Archive for the ‘Branding’ Category

CUs, Social Media, and Governance

December 1, 2010

Based on the conversation exploding on EverythingCU.com over the past two days on Credit Unions and the ROI of Social Media, I created and edited this opinion piece down to 10 minutes to fit it onto YouTube. I talk about branding, marketing, social media, credit unions, ROI, the future of credit unions, their Boards of Directors, and their members, and my mom. I think what we currently think of as Social Media (aka Online Community Engagement) has the potential to transform it all. What do you think?

Transcript:

Hi, I’m Morriss Partee, Chief Experience Officer of EverythingCU, and I’d like to make this quick little video blog on a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and that is credit unions and social media. It’s been an amazing thrill to see the topic of credit union’s use of Social Media and its ROI really blossom on EverythingCU in the past couple of days. I’ve watched with great interest as many opinions have been stated very forcefully from both sides. There are a lot of good arguments, both for and against, credit unions using social media.

Online communication is changing everything

Social media, and if we use the term to mean online community interaction, is, without question, transforming the way that people across the United States, and even across the world, are interacting with each other, and interacting with the world [around them]. So this social media phenomenon and revolution has affected or will affect virtually every department of credit union operations. It’s clear there are marketing implications and operational implications. But I’d like to talk about one are which I think in the long run, has the largest potential to truly improve credit union business and the way members interact with and view their credit union.

A Little Background

One of the big sea-changes in the way that credit unions operate with their members is when credit unions were deregulated from standard fields of membership in 1998. And since that time, credit union after credit union after credit union has gone to community charter, or a charter much broader than their original one.

Hi mom!

As example, my mother is a member of UMassFive College Federal Credit Union. Whenever I’ve had the pleasure of working on marketing campaigns for that credit union, I often think of my mother as the ideal target market. And every now and then, I’ll ask her a question about the credit union. “How do you feel about this? Why do you do business with the credit union? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it?” And the thing that really strikes me is that because my mother is a retired professor from UMass, she feels like UMass Federal Credit Union is HER credit union. She knows the people who run it, she knows that the people who are members are colleagues of hers, that are affiliated with UMass in one way or another. Of course, she’s very proud of UMass. So anyway, that’s the world in which credit unions have traditionally operated. But for any credit union that is now far more broader than an original employee group, or their employer has changed, merged, been outsourced overseas, their original SEG has shut down, gone out of business, merged, diversified, whatever the story is, those credit unions need a new reason for being. Something that is fundamental, that makes you feel like “this is MY credit union.” Well, what do credit unions talk about in terms of the difference [between themselves and banks]? The difference is in their governance, their form of governance. Credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives. This is supposed to be MY credit union.

MY credit union? Really?

Well, what does that mean, “MY credit union”? Does that mean I can withdraw a million dollars? Well, no, of course not, it doesn’t mean that. Well, then what does “MY credit union” really mean? How can we replicate, how can we make people, feel, understand what “MY credit union” means? We are the members, right? We are the member-owners. That’s the fundamental thing we’ve got going here.

So what does it really mean to be a member-owner? Well, right now, because of previous technological or operational limitations, membership really has only meant that I vote for a Board of Directors once a year. And I’m only voting for 3 out of 9 or so [board] members each year. And unless I’m really well-tied into the community or connected to the community, I have no idea who these people are. I might get one paragraph and a little, tiny one-inch photograph of what the person looks like, and they all kind of say the same thing about how they’re going to make sure the credit union is operated in the best interest of its members. Great. Well, it doesn’t help me choose, it doesn’t help me understand [who these people are]. I feel relatively powerless, and it doesn’t make me feel much like it’s mine–that I get to vote on… I don’t know who.

Ginny Brady, Revolutionary

That’s why I was so intrigued when Ginny Brady, in Plattsburgh, New York, started blogging with her members. She truly wanted to interact with her members to say “here’s what we are weighing as the board, here are the issues we’re wrestling with, we have to make tough choices, we have to balance different facets of financial soundness, with doing the right thing for our members, with maintaining the institution’s integrity.” For several years, she was regularly blogging, saying “here’s what the board’s doing, here’s what we’re up to, here’s our annual meeting, come out to it, we’d love to talk to you, we’d love to get your input.”

