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Exclusive Study Reveals Brutal Realities Facing Credit Unions On Twitter

The Financial Brand’s annual exclusive annual study of 350 credit unions on Twitter finds that one third quit, follower growth is sluggish, and at least 1 in 5 followers are junk.

The earliest financial institutions to adopt Twitter launched their accounts in early 2007. Than means Twitter has been around for six years now in the retail banking industry — hard to call it an “experiment” any longer.
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While some of the larger banks and credit unions have been able to find traction on the world’s #2 social media network, the overwhelming majority have enjoyed little- to no success. Indeed nearly 1 in 3 credit unions that once had an active presence on Twitter have abandoned their accounts.

Among the two-thirds of credit unions still active on Twitter, the typical CU will have around 400 followers, but 20% of those are from accounts that are inactive or associated with spam. A typical CU on Twitter added around 100 new followers last year, and has sent approximately 500 all-time tweets, with 200 of those sent last year.

Collectively, credit unions reach an audience on Twitter equal to 0.79% of their aggregate membership. A credit union on Twitter can expect an average of one follower for every $1.5 million in assets they have, or around one follower for every 126 members.

You can compare most of the data in this article against last year’s results for credit unions, published here. You can also look at how banks fare on Twitter in this study conducted in the fall of 2012.


Abandoned Accounts

In last year’s study, 74 of the 350 accounts analyzed had been abandoned. (Note: an account is considered abandoned if no tweets have been sent for 30 days or more.)

In 2012, 46 more credit unions abandoned their Twitter accounts — accounts that had been active in the prior year. Ten credit unions decided to give up on Twitter for good by deleting their account entirely. Another two credit unions quit tweeting and locked down their accounts.

# of CUs in this study: 350 (5% of all U.S. credit unions)
# of abandoned CU accounts in 2012: 74 (21.1%)
# of abandoned CU accounts in 2013: 111 (31.7%)
CUs who abandoned their Twitter accounts in 2012: 46 (14.3%)

One credit union who deleted their account is Idaho Advantage. They had 879 followers and had sent 655 tweets. These are followers and tweets they can never get back. Had they simply left the account open but dormant, they could have had the option to revive the account at some point down the road. On their website, they now list Facebook as their only social channel, where the credit union has 249 ‘Likes.’

Some credit unions abandon their Twitter account but then forget to remove references to Twitter on their website. For instance, General Electric Employees CU has a link in the upper-right of their homepage to a Twitter account that no longer exists.

Kiosk & Display | 2014 NEFMA Spring Conference

Revived Accounts: Back from The Dead

A handful of credit unions revived their previously abandoned accounts — 14 in total (4.0%). These are accounts that were once active, were then abandoned, but then made active again some time during 2012.

Of these revived accounts, Meridian added the most new followers (222), and Texans was the most active, sending 480 new tweets in 2012.

ITT Employees is the smallest credit union to revive their account, with only $35 million in assets and 3,723 members. The largest credit union to revive their Twitter account was Texans, with $1.4 billion in assets and nearly 130,000 members.

Revived
Account
Total
Followers
New
Followers
Total
Tweets
New
Tweets
Spectrum 1,024 90 396 102
Piedmont (VA) 714 92 461 4
Texans 645 160 629 480
Meridian (IA) 496 222 86 22
Seven Seventeen 388 95 240 124
Magnolia 374 158 204 159
Alabama Telco 353 74 257 77
ITT Employees 337 22 40 8
1st Advantage (VA) 324 62 393 28
The Southern 322 23 36 4
Aloha Pacific 287 72 153 140
ClassAct 271 84 122 119
Co-Op Services 207 97 47 36
DCH 167 66 48 38

We Give Up… Again!

In 2012, 11 credit unions (3.1%) resurrected an account they had previously abandoned… only to abandon it once more sometime during the course of the year.

Some of these credit unions logged on for only a day or two and sent only a handful of tweets. Some kept the effort going for a few months. MidUSA sent 42 tweets in July and August. United Credit Union in Missouri, which seems to have an on-and-off relationship with Twitter, sent 37 tweets between March and December. But eventually all 11 threw in the Twitter towel for at least a second time.

Fake & Inactive Followers: Lots of Deadwood

Using a very simple but handy utility from StatusPeople, you can look up the percentage of fake- and inactive followers for any account on Twitter. (Phony spam accounts are easy to spot because they tend to have few/no followers and few/no tweets or redundant tweets, but they tend to follow a lot of other accounts.) For reference, 4% of @FinancialBrand’s followers are fake and 18% are inactive, although it’s worth pointing out that many of those inactive followers are actually financial institutions who once actively followed The Financial Brand but have since abandoned Twitter.

Average % of Twitter deadwood for all CUs: 18.2%
Average % of fake followers for all CUs: 4.2%
Average % of inactive followers for all CUs: 14.67%

# of CUs with 20% fake + inactive followers or more: 145 (41.4%)
# of CUs with 20% inactive followers or more: 70 (1 in 5)
# of CUs with 5% fake followers or more: 64 (18.3%)

1st United Services, an active account, has the most deadwood: 51% fake and 8% inactive. 1st United Services had twice as many fake followers as the next two credit unions combined (BECU and Vermont State, both with 13%).

