Archive for December, 2009

Co-Op Services Credit Union, a $385 million financial institution with 8 branches in the Detroit Metro area, has generated a lot of buzz during the past half-year with Project 100. Rather than trying to describe it myself, I’ll quote the microsite: “it’s a program designed to promote the positive aspects of giving. We’re giving away 100 dollars to 100 people over 100 days in an effort to encourage people to give back to others in their local community.” Simple as that. A program representative from the credit union gave out $100 bills to random people on the street, with no strings attached, and simply asked them to think about what they were going to do with the money. Some folks had a hard time believing there was no catch!

In addition to a well designed Project 100 microsite, the program also included a:

Facebook page,
Twitter account, and
YouTube channel.

I recommend checking out the YouTube channel, where you can see short clips of peoples’ reactions. While the 100th recipient just received her $100 at the end of November, the videos are all from this past summer. It would have been nice to see more recent clips from throughout the program – not just the beginning. On the other hand, Project 100’s Facebook page has been continually updated during the past 6 months, with both photos of $100 winners and non-program related content. Good public relations and use of social media seem to have paid off – Project 100 has been covered in various media outlets, including The Detroit News.

The latest development is the introduction of the Co-Op Cares Project. This project allows anyone opening a checking account to donate funds to a local charity. Project 100 site visitors can vote for their favorite community non-profit, and the top three charities will each receive one-third of all checking account donations. (The credit union gives $100 to any person opening a free checking account, so it’s really Co-Op’s money being donated.)

In addition to contributing monetarily, people can visit the microsite to learn about more ways of helping the community. The “Give” section lists ideas on how to give back as well as volunteer opportunities.

All in all, Project 100 displays very nice, cohesive design and good integration of different social networking sites. Whether it actually motivates Detroit area residents to give back to the community remains to be seen. This may be a campaign where tangible results are difficult to measure and the real benefit is spreading brand awareness. It will definitely generate word of mouth about the credit union at the community level (after all, a person who gets handed $100 on the street is bound to brag about it.) And even if the program doesn’t cause people to go volunteer in droves, at least it communicates the message that Co-Op Services Credit Union is about giving back, pure and simple, with no strings attached.



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I recently found out about a successful Facebook promotion IKEA did to spread the word about their new store opening in Malmö. Swedish ad shop Forsman and Bodenfors were asked to come up with a viral marketing campaign that would effectively get the message across without emptying IKEA’s wallet (if that’s possible). Being entirely free, Facebook was an obvious go-to. After creating a profile for the new store manager, Gordon Gustavsson, they uploaded twelve images of different IKEA showrooms to his photo album. Facebook users were then asked to tag individual products in the pictures with their names. The first person to tag an item won it.

It must have been like an online Black Friday, with people just grabbing for everything in sight. I can’t image that it was long before every single item in the twelve photos was tagged. Pretty soon users were pestering for more pictures to be added.

The IKEA campaign turned out to be hugely successful, not only in Sweden, but across Europe. When Facebook users tagged images with their names, it automatically added the product photos to their personal profiles, thereby spreading awareness of the promotion to all their friends. Thousands of people saw the campaign without IKEA ever actually advertising online. Forsman and Bodenfors state in their video about the effort, “Instead of people just looking at a banner with furniture, we got them to personally promote IKEA. People gladly added their name to an interactive IKEA catalogue and spread it to all their friends… only using Facebook’s already existing functions.” A viral marketing success!


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Today I came across a fairly lengthy article about financial institutions adopting social media marketing (SMM). It mentions a number of banks and their forays into Facebook, Twitter and blogging. I thought about some of the examples and came to the conclusion that financial companies really do want to effectively use networking sites, but don’t understand that the traditional, one-way b2c marketing model cannot be successfully be applied to social media. The whole point of social media is to foster open, two-way communication, so when I read quotes like, “The page isn’t open to comments from its fans… the bank worries about giving up the ability to control what appears on the page,” it tells me that the bank lacks a fundamental understanding of what sites like Facebook are all about. (On the other hand, the same bank at least recognizes that Facebook isn’t a place to push products – that’s a start.)