She actually stopped blogging after a couple of years. I think it’s simply because she was way too far ahead of her time, and perhaps people in the Plattsburgh region weren’t really ready for a local credit union to blog, and to understand what that meant, and to know how to find it, and know how to interact, or to want to interact. But I still feel like, as people now come online in different ways, Facebook, Twitter, email , blogging, what have you, I feel that there are new opportunties for credit unions to really make a difference with their governance.

Online input on CU governance!

What if there were online polling? What if you polled the membership regularly and said “how many of you prefer X over Y?” or “how many people feel it’s important that we offer this checking account?” or “we’re planning to build a new branch.” I still feel like there’s plenty of opportunity to really engage members, via online channels, via Facebook, via SurveyMonkey, or any other means, to say “WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE? What is it that would make the credit union better for you? What do you like about us and what we’re doing now? What do you hate about the credit union now?” And we can do these things in real time. You could even have a board meeting where you pose a question to the membership at the beginning of the meeting, and you have a decent number of responses by the end of the meeting. So if members have this voice now, and  they are actually engaged with the board of directors, and not even directly, but just in an anonymous way, that’s going to make people feel like, “yeah, that’s MY credit union. I have input to the credit union. The credit union listens to me for feedback. The credit union is interested in what I have to say. That’s MY credit union. I’m not going to leave MY credit union. I’m not going to go down the street because a rate is a quarter-point higher or lower, because it’s not MY credit union.”

So anyway, that’s just my thoughts, rambling from here in Western Massachusetts on a dark and stormy, rainy December night. I would love to hear your feedback on whether this aspect of inviting membership into governance has significant potential to truly revolutionize how credit unions market with and do business with their members.

What’s your take?

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Social Media is not a waste of time for most Credit Unions

November 30, 2010

Fully five years into the social media revolution, a job opening for a social media position at a credit union was posted on EverythingCU.com just a week ago. I was very excited about this development, because as many of you know, I’ve been involved in social media and credit unions for… well, before there was even such a thing as social media.

When we started EverythingCU.com back in 2000/2001, we wanted to enable credit union marketers across the country (and even a few other countries too) to be able to share and communicate. We quickly realized that it would be great to attach a face to these names flying across our computer monitors, and thus photo uploading was added. (In the early days we even scanned photos sent to us by mail.) In addition, we created easy document sharing, as well as individual profile pages.

When the words “social media” started cropping up in credit union and other online sources back in 2005/2006, I started investigating this newly emerging trend and discovered it was very similar to the peer-to-peer networking and communication we were already enabling with EverythingCU.com, only on a more personal and “regular consumer” level. “What an exciting development!” I thought to myself. “Now that social media is emerging as an entity in its own right, we’ll be able to help credit unions understand the power of this medium for themselves that we’re experiencing here at EverythingCU.com.” In the subsequent years, I’ve spoken at many CU conferences and conducted workshops on social media for credit union leagues around the country; something which I truly love doing.

So based on the job posting, the subject on EverythingCU turns to “how can you calculate the ROI of this new social media position?” What an interesting question!

It can indeed be extremely difficult to measure ROI for marketing. You can measure overall results for a marketing campaign for a specific product by comparing that product’s sales with the previous year’s results. But as was pointed out on EverythingCU by Mia Perez, how do you measure ROI for the second year of the campaign, when you had successful adoption of the product in the previous year, thereby reducing the pool of people who would have bought the product based on your spectacular new marketing campaign? It’s going to necessarily be less than year 1. But you did as great a job creating the marketing campaign in year 2, but you’ll have less to show for it. Hmmmmmmm.

Another commenter in the Social Media-ROI topic pointed to the Financial Brand’s Why Social Media is a waste of time for most banks and credit unions.

I can’t prove the ROI of social media, but I fundamentally believe social media is not a waste of time for most credit unions. If your credit union behaves like a bank, then absolutely, you should skip social media. But I find the values of most credit unions line up perfectly with what makes social media a fantastic venue. Let’s take a look at where and why this makes sense from a “values” point of view:

Social media is all about empowering individual people. Each person in entitled to their own voice, their own opinion, and can create their own network of friends, family, and colleagues. Everyone is on an even playing field in terms of putting their message “out there.” In the credit union world, all members are treated equally, i.e., every member has an equal vote in electing the board of directors who are charged with overseeing how the credit union is run. Credit unions open their doors to everyone who is eligible to join; they don’t discriminate. Credit unions are cooperatives; social media is fantastic because of the cooperation and sharing that occurs. Credit unions originally were created for employers or organizations in a single location, in other words, a location-based community of people who had something in common. Social media flourishes because people everywhere are finding and/or creating their own online communities based on criteria that are important to themselves, whether it be political, religious, occupational, or centered around comon hobbies, passions, pasttimes, locations, and all sorts of other common interests.

