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Credit Unions Struggle With Twitter, One In Five Abandon Accounts

Credit unions on Twitter struggle to attract followers even after being active over two years, and 1 in 5 just give up entirely. This according to a study by The Financial Brand analyzing 350 “activated” credit union Twitter accounts.

The study’s sample size represents over 5% of all U.S. credit unions, and a minimum of 10% of all those on Twitter.

Accounts were considered “activated” if the credit union’s profile had been customized with an avatar/logo, at least one tweet had been sent through the account, and the account had at least one follower. For the study, any account that had not tweeted in the last three months was considered dormant or abandoned.

For each credit union in this study, The Financial Brand recorded the number of tweets sent, the number of accounts followed, the number of followers, when the account was created, the asset size of the credit union and the size of its membership.

The Financial Brand has been on Twitter since February 2008, and tracks over 700 separate credit union accounts. In four years and four separate Twitter studies conducted by The Financial Brand, bank and credit union Twitter profiles have now been evaluated more than 3,000 times.

Total # of credit unions in this study: 350 (5% of all U.S. credit unions)
Assets over $1 billion: 66
$500M – $1B in assets: 53
$200M – $500M in assets: 62
$100M – $200M in assets: 59
Assets less than $100M: 108

Median asset size: $230 million
Average asset size: $768 million

Total # of members (all 350 credit unions): 23,871,974
Median membership size: 26,010
Average membership size: 68,205

Average number of years active: 2.2
Number of dormant or abandoned accounts: 74 (21.1%)

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Total # of tweets sent (all 350 credit unions): 153,876
Median # of tweets sent: 193
Average # of tweets sent per credit union: 440
Average # of tweets sent per day per credit union: 0.6
Most tweets sent by one credit union: 3,889 (5.3 per day)

Total # of accounts followed (all 350 credit unions): 102,030
Median # of accounts followed: 96
Average # of accounts followed: 292
Number of credit unions following no one: 12 (3.4%)
Number of credit unions following 10 accounts or less: 55 (15.7%)
Most accounts followed by one credit union: 10,858

Total # of followers (all 350 credit unions): 144,845
Median # of followers: 219
Average # of followers: 414
Number of accounts with over 1,000 followers: 29 (8.3%)
Number of accounts with less than 200 followers: 160 (45.7%)
Average # followers added per day: 0.5
Most followers of any credit union: 10,242

The average credit union on Twitter will have 1 follower for every 165 members.
The average credit union on Twitter will have 1 follower for every $1.86 million in assets.

The raw data file for this study is available in Excel format through The Financial Brand for $299. If you’d like your own copy, please send an email. There are literally thousands of ways to slice the data — perfect for creating your own report.

The Typical Credit Union on Twitter

The typical credit union on Twitter has 300 followers, adding approximately one new follower every two days. They follow 150 accounts themselves. They’ve been on Twitter since December 2009, and have sent 350 tweets since then — an average of about one tweet every other day. The vast majority of tweets sent are one-directional, often with links back to a press release or similar credit union web page. Very few @replies are ever sent by credit unions to other Twitter users.

The typical credit on Twitter has around $600 million in assets, and reaches an audience equivalent to 0.61% of its 50,000 members. That works out to a little more than one follower for every $2 million in assets.

Every credit union on Twitter should be able to pick up at least 100 followers: other credit unions, CU executives, vendors, analysts, the press, personal finance writers, bloggers and other financial industry insiders. Throw in a few dozen spammers, social media experts, foreigners and other random riffraff, and most credit unions should easily accumulate 200 “followers” in their first 12 months. If you leave your account open long enough, you will inevitably hit 300+ followers, even if you never tweet.

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Who Has The Most Followers?

Ranked by followers, the top 20 credit unions in the study account for 48,693 followers (34% of the total), averaging 2,435 followers each. The top 44 credit unions on Twitter have more followers than the remaining 306 combined.

While 48,693 followers might sound like a lot, the top 20 credit unions have a collective membership totaling 11.6 million. That means their effective reach would be a paltry 0.4%. In other words, they have one follower for every 239 members.

Twelve of the top 20 accounts come from credit unions with assets over $1.8 billion (60%).

The top 20 have been on Twitter an average of two years and eight months. They add about three new followers every day, and only follow about 1 in 17 accounts back.

The number of tweets a credit union sends tends to correlate positively with a higher rate of new followers. The top 20 credit unions have sent an average of 1,486 tweets, or about 1.5 tweets per day. Credit unions that see the fastest growth rate for followers — those adding at least two new followers daily — send an average of at least three tweets per 24-hour period.

Southern Oregon FCU topped the list of most followers with 10,242 — 6,240 more than Golden 1, the #2 credit union the study with 4,002 followers. SOFCU has $709 million in assets, and 71,660 members, meaning they have one follower for every seven members, or one follower for every $69,000 in assets.

