Posts Tagged blog

>Credit Union "Bucks the Norm" and Gets it Right

Posted by on Tuesday, 30 September, 2008

>The “young adult conversation” in credit union world has evolved in the past three years I’ve been Manager of Young Adult Programs here at CUNA. The conversation is no longer about what the issue is and why there is a problem. It is now focused on what can CUs do, and how do they do it.

With that said, I’d like to share how one credit union is addressing the issue of better attracting and serving young adults. Tinker Federal Credit Union launched phase 1 of a financial education site for my generation called Buck the Norm. Check out the site, and this video for more details and to draw your own conclusions…

For this post, I want to focus the discussion on where the folks at Tinker have gotten it “right.” IMHO there are three major areas:

  • Content of site is RELEVANT, connects, and isn’t “jive.” The site is new, so there isn’t a giant amount of content. But what is on the site is written in a way that speaks with the user, instead of talking to the user, and isn’t trying too hard to be “cool.” The articles and blog posts are written in a style that is informative, to the point, and relaxed. The video is edgy, well produced, and makes a strong point. All of this is important because communicating in this manner connects with the audience and doesn’t come across as thinly veiled attempt to hook my generation into buying something. More on that later…
  • Good use of Web 2.0. Tinker provides an RSS feed and uses a button from addthis that enables social bookmarking, where users can share information with friends and promotes organic/viral promotion of their message. This kind of word of mouth marketing is a powerful way to share your message and has a genuine feel to those who receive the message, because it came from a person and not an institution or company. This is important because TFCU is attempting to take advantage of existing structures popular with a large portion of the demographic such as Facebook, Digg, Technorati, and other social networking/bookmarking tools to spread the word.
  • Not directly selling products or services. Actually I didn’t find any links to specific products/services offered by Tinker, only a small link at the bottom to Tinker’s main Web site… which from the user’s perspective, demonstrates a genuine attempt at bringing valuable information to the audience.

But why is that last point important? Because sites that position themselves as being a resource, and then hit you over the head with sales pitches are seen as disingenuous. The user is baited into believing the site is there to provide unbiased information, but then it becomes apparent that the REAL reason the site exists is to sell something.

A good example of this kind of tactic are those Web sites who offer something for free, such as a credit report, but require you to sign up for a service in return. The TV and radio ads, as well as the name of the site itself may suggest that you can grab a free item with no strings attached. However, reading the fine print reveals that the user is, in fact, signing up for a trial membership that is only free for a certain period of time. If the user doesn’t cancel their membership within the allotted time, they are charged for the service.

That’s not to say that providing links from sites such as Buck the Norm to related services and products is a bad thing… it’s all in how you position the site AND the links. For example, MoneyMix (my little project for CUNA) allows subscribing credit unions to provide links directly back to the credit union web site, but these links are displayed in an “ad” like format on the right hand side. There’s no confusion about the main purpose for the site from the user’s perspective and it’s a way for the credit union to demonstrate they can help the user with related products and services. Texas Dow Employees Credit Union’s work with Currency Marketing to produce Young & Free Texas and Resource One Credit Union’s similar attempt My Life My Money are good examples of how products or services can be integrated with a site specifically for my demographic.


>How Can CUs Use Web Widgets?

Posted by on Tuesday, 29 January, 2008

>We’ve touched on Web widgets before, thanks to Christopher’s Blogging 102 post. But I’d like to take the coversation on widgets a bit further. You see, widgets can be used for more than just blogs.

What are widgets, exactly? Basically they are bits of code embedded in html to customize a Web page. A user selects them from a third party and installs the ones they like. RSS feeds are an example of a widget. Countdown timers and quiz results on individual social network profiles are also widgets.

To learn more, check out the following post on the Project New Age blog. There you’ll find a good description and several useful examples. And if that doesn’t do it for ya, there’s always the following wikipedia entry. Want to know how to make a widget? Here’s a really cool resource (albeit very technical) from the World Wide Web Consortium

Okay, so why could this be important? Well, widgets are popular with a lot of Web users, but especially popular on social networking communities such as Facebook, which are heavily populated by the 18-t0-30 crowd. Come up with a widget that someone likes, and they’ll spread it around to their friends, and their friends friends like… well, like a virus. It’s good ole’ fashioned viral or word-of-mouth marketing on a new stage… if you do it right.

It all sounds great, but a few words of caution…
  1. Most widgets I’ve seen aren’t commercial, or meant to advertise a service or a product. They are simply to make a user’s experience unique, fun and they become another way for users to interact with eachother. For example, you find out that your friend Sarah is also a fan of the Muppets, or that you have 30 friends who have scored higher than you on the sports trivia challenge. So, you’ll have to be creative in figuring out a way to develop a widget that “sells without selling” if you want to use a widget to bring traffic to your credit union

    With that said, there are an ever increasing number of “widgets with a purpose” (as I like to call them) being added on social networks and Web sites alike.

