Challenge marketing for credit unions part 2: It's OK to sell on the social web

Getting comfortable with sales and marketing on the social web and how to keep things local

The social web is a great place for listening

Before we dive in to defining your challenge, your product offer and your reward, let's talk about the role of social media within your challenge marketing program.

The authors of Groundswell divide corporate social media activity into these main categories.

  • Research = Listening
  • Marketing = Talking
  • Sales = Energizing
  • Support = Supporting
  • Development = Embracing

To date, credit unions that have entered the social web have primarily concentrated on listening. There is a deeply held belief by credit unions (and by social media strategists in general) that the social web is not a place to talk about products and services. It is widely believed that it is best used to listen and connect with members and potential members. It is a place to be open, transparent and conversational. In turn, this will demonstrate that your organization cares about its members and this display of caring will compel people to do business with your credit union.

RichardAtDell and ComcastCares on Twitter are two great examples of this strategy in action. I estimate that 90% of Richard's and Frank's tweets start with an @ symbol which means that they are having direct conversations with individuals instead of blasting out marketing messages. This is a fantastic display of customer outreach.

And, the social web is a great place for talking and energizing

I strongly believe in listening and learning from your members online, but let's be honest, everyone who is online representing a company ultimately has something to sell. Why should we feel bad about that? I don't believe that marketing and sales are off limits.

My basic premise with challenge marketing is to listen and be engaging, but to also layer on top of that both talking and energizing. If executed with care and conviction in an open and honest way against the backdrop of a really relevant product and a really compelling challenge, members and non-members will be receptive to your subtle marketing and sales messages.

Think Small World Web

Before opening a dozen accounts on every social application, think about how you will use each one of them locally in conjunction with your challenge marketing program. Think about your credit union's niche and your promotion's target market. What is the purpose of the particular social media application that you are considering? How will you keep it relevant and fresh? Most credit unions have a small-geographic footprint, so do some research on how many people are using a particular service locally before diving in.

For example, if you are going to create a Facebook page, YouTube channel or participate on Twitter as part of your program, try to grow your connections locally. Go with the most mainstream choices first. We chose to use YouTube over more feature-rich video sharing sites like Vimeo and Viddler for our Young & Free challenge programs because we knew that we would have the potential to connect with more local people on the most popular video-sharing site in the world.

However, don't be afraid to experiment beyond the mainstream. We have encouraged both of our new Spokesters—Myles in Alberta and DeAndre' in Texas—to play with 12seconds.tv, a very obscure new video application that is still in private alpha.

Building a large local following is not easy and takes time, but the more that you, your staff and those interested and participating in your challenge can grow your local following, the more powerful these connections will become over time.

Next up: your challenge, your product and your reward.

Tim