These days, it’s a pretty safe bet that everyone’s on Facebook. Honestly, it’s kind of weird when you meet someone who doesn’t have an account. Facebook has become the way you can reconnect with your cousin’s weird friend you met at a birthday party once, if you really wanted to.

Since Facebook accounts are such a ubiquitous part of people’s online lives, every brand imaginable has jumped on board to try to leverage this online presence. Credit unions are no exception, though they’ve met with varying levels of success.

Some credit unions have thriving Facebook pages and groups, where others seem to just kind of exist. They don’t know what to post or promote. If your credit union has been just kind of existing online, here are some guidelines to help you turn your poorly-kept page into a Facebook phenomenon:

Figure out where you are, and where you want to be

There are a few questions you need to ask yourself when you start looking at leveraging Facebook for your credit union. First off, are your members using Facebook? The answer is probably yes, but you can’t just make assumptions. You might find that your oldest members aren’t online as much as your younger members, or even that your oldest members are the most active Facebook users. But do your members like and follow your page? You shouldn’t be shouting into the void and wondering why no one is answering.

Second, what kinds of resources do you have to put into building up your Facebook presence? A social media presence requires at least some kind of budget, content, and time – which means it needs to have some C-level buy-in as well. If social media is kind of the neglected step-child of your marketing department, you can’t expect it to suddenly flourish. And if you can’t spend the money or time to keep it alive, well you might want to rethink your approach.

The last thing you need to ask yourself is, how do you want your members to engage with your content? Facebook users can do a plethora of different things online, and Facebook marketers need to know exactly what it is they want people to do. You want them to do something specific. For example, if you want to promote your auto and home loans, your goal is to get them to click your website link to get more information and start the application process. If you are promoting a community event, you want them to click through to a landing page and sign up to attend.

So now you know a better way to approach your social media marketing, but what should you be doing there?

It’s all about the community

One of the best things you can do on social media is start an active community based around your brand. It’s every marketing team’s dream scenario, and it’s unfortunately a lot easier said than done. The truth is that every credit union’s membership is different, and sometimes drastically so.

This extends to your Facebook audience as well. Remember what I said about likes and follows? Out of your thousands of members, you’re not going to get them all to follow you. But knowing how many you do have, you can start building that number. There’s no point in marketing to an empty room, so promoting your Facebook page might need to be your first step. Bust out the best photos you have of your members and branches, and offer your members something neat if they follow your page.

The next step is to offer them something to do on your posts and your page. Give them something to react to or even vote on. Look for any way to involve your members on social media. I’ve seen credit unions let their members vote on things from new credit cards designs to winning artwork for a coloring contest. This is the time and the place to get creative.

If you don’t offer your Facebook followers something to interact with, all they’ll see when they go to your page are other members’ complaints. People love to complain online, but this is a great customer service opportunity. Make sure someone at your credit union is checking regularly for questions and concerns, and pretty soon your members will be talking about your quick response time. It’s worth it to have someone ready to help.

Finally, when you have something of a community and people are actually interacting with your content, consider starting a Facebook group for your members as well. People love to belong to things, and that’s one of the major selling points of a credit union. Don’t forget to promote this as well, and encourage your members to post in the group. Just make sure you’re contributing here as well.

You have to get the word out

Facebook Business pages and groups usually aren’t a Field of Dreams scenario: Just because you built it, doesn’t mean they’ll come. You’re going to have to promote your business page and your group, and develop quality content to promote as well. The good news is that advertising and boosting posts on Facebook is relatively easy and cheap.

You have a few options for how to advertise on Facebook. There are of course ads, which you can customize and choose how you’d like them to appear on the site, and can be used for anything from increasing app installations to website conversions. You can also boost posts, meaning you’re paying to promote a piece of content you’ve created for your page, and this might be one of the best ways to increase likes, comments and shares, because it appears more natively within the user’s Facebook feed. Both are good options, but once again this choice requires you to know what you want people to actually do.

It’s worth noting that credit union content, especially lending and other product promotions, very easily falls under one of Facebook’s special ad categories. Facebook developed these to keep brands offering specific types of products from excluding people based on race, gender, age, etc. and accidentally running afoul of equal opportunity laws. If your ad or post gets flagged this way, you’re going to have to create your ad using this special category and you won’t be able to customize your target audience quite as much. It’s a bit more limiting, but it certainly doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing at all.

If you’d like to avoid this category, I’d recommend focusing more on how your product solves a problem for your members, and not so much on your new low rate. Leaving out the APR can be a hard sell with management, but as a rule content usually trumps rates. It’s better to give your members something they can relate to. Focus on what they’re getting out of the equation. 

Leveraging your Facebook presence is a process

There’s not really a one-size-fits-all approach to any social media platform and Facebook is no exception. I’ve seen and helped credit unions carry out wildly successful Facebook promotions based on low rates and fun imagery, and I’ve seen low-production videos get more likes and engagement than professional videography. But most brands don’t have a 100% success rate, and everyone has to try new things.

In every successful case, the one constant factor has been the community. Building a strong bond with your community and getting a bunch of members on the same social media platform creates a powerful opportunity. And credit unions are in a better position to do this than most.

Sam Dicken

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