The Voice of Canadian Credit Unions
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Social media playbook

Learn how to target your tweets, videos and posts

It’s every social media marketer’s dream: the post that gets shared thousands of times, the hashtag that starts trending, the campaign that goes viral.

For Vancouver-based Coast Capital Savings Credit Union (527,496 members, $13 billion in assets), a combination of these three things helped it boost customer engagement and gain visibility for a new product last spring.

With a goal to get people talking about its new mortgage product, Members Get It, Coast Capital devised a compelling stunt. “Through social and traditional media, we put out a notice that we were going to do something on the street,” says Lawrie Ferguson, chief marketing and strategy officer at Coast Capital. “We built a house out of 350 piggy banks filled with cash.”

They called the stunt Vancouver Gets It, and invited the first 1,000 people to visit the house, installed outside Coast Capital’s downtown Vancouver headquarters, to claim a piggy bank filled with cash prizes ranging from $5 to $1,000. Using the hashtag #VancouverGetsIt, Coast Capital built buzz around its promotion on Facebook and Twitter.

The result? More than 3,000 people turned up for the event and many started lining up at midnight the night before. “The line went all the way around the Royal Bank tower,” laughs Ferguson. “And the stunt went viral on social media. The social media buzz pulled in traditional media, and we got picked up by the Huffington Post, Global TV, CTV, and Peter Mansbridge on the National.”

The event also netted Coast Capital almost 400 hashtagged posts on Twitter and Instagram, with a reach of more than 1.3 million views, and more than 4,200 views on YouTube of the video that was produced after the event.

“Being successful on social media requires you to think about what your community needs and will find of value”
Boyd Neil, Senior Digital Strategist

It was a big win for Coast Capital (and for 1,000 early-bird Vancouverites), but big wins aren’t always the way with social media — in fact they are more the exception than the rule. Social media fails fill the Internet along with hundreds of thousands of tweets, hashtags, status updates, and videos that simply go unnoticed. And that’s because too many companies focus on presence over purpose — posting for the sake of posting, and sharing content that is neither engaging nor valuable to their audience.

“Being successful on social media requires you to think about what your community needs and will find of value,” says Boyd Neil, senior associate and senior digital strategist at H+K Strategies, and social media educator at Humber College, Seneca College and Ryerson University. “You have to be creative.”

Post purposefully

While Coast Capital clearly gets it, its success did not come instantly. “We were late to the party, so we started by listening first before we got more active,” says Ferguson. “We’re now on all channels and our social media strategy is part of an overall media strategy.”

According to a Filene Research Institute report entitled Measuring Social Media Success in Credit Unions, success on social media is more likely when it’s tied to a bigger picture. “The single most important key to success for all firms’ social media programs is integration throughout the social media efforts and across all media messaging,” the report states. “Results show that credit unions that link their social media programs closely with overall strategic objectives are more likely to perceive their programs to be successful.”

A strategic plan helps you to communicate with purpose, rather than posting simply for the sake of maintaining a presence on your social media channels. “You need to follow the same process used for any communications strategy,” Neil says. “Have an objective, tactics, time frames, and resources. Build a strategy and manage it day to day.”

Develop a roadmap

Meridian Credit Union (270,339 members, $10 billion in assets) in Ontario built a social media strategy that aligns each channel with its goals for growth and engagement, says Claire Richardson, digital marketing communications manager. “We have a roadmap listing each channel. Our content strategy pillars align with our brand values.”

“Results show that credit unions that link their social media programs closely with overall strategic objectives are more likely to perceive their programs to be successful”
Filene Research Institute 

Meridian uses its social channels to provide practical information on money management and cover events and corporate culture. “We do a lot with our CSR team, we cover branch events, and we look at what is going on internally,” Richardson says. “We also look at life events.”

During wedding season last year, Meridian hosted a Twitter chat on how to manage finances jointly after marriage. “We also produced an infographic on the costs of having a dog, and videos on how to pay off your mortgage earlier. It’s not just ‘we have a great mortgage for you,’” Richardson adds.

Aligning a social media strategy to existing market segments is also how Saskatchewan’s Innovation Credit Union (49,008 members, $2 billion in assets) has approached social media. And it has gone a step further, identifying specific characteristics of the content it shares. “Our content should be fun, community oriented, and informative,” says Darla Lindbjerg, AVP, Marketing & Strategic Intelligence.

Its FreeStyle Friday, which is named after Innovation’s FreeStyle No Fee Account, focuses on engaging with a different market segment each month through a fun social promotion that encourages interaction both on its social media channels and in real life. “In January, for example, we partnered with local gyms and gave Fitbits to the first five members who came into the gyms to work out,” says Lindbjerg. “This is one way our department can help support retail and engage with members. That interaction helps us learn and grow as an organization.”

Choose the right channels

Having a social media presence typically means being on the two biggest social networks: Facebook and Twitter. And according to the Filene report, the most successful marketing strategies typically include more than one channel. So you’ll likely want to start with those two, and then expand to others if you have the capacity: LinkedIn for recruitment and corporate culture, YouTube for videos, and Instagram for visual content.

But running more than two or three social media channels effectively can be a challenge. “The more resources you have, the more platforms you can manage,” Neil says. “Facebook is the global leader, but financial institutions must evaluate whether they can invest the resources needed to make their Facebook presence of interest to people.”