Social media is fundamentally democratic and cooperative, as are credit unions. Credit unions were born of communities; social media is community brought online.

But before diving further into Social Media and its ROI, let’s examine exactly what social media is, since it means different things to different people. I view social media as any way that people communicate with each other online. This is done on an individual as well as a group basis. Well, this was happening long before MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter started becoming popular. So why did the phrase “Social Media” catch on starting around 2004/05? At this point, Facebook wasn’t open to the general population; blogging and podcasting were the new and hot things. Bloggers and podcasters were starting to build community with their endeavors and were excited that they were creating what the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto had talked about in 1998.

So if we define social media as online communication, conversation, networking, and media sharing, then it’s been happening for quite a number of years, as email, AOL, chat rooms, listservs, the web, and the like are not new by any means. And even more fundamentally, human communication has been happening via technology since cave drawings were painted, and continued on through smoke signals, telegraphs with Morse code, pony express, the telephone, radio, tv, 8-tracks, albums, cassettes, CB radio, VHS, DVDs, and many others.

Let’s examine the telephone for a second. The telephone is basically a one-to-one non-persistent communication technology. (Although via voice mail, it can also be persistent and asynchronous.) At one time, I’m sure the telephone was very expensive, and businesses were loathe to adopt a new technology that very few of their consumers possessed. But now we don’t question the ROI of every person having a phone, whether it’s on their desk, a mobile phone, or now a smartphone. And yes, we have people dedicated to running businesses’ telephone infrastructures. But we don’t dedicate one person or one department in an organization, put all the telephones in their office and say “you are our telephone department! You’ll be operating and handling the telephones for everyone in the organization! Anytime anyone needs to make a call, they’ll come here to use these telephones, and seek your guidance in how to use the darn things!”

Well, I think social media is about where the telephone was many decades ago, in terms of how businesses are thinking about being involved with it.

Also interesting is how everyone views social media differently depending on their background. Marketing looks at social media as an advertising channel, while journalists view social media as a threat to the traditional way of bringing people news. Customer service people see social media as a new method of communicating with people.

As for ROI, well, there have been quite a few Credit Union success stories in social media already. And there have been quite a few success stories for non-CU businesses in social media.

We don’t necessarily measure the ROI of attending an in-person networking event such as a Chamber of Commerce mixer. But we all intuitively understand how important networking is. Well, as William Azaroff has pointed the way, perhaps a better term for social media is online community, or maybe even better, online networking.

Bottom line: Social media is definitely not a panacea, cure-all, or get-rich-quick scheme. But it works great for businesses when it’s used as a way that makes sense for both the business and its customers. After all, communication is fundamental to human nature, business, and marketing, and these online channels, media, and community are all fantastic communication avenues. And oh, by the way, social media, and online channels, have in many respects transformed the way people interact with each other.

Second bottom line for credit unions: Did you notice how your physical community dispersed over the last ten years or so? Yes, a majority of your members still reside within a five mile radius of a branch, but c’mon, don’t tell me you weren’t excited when you discovered you had a handful of members several thousand miles from your nearest branch. Well, I’ve got news if you hadn’t figured it out already. While location-based communities and geographies are still important, and are more important than ever in some ways (The New Geography), there is a new community and it’s online. People belong to multiple communities online and are excited about them. There may be an opportunity for your credit union to also be a part of the online communities that make sense for your credit union, based on what makes your members tick.

