This article was originally published to Credit Union Journal.
Credit unions should know by now that a marketing strategy without social media isn’t an option. As the CEO of a company that helps financial institutions, including credit unions, reach audiences and build awareness online while remaining within the boundaries of compliance, I’ve seen that social media is the best way for brands to connect with communities. But in a digital landscape full of branded content, how can you break through to send messages that will resonate with your audience?
The answer is employee advocacy, a strategy that when used across social media, functions like word-of-mouth marketing while allowing brands to maintain more control over content. Considering that posts made by employees rather than brands generate eight times more engagement, having employees post branded content on their own pages is much more effective than posting directly to the company page.
To put your employees on the front lines of your credit union’s social strategy, use these tips to transform them into brand advocates:
1. Set goals based on measurable, relevant metrics. In social media marketing, return on investment matters more than anything. Employee advocacy carries little to no additional investment, which makes it easy to achieve high ROI. Even a slight uptick in engagement from employee posts can lead to big returns. One study found that a 12% increase in brand advocacy can double revenue growth. Focus on measuring the engagement and reach of branded posts on employee accounts: The higher these are, the more returns you can expect.
Compared to traditional ads like billboards and television, social media marketing allows for much more robust tracking and measurement. Web analytics show marketers exactly where new users originate and which posts led them where. By analyzing this traffic, credit unions can help employees post engaging content that leads prospects down the sales funnel.
2. Establish a coordinated social strategy. Do not allow employees to post whatever they want about the business. Credit unions are subject to regulations stricter than those that govern other industries. If employee posts appear to skirt the rules, the offending company could face heavy fines. In 2017, FINRA issued fines totaling $8.3 million in 44 cases of electronic communications misuse.
Coordinated social media strategies ensure content remains compliant by moving potential posts through important approval channels. When employees speak on behalf of their employers, they are subject to the same rules that govern official communications. The audience may be none the wiser, but to stay out of trouble, credit unions must create review processes to greenlight any employee advocacy marketing posts.
3. Increase visibility using a multiplatform approach. Social media makes up one part of a larger digital world. By linking employee advocacy on social channels to other websites, pieces of content, sign-up pages and videos, credit unions can create a robust marketing ecosystem that encourages prospects attracted by employee posts to continue engaging with the brand.
Extend the company’s focus to multiple platforms. Facebook is popular, but so are Twitter and LinkedIn. Curate the content to match the platform. For instance, Twitter works well for short posts. Videos on Facebook provide consistently good results. LinkedIn works well for longer posts and industry-specific content. Employee advocacy works on a variety of channels, but only if the company behind the strategy plans accordingly.
4. Streamline the process to close more deals. Reach and engagement are nice, but winning popularity contests isn’t the goal. Ultimately, you want to close more deals. Continually evaluate and adapt employee advocacy programs to guide more social media users toward meeting with employees and using your products and services.
Leads from employee advocacy on social media convert seven times more often than leads from other sources. If social media doesn’t create an appreciable increase in sales, go back to the drawing board and try again. Credit union employees may not feel like social media stars, but in the eyes of their employers and social media networks, the word of a respected financial employee goes a long way.
Credit unions and social media make great partners. Employees can turn a good strategy into a great one by using their status as advocates to spread the word throughout their social networks. By following these strategies, credit unions can enjoy a substantial marketing boost and increase revenue without spending thousands of dollars on traditional or digital advertising.