You Call That The Vulcan Neck Pinch?

“What the h#ll are you doing?”

“The Vulcan Neck Pinch??”

“No, no stupid, you’re doing it all wrong..” -Spaceballs

There are plenty of social media advocates and probably as many or more naysayers in the finance industry.  I’ve witnessed all sorts of different viewpoints and honestly, I respect them all.  Some people have valid points about ROI being difficult (or imposible?) to measure, others claim it is just a waste of time and money.  I agree.  ROI is difficult to measure.  ROI may very well be nonexistent.  Credit unions may be wasting their time and money on social networks and new media.

The one thing that is constantly overlooked is the fact that the vast majority of financial institutions that are engaged in some sort of new media campaign are “doing it all wrong” like Lonestar in Spaceballs.  The fact remains that most of the chatter about these issues is taking place on the very communication channels that are being called into question.  I’m still trying to figure that one out…

So when is new media pointless and when is it priceless?  New media is priceless when it is social.  It is often called “social media” but most of the time it is anything but social.  The advent of Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Google+ (insert other platform here) occurred because people became sick of being talked at and wanted to have their fair share in the conversation.  This fact is too often overlooked.

When I see a credit union or any other business talking about how great they are all day and offering nothing of substance, I cringe (I cringe a lot.)  new “social” media isn’t about your business, it’s about the people who keep you in business.  It’s about people interacting with each other and sharing information, laughs and insights.

The next time someone says, “Social media has no utility in the finance industry” I encourage you to think, “Is this really the case?”  Are the communication platforms being used to facilitate dialogue or are they simply internet billboards?  New media isn’t for everybody and I will never say that it is, but when it is done correctly it is priceless.  With the proliferation of smartphones, businesses that can remain relevant and add value to their Fans and Followers have the ability to be with their members/consumers everywhere they go (who really leaves the house without their cellphone?)

 You WON’T build a following overnight, but if you continually do the right things, your following will grow.  Too often marketers are focused on getting a “Like” or follow and have no clue what to do after initial interest is expressed.  Getting someone to click a button is easy, keeping them coming back is not.

It would do us all well if we focused more on the engagement and conversations to come in the future rather than a persons sometimes random impulse to click a button.  Conversation is key.  If you are using new media to talk about yourself (business), you are wasting your time.  If you are interacting daily with your Fans and Followers, you will see the return.  New media is unconventional.  Traditional measurement techniques do not work.  You wouldn’t weigh a rock with a thermometer, so please do not try to gauge the importance of a social exchange with a spreadsheet.

What are your thoughts? Am I nuts? Am I genius?  Are you bored yet?  Let’s talk.

Without wax,

Bryce

Why We Need More Credit Union People

If you are looking for earth-shattering news or insights, you can stop reading now.  If you’d like to know why the United States or the world for that matter would be a better place if we had more credit union-minded people, by all means, keep on reading.  I’m biased.  I work at a credit union, I’m co-founder of a CUSO and well, I just plain love credit unions, but why?  I’ve had a couple of different “big boy jobs” and I also was a customer at a bank until I began working at VacationLand Federal Credit Union (VLFCU) in Sandusky, Ohio.  Admittedly, I didn’t transfer all of my accounts over immediately.  I thought the process would be the equivalent of being water-boarded.  It wasn’t.

It was about two weeks into my new position when I realized things in the credit union world were very different.  I can remember thinking, “Wow, these people really care about what they do and who they serve.”  It was like an epiphany.  It was a great fit for me too as I spent my time prior to joining the VLFCU team working as a social worker and a marketer at a Catholic school.  In all three endeavors, people were always the priority.

My experience at VLFCU (which I am sure is the very similar to most CU employees) has been nothing but positive. I (we) go to work everyday with the intention of making someone’s life simpler, less complex.  We enhance our member’s lives by providing them with the services that they need, but how we go about it is entirely different that other organizations.  We pride ourselves on “member service” and unfortunately that term tends to get people myself included to roll one’s eyes.  After all, service should be something that is implied.  Something that should already exist.  We shouldn’t have to tell others that we’re good at what we do, if we weren’t we wouldn’t be in business.

While I think this is true to a large extent, I don’t think we would totally do away with messaging that raises awareness about our ability to provide superior member service.  Just last week, James Robert Lay wrote an excellent piece for CUinsight.com.  If you click this link, you will see how James explains that bigger is not always better.  I believe that he is absolutely correct.  Our size is in fact one of our biggest assets.  It is the reason we can provide the level of service that we do.