    In fact KeyPoint Federal Credit Union is a prime example of a credit union using widgets in this fashion. They’ve developed a Facebook widget that allows users who are on Facebook to access their KeyPoint account online. Of course, just to confuse the matter, Facebook calls widgets “apps” (as in applet). Essentially, they’re the same thing… bits of code used to customize a Web page, or individual user profiles in Facebook’s case.

  2. This isn’t the answer to all of your young adult worries at your credit union. This, just like a MySpace profile or any other initiative is simply a step in the right direction. There are many other steps needed to reach your destination.

But don’t let that stop you! Get out there and come up with some great widgets. Get some input from young adults at your credit union and make it happen.


>Learning Web 2.0: The What & Hows

Posted by on Friday, 21 September, 2007

>For those of you who are just joining us and want to learn more about Web 2.0, blogs, social media, social networking , etc, you are in luck. Here are a few previous posts to help your credit union get started:

> What is Web 2.0?
> Web 2.0: Part 2 – Why should you care?
> Blogging 101
> Blogging 102

Also, check out CU Hype’s detailed post on creating a blog for your credit union. And remember to periodically visit our de.lici.ous page for useful and related links (always in right margin of this blog).

And no, this isn’t a cheap flashback episode that just rehashes old material. If you’ve already checked out the above, I’d invite you to take the following “e-class”:

23 Learning 2.0 Things – 23 Things (or small exercises) that you can do on the web to explore and expand your knowledge of the Internet and Web 2.0.

It was set up by the smart folks at the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County for staff “to experiment and learn about the new and emerging technologies that are reshaping the context of information on the Internet today.” They even gave prizes f0r completion as if the awesome knowledge wasn’t enough.

It’s a nine-week course that walks you through the whats and the hows of blogging, photo-sharing, RSS, newsreaders, tagging, wikis, podcasting and much more! I like the “hands-on” approach to the whole thing and that you blog about your experiences throughout. It also indirectly reinforces the concept that most people forget – all of these cool things are FREE…and for the most part, pretty easy to use.

Wouldn’t you like to see this pushed out to the PR/Communications/Marketing staff of all credit unions? Heck, maybe even everyone so when you are discussing the merits of flickr and PBwiki on the all the time the rest of the staff doesn’t think you’ve lost your mind.

Still not sold on why all of this matters to better serve Gen Y? Here is a great article from InformationWeek on the subject.

“Gen Yers spend an average of 12.2 hours online every week, which is 28 percent longer than Gen Xers and almost twice as long as older Boomers, which range from 51 to 61 years old, Forrester said. Gen Yers are 50 percent more likely than Gen Xers to send instant messages, twice as likely to read blogs and three times as likely to use social networking sites. “


>Web 2.0: Part 2 – Why should you care?

Posted by on Friday, 27 July, 2007

>Web 2.0 Web 2.0 means collaboration and conversation. It’s why Time Magazine named “you” as the person of the year. Yes, you don’t have as much control as before on the web as a company, and as this article in BusinessWeek suggests:

“Corporations will have to craft new roles for themselves and learn new ways to operate in order to stay relevant. They’ll be unable to keep secrets for long amid the chorus of online voices, as Apple Computer Inc.learned when fan sites spilled the beans on unreleased products. Managers and employees will have to learn how to take orders from customers more than from bosses.”

Web 2.0 is exciting, new and revolutionary. Become an expert because it’s up to you to start your credit union’s conversation.

As you and PR department work on your web presence, keep these tenets in mind. The rules of the game have changed. Look at the recent YouTube/CNN Presidential Debate as an example of the paradigm shift. On the internet, it’s not about pushing out content anymore, but working with your members online instead. Whether it’s your blog, Myspace page, CU website, marketing materials, etc…your strategy will have to change. Read this fantastic piece by Room 214 entitled “Fire your PR Firm:”

Capture, don’t control. It means consistently listening closely, analyzing what people say, and participating constructively in key conversations within your existing or potential markets. It means leveraging conversations to build relationships and gain insight that will sustain your business for the long haul.”

Print out the article and distribute at your credit union’s next planning session. And don’t forget to discuss hiring a “conversation analyst” at least part-time or working the job description into a qualified person’s current duties for starters.


>Blogging 102

Posted by on Friday, 6 July, 2007

>So you’ve got a blog…now what? You have to pimp it out a little with some widgets*. The following is a little bling for your blog:

First, you need RSS. “Really Simple Syndication.” Remember how you used to actually go out and look for your favorite updated content on the web? Well that was fine to do, like, a couple years ago. Now your content looks for you!

