5 tips for successfully using social media to connect with members

Optimize Social Media EffortsIn today’s mobile-first environment, it’s no longer optional for credit unions to use social media to facilitate and maintain solid member relationships–it’s a necessity. According to PEW Research Center, 74 percent of American adults now use social networking sites, and that number is only projected to grow.

Sharing relevant blogs, press releases, bylines and announcements through social media is an excellent way to connect with members and prompt them to engage in credit union news and activities. However, it’s not enough for credit unions to simply set up a few social media accounts and call it a day. Instead, for a credit union to build a valuable social media presence, the financial institution must understand how to meaningfully employ these social channels.

Here are some tips on best social media practices for credit unions.

1. Not all social media channels are created equal.

Just because a post might be a good fit for one social network, doesn’t mean it works for every social network. It’s important to learn the differentiators and nuances for each separate channel so your posts are relevant and resonate with target audiences.

For example, Twitter is good for quick consumption of high-level news and messages. The 140 character limit positions Twitter as a great way to receive several concise updates at once. Facebook, on the other hand, is better for sharing updates that may be longer in nature and require explanation. LinkedIn is optimal for reaching professionals and experts in your industry, building professional networks and identifying potential business opportunities.

2. A picture is worth a thousand words

Consumers tend to engage more with social media posts that have some sort of visual element, such as a picture, video or infographic. Any time you can pair text with an accompanying visual, members are more likely to notice and spend time on your message. Adding a simple photo to your post is likely to increase shares, likes, retweets and comments.

3. Quality over quantity

If your credit union doesn’t have the manpower to manage every social media network out there, then simply do not attempt to. It’s better to gauge who you are trying to reach, choose one or two appropriate channels and allocate your resources there. Merely having social media accounts isn’t enough if they aren’t being updated daily. Properly managing several pages and authentically connecting with members over social media takes a great deal of strategic thinking and employee time.

4. Facebook: Like or dislike?

While Facebook is the most widely used social media channel, its popularity seems to be dwindling. Many declare frustrations with Facebook because of its saturated organizational presence and tendency to facilitate negativity and arguments. Which brings up the question: Should you have a Facebook page?

A big pro in the question of Facebook for credit unions is search engine optimization. Having a Facebook page will enhance your credit union’s visibility across search engines when a member or potential member is conducting research. An additional advantage is many people today use social media and Facebook as a search tool in and of itself. It is not uncommon for consumers to turn to Facebook to validate organizations and study their consumer reviews.

However, while it can certainly be very advantageous for credit unions to have a Facebook page, it is only helpful if the credit union is committed to actively updating and managing the account. If not, the page could reflect negatively on the CU. Credit unions should be especially mindful when monitoring and responding to negative member comments on their Facebook pages, as those can be detrimental if not handled correctly.

5. Don’t forget about regulatory guidance

While social media is clearly necessary to engage existing and prospective members, credit unions must be aware of the social media guidance set forth by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, which encourages social media oversight. Not only will this help keep credit unions out of hot water, but it actually includes helpful guidelines related to governance structure, employee training, monitoring and reporting. It is also recommended to create and maintain a social media policy for staff.

Social media presents credit unions with an excellent opportunity to connect with members and potential members. In today’s mobile landscape, it’s imperative to learn how to use social media to engage with target audiences and deliver key messages. If credit unions fail to do so, they may be missing out on vital business and member opportunities.

Amber Estes is an account coordinator at William Mills Agency , the nation’s largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. The agency can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or its blog

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