The Challenge Of The 'Next Five To Seven Years'

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FAIRFAX, Va.-While a great many credit unions have established some sort of social media presence, few-if any-have found a way to effectively monetize it, much less even measure ROI.

One person, meanwhile, observed that successfully marrying social media and mobile banking will be "the challenge of the next five to seven years."

The emergence of mobile banking may help change that, but many believe it is going to take time to work out the kinks.

The imperative behind mobile banking is fairly straightforward, observed marketing consultant Paul J Lucas. But "when you start pairing social media up with mobile banking, the issues are not as clear."

Lucas, who is an occasional contributor to Credit Union Journal, explained that "there is a functional side to social media that enhances mobile banking. It emphasizes an information flow from the banking institution to the member or customer. Tweets that warn members of low account balances or other issues are going to become a necessary service."

He quipped, however, that "tweets" might be outdated by the time that becomes a standard feature.

Nicole Fields, social media marketing manager for Fiserv, Brookefield, Wis., noted that a few CUs have already begun exploring that kind of functionality, including St. Louis-based Vantage CU, which offers its TweetMyMoney service to members. TweetMyMoney relies on Twitter's Direct Message function and allows users to send commands for transactions like balance inquiries and transfers. The function is not unlike text-message-based mobile banking, but harnesses the power of social media to accomplish similar tasks.

Citing a 2010 Fiserv study on Generation Y, Fields noted that that 32% of respondents said they would be interested in receiving private alerts through social media (including 47% of Twitter users). Of that 32%, she continued, 72% were interested in balance alerts and 69% wanted to receive notices of fraud or suspicious activity on their accounts, among many other findings.

Not Quite To BFF Just Yet

While she said that there will definitely be more of an opportunity for the intersection of social media and mobile banking, Fields also plainly stated that "I don't think we're there yet, but we are going to see that shift."

Many noted the immense opportunity CUs have to connect with their member base through social media, "just by the fact that a member is part of a credit union, so there's some level of commonality, either from where they live or work. I think credit unions can use that to their advantage," observed Drew Hyatt, SVP of Sales and Business Development at the San Diego-based Mitek.

In Ontario, Calif., CO-OP Financial Services EVP Jim Hanisch observed that while very few credit unions have yet to effectively merge the two, "that's going to be the trick in the next five to seven years."

Some financial provicers have already found a way to pair the two, such as the combination mobile banking app and Facebook link from Wescom CU (Credit Union Journal, April 18) and the way USAA links its online banking to its Facebook page, which can be utilized via a mobile device as well as a desktop computer.

Fiserv's Nicole Fields suggested that another way may be to examine members' relationships not only with their CU, but with other merchants as well. "Maybe there's a relationship they have with their financial institution that links into a relationship they have with a merchant, and that links into a mobile device and they get some sort of rewards," she posited.

For now, observed Brian Abele, VP of product management at Q2ebanking, "there's not a lot that credit unions can to do market their products in social media, but what you CAN do is give your members an opportunity to brag about the services offered by their credit union."

His colleague, Mickey Goldwasser, VP of marketing, noted that while social media and credit unions may seem worlds apart, that's not necessarily the case.

"In many ways, a credit union is a very early version of social media-a band of folks getting together under a SEG, and they were a community," he said. "So in many ways, social media and mobile extends that."

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