoCentral has an employee dedicated to monitoring the social media channels andresponding quickly to feedback. "If we do something that people don't likethen we hear about it. And if we do something people do like sometimes we hearthat too," he said. The credit union tries to be engaged with its memberson Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and Oram said Facebook has been the mostuseful. The organization makes a concerted effort to reply quickly to each andevery post regarding Idaho Central night or day.

Oramnoted that social media is about more than just capturing millennials, and thecredit union wants to connect with whoever is out there. "Sometimes it'syounger folks, sometimes it's older folks, but we do find that younger folksare a little more likely to comment in a negative way," he said.

Havinga presence allows the credit union to manage its image when negative commentsare made "instead of letting it go to the wolves." Oram said one ofthe first Facebook posts that ever appeared about Idaho Central was negativeand some inside the credit union wanted to delete it. Instead the credit unionresponded.

"Youcan't delete that because then this person will just post something worse,"Oram said. Members themselves will respond sometimes if they believe cheapshots are being taken against the credit union, he added. "A lot of timeswe don't even have to reply — we still do — because somebody else has alreadytaken them to task."

SaltLake City-based Deseret FirstFederal Credit Union President and CEO Shane London told S&PGlobal Market Intelligence that getting the organization moreinvolved in social media has been a focus for the past several years. In thelast year, Deseret has become much more active on all of the social mediachannels, except for Snapchat. He said, though, that after hearing Vaynerchuk'scomments he asked his team members at the conference to figure out how thecredit union can use that channel too.

Londonremarked that while some customers may not respond via social media channelsand there may be some negative feedback found there, many members still end upwalking through the credit union's doors as a result of a social media post. "ButI think we still need to do a better job," he said.

Londonnoted that he would rather know what is being said about Deseret than not havea presence and leave it up to others to respond. He remarked that there arealways going to be negative reviews on sites such as Facebook. "But I wantto know," he said. "As CEO, I spend a lot of time looking at thosenegative reviews because if there's a problem we're going to fix the problem."The real value of social media is the instantaneous access to customer feedbackthat the organization used to have to spend "tens of thousands of dollars"trying to obtain.

Londonsaid Deseret has found more success with Facebook and Instagram and has notused LinkedIn as much. He added that the younger generation does not seem to beusing Facebook as much as some of the older groups these days. "We chasedthem away," he joked.

Fremont,Mich.-based Gerber Federal CreditUnion President and CEO John Buckley Jr. said in an interviewthat the organization is doing "OK" with social media but he wouldlike to see it do more. Gerber has about 2,700 "likes" on Facebookand has found some success using the site for hiring by placing job ads there.Social media does not drive sales for Gerber but helps with its culture andawareness in the community. "I wish we could do more, but that would meanhiring a lot more people," he said.

Attractingyounger members is necessary for all credit unions and so finding ways toappeal to millennials is a constant consideration. Buckley said the averagemember age for Gerber is only 42 while the industry average is 48. The creditunion tracks the number of new members under the age of 35 coming on board eachmonth.

"Wewant to bring the young people in, but we don't want to just bring them in sowe can say we have a younger average age. We want to bring them in to get adebit card in their hands and get a checking account in their hands … so thatwe become their personal financial institution," Buckley said.