Not another social network!

Brent Dixon over at Open Source CU has a nice post this morning about what is and is not social networking. This got me thinking, let’s add one more item that needs to be scratched off the corporate agenda immediately: Creating another social network.

Many who realize the value of social media and networks think to themselves: Hey, we can build us one of them those things! And with Ning, we can do it for free! Well, news flash, chances are high you are already too late to the table on this one. Look around the blogosphere, and you’ll see social network fatigue setting in everywhere. The world does NOT need another social networking site, and certainly not one based around your credit union. Most people who are involved in the online world and are social, already belong to TOO MANY social networks, and are receiving invitations to join nearly every day. We want LESS of these networks, not MORE. It’s already tough to keep up.

However, there IS opportunity to engage YOUR members on the social networks that they are already a part of… and that does not necessarily mean Facebook. For instance, educational credit unions can engage their members in networks based around their institution of learning… after all, the internet’s popularity itself is due to the university community’s embrace of it years before the web existed. Community based credit unions can find local online networks to participate in. Only if you are SURE that there is no online community based around your particular membership subset should you even think about creating a new social networking site.

The graphic at the beginning of this post is true. No one cares about your blog. However, people ARE interested if you can help them out. If you are a CU that is writing a blog, and wondering why no one is visiting it, two things: 1.) Does the content have valuable, relevant, helpful financial information for your target member, and 2.) Are you engaging your community ONLINE, where THEY are?

It’s not enough to have a blog if you are looking for readership/participation with your members. You must engage them (i.e. make relevant, helpful comments), where they already are. Create links back to your blog posts where doing so is appropriate and useful for them. For example, if you are UWCU, and your membership is the University of Wisconsin, find out if there is an online forum where professors are helping newcomers find housing in Madison. If you have an post in your blog with helpful hints of where to find housing, how to select a good real estate agent, and how to determine your best mortgage options, make a comment, WITH embedded link back to your post. That way, not only will the person with the question see it, but everyone else who is interested in the topic will realize, “aha, there’s a financial institution that knows what it is talking about, and that I can trust.”

I will write more about “where it is happening” in the world of social networking in a future blog post. There actually IS an answer to what you can do, and not add to the malaise that is social network fatigue. Stay tuned….

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