CORE (an abandoned account) had the most inactive followers (38%), followed by Premier in Iowa and CU of Texas — both with 35%, but they both only have around 30 followers total.

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Out of the top 20 accounts with the most deadwood, seven have been abandoned. This suggests idle accounts attract nothing more than spam followers. But also in the top 20 accounts with the most deadwood are four of the top 10 biggest active credit unions on Twitter (as ranked by # of followers):

BECU – #8 most followed with 3,110 followers, 37% deadwood
The Golden 1 – #2 most followed with 7,702 followers, 37% deadwood
Navy – #3 most followed with 6,795 followers, 34% deadwood
Alliant – #5 most followed with 3,548 followers, 34% deadwood

Three of those credit unions (Golden 1, Navy and Alliant) are official Twitter Verified accounts. One of the few ways to obtain Twitter verification is to purchase promoted tweets and promoted accounts. This suggests that spending money with Twitter is a good way to pump up your follower counts… with a lot of deadwood.

# Top 10 Most Deadwood Total
Followers
New
Followers
in 2012
Fake
Followers
Inactive
Followers
Total
Fake +
Inactive
1 1st United Services 705 61 51% 8% 59%
2 CORE 30 15 7% 38% 45%
3 Premier (IA) 32 18 10% 35% 45%
4 Hudson Valley 926 345 11% 31% 42%
5 TruMark 864 224 12% 30% 42%
6 Credit Union of Texas 141 63 6% 35% 41%
7 American Heritage 1,092 547 10% 29% 39%
8 Money 19 10 6% 33% 39%
9 United (MO) 93 72 8% 30% 38%
10 The Golden 1 7,702 3,700 9% 28% 37%

Then there are the other realities facing anyone on Twitter: people anywhere on earth can follow you. The Financial Brand estimates that at least 10% of a financial institution’s followers come from outside that institution’s geographic market. That number could easily be 25-35% or more.

And then there are all social media gurus who run around following thousands of accounts every month; maybe 5% or more of the followers for any business account on Twitter are these social media self-promoters. Consultants and industry insiders probably account for around 5% of a financial institution’s following. And (not surprisingly) many of those following a bank or credit union on Twitter will be other banks and credit unions — perhaps 5-15%.

Bottom line? For the average credit union on Twitter, maybe 50-60% of their followers have any potential marketing value (that includes members, potential members, local media outlets, local civic organizations, local businesses, etc.). While the average credit union on Twitter statistically has 572 followers, the number of followers who might have marketing value probably caps out around 300.

Who Has the Most Followers

The average credit union has 1 follower for every $1.5 million in assets, or 1 follower for every 126 members. For example, a credit union with $200 million in assets and 20,000 members would typically have around 150 followers on Twitter.

Median # of followers for CUs on Twitter: 297
Average # of followers for CUs on Twitter: 572

Number of CUs with more than 1,000 followers last year: 30 (8.6%)
Number of CUs with more than 1,000 followers this year: 47 (13.4%)

Total # of all followers for all 350 credit unions: 200,176
Total # of member for all 350 credit unions: 25,228,409
% of followers relative to size of membership (reach): 0.79%

Credit unions with $1 billion in assets have 75,410 followers, accounting for 37.7% of all followers in the study. Of 62 credit unions with at least 100,000 members, only two are reaching an audience on Twitter equal to- or greater than 1% of its membership (Mission Fed and Spokane Teachers — both teachers’ credit unions). Large credit unions like these can expect to see one follower for every $3.1 million in assets, or one for every 232 members they have.

Smaller credit unions, those with less than $200 million in assets, average 336 followers — one follower for every $260,000 in assets, or one for every 31 members.

# Top 10
Most Followers*
Assets Followers Members Member Penetration 1 Follower for every X members
1 SOFCU $762 13,745 71,910 19.11% 5
2 The Golden 1 $8.0 B 7,702 623,951 1.23% 81
3 Navy $52.4 B 6,795 4,235,315 0.16% 623
4 Mountain America $3.4 B 4,256 409,867 1.04% 96
5 Alliant $8.3 B 3,548 274,618 1.29% 77
6 Advantis $988 3,321 48,937 6.79% 15
7 Mountain America $3.4 B 3,317 409,867 0.81% 124
8 BECU $11.1 B 3,110 799,543 0.39% 257
9 SPIRE $582 3,044 63,145 4.82% 21
10 Finance Center $430 2,640 46,074 5.73% 17

*This list is not comprehensive. It only ranks the 350 credit unions included in the study. The Financial Brand tracks and monitors some 1,250 credit unions on Twitter.

Kiosk & Display | 2014 NEFMA Spring Conference

Surprisingly, SOFCU, the #1 ranked credit union with the most followers, has the least amount of deadwood of any CU in the study: 0% fake and only 2% inactive. This is almost certainly accomplished by using tools to actively manage followers, culling out any deadbeats.