Post Script: (As if this blog post weren’t long enough already), I think that while there are huge areas of credit union function that are in the process of being transformed by online communication, the most exciting one, which has the most potential for bringing credit unions back to the member-centric powerhouses they once were, is in governance. Right now, credit union governance is a closed-door black box despite the efforts of pioneers such as Ginny Brady. But it’s in governance that credit unions have the opportunity to engage with the members like never before; to bring better transparency, to throw open the doors to the board room, and get meaningful, frequent member interaction with the board and management decision making. I truly believe that’s what Ed Filene would have envisioned had he been alive in this generation instead of his own. While you can’t measure the ROI of social media/governance interaction by the members, it gets to the FUNDAMENTAL reason why so many people LOVE their credit unions:

Because it feels like it’s MINE.

If you spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on a “traditional” branding campaign, you won’t make nearly the impact as ACTUAL online engagement with your members about the way THEIR institution is run. This is also an advantage that credit unions will ALWAYS possess over banks. PRESS YOUR ADVANTAGE TO THE MAX!

Describing a credit union

August 20, 2009

Last week, some great conversation kicked up on EverythingCU about how to describe a credit union in 30 seconds. (Thanks, Butch!)

My own opinion is that describing a credit union is much like the fable of the six blind men and the elephant. Each of the blind men touches a different part of the elephant and comes away with a different idea of what the thing is.

Credit unions are like the elephant in this story. What a credit union is to you is different depending on what matters to you. Some love the low rates on loans. Others love the great rates on savings vehicles. Others don’t care about the rate on their loan, and are just thrilled that they CAN get a loan. Others love the personal service. Others don’t give a darn about personal service. Some love the convenience. Others love the INCONVENIENCE. (seriously, I have had more than one person tell me this conducting focus groups for credit unions. The “don’t tell my spouse I have this fund” account.) Some love the electronic services. Others love coming into a branch. Others love both. And believe it or not, some people love it because it’s a cooperative. Others love it because the money stays local, and makes the community better. Many could care less that it’s a cooperative, because “ownership” means nothing to them. Some love the no- or low-fees. Others love that the CU does what’s in THEIR financial best interest, even when it’s not in the CU’s best interest.

And that’s just off the top of my head.

WARNING: The rest of this message is a blatant sales pitch for EverythingCU’s new PlumWall product. BUT I only say it because I 1000% know it to be true, and I would be remiss in my duties to further the CU movement if I *didn’t* put this out there:

All of the above statement is exactly why we created PlumWall for your CU to utilize. It’s been one hundred years, and we haven’t come up with a universally agreed upon explanation for a credit union, nor a single brand statement – BECAUSE THERE ISN’T JUST ONE.

So let’s STOP looking for the “one right answer” and let our members tell everyone how THEY see it… because people relate to other people like them, and trust other people like them by a factor of 100-to-1 over any marketing that an institution puts out (especially a big scary financial institution). This is why single-SEG CUs are so successful and why no one comes running in the door when a CU goes to a community charter.

PlumWall lets your members tell others, online, why they love the CU. I can’t wait to read more of your members’ stories about how fantastic your CU is.

Announcing PlumWall

May 5, 2009

“It’s not about the CU story you tell your members — it’s all about the story your members tell themselves about doing business with your credit union.”
— Ron Shevlin, Aite Group, at BarCampBank NewEngland 4.5.08

There is something new on the EverythingCU home page, and in the navigation bars, called PlumWall.

“What the heck is a PlumWall, and what have you crazy EverythingCU people done now?” you may be asking yourself.

Here at EverythingCU, we’ve understood the power of testimonials for a long time. Heck, it’s the main reason we get out of bed every morning and continue to work to keep your community the amazingly neat and clean place that it continues to be.

Now we have harnessed the power of the web, World 2.0 and social media to allow CREDIT UNIONS and their MEMBERS to share the joy, power, and beauty that is the CREDIT UNION MOVEMENT with one another.

PlumWall enables you to easily upload your member stories and testimonials about your CU. We all know you have LOADS of them, especially loan officers who are literally changing people’s lives for the better. EVERY loan officer has at least three or four VERY special stories they keep on their office wall. Well, it’s time to bring them OUT IN THE PUBLIC for ALL TO SEE!

So check out PlumWall, and see if it’s a fit for YOUR CU’s web site.

Here’s a link to more info.

Here’s a sample of what it looks like, using EverythingCU as example

Here’s what your control panel will look like.

We know it’s not perfect out of the gate, and have room to improve it, but at least it’s a fresh start to make sharing member testimonials online really easy. Feel free to email me any questions, comments, or feedback, or call my cell phone any time at 413-535-0621! We’d love to set it up for you!

