Social Media Consultants: What Do Credit Union Insiders Really Think?

By: Sarah Stevenson

As we all know, the term “social media” has become common language among credit unions. With that being said, it comes as no surprise that more and more credit unions are utilizing social medial channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube – the list goes on – to market to potential, new and existing members, as well as recruit new talent for their organization.

An article, The State of Social Media in Credit Unions: Opportunities and Challenges, presents an overview of a recent Filene Institute study focusing on the increased usage of social media among credit unions (http://thefinancialbrand.com/18102/filene-credit-union-social-media-study/). The article details 66% of credit unions utilize Facebook, 44% Twitter and 21% have their own blog. The study estimates that based on these figures, the utilization of social media channels among credit unions will have increased to 90% by April, 2012.   In simply searching local credit unions via Google, each credit union had links for Facebook and Twitter on their home page with several linking to YouTube.

With the clear growth in social media prevalent in credit unions and the market in general, Social Media Consultants are in high demand. Working in compliance for a credit union, the phrase “social media” can instantly trigger thoughts of “what possible regulatory violation could emerge?,” meanwhile other departments, such as marketing, jump at the new features and concepts social media offers. With the potential risk (reputation, regulatory) involved as well as opportunities, credit unions may wish to bring in a Social Media Consultant. This then begs the question, what do credit union insiders really think about social media consultants?

In talking with a colleague who specializes in social media, a Social Media Consultant may specialize in a more “risk-based” approach or have a focus on “marketing” through social media depending on the organization’s needs.

For risk-based social media consulting, credit union personnel may provide feedback such as:

  • Consultant provided valuable information, especially for younger employees who have social media ingrained in their daily lives. Because of this, they will update their Information Security training, Employee Handbook, etc., to specifically cover the topic of social media “now” instead of waiting for a problem to occur.
  • Credit Union insiders may feel what the consultant is providing is simply “common sense”; employees already know the main point – “Do not disclose confidential information,” and feel they do not need to update their internal policies or training materials.
  • Unfortunately some feedback may even be – “Social media does not apply to us; our target market/marketing program, etc., is not geared toward social media, therefore does not apply.”

For marketing with social media, many credit unions may utilize a consultant to get their internal department on the right track. More often, colleagues I have spoken with utilize existing marketing staff or have hired younger “social media gurus”, as they feel an outside consultant does not “know the membership or target market” and would not be able to provide assistance. While others, who are just entering the social media realm, welcome a consultant’s expertise as they simply do not have the resources internally to get a social media program campaign off the ground.

While much of utilizing social media requires “common sense”, there continues to be grey areas as this form of communication continues to evolve. Perhaps we should all reflect upon the consultant’s role?

Sarah Stevenson is the Compliance Manager with OMNI Community Credit Union in Battle Creek, Michigan. She can be reached at sstevenson@omnicommunitycu.org.

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2 thoughts on “Social Media Consultants: What Do Credit Union Insiders Really Think?

  1. There is both a lot of truth and hype when it comes to social media in the CU realm. Sometimes it can be hard for senior leadership to distinguish the difference. We’ve never hired a consultant, but then again, that’s my job at @capedfcu. I feel that sometimes consultants don’t always have the CU in their best interest. It’s like asking an insurance salesman if you should have your insurance needs reviewed by them. Which one will really say, “You know, it looks like you’ve got everything covered. There’s no need for my services.”

  2. Thank you for sharing. This was a great article, well-balanced and played both sides (going internal or external on social media efforts) fairly. There are pros and cons to each and, as you suggest, more reflection on the role of outside consultant is definitely warranted.

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