But tragically, SOFCU abandoned its account in October 2013. They merged into First Community Credit Union, who has a Twitter account that was also abandoned just last fall. First Community is a $752 million credit union with 72,000 members… and only 9 followers on Twitter. Why they wouldn’t want to keep SOFCU’s Twitter account alive and active is a complete mystery. It was one of the biggest, healthiest accounts in the entire financial industry. All they need to do is change the profile info and Twitter handle on SOFCU’s account and they could be back in business.

Who Added the Most New Followers Last Year?

Median # of new followers added last year: 75
Average # of new followers added last year: 158

# Top 10
Most New
Followers
Total
Follows
New
Follows
Growth
Rate
New
Follows
Per Day
Assets Members Reach
1 Navy 6,795 4,771 235.7% 13.1 $52,436 4,235,315 0.16%
2 The Golden 1 7,702 3,700 92.5% 10.1 $7,963 623,951 1.23%
3 SOFCU 13,745 3,503 34.2% 9.6 $762 71,910 19.11%
4 SPIRE 3,044 2,677 729.4% 7.3 $582 63,145 4.82%
5 BECU 3,110 1,589 104.5% 4.4 $11,083 799,543 0.39%
6 Kinecta 1,768 1,486 527.0% 4.1 $3,170 242,472 0.73%
7 My Community (TX) 2,102 1,138 118.0% 3.1 $269 23,944 8.78%
8 Seattle Metro 1,550 961 163.2% 2.6 $582 41,367 3.75%
9 Mountain.America 4,256 904 27.0% 2.5 $3,367 409,867 1.04%
10 Randolph-Brooks 2,356 690 41.4% 1.9 $5,326 416,478 0.57%

Which Accounts Are Growing the Fastest?

Median growth rate in followers last year: 31.6%
Average growth rate in followers year: 38.1%

# Top 10
Fastest
Growing*
Total
Follows
New
Follows
Growth New
Follows
Per Day
Members 1
Follow
for Every
X
Members
Avg.
Follows
Added
Per Day
All Time
1 SPIRE 3,044 2,677 729.4% 7.3 63,145 21 2.3
2 Kinecta 1,768 1,486 527.0% 4.1 242,472 137 1.4
3 PACE 337 283 524.1% 0.8 1,138 3 0.3
4 Goldenwest 417 336 414.8% 0.9 86,201 207 0.4
5 Connexus 685 510 291.4% 1.4 45,228 66 1.2
6 CFE 750 537 252.1% 1.5 123,461 165 0.5
7 Evolve 616 439 248.0% 1.2 45,075 73 0.6
8 Navy 6,795 4,771 235.7% 13.1 4,235,315 623 6.7
9 Veridian 539 374 226.7% 1.0 170,841 317 1.1
10 PSECU 974 606 164.7% 1.7 398,751 409 1.1

*Only credit unions with at least 250 followers are included.

Kiosk & Display | 2014 NEFMA Spring Conference

Who Are The Most Active Tweeters

Median # of new tweets sent by CUs on Twitter last year: 85
Average # of new tweets sent by CUs on Twitter last year: 232

Median # of all-time tweets sent by CUs on Twitter: 318
Average # of all-time tweets sent by CUs on Twitter: 670

# Top 10 Most Active Tweeters New Tweets Last Year New
Tweets
Per Day
Last Year
%
Increase
in Activity
vs. 2011
Total
Tweets
All Time
Avg.
Tweets
Per Day All-Time
New
Followers
Ratio
of New
Tweets
to New
Followers
1 My Community (TX) 3,341 9.2 122.0% 6,080 8.3 1,138 2.9
2 OnPoint 2,585 7.1 66.5% 6,474 5.9 617 4.2
3 Spokane Teachers 1,847 5.1 65.6% 4,664 3.0 554 3.3
4 TDECU 1,723 4.7 89.1% 3,657 1.9 463 3.7
5 Randolph-Brooks 1,587 4.3 52.8% 4,591 3.2 690 2.3
6 Bay Area 1,521 4.2 105.8% 2,958 4.6 92 16.5
7 Municipal Employees (MD) 1,503 4.1 1138.6% 1,635 1.7 107 14.0
8 Notre Dame 1,484 4.1 360.2% 1,896 1.9 58 25.6
9 Henrico 1,458 4.0 224.0% 2,109 3.6 200 7.3
10 Connexus 1,390 3.8 538.8% 1,648 2.9 510 2.7

Assets and Membership

Data for this study was collected on or around February 15, 2013. This is the second year this population of credit unions has been studied by The Financial Brand.

Total # of credit unions in this study: 350 (5% of all U.S. credit unions)
Assets over $1 billion: 68
$500M – $1B in assets: 55
$200M – $500M in assets: 62
$100M – $200M in assets: 62
Assets less than $100M: 103

Median asset size: $248 million
Average asset size: $889 million

Total # of members (all 350 credit unions): 25,228,409
Median membership size: 30,486
Average membership size: 72,081

The Financial Brand conducts two annual studies looking at financial institutions on Twitter: one in the beginning of the year for credit unions, and one in the fall for banks.

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All content © 2014 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.

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