Motrin gives itself a migraine no painkiller can cure

November 17, 2008

When I opened my laptop this morning (Sunday), #motrinmoms was number one on Twitter Search. My curiosity piqued, I had to find out what this was all about. I discovered:

Last night, Motrin put this video ad on its web site.

Within an hour, one mom got upset and twittered about it.

Less than an hour after that, the hashtag #motrinmoms hit number one on on Twitter Search.

And the floodgates opened. #motrinmoms is still number one, 24 hours later. (While writing this post, another 35 messages have been tweeted.) The total number of tweets on the subject is more than 2,000.

A mommyblogger created and posted this You Tube video and another made this one containing some of the tweets that had been flying all night.

Then the bloggers started blogging about it here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and… well, you get the idea.

Laura Fitton, aka Pistachio, wrote about it, and this fun summary was written at Enterprise Social Media.

A spoof of the ad, mocking the ad agency, appeared on YouTube.

Finally, 20 hours after the offending video went live, the VP of Marketing for MacNeil Consumer Health Care, the parent company of Motrin (itself a division of Johnson & Johnson) took its site down and issued an apology.

Yet #motrinmoms is *still* number one on Twitter Search.

As Laura Fitton said, this is going to be covered extensively in business media, as a negative case study, for a quite a while.

There are many who don’t understand what the fuss is about. I will admit that when I first read the transcript of the ad, I didn’t find it terribly offensive. But after watching the commercial, I understood the concern much more clearly. Notice that there is a “cuckoo” sound effect that occurs directly after the line “tired & crazy.” But anyone who thinks this is overblown is missing the point. The point is not whether or not you personally find the ad offensive, or think that mommy bloggers/twitterers are overreacting, the point is that the ad HAS offended a significant portion of the target audience, and that this entire mess could have been avoided if a.) the ad agency had any empathy with moms and had a mom write an ad to promote the product to begin with or b.) was monitoring the blogo/twittersphere for mentions of its name.

Takeaway: whether or not you launch ANY sort of marketing campaign (but especially if you are), monitor your brand name in the blogosphere (using Google Alerts) and the twitterverse (using Twitter Search).

Update 11/17 12:50pm: The New York Times has an article this morning, Moms and Motrin.

Some D&B love from TJ McCue

November 7, 2008

I was introduced to TJ McCue through a referral from William Azaroff. TJ is an awesome, sharp, well-connected professional, and it was my pleasure to meet him for coffee in his home area of the Olympic Peninsula outside Seattle, on the way to BarCampBankBC. TJ now writes for Dun & Bradstreet’s AllBusiness blog, and was kind enough to do a write-up about our online switch kit yesterday.

Earlier this summer, Dan Reynolds, our Switch Kit Coordinator, conducted a webinar explaining what the EverythingCU Online Switch Kit is all about, as well as our latest innovations with it. I’ve converted that webinar into a SlideShare with audio which you can view below. Running time is approximately 49 minutes (about 25 minutes of presentation, followed by about 24 minutes of Q&A). If you don’t have that kind of time, fortunately we have a text FAQ located here.

Our Online Switch Kit came about as the direct result of attending our first-ever CU conference, which was the 2002 CUES Marketing conference in Seattle. The VP of Marketing for Pinellas County FCU (now Achieva) demonstrated her paper-based switch kit to a standing-room only audience during a breakout session. We knew that we’d have a hit on our hands if we developed a way of simplifying the process of filling out a member’s name over and over again, online. So we built the product in 2003, and now have more than 170 credit unions using it.

Part of the reason TJ wrote up our case study is that he understands how much power there is in developing a targeted product to a specific niche audience. Here are my takeaways from this journey (which you can apply to your own business):

  • Decide on your niche, and get to know as much possible about it, especially the the people and happenings therein
  • Go out and meet them where they are (in this case, their conferences, but it can also be their place of work, or where they live or socialize)
  • Pay close attention to their needs and what resonates with them
  • Figure out how you can help make their own lives (or their customers’ lives, if it’s B-to-B), easier. If they don’t even know they have a problem or pain-point yet, so much the better.
  • Create the product that solves or eases this problem or pain-point.
  • When you do all of these things, word will spread amongst that community.