The article is a three page read, so I’ve pulled what I consider to be the most important points:

  • Social media initiatives should not be separate and isolated from the financial company’s other marketing efforts. They should not be considered an “extra” that’s handed off to the company’s youngest employee to manage. A report by Boston-based consulting firm states, “A senior marketing executive should lead the charge and should seek task force representatives from various parts of the organization… Social-media activities need to be blended into a bank’s day-to-day activities and customer relationships.”
  • Social media efforts need to have a strategy behind them. Setting up a Facebook page and then sitting and waiting for the magic to happen is not a strategy.
  • The point of social media is to facilitate conversation, so don’t hamper people’s ability to talk. Banks need to put their fears about negative feedback aside. Such concerns, says Ron Shelvin, are “overblown” and if the majority of your feedback is negative, then “you’ve got bigger problems to deal with”. In other words, get to the root of the issue, don’t just block people from discussing it.
  • Credit unions have been better at adopting social media and developing successful marketing plans that involve networking sites, due to their customer-centric approach, the fact that they are member-owned, and their higher risk tolerance. We wrote a similar post titled “Credit union marketers receptive to WOM” back in March.
  • Networking sites are not the place to push products – that’s why you have a website. Consumers appreciate getting advice and tips, reading topical posts and articles, having open discussions with the company, etc. The purpose of being involved in social media is to build relationships.

It’s encouraging to read that so many financial institutions are adopting social media, but the article also makes it clear that they have a ways to go before they fully understand its purpose and how to use it.


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I am still fascinated by Twitter and what people talk about on it. So, I found this article on Ad Age – the top 50 Twitter Topics of 2009 provided by What The Trend? – a very cool website! Basically, What The Trend? helps you find out what’s popular on Twitter and why. Great idea right?! It’s much more useful than a mere list, because for each trend the website provides a short, crowdsourced explanation for why it’s trending. Explanations outnumber trends two to one.

This FedEx example shows that brands can make it into the top Twitter list with promotions, contests or their own social media efforts. What The Trend? provides information on when the trend first appeared, where it originated, and when it was last defined.

On to the fun stuff…the top Twitter topics as provided by Ad Age and What The Trend?. As you will see, there are a few brands that were top tweets…it IS possible to make a splash and get people talking about you all over the social networks. All you need is a great message and something worth tweeting, facebooking or blogging about.

Okay, enough lecturing…here is the list! (And here is a list with explanations for each trend, in case you were wondering why some made the top 50 list.)

3.Michael Jackson
4.Google Wave
5.New Moon
6.Follow Friday
8.Paranormal Activity
9.Harry Potter
13.Swine Flu
14.District 9
15.Susan Boyle
16.Star Trek
17.Snow Leopard
20.American Idol
22.Adam Lambert
25.True Blood
29.Lady GaGa
42.Chris Brown
44.Palm Pre
48.Transformers 2


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A new report by ComBlu, titled “The State of Online Branded Communities”, yields some interesting (if limited) information regarding different industries’ success at building online social networking communities.

The report analyzes 45 large companies and 135 communities from nine industries and evaluates their effectiveness in:

1. Providing a meaningful experience for members

2. Integrating their brand strategies across multiple
communities and social media

3. Taking advantage of best practices to strengthen
customer engagement.

According to the study, the best performing brands facilitate conversations on topics that are interesting to the customer, and actually have a strategy for what to do with feedback and opinions. They use a thought-out, systematic approach to community building and integrating social media tactics. On the other hand, the brands that perform poorly are those that are still in the “experimental” faze, treat social media efforts as one-off tactics, offer few ways for members to engage, and fail to interact on personal or meaningful level. Basically, the brands that perform poorly lack strategy and planning.

So how are financial services doing? About average compared to the other industries studied. However, one must remember that the results for the financial industry are based on the analysis of only four monolithic banks and one credit card company. Therefore an inevitably limited picture is painted that doesn’t represent the diversity of the industry.

The report finds that: “Financial services takes a more focused and conservative approach to community. This disciplined approach seems to have curtailed innovation and activity within the various venues they have established.”

Banks take a conservative approach to most things, so this statement makes sense. They are generally uncomfortable with being the first at things, using untested methods, tackling new technologies, etc. The good sign is that the financial companies surveyed generally have cohesive strategies, and also exhibit decent levels of community activity and social media integration. However, I have a feeling that these five companies perform better than average. Many smaller banks or credit unions lack the knowledge and resources that USAA or Bank of America have. That is why this report, while informative, does not give the best picture of how effective the whole financial industry is at using social media.

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