Are You Ready For This? Credit Unions Dive Into Twitter

Your credit union decided to take the big step and get a twitter account. Now what? Do you just jump in and write whatever the first 140 characters that come to your mind are? Probably not the best idea.

Have a plan
 If you know Third Degree, you know we are always telling credit union marketers to have a plan. Strategize. This is the foundation for every campaign that Third Degree launches for each of our credit union clients and for good reason. We get great results because of our strategic creative process.  If you have just started your Twitter account, think of the specific followers you want to follow you and target your tweets toward them. Want to get a Gen Y following? Tweet about social media, college sports, college events, etc. Boomers? Tweet about parental advice, family activities, etc. You get it. Put yourself in their shoes and think: “If I were a _____ (Boomer, Gen Xer,etc..) what would I want showing up on my Twitter feed? What information would be helpful for me?” Take your answer and bend it towards information relating to your credit union. For example, if you put yourself in a Boomer’s shoes,(maybe even get more specific with a female boomer – hey, they have a lot of influence) you will probably want to receive tweets that relate to family, your kids, grocery shopping, household spending, etc. How can you turn those topics into something that relates to your credit union? Simple—put a financial twist on it. Link to articles about financial literacy and education for teens  or better yet, teens and money.  You can talk about community events like Dave Ramsey coming to your town. This brings us to the next point….

Know your followers
Make sure you know who is following you so you can tweet what is relatable to them. Analyze the list of your followers to see who your tweets are attracting; this way, you know what needs tweaking and what needs to stay the same. This is also a great opportunity to think of more programs to better fit the needs of those who are truly interested in your credit union and increase your share of wallet. Survey your followers and ask them what perks they absolutely love (that free coffee in the foyer), what additional services they want to access (maybe financial planning?) and what your credit union could do better. People want to be engaged and this is a great way to encourage that.

A Little Bird Told Me: Social Media Tips

Third Degree has said it before and we’ll say it again: social media is an avenue for connecting you to your credit union’s membership and potential membership. Is this a scary step? Yes. Will it be worthwhile? If you do it correctly, it will most certainly be.We’ve put together some helpful Twitter strategies and tips to make this process more manageable.

Social Media Tips
Know what is going on! If you aren’t using a social media/Twitter management tool like TweetDeck or HootSuite, you should be! Not only will it help you stay organized but you can open up a “search” column to seek out mentions of your credit union. In fact, make sure you have a search column open at all times with your credit union’s name in it! This way, you are updated immediately when anything good or bad is said about your credit union. Not only will you be able to provide better customer service and know who is saying what about your credit union but this will provide you with a FREE analysis of where your credit union may have some challenges.

First Response 
Respond as quickly as possible to what we like to call the “3 C’s of Twitter”: Comments, Compliments and Complaints.  We know… who would ever complain about a credit union? But it does happen on Twitter (hey, everyone has their bad days, right?) and the best customer service you can give is letting these people know their credit union heard them… and cares! Maybe there is nothing you can do about the complaint, but sometimes a simple “I’m sorry” is all that is needed to mend a broken bridge.  You can also keep a log of the Tweeters who complain, so if there is an issue that the credit union is working on, you can let them know. If you needed more encouragement to do this, remember the followers of those who mention your credit union- every time you have a conversation with these Tweeters, it is an opportunity to advertise your credit union. Being consistent and keeping your credit union’s brand out and about and in front of a large audience (like Twitter) will keep you at the top of a potential members’ mind when they decide to ditch their bank and go with a credit union.

Stay tuned. More credit union social media tips are coming your way..... 

Making Payday Loans Honorable and Profitable For Your Credit Union

Payday loans tend to bring to mind Hollywood-crafted images of tall, beefy men in grey suits, slicked back hair and Italian accents.  In reality, loan sharks and your average store-front payday loan shops have given payday loans a bad rap.  But people are still applying for them—YOUR people (err…members)— and they are still being cheated out of their hard-earned money.

Members generally with lower credit scores seeking lower loan amounts tend to not be the most sought after business for most financial institutions. Many credit unions have justified not getting into the payday lending arena because, “It’s just not best for the member to borrow in these types of circumstances.”
But some credit unions are beginning to reconsider this due to the huge demand, paired with the desire to protect members from predatory lending.  Quoted in a “CU Times” article, Mark Allen, SVP of mortgage and investment at Washington State Employees Credit Union declared, “Credit union payday loan alternatives bring better products to market that benefit consumers by offering lower rates and more favorable terms.”