TDECU, ranked #16 in the list, and UTFCU at #18, are among the oldest adopters of Twitter in the financial industry. They both joined in Fall 2007, just over a year after Twitter was created, and have been active now for more than four years.

Only one credit union in the top 20, Brewery CU, has abandoned its Twitter account. They ranked #10 in the list, with 1,674 followers. The $34 million credit union only has 7,393 members total, so to reach an audience that size is a notable accomplishment. They sent a total of 310 tweets before dropping out in June 2011. Brewery has since consolidated all its social media efforts at Facebook, where the credit union has 93 Likes.

When analyzing the data, you can express the number of followers a credit union as a fraction of its membership. Only 14 credit unions (4%) reached a Twitter audience equal to 10% of its membership or greater. The vast majority — 190 out of 350 credit unions (54%) — reached an audience equating to less than 1% of its membership.

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Quitters

For every five credit unions that have experimented with Twitter, one has given up. Of the 350 credit unions included in the study, 74 had abandoned their accounts (21.1%).

Year # of CUs Joining Twitter # of CUs Who Joined That Year But Later Quit
2007 2 0
2008 20 2
2009 181 49
2010 109 22
2011 32 1

The typical Twitter quitter has a average of $300 million in assets and 30,000 members. They created their account in late 2009, and sent around 100 tweets before giving up. They had about 250 followers (1 for every 128 members), and followed about 110 accounts back.

Smaller credit unions quit Twitter more frequently than big ones. Of the 74 credit unions that discontinued their Twitter efforts, 47 of those had less than $200 million in assets (63%). Comparatively, only four of the 66 credit unions that dropped out (6%) had assets over $1 billion.

There doesn’t appear to be any significant advantage gained by early adopters of Twitter. Of the 22 credit unions that joined in 2007 and 2008, they only average 777 followers — one follower for about ever 70 members. Among all credit unions with 1,000 followers or more, 75% joined Twitter in 2009 or later.

Bottom Line: With a total of 203 of the 350 credit unions (58%) initiating their Twitter initiative in 2009 or before, it’s hard to say Twitter hasn’t been given a fair run. The typical credit union has been on Twitter 2.2 years, which is more than enough time to evaluate its viability. Wouldn’t you think that if consumers had any interest in connecting with financial institutions on Twitter, they’d have done it by now?

As a tool to keep tabs on other financial institutions, to connect with industry peers, and to spread press releases, Twitter can be very effective, no doubt. But Twitter’s usefulness beyond that is highly disputable.


EditorJoin hundreds of the brightest minds in banking at The Financial Brand Forum, April 30th and May 1st for two full days jam-packed with the latest ideas, insights and innovations in financial marketing. Highlights include keynote speaker Josh Reich from Simple/BBVA, three makeovers live on stage, and an all-star agenda with speakers from Wells Fargo, US Bank, PNC, Navy Federal, Facebook, Nintendo, BMO, banking futurist Brett King and many more!

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Comments

  1. Very interesting numbers here. I think this article may have missed the mark with the following lines:

    “The typical credit union has been on Twitter 2.2 years, which is more than enough time to evaluate its viability. Wouldn’t you think that if consumers had any interest in connecting with financial institutions on Twitter, they’d have done it by now?”

    If you’ve been on Twitter for 2.2 years and your customers aren’t engaging with you, it isn’t because they don’t want to, it’s because you’re doing it wrong. It was stated that there are very little @replies – no one wants to follow a Twitter account that promotes only themselves and their products. I think these numbers are more a result of poor social media management vs. customers “just not wanting to engage.”

  2. @Aaron – Can financial institutions be faulted for not sending @replies when there are so few people talking about their brands in the first place? Perhaps the bigger problem isn’t whether consumers want to connect with financial institutions (or not)… nor whether financial institutions are doing it “right” (or not). Perhaps the big problem is that most financial institutions don’t have brands worth talking about in the first place?

  3. @Editor – Your last line brings up a great point. However, part of your marketing mix should be how you integrate social into your strategy. Simply having a Twitter account or Facebook page and putting it at the bottom of your email footers isn’t going to generate anything. Financial Institutions need to give people a reason to talk about them.

    I’ll use an example from something mentioned in the article titled, “Confessions of Social Media Skeptic” where he talks about a banks shredding event. To make this event compelling and to promote its value, the bank should be promoting it with a hashtag #safety or #protection, or something similar. The days and weeks leading up to the event they should be asking questions like, “how do you destroy your sensitive documents,” and, “how long do you keep banking documents/statements/etc.” They should also be posting articles from reputable third party websites (like this one) on protecting identity with the hashtags mentioned above along with asking people their opinions. Then the day of the event arrives and you have your dedicated and approved social media employees tweet about the event with the proper hashtag. You can tell people to follow the event (and that account) via the tag. Take pictures, share them, and then talk about it after by asking people what they thought, how could it be better, how many documents did you shred, etc. This is a very small, half-baked idea for an event like this that I’ve put together in the 5 minutes to write a response – can you imagine what a full marketing team could come up with?