Success on Facebook requires quality content that attracts likes, comments, and shares. Because without those interactions with your followers, visibility in Facebook’s newsfeed is low. It’s a similar situation on Twitter, where tweets have mere seconds to be seen before they fly off feeds. And it can be even tougher to get engagement without a dedicated person reaching out and interacting with followers. “Interaction and engagement require real-time energy,” says Neil.

But even if you do have someone dedicated to running your social media channels, don’t make the mistake of only posting about your company’s products or news. “For every mention of your own product, you should do three mentions of information people would find valuable,” Neil says. “Financial institutions using Twitter best use it as an information dissemination tool, not just to talk about themselves. They make it of broad interest to people who pay attention to financial services. And there is nothing wrong with being humourous — safely. Or saying things like ‘Looking forward to a fabulous Monday!’”

feature-socialmedia (preview)That’s exactly what Meridian does. “On Twitter we post five-plus tweets per day, a lot of which is third-party content,” says Richardson. “Facebook is more conversational and has higher engagement for us.” Innovation Credit Union uses Facebook for humour, but separates the funny stuff from its corporate page, which it shares on a secondary page called Innovation Fat Cat, offering a lighter perspective on financial topics. It also posts to Twitter multiple times a day, and engages a team of five staff members from across the organization to run the channel.

Coast Capital, too, concentrates its efforts on Facebook with community storytelling and contesting. “We try to get people talking about the little things they do to save money,” says Ferguson. “We’re using it as a community space for stories from the community.” Coast Capital also uses Twitter for live events and customer service, and Instagram for visual content. “We tend to be cheekier there,” Ferguson says.

Aim for engagement

Building a following on your social channels is the first step toward increasing engagement, but many companies focus more on accumulating likes, followers, and fans than on actually engaging with them. That’s a mistake, Neil says, adding there’s little value in simply counting followers. “A like demonstrates connection, but they were aware of you before they connected to you on social media.”

He believes that connection should be followed by engagement (“which involves interaction”), influence (“where people act on your behalf to share your content”) and action (“where you’re driving people to do something like e-commerce”). “A like is only of value if you can drive people to engagement,” he continues. “Engagement is a good place to be, and later on could become an action.”

Getting to engagement in a sea of competing content, however, is easier said than done. “A Facebook post is only served to eight to 10 percent of your followers, unless you can create organic posts that get engagement, or use boosted posts where you pay to increase reach,” Neil says. “The amount of reach for organic posts is only a fraction of your followers.” Which means that unless you can get a lot of people to like, share and comment on your post, few will ever see it.

Create compelling content

To create content that compels people to engage, start with an understanding of what your audience wants. Then, whether it’s practical tips, educational videos, infographics, or contest giveaways, design it with social media in mind. The posts that get the most engagement on Facebook are visual: posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than those without. And studies have shown that visual content, like infographics, videos, and visual quotes, is more than 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content. “It’s a visual web,” says Neil. “People make decisions within a split second whether something is good or bad.”

Richardson says Meridian has created a successful formula with gamified Facebook promotions — games with cash prizes that require registration to play. “They’re great for lead capture so you can follow up later.”

And in addition to sharing community stories on Facebook, Coast Capital is also experimenting with Instagram takeovers by giving its employees and community members a chance to run the channel. “We get their voice out that way,” she says. “We’re experimenting to see what works. We’re trying to step away from the typical corporate messaging in order to bring individual personalities to life. We have so much natural content in the form of stories from the community and we’re really starting to build on that.”

Richardson believes these community stories and existing relationships with members and supporters are the key to success for credit unions on social media. “Leverage your community,” she says. “Ask for feedback. Include them in launches. Do member interviews. You have all these brand ambassadors already.” ◊


Changing channels

The social media landscape is filled with new and emerging channels vying to attract an audience. So even if you’ve chosen your main social media channels, it’s a good idea to keep your eye on potential new places to engage with your members.

Boyd Neil, senior associate and senior digital strategist at H+K Strategies, and social media educator at Humber College, Seneca College, and Ryerson University, has identified two emerging social media channels worth watching.

  1. SNAPCHAT: If you’re looking to reach a younger demographic, Snapchat is the place to be. This social network was designed for visual content with a twist: your posts will literally self-destruct after they’ve been viewed. “You have to be very creative in its use,” says Neil, adding that one of the best corporate uses of Snapchat he’s seen is the Webby awardwinning #lastselfie campaign by the World Wildlife Fund. “They used images of a tiger, gorilla, and polar bear and overlaid the words ‘this could be my last selfie.’ The animals are disappearing just like a Snapchat post disappears.”
  2. PERISCOPE: This livestreaming app that allows you to broadcast online directly from your phone may be a better fit for credit unions, Neil says, as it enables them to share realtime events with those who can’t be there in person. But that doesn’t mean you should stream your AGM. “Periscope can be fun if you’re at an event,” says Neil. “But only if you can create value for people.” For example, instead of livestreaming your CEO’s speech at the Chamber of Commerce, he says you should consider “showing your CEO cheering at his son’s hockey game. You want to give the sense that they are a person in the community, just like their members.” ♦