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I had a chance to hear Shari Storm speak today about what Verity Credit Union is doing with social media, and in particular, the Verity Mom initiative. It’s a great presentation, and I wanted to share what I took away from it.

But before I do, I have to say that, on a personal note, it was great to see Shari face-to-face. Although she and I have tweeted with each other (both publicly and privately) and exchanged emails many times over the past three years, before today I had only met Shari in person once — for about seven seconds. We introduced ourselves to each other at the 2007 Forum Symposium, and that was literally the extent of our f2f contact.

I’m not going to go into any detail about the Verity Mom initiative. You can visit the site and see what it’s all about for yourself, although I bet if you’re reading this, you already know about it.

After hearing Shari present, there were three things I took away that I think differentiate the initiative from a lot of other social media/WOM efforts:

1) It’s grounded in strategy. It’s no big secret that women manage the finances in a majority of households in the US. Yet, how many financial institutions have really overhauled their efforts to not just market to women, but design products and customer-facing processes to appeal to women?

Who are moms these days? Most likely they’re in the their late 20s (at the youngest end) to the early 40s (at the upper end). In other words, mostly Gen Xers. Not Gen Yers. Gen Xers who are hitting the prime of their earning years, and the prime of their financial needs. While the rest of the financial world drools over 25 year-olds who don’t have two nickels to rub together, Verity Mom is part of a strategy to attract a segment of customers who represent a good chunk of the demand for financial products.

2) It’s integrated into the core of the business. So many social media efforts that I hear about appear to be one-off experiments that are designed to “test the waters of social media” or let the firm check off the “we’re attempting to innovate” box.

Not at Verity. The Verity Mom initiative has led to the renaming of the CU’s checking account and the redesign of its branches. In addition, Verity Mom blog posts end up on the CU’s home page, not buried somewhere deep in the site, as it often is at other FIs.

3) It oozes with authenticity. Plenty of financial institutions have run ad campaigns over the years that purport to show “real people” who share their “stories” about the bank or CU and how great it is. In the end, I guess we could argue whether or not these attempts are successful at influencing perception, but I’ll tell you right now I’ll be arguing that they don’t. Authenticity is something that takes time to achieve. You can’t do it in a single shot, with a single ad campaign.

Over time, through consistent and persistent blogging and messaging, Verity demonstrates that it’s authentically concerned with meeting the financial needs of moms.

I’ve said this before, I’ll say it over and over: You cannot advertise your way to trust. It has to be experienced. Verity Mom gives moms the opportunity to experience Verity, and that builds trust and authenticity.

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