Our credit union needs to be in Facebook. That's where all those crazy kids are!

Many credit unions are trying to figure out how to best create a presence within the walled-garden-of-promise that is Facebook. The most popular approach is to set up a free page and hope people find and become fans of your page.

These credit union pages have attracted a range of fans from a dozen to perhaps a hundred fans. The most I have seen is our Young & Free Alberta page with 231 fans. And I'll admit that about half of those are credit union folks. There are likely credit unions with more fans than that, but it still seems pretty paltry considering that Facebook now has more than 100 million members.

But what if there was a better way to build a presence in Facebook?

I have been watching a really interesting and really effective by-product of the Young & Free Alberta and Young & Free Texas spokesperson searches this year. The proliferation of campaign-specific Facebook groups by spokesperson applicants.

DeAndre' in Texas started the trend and between the two competitions there are now 10 Young & Free Facebook groups that I know of. And the member numbers are growing like wildfire. Here are the member numbers at the time of writing this post.

Alberta

Texas

That's 1,264 young people that have now been exposed to Common Wealth Credit Union and TDECU through unsolicited third-party endorsements within the last three weeks.

But these aren't real credit union fans!

Fair enough. Many of these groups will fade away as quickly as they appeared when we shortlist for the voting stage (today in Texas, next Friday in Alberta), but I would argue that the real value lies in what you do with the momentary attention. Most Facebook pages result in a bunch of credit union employees and industry peers becoming fans and little more.

These unsponsored, spontaneous Facebook groups have resulted in the biggest new account opening month for Young & Free Alberta since we started and a record amount of site traffic and blog comments on both sites over the last few weeks.

Another way we have been able to capitalize on this influx of traffic is by adding a simple question to all of the forms on the sites, including the blog comment form. We simply ask: "Would you like to receive e-updates and the chance to win great prizes?"

More than 75% of form submissions are opting into our e-mail lists. We have grown our Alberta list by nearly 900% in the last two months. These are young people giving us permission to open a dialogue with them in their in-box.

I talk a lot about being more blatant with your social media activity and asking for visitors to engage with your credit union and that you should not be afraid to seek opportunities to ask for the sale. Here is living proof that you can mix social media and word-of-mouth advertising with commerce and have it be authentic and very effective.

The cool thing is that this was not our idea or the credit unions' ideas. It just happened naturally. Pretty exciting stuff don't you think? If you have other ways that your credit union has been effective within Facebook, please add them to the comments.

Tim