Salal CU Checks In With foursquare And Yelp

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SEATTLE-Salal Credit Union here wants foursquare and Yelp users to "check-in" to a branch, then check out the CU's free checking accounts.

"Members show their check-in to us and receive a branded pen or mint, and we tell them about our '$100 Reasons' checking promotion," explained Shannon Perry, senior marketing and communications professional at the $325-million CU.

foursquare and Yelp are online social networks where people use their handheld devices to share where they are and what they're doing. Users can leave reviews about the places they visit. The person who checks-in most often at any given place is crowned "mayor" by foursquare and "duke" by Yelp.

Salal used the location-based social networks to promote $100 Reasons checking, a campaign that ran from March 15 to April 15, Perry said. The CU wanted to stimulate a 30% lift in checking accounts and achieved that goal in about two weeks, she said.

About 400 people checked-in via Yelp at the CU's branch in Capitol Hill, an area frequented by the "hipper," 30-something crowd, Perry said. Nearly 15% of the Yelp check-ins were a result of people clicking-through from web-based checking advertisements, she said.

"When we started pushing check-ins on social media and through advertising, we definitely saw an uptick in check-in traffic," said Perry. Five branches participated in the check-in campaign.

Salal encouraged check-ins by awarding a pen or mint for each visit, but also gave each mayor and duke a "Sunny Day with Salal" prize package at the end of the campaign. The prize included a Frisbee, baseball hat, water bottle and $10 coffee card, Perry said.

People leave tips or reviews about Salal on foursquare and Yelp when they check-in, and Salal wants to get in on the action, Perry suggested. "We want a chance to engage in conversation with people because they're going to be leaving comments regardless of our level of participation."

One man complained about Salal on Yelp when his checking account application was initially declined, said Perry. The CU contacted him through Yelp to explain the process, which ultimately led to the man successfully opening an account, she said.

"foursquare and Yelp are all about creating that personal relationship in a way you can't create through other channels," added Sheryl Kirchmeier, Salal SVP and CMO.

Randolph-Brooks FCU (RBFCU) in Universal City, Texas, got on the foursquare bandwagon last year when two members, both well-known in the local social media community, "began a check-in battle at one of our local branches," said Natalie Tate, public relations director at the $4.2-billion CU.

Members leave tips such as "Get a car loan! Great rates!" or "Absolute easiest bank to work with! And local!" Tate said. Thousands of check-ins and tips later, RBFCU has realized "when members are providing this kind of third-party advocacy, it makes communication with geo-location valuable and worthwhile."

RBFCU mayors receive t-shirts bearing the foursquare and RBFCU logos, she said. "Members are very excited to receive these shirts-some even make special trips to the branch. They'll often post photos of themselves in their mayor shirts to their Facebook pages and praise us."

One of those Facebook posts was seen by more than 2,800 people in three weeks, said Tate.

At least 100 location-based social networking services have cropped up in the past few years: beyond foursquare and Yelp, there's Gowalla, plus Facebook and Google both offer the capability. Credit unions don't have the resources or interest to participate in all of them, so Salal CU picks and chooses by following the sites that are most popular with the CU's target audience, said Perry.

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