    Additionally, I think CUs and Banks miss the biggest opportunity for Twitter – customer service! The big banks do a great job of this and many smaller ones are beginning to see success as well. These are gateways into the overall parent brand Twitter handle. How easy is it to put up a sign inside a branch that says, “have a good service experience today? Tell us about it in 140 characters or less by Tweeting @FinancialInstitutionNameHere. Didn’t have a good experience? We want to hear that too – after all, it’s how we get better.” Again, a half baked idea, but I hope you can see how institutions can integrate social into their marketing mix and is why I feel that currently, #TheyreDoingitWrong ;)

    Anyway, thanks for replying! I’ve found this site to be very helpful and beneficial for insights and case studies in the industry, so thanks for that as well!

  4. Great study, thanks for sharing! There is so much (maybe too much) information out there about how many general Twitter users there are and how many total tweets are sent per day, but it’s rare to find a breakdown for Credit Unions. Is there anything like this for financial institutions in general, including banks? Have you done anything similar for Facebook stats? Social media benchmarks at this granular level are hard to come by, but our board is used to having peer comparisons for financial data and we’re trying to also help them understand our social media results by comparison. Thanks again!

  5. Hi Brooke,

    Here are some other articles you may find interesting:
    The Top 35 Banks on Facebook
    The Top 400 Banks on Twitter
    How Many Facebook Fans Can Financial Institutions Expect
    What Can Financial Institutions Really Expect from Twitter?
    The Startling State of Social Media in Credit Unions
    Should You ‘Join the Social Media Conversation’ If No One Is Talking About You?

    There are many social media enthusiasts who think The Financial Brand’s take on the subject is too pessimistic, too negative. When I launched The Financial Brand back in 2007, I too was very excited about the opportunities social media presented. I also noticed that whenever I published anything about social media, readers went bananas. So I started looking for more and more good examples to share. What I’ve found since then has been very disappointing, and from my desk it looks like financial institutions are wasting a lot of time, energy and resources in less-than-productive areas.

    Social media enthusiasts love talking about everything a bank/CU could do, but they don’t spend nearly as much time as me looking at how financial institutions are actually using social channels. I’ve evaluated the overwhelming majority of social media projects in the financial sector — over 2,000 Twitter accounts, over 3,000 Facebook pages, 500 YouTube channels and around 350 blogs… multiple times, multiple evaluations. If anyone invested a similar level of effort into studying financial social media projects, I’d be surprised if they reached conclusions different than the ones put forward in The Financial Brand.

    Nearly every single “successful” social media case study cited in the financial industry come from global megabanks. They have 100x your assets, 1600x your customers (members), and 1000x your employees. Scale, bandwidth and “critical mass” are important concepts that will help you keep an open mind when evaluating social media channels.

    Please note, The Financial Brand has absolutely nothing to gain/lose by asserting a POV on social media, whereas many of those extolling banks/CUs to “dive in and join the conversation” have skin in the game.

  6. Thanks for the additional resources! You’ve clearly done your research, and these results provide better industry benchmarks than I’ve found anywhere else. You said it – most studies address how we “could” use social media instead of looking at what’s actually happening. The fact that what’s actually happening online with financial institutions is, as you say, disappointing – isn’t “pessimistic” as much as it’s the truth! And that is disappointing.

    While the successful social media cases may come from global megabanks, some of the articles you sited also suggested that smaller institutions can have an advantage because they have fewer members to reach and they often have closer relationships with them off-line. It’s logical – when you have fewer members, it takes fewer Facebook likes or Twitter followers to penetrate 4% of that membership.

    Maybe banking is seen as too boring or too private to discuss in social spaces, but that certainly doesn’t make the financial industry unique. Few companies are lucky enough to be inherently cool and buzz-worthy; the rest of us have to exercise creativity to build that buzz tangentially. We may not win fans for talking about our money market rates, so we have to be more engaging perhaps by asking what people are saving up for. That’s our challenge going forward: learning how to use social media to make personal finance “cool.”

  7. Yes a very interesting study.

    I would also think that if they aren’t building relationships with their customers then their strategy is wrong. Typically businesses broadcast messages and wait for consumers to contain them – imagine if CU’s we pro-actively tweeting their customers there would be a whole new level of interaction.

    We have seen banks who have online accounts, then SMS accounts, I’d love to talk to a bank or CU about starting a Twitter account. It is only a matter of time…

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