Thanks, TJ, for a stellar write-up of the product!

William Azaroff is Changing Everything

October 2, 2008

CU SymposiumLive blogging of William’s talk to the Partnership Symposium in Indianapolis.

[Brent Dixon recorded this session on video here.]

In Canada, we do things a little bit differently.

33% of Canadians view the environment and global warming as the most important issues affecting the world today.

Vancity members represent 5% of discretionary spending in BC.

Vancity has a role to play in the social economy, and has a chance to influence.

Approx. 30% of not-for profits in their region bank with Vancity CU. (We have opportunity to do more with this.)

Dark green consumer segment – 16% of their member base

Dark green is a psychographic segment. William feels there is opportunity that 30-40% dark green members make up Vancity.

Vancity used to do generic advertising and branding. Rebranded effort shows their personality/values, uses humor.

Billboard with solar panels – dark green consumers get it.

High interest savings account – part of it funds a scholarship that gives 200% to very low income people. Message to world – the account that helps fight poverty.

Magnet Marketing – put a stake in the ground with who they are. If you’re not comfortable with that, you are welcome to leave.

Change Everything – online community to engender change, personal and social, in Vancouver and BC

Has become a resource for people who want to live more sustainably.

Message: no reason why a car loan can’t change more than just your car

Snow storm hit Vancouver in Nov 2006: People organized to help the homeless through the Change Everything blog. Press loved it; big earned media. Heartfelt testimonials poured in.

Bike share program: Take it, ride it, pass it on. People kept honest via online community. Front page of Vancouver Sun (which you can not buy.) Huge PR event.

Results: 125 people per day; 1200 visits per day
Registrations: 162% increase
media value: $50k+ (which is half of the original cost of program)

bike share:
registrations: 7/day; 95 day
media value: $175k+
ROI: 300%
bikes returned (and donated) 28 out of 45

Vancity CU: 2nd most trusted business operating in Vancouver.

Number one trusted financial institution.

Q&A with Ron:
What are internal discussions like? marketing? senior management?
A: Willingness to try new things. There isn’t always time to try new things. How do we balance trying new things vs. doing what works.

At senior management, no one is questioning this brand positioning, have been through that. Crystalizing what they can do, and be strategic focused, biggest impact. Debates about where is the focus, how to focus. Prioritization, being disciplined.

Q: Top priorities for next 12-18 months?
A: 1.) Internal- intranet development. Get info to the employees when they need it. 2) Online banking development to catch up and also lead. 3.) Other opportunities in social media to help business; help members connect to staff and other members

Q: do you manage and create a social media strategy?
A: Board just had a retreat in rundown area (not fancy place)- went straight to heart of what ails Vancouver. They are coming out with: What is Vancity in 10 years? Line up social media strategy with organization goals. So that William’s group is not isolated.

Social media strategy comes from organizational strategy.

Q: Now values are coming into Vancity’s product. How does social media strategy fit?
A: Differentiation. Product starts with being competitive. How do we make it our own? But then social aspect fits in addition. Likelihood to try measure is very very high. Members get to say where the charitable part goes to.

Q: Measure customer engagement?
A: Need to get better here. Newly formed group from several different departments. Critical to work on this. We know how to measure traditional marketing. Need to work on definition to get on same page.

Q: from audience: attaching to existing social initiatives in community?
A: Vancity was already partners with them, but just didn’t know it. Couldn’t have done BikeShare if not partnered with 4 local orgs that dovetailed. Partner with lots of folks now.

Q: from Ginny: Vancity has a vision. If members don’t share it, too bad for them. What about employees and board members in regards to this? Hiring/recruiting process?
A: Board members: definitely. 22 people ran for 9 slots. Because org is really making change, people want to be a part of that. Members really want Vancity to do even more for environment and poverty. Employees: looking for those whose values resonate with Vancity. HR understands our values.

Q: (From Jeff Stephens) Did Ron really invent the term Magnet Marketing?
A: Yes, he was referring to refrigerator magnets.

Q: If you went to another CU? How/where would you start?
A: Won’t go anywhere else. He realizes that at Vancity, he has become a values snob. He would have a tough time working somewhere where values weren’t the driver of the organization. There must be commitment from the top, that William could help bring it to life, in a way that is measured in his performance plan. Has to come from the top down, starts with CEO and board, and be organization wide.

