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    Social media is a powerful tool for any organization to cultivate meaningful relationships, increase brand awareness, and build customer loyalty—and credit unions are no exception. Whether you’re just getting started in your social presence or you’ve been managing Facebook and Twitter for years, social media has the power to foster “member fanatics” who will support and promote your credit union unlike any other marketing initiative. But if you don’t have clear goals or a strategic vision in place for each social platform, then you could be turning away potential members.

    To help your credit union establish a strong social authority, here are six ways to improve your social media presence.

    1. Be a “MacGyver”

    Filene, a research institute that specializes in credit union and consumer finance issues, has identified distinct social media personality types in their report, From Presence to Purpose: Developing Social Media Strategies and Metrics for Credit Unions. In the report, 40 percent of credit unions are described as social media “Monogamists”—that is, they exclusively make use of one platform (e.g. Facebook) to engage their target audience while completely ignoring other mediums (e.g. Twitter and Instagram). Another 27 percent of credit unions are “Integrators,” who establish a presence on multiple social media platforms but post the same content throughout and, thus, create an integrated presence.

    The most successful group—known as the MacGyvers (7 percent)—utilizes social media to its full potential. Derived from a popular 80s television series of the same name, MacGyver credit unions are creative, resourceful, and capable of engineering tools that serve the unique needs of their members. Specifically, MacGyvers:

    • Maintain an active presence and frequently engage social media users
    • Provide valuable, rich content that differs from platform to platform
    • Use words such as “we” and “us”
    • Post from the perspective of a human rather than an organization

    2. Research your audience

    Let’s face it—you have to know your social audience before you can truly understand how to connect with your credit union’s followers. This means you have to conduct thorough research to gather as much data about your social audience as possible. While you could survey your valued members (which takes an incredible amount of time and may result in biased answers), there are plenty of online tools that can help you analyze and gather insights into your social audience.

    Most social media management tools already provide some basic metrics and demographic information (more on this later). But if your credit union needs a more substantial solution, SumAll is a great analytics tool that allows you to monitor website traffic and all of your social platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, in one central dashboard. You can setup email alerts and even generate reports to help you draw meaningful conclusions about your most influential followers.

    You’re probably already familiar with using Google Analytics to analyze and measure your website traffic. Social Analytics is another valuable tool from Google that shows you how often social sharing contributes to referral traffic and website conversions.

    3. Draft a social media strategy

    Just having a mere Facebook presence is not enough to compete in today’s growing social stratosphere. If you want to gain a competitive edge your credit union must have a well-defined social strategy that actively engages your target audience, communicates your vision, and attempts to fulfill your marketing objectives. In your strategy, it’s a good idea to establish goals that clearly outline what you want to achieve in your social media endeavors; say, for instance, growing your branch membership by providing tools and resources for financial success.

    For consistent messaging, voice, and tone, you may want to create social guidelines that explain how you engage your audience, when and how often you post, and the appropriate steps of handling negative comments.

    4. Create a content calendar

    Many credit unions assign their social media initiatives to staff members arbitrarily, some of whom lack social media experience in addition to carrying a full workload. According to Filene’s report, one credit union described their social media efforts as follows: “We do social media but only when we have time… when someone has time to post… there isn’t a clear objective communicated from on high except ‘Do some social media.’”

    Whether your latest tweet came from your branch manager or a member service representative, a detailed content calendar will ensure all staff members have access to relevant content that speaks directly to your social audience. Additionally, since every post is strategically planned in advance, you can employ your credit union’s social media efforts much more efficiently.

    5. Share member-generated content

    Among highly engaged users, 40 percent of credit unions received positive feedback and increased engagement when they posted member-generated content. Specifically, content about community outreach programs or local events, such as pictures of employees and members volunteering at a food drive, were most effective. Communal posts that have a compassionate touch tend to be more engaging than status updates about financial rates, products, and services.

    Like the MacGyvers, successful credit unions use member-generated content to add a human element to their social media presence; resulting in stronger bonds as they talk with their followers, not to them.

    6. Utilize social media tools

    The web is saturated with countless tools to help you manage, track, and analyze your social media effectiveness. Facebook Insights, for example, tells you exactly how many people have liked your page within the last week and how many users have shared, commented, or clicked on your posts. For Twitter users, TweetDeck and Hootsuite allow you to schedule posts down to the exact day and time, while Followerwonk makes it easy to research your current followers and generate custom analytic reports. Additionally, Social Mention is another tool that, like Google Alerts, allows you to find trending topics across multiple social media platforms in real-time, so you can keep track of what people are saying about your credit union.

    There are countless other dashboards, APIs, and analytic tools emerging all the time to simplify your social media efforts. Here are the top 50 social media tools that you can start using today to grow your credit union.

    What techniques and social strategies do you currently use? Let us know in the comments below.