This became evident to me this past weekend when I was in one of my home improvement trances.  Every once in a while I will become fixated on taking on 10 (exaggeration) projects around the house.  This time it was sanding my staircase down to stain and getting new blinds hung throughout the house.  I started the staircase project and as I am more of a Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor type than I am Bob Villa, I needed to get some supplies to patch up some “mistakes” I made while “improving” my home.  Either way, I had to go buy blinds too.

I went to a place that rhymes with comb repo to purchase some patching supplies and of course, blinds.  I went to the blind section, found what I needed and asked to have someone cut them down to size for me.  After 35 minutes, I still stood there being “that guy”.  At least 7 (not exaggerating) employees passed me.  Most avoided eye contact while the others explained that there is only one person that can cut down blinds and she will be with me when she can.  If you know me at all, you know that I write really long blog posts and that when I want to complete a job or project I want to do it now!  I left the comb repo and called up another establishment that sounds a lot like “Joe’s”.  I asked if they would be willing to cut down blinds I already had if I was to purchase several hundreds of dollars of merchandise from them.  No dice.  I called another lesser known establishment and had the same luck. 0 for 3.

This got me thinking about how this would have been handled by credit union-minded people.

  1. There would have been more than one employee capable of cutting down my blinds at the Comb Repo.  In fact, they would have known my name, what kind of dog I have and probably have made sure I left happy and with BLINDS!
  2. At “Joe’s” they would have said, “Sure we can cut down those blinds for you and we’re glad you chose us for the rest of your household needs.” (shared branching)
  3. No eye contact?  Really?  If those employes were customer-minded (member-minded) they would have stayed with me or at least actually got someone to provide me the service I was requesting, not to mention knowing my dog’s name etc.

My point is this: While member service should not what we claim is the only thing that makes us different from big banks, it is a very real and game-changing aspect of what we do.  It is what makes people say they love THEIR credit union.  It really is a competitive advantage and it makes a huge difference as it turns our members into advocates and keeps them coming back.  I can honestly say that it will be a while before I return to the “Comb Repo” or “Joe’s”.  I’m sure there are plenty of locally owned businesses that would love my business and make sure I keep coming back to them.

For the 3 of you who read this until the bitter end, I’d like to know what you think.  Does this make sense or am I just really impatient?  How can credit unions leverage this to its fullest extent without beating the same drum too much?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Without wax,

Bryce

Being Human in an Online World

Being human, it’s not that hard.  Sadly, most of the time when we refer to being human we use it as an excuse for all the mistakes we make on a daily basis.  This post is not about the fallibility of the human condition, rather, it is about how important it is to let your “humanness” show through your use of social media.  Some of you reading this (if anyone actually is) may be casual users of social media.  You might get on for a couple hours a day to connect with friends or check up on brands you follow etc.  Others may be on one platform or another all day (guilty.)  No matter what you use social media for, the fact is that most brands and their marketer(s) have already set up their shop online and are trying to lure you in.  The problem is, many of them are taking a brand new distribution channel with more potential and possibility than any channel we have ever seen before and they continue to send out the same messages.

If you are anything like me, I don’t appreciate being talked at.  I do however, like being spoke to.  This is where the focus needs to shift.  Social media now affords us the opportunity to send out our branding message(s), but more importantly, it allows us to connect.  Even though we may be communicating through computer screens, we can now be more human than ever.  Let’s face it, one of the most important and powerful aspects of our human nature is our ability and desire to connect with one another on some level.  Think about the last time you met someone new, whether you realized it or not, I’m willing to bet you spent the first part of your conversation trying to figure out a connection between you and your new acquaintance.

If this is something that we do in everyday “real life” why is it so hard for some of us to figure out how to make our brands more human?  Why are some of us still only broadcasting our sales and specials in our Facebook Newsfeeds?  Why are some of us not responding to the inquiries of our “Fans”?  How is that being social?  More importantly, how is that being human?  Even more importantly, how could we ever think that these practices ever could be or would be good for our brand or our business.

We can’t and yet we still continue to operate in such a way.  Are you being social online?  If so, are you being human?  I think we all could ask ourselves these types of questions more often.  Unfortunately, if we’re honest with ourselves, I don’t think many of us will like the answers we find.

Without wax,

-Bryce