Social Media Marketing Best Practice: Learn from other communities

September 17, 2008

Online communities have a wide variety of shapes and sizes. They are all shaped to one degree or another by the tools used to build them, the tools they offer to their constituency, and the people that visit there. One fascinating new community is Utterli, formerly Utterz. Utterli is a site designed specifically for mobile podcasting. They announced their name change today, and they have a good blog post today that discusses what THEY are hearing from their users in terms of how they want their community improved. We could all learn from what they are sharing with us. Despite that fact that online communities are all somewhat different, they share many commonalities as well.

And on a completely unrelated note, I am excited to be heading out to Vancouver, by way of Victoria, for BarCampBank BC! Looking forward to meeting so many credit union friends and making new friends as well.

Credit Unions: Industry or Movement?

May 2, 2008

It’s pretty amazing when you look around the credit union landscape and realize there are so many passionate, hard-working professionals who are striving to make their members’ lives a little bit better every day.

Recently I had some private email discussion that made me think back to Brent Dixon’s excellent OpenSource CU post on CUs being an Industry vs. Movement. When subsequently the CU Skeptic came on the scene, and got a certain degree of flame-mail for his stance and anonymity, I had to come to his defense to say that his voice is important and likely representative of many others. There are people, both inside the industry and outside, who say that credit unions are really the same as banks… that we are just pushing more debt and doing whatever it takes to bring dollars into the institution no matter what the impact to members (e.g. fees generated via courtesy pay, tap the equity in your home for any purpose), in which case we are no different than banks, right?

Please know that there are few people more passionate about the credit union movement than I am. But more and more people within the movement are concerned about a bank-like attitude that is pervading throughout credit union land, especially at larger credit unions. And they might be afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs. Are large CUs losing their way? Are they a black eye to the industry/movement? Or is a more bank-like approach inevitable with growth?

Or is it that we are just an errand that people appreciate even less than dentistry, and we just create tons of junk mail in the pursuit of making a buck? Are we becoming cutthroat competitors of each other who only cooperate when its convenient? Is cooperation now an anachronism?

If we have lost our way as a movement, who is at fault, our members for not caring about the credit union difference anymore, or our fault for not telling our story in a way that resonates with them?

Update: I just discovered (via comments to the CU Skeptic’s About page) that our Irish friends are wrestling with these same issues.

(If you are a credit union professional, and want to respond in a forum where only your credit union peers will view it, you can do so on EverythingCU.com here.)

URL personality test

April 10, 2008

It’s clear that what types of things people buy are a reflection of their personality, how they perceive themselves, or how they wish others to perceive them. That’s a given when it comes to brands in categories such as cars, clothes, and coffee.

Well, I’d like to point out another brand that tells people about one’s personality, and that is one’s choice of URL shortening site. (Yes, the fact that I’m writing about this means that my personality equals total geek.)

URL shortening was necessary in the early days of the internet and text-based email, but then faded away as html email became ubiquitous. But URL shortening has experienced a resurgence as twitter, with its 140-character limit per tweet, grows ever more popular.

The personality types:

  • tinyurl – This is the Dunkin Donuts/Ford/Toyota of url shorteners. It was one of the originals, and is the most popular. Not a lot of bells and whistles, very utilitarian. The default standard. It works, but nothing exciting going on here.
  • urltea – My personal favorite. The Starbucks of url shorteners. It has an elegant environment (relative to others), is an elegant domain name, and is slightly easier to use than others because it automatically puts the shortened url onto your clipboard for easy pasting. I laugh nearly every time I open it up and see the site’s tag line: smooth sips of decanted web addresses.”
  • snurl or zurl.ws– whenever I see either of these, I think of über-effiency nuts in that these sites can create pretty much the absolute shortest url possible by virtue of their ultra-short domain names.

What does your preference in url-shortening site say about you?

Update! (May 2, 2008): I just found out about a new type of url shortener designed SPECIFICALLY for twitter with added twit functionality. This now supplants urltea as my personal shortener of choice: tweetburner. Via tweetburner, you can find out the most popularly clicked URLs as well as what is most popular of YOUR tweeted links. Cool added functionality that ties into the network more/better wins.