Probably my favorite breakdown of what RSS is:




We have our feed @ FeedBurner. Provided you are using the more popular blog platforms, you can start FeedBurning now too right here. Type in your blog address and a user/pass and voila! It will give you a hyperlink for your feed to link to in your blog.

To get practice, sign up for your own RSS reader @ Google Reader or NewsGator (integrates with Outlook). More readers are here. If you don’t want to use FeedBurner, most of these also give you the option to sign up to feed your blog as well.

More info on RSS:
whatisrss.com – RSS explained
Wikipedia Entry – More than you ever wanted to know about RSS

Next, you will want to submit your blog to Technorati, the internet authority on the blogosphere – basically the leading blog search engine. It will tell you how many people link to you and allow more people to find out about your cool blog. And don’t forget to Ping (don’t worry, Technorati will show you how).

Oh, and you will have to get used to using tags. Tags are just a fancy word for keywords. Technorati says, “Think of a tag as a category name. People can categorize their posts, blog, photos, videos, or music with any tag that makes sense to describe it.” The better and more accurate tags you use, the easier it will be for people to find your content. Here is more info on tags from the always reliable Wikipedia.

To satisfy all the other social bookmarking users out there (Digg, Del.icio.us, etc), I’d recommend the AddThis! Widget. It’s a one-stop shop button that allows your visitors to add you to their favorites on the most popular sites out there – ours is the “Bookmark” button in the right margin. It’s a snap to install and free.

Again, remember that just because you have a pretty, shiny blog doesn’t mean it will be popular. It’s all about the content. All of these tools are great, but worthless if you are not engaging your audience. Remember, they have 89,499,499 other blogs to read!

Credit unions are unique – tell your story and let the conversation begin.

*Widgets are a little piece of content or a tool provided by a third party that you can place in the siderail of your blog.
More information here.


>Blogging 101

Posted by on Monday, 2 July, 2007

>

It’s Christopher here and I have a few announcements about the YES Summit blog:

  • There will be more updates - The 2007 YES Summit is drawing near and Gen Yers still need to be served by credit unions. We know the blog hasn’t been updated in two months and we are sorry.
  • Josh and I are now the main bloggers. And there will be special guests, so stay tuned!

To better serve Generation Y, you have to speak their language. A huge part of that is using (and understanding) emerging technology in your credit union to serve your members. I thought it might be useful then to start a series of posts to both introduce folks to “Web 2.0″ and maybe even deepen somebody’s understanding of it.

Today it’s blogs.

So your CEO says your credit union should have a blog – everyone else has one (89.5 million actually…). What now?

First, sit and think. Who’s going to post? Who’s going to monitor it? What are you going to write about? Don’t think you can just get away with posting your press releases – that’s not a blog and no one will read it. Blogging is a “conversation.” It’s:

“a fluid, dynamic medium, more akin to a “conversation” than to a library — which is how the Web has often been described in the past. With an increasing number of people reading, writing, and commenting on blogs, the way we use the Web is shifting in a fundamental way. Instead of primarily being passive consumers of information, more and more Internet users are becoming active participants. Weblogs allow everyone to have a voice. ( Read more blogging basics here @ Technorati, the recognized blog authority on the net…)

More blogging basics:

So then what? Here is a great article from ePhilanthropy on “Implementing a Successful Blog,” starting with setting it up. It’s easy. Words of wisdom – “The key to a successful debut is to connect with the target audience and engage them. The quickest way to connect is to hit a hot button or to give a peek behind the corporate curtain.”

What is your angle? Transparency is big now - Have employees post what it’s really like to work at your CU (Verity CU recently launched a good example of this – check it out here). Start capturing stories of helping members. Take videos of them too and post on YouTube to embed in your blog (by the way, just posting your commercials on YouTube isn’t going to win any members either). Here are more ways you can use blogs. Just remember, this isn’t about talking at your readers, it’s engaging them in conversation. As Brian Solis recently wrote in a very informative post at PR 2.0, blogs are:

“not effective when used as a corporate platform for marketing messages. And also, they’re not a channel for featuring ghostwritten posts for company executives. The best corporate blogs are genuine and designed to help people. Make sure to pay attention to the comments as well. Some of the best conversations take place in the comments section as people react to what you wrote as well as the feedback from their peers.”

And comment on other people’s or businesses’ blogs too. Very important. Both to bring people back to your blog and to enhance your net reputation. It’s also good practice.

And don’t forget – blogging (n)etiquette:

That’s it – One rule of thumb is your posts shouldn’t be loooooong. Also, you should update often (Again, we are sorry). If I forgot anything important, you can leave it in the comments section.