A credit union in the West Midlands, which last year moved the bulk of its marketing to social media to match consumers’ switch to digital, says a heavy online presence brings huge benefits, ranging from greater awareness to improved communication within the sector.
6Towns Credit Union in West Bromwich developed its digital marketing campaign in response to the growing trend for online loans, which has seen credit unions receive increasing numbers of loan applications are through their websites.
Over the past 12–18 months, 6Towns has moved almost all its marketing onto digital platforms – namely Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. The approach has proven to be a successful one; its loan book has increased by 46% over the past 12 months.
A 2015 consumer survey for the Competition Commission found that only 2% of consumers using payday products in the past 12 months had also used a credit union, although 15% of consumers reported that they could have used a credit union product instead of taking out a payday loan.
6Towns is trying to address the lack of consumer awareness regarding credit unions by using social media. For example, they created a YouTube channel where they upload videos explaining the benefits of joining a credit unions, and giving tips on how to avoid a payday loan, how to budget better and how to avoid debt.
The organisation doesn’t just communicate with members on social media – it also speaks with other credit unions.
“You have to understand your own core demographic before you start entering into any marketing strategy,” says Malcolm Keyte, business development manager at 6Towns.
“You also need to understand what new demographic you are attracting and where they are coming from. You have to look at your business plan – if you want to survive you need more young people coming in. You need to start attracting young savers and borrowers.”
Mr Keyte believes his credit union had a younger market, offering it an easier progression from traditional printed material to electronic.
6Towns is now working on new videos and digital materials around the idea of debt.
“One of the issues we need to address as credit unions is that, yes, we are here to help, but we would not put people into debt,” says Mr Keyte. “Credit unions have the responsibility to ensure we don’t put people into debt so sometimes we have to say ‘no’ to individuals and there is a backlash to that. So we’re now working on a video on two key questions: ‘Why have you rejected my loan?’ and ‘Are credit unions here to help us?’”
Mr Keyte believes the key to developing a successful marketing campaign is building a corporate personality across the different social media channels.
“It may be that you are focusing purely on saving and loans,” he adds, “so you need to develop an online personality based on that and it has to be consistent. If you are using one logo on one social media platform, it must be the same on any other social media platform.
“Furthermore, once you start on a social media campaign it’s not something you can pick up and put down. It has to become a core part of your marketing.
“The benefit of that is that you don’t rely as much on partner agencies to get your message out, you become far more independent and are able to contact new and existing members without having to rely on agencies to promote share, or hand out leaflets. You are doing it yourself and it is more cost effective than producing hard literature.”
Social media can also help to promote the services of other credit unions and agencies, he says. “These organisations need to be nurtured and helped along the way – it is a co-operative way of working. Too many organisations think posting a picture of a table with leaflets and banners in a church hall is getting across a message of what they do as a credit union. It doesn’t actually say anything, apart from the fact you were there.”
Building up followers can be a slow process, warns Mr Keyte, but credit unions should be patient.
“Don’t expect huge followers to like and share immediately; it’s better to have 100 good followers than 500 that you have bought,” he says.
He says feedback may also be difficult to obtain , although a strong performance for the credit union can indicate that the marketing strategy is working.