When WESCU began investigating payday lending, “… [W]e began asking questions:  How many members were going outside the credit union to get a product we didn’t offer?”  Allen and his team discovered, “WSECU members had borrowed more than $6 million from storefront payday lenders, paying more than $900,000 in interest during the previous year.”
In response, WESCU created Q-Cash to satisfy a payday loan alternative. Q-Cash “has the convenience factor, but with better rates ($12 per $100 borrowed; 20 points below the market rate) and longer terms (60 days),” said Allen.

Check out North Carolina State Employees Credit Union. They created a short-term loan with a 12% interest rate and maximum limit of $500.00. "We wanted to find a way to get our members out of this trap," says Jim Blaine, SECU president in a recent USA today article. Members of North Carolina State Employees Credit Union are sure to appreciate this program since the state of North Carolina has recently been hit with over 75 tornado's and we all know insurance companies aren't quick to hand out cash.

Is there a happy ending to this story? Allen believes there is: “Both in our pricing and overall service model, WSECU has found what we believe is solid middle ground: offering a better short-term loan product for credit union members at fair rates and terms that benefit consumers and allows for a sustainable line of business.” SECU also has a happy ending for their members: “Each month, more than 40,000 people use the product, which has a maximum 31-day term. Overall, members have accumulated $10 million in savings accounts.” Happy endings don’t just happen in Hollywood.

1. Allen, Mark. “Payday Loans Are Credit Unions’ Business.” Editorial. Credit Union Times Hoboken. 22 Dec. 2010: 12. Print.
2. Krchhoff, Sue. “Breaking the cycle of payday loan trap.”

Serving It Up Fresh, Right and Friendly On Paper: Third Degree Writes a Book!

Third Degree Advertising is writing a book! It’s not full of shameless self-promotion (although Roy’s bio is pretty awesome!) but it does contain case studies from credit unions that have been super successful. (We just have to brag on our clients— they are awesome!)  We simply want to share with you what we’ve seen first-hand as the most successful credit union marketing programs.

In short, we want to share our experience and expertise with YOU, credit union marketers and CEO’s. You have a tough job and we know every little bit helps. That being said, each paragraph and page of Credit Union Savvy was written with YOU and your needs in mind. Since we can’t work directly with everyone (Hey, our research, creative and media teams can work some pretty amazing marketing magic but our powers can only stretch so far!) this is a natural step in our efforts to further the credit union movement.

So, here it is! Credit Union Savvy  A compilation of our best thought leadership pieces to date in an easy-to-read, short story format.  Just for you. Our hope is that not only will our brightly-colored cover look great on your desk or bookshelf but that it will inspire you and your people both creatively and strategically. There’s a lot of smart stuff in Credit Union Savvy and we hope you put the information to good use!

When you are the author of your own book, you can do all kinds of cool stuff like give one away every Friday, which is exactly what we are doing! Every Friday (until the book releases in May), you can follow us on twitter @thirddegreeadv or @CU_Cheerleader and we’ll let you know how you can win a FREE copy of Credit Union Savvy!  You can go to credit union savvy  for a link to buy the book on Amazon.

We wrote a book and hey, we’re even giving some away from free. Now, there is no reason for your credit union to NOT Read On and Fight On!  And never forget, you are powerful people, people.

Living a Brand Starts on the Inside

Sounds deep, right?  Well is it.  It’s not always about your external messages.  In fact, this is the first mistake many organizations make when they rollout a brand (or just try to live an existing brand, for that matter).  Don’t worry credit unions- you’re not the only industry that has this problem.  The first area of focus on living a brand out in an organization is with your employees, not your external messages.

Share your brand personality with new employees.  How many people read the credit union’s company handbook?  They are typically long, and not interesting.  Give them something that explains what the credit union is.  Focus it on your brand.  We call this a culture book.  ABNB Federal Credit Union gave one to all employees when they launched their new brand.  It can be used as a rally cry which gives everyone the chance to live the brand promise.

You don’t force feed a new brand, new initiatives or new products to members- you sell it to them.  It shouldn’t be any different with your employees.  Build the excitement; create the buzz.  Get your team behind anything that’s new before you put it out to your members.

 How many members does your credit union have?  50,000?  100,000?  200,000 plus?  Remember that every member you have will interact with a front line staff member.  Every time that touch point happens, you have a member directly interacting with your credit unions brand.  Making sure that is a positive interaction is one of the most important actions credit union management can make.  Keeping employees happy at work makes that positive experience come to life.

How hard does this sound?  It shouldn’t sound hard at all.  Credit unions are built for this.  As a not-for-profit financial institution, credit unions pride themselves on giving back to their members.  Your front line staff should be treated no differently.  Give them the empowerment to help make a difference

Higher employee retention among your front line is not only growing future leadership, but it means more employees will walk the talk of the credit union difference.  So give your staff a culture, voice and a story they can stick to- instead of “sticking it to the man.”