Socializing with Gen Y

Connecting with 'digital natives' requires more than Facebook and Twitter.

March 10, 2013
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Marketing fundamentals still apply

Financial institutions are moving beyond blogs to other forms of social media to connect with younger members and potential members.

Some are employing the same techniques retailers currently use—push messages promoting special offers, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds. Some institutions are organizing branch-to-branch scavenger hunts via Foursquare (a location-based social site) to increase branch traffic.

The question becomes, will these techniques appeal to Gen Y members or not?

Gen Yers don’t want to interact with their financial institutions in the same way they interact with their favorite retailers. An auto loan or checking account isn’t an impulse purchase. Members of Gen Y want their financial institutions to be trusted advisers that take them seriously.

So what’s a credit union to do? The best advice is to use social media in the way that makes the most sense. If you have an event or seminar targeting Gen Y, for example, Twitter is a great communications vehicle.

Customized text messaging also can be effective. If a Gen Y member comes into the branch or posts a comment to your blog, for example, a text message thanking them for the branch visit or post can do a world of good.

You also can use social media to create online communities where Gen Y can interact and share financial-management challenges or success stories. If you have the resources, let Gen Yers create their own profiles, post questions, and build communities using social networking tools.

After you commit the resources to make social media successful, proceed slowly. Social media use by financial institutions is in its infancy. You don’t want to tweet or post without a strategy to support and give direction to what you’re doing. The fundamentals of marketing still apply.

Branches become destinations

Don’t think for a minute that the emergence of Gen Y means the demise of the branch.

While it’s true this generation prefers to conduct transactions electronically and in a self-service mode, Gen Y members want to use the branch for financial guidance and consultation. Your branch becomes a destination and your employees become consultants.

While not all branch visits result in additional accounts or loans right away, they do represent opportunities to build relationships with these otherwise online members.

Some credit unions are physically changing the branch atmosphere: offering coffee, food, kids’ play areas, and Wi-Fi for members waiting to see service representatives. Plenty of opportunities exist for credit unions that offer no-obligation advice and consultation to these knowledge-thirsty members.

Adapted from CUNA’s 2013-2014 Credit Union Environmental Scan.

CHRIS BRACCIA is director of product management with Harland Financial Solutions. Contact him at 407-804-6485.

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