Challenge marketing for credit unions part 10: Appropriate resources

This is the final part of the 10-part blog series on challenge marketing. Note to self, the next time I commit to doing a 10-part blog series that blows up to more than 15,000 words, I will definitely write the series in advance and then publish each part in a much shorter span of time. Thanks for following along and for waiting patiently!

Figuring out who should be involved and what is it going to cost

Now that I have told you everything I know about running a successful social media challenge marketing program for your credit union, the two big questions left are:

  1. Who?
  2. How much?

Who?

Before we get into the make-up of your social media challenge marketing team, here are a few common people mistakes that I see credit unions making with their social media activity.

  1. Under powering their social media initiatives. Most credit unions that have dipped their toe in the social media space are running that involvement off of the side of someone's already full plate. This approach yields disappointing results and leads to a general feeling that social media is ineffective. There are countless credit union blogs and Facebook pages now and it is evident to me that most of these efforts are not receiving the proper attention that they need to thrive. The content is lacking in quality and quantity and it's clear that very few people are interacting or visiting these sites.
  2. Sectioning off social media as an IT responsibility, a marketing responsibility or a corporate communications responsibility. It's all of these and you need these departments (or individuals, if your credit union is small) on side and fully supporting and believing in your initiative.
  3. Not telling your staff about what you are doing. You need to promote your social media initiatives to the entire credit union staff on a consistent basis. One of the easiest ways to do this is to distribute all new blog posts to an all-staff e-mail address. If you set up your RSS feed through Feedburner, this is a built-in free service.
  4. Not telling your members about what you are doing. I estimate that most credit union's have less than 5% of their members' e-mail addresses. This needs to change. Ask your members for their e-mail addresses and permission to communicate to them through e-mail. In addition, make sure to promote your initiatives in branch, within your online banking system, on your corporate website, on your ATM screens and anywhere else you can think of.
  5. Restricting access to the social web for most or all of your staff. This goes hand in hand with mistake #3. I wrote two extensive blog posts here and here on the question of whether or not to allow access to the social web from within your credit union. I believe whole-heartedly that if you are going to get involved with anything to do with social media, everyone within your organization has to be able to see and feel the excitement that you are attempting to create. Unfortunately, your IT and HR departments at your credit union most likely whole-heartedly disagree with me on this topic! Your program will not necessarily fail without this access and internal support, but it will be severely hampered to maintain staff engagement over time if the only place that your staff members can see and interact with what's going on is from home on their own time.

Now, let's talk about your team. Between conceptualizing, planning, building, launching, writing and nurturing your initiative over time, you will need dedicated human resources. Those resources can be in-house, outsourced or a combination of the two.

The in-house approach: Members Credit Union's What Are You Saving For? program was built from the ground up by Matt Davis and his public relations assistant. Everything from naming, branding, website development, video production, public relations and printed material production was all done in-house.

I asked Matt who is involved with the site on a day-to-day basis and how much time is dedicated to keeping it going? Here's his response, "In terms of employee resources, the WAYSF blog is maintained entirely by two people: myself (Director of Public Relations) and my assistant (Carla, Public Relations Assistant). Carla creates most of the graphic and video content. I edit and direct the content. When we launched the program, our intent was to let the savers take over. In other words, we wanted to create a very small percentage of the site's content ourselves so members of the site would feel like the site was theirs. This is a strategy that, while formed with good intentions, has not generated the amount of content we desire. Our 'hands off' approach has meant that only five to 10 hours each week are spent on WAYSF. Much of this time is spent creating new content, moderating comments and dealing with SPAM issues. Going forward, we anticipate taking a more active role in content creation to inject more excitement into the program."

The combination approach; outsourced creative and development, in-house on-going management: The creation of Vancity's ChangeEverything.ca was a collaborative effort between a number of companies and individuals. This Hollywood-style approach works best when you have an in-house expert assemble the right team and drive the process. William Azaroff has the experience and necessary ability to provide the strategic leadership, vision and project management skills to make it work.

William originally worked with the social media strategy firm Social Signal to establish the vision and concept for what the community would become. The original user interface design was developed by a freelance web designer and a freelance Drupal developer themed and coded the site. The initial promotion of the site was tied to Vancity's brand advertising campaign that was managed by Vancity's marketing department and its agency of record, TBWA\Vancouver. Currency got involved in 2008 when we redesigned the user interface and worked with Affinity Bridge who refined the Drupal deployment. Like I said, that's a lot of partners and individuals to manage and it does take a confident and competent leader to pull it off.

I asked William how much time is spent on ChangeEverything.ca on an ongoing basis. Here's what William had to say, "We have two people who think about ChangeEverything.ca a lot. I don't spend much time working on the site directly, but it falls under my jurisdiction, and I make sure it gets proper corporate attention. Kate Dugas, the site's Community Moderator spends about half of her time working on the site. At times it can be less and at certain points, like launching and closing a contest, it can be more."

The combination approach; outsourced for creative, development and on-going management, in-house talent and program support: Currency fully manages the Young & Free Alberta program on behalf of Servus Credit Union. We are in charge of all aspects of the program including strategy, planning, marketing, creative, branding, advertising, website maintenance, content creation through the launch and spokesperson search phases, support and training for the Young & Free Spokesperson and anything else that is required 365 days a year. We coordinate subcontractors for media planning and buying, guerilla marketing, website technology, public relations and any other services that are needed from time to time. On the client side, there are three employees that support the program. Kim Crockett, the Young & Free Program Manager, Jere Ebert, the Young & Free Champion and Myles Peterman, this year's Young & Free Spokesperson.

There is no right or wrong approach. As you can see from these three examples, you can structure your challenge marketing team a number of ways. Your challenge marketing concept will largely dictate the size of your team and the skill set that each member needs to possess. The other factors that will effect your team size is who is creating, moderating and managing the content creation, how much interaction you expect and how that interaction is setup. For instance, if you are approving all user-generating content before it goes live and you have an extremely popular initiative, this particular task could swell to a couple hours every day.

I suggest doing as much as you can in-house and relying on outside expertise when and where it makes the most sense. If you take an entirely hands-off approach and outsource every aspect of your program, it may come off as too slick and will likely not be a true representation of your credit union. By being more involved, you will gain more knowledge and recognize opportunities as they arise.

It's up to you to strike the proper balance for your credit union's situation and goals.

How much?

Once you have your concept ready, you need to create a realistic annual budget. Start by breaking it down into categories.

One-time costs

  • Setup costs
  • Concept development (original or license)
  • Website development (build, buy or open source)

Ongoing costs

  • Program management
    • Outsourced professional fees
    • In-house wages directly attributable to your program
  • Website hosting and ongoing maintenance and enhancements
  • Media buy
  • Collateral materials
  • Challenge rewards

These are broad categories that you can elaborate on depending on the size of your program. Once you start to itemize all of the elements that you will need and the resources necessary to back your program, you will soon realize that the scope and scale of a social media challenge marketing program is much bigger than launching a corporate credit union blog. However, when done well, a social media challenge marketing program has a much higher chance of driving an actual return on your investment.

Because of the potentially high cost of a social media challenge marketing program, I highly recommend introducing a new market-leading product that is directly tied into your program. You need to aim to recover the costs by attracting new members to your credit union that will utilize your products and services.

That's it, I'm finally done!

If you want further information on social media challenge marketing, check out the section on our website. You'll find links to this blog series and a directory of our available programs. I now plan to take these 10 posts along with the feedback in the comments and assemble them into a white paper or short book. I'll keep you posted.

Tim