Inside Marketing: 4 Social Media Channels to Better Engage With Gen Zers and Millennials

photo of many social media icons including Twitter and LinkedIn on a smartphone screen
By Sabina Andrei

5 minutes

Consistently sharing the right content on the right platform will boost credit unions’ education and membership efforts.

Credit unions have lost a lot of ground with Gen Z and millennials. Why? Mainly because the majority of young adults are not familiar with credit unions. According to a survey of more than 500 college students done by Zogo, 76% of respondents did not know what a credit union was. Those that do know are likely to believe that credit unions are less accessible and more complicated to sign up for than banks.

So the question is, what can credit unions do to appeal to Gen Zers and millennials? I don’t have the magic answer, but my suggestion is to meet them where they are: social media. More specifically, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn, which are some of the most popular social media channels among adults between the ages of 18-29, according to Pew Research Center.

Many credit unions still fail to properly leverage social media, and when they do use it, they don’t always use the right channels to appeal to the younger generations. But social media is an impactful and cost-effective way to educate young people about credit unions and eventually recruit them as members: Research from YPulse shows that 49% of Gen Zers and 50% of millennials got their news from social media in 2020, while Kantar research shows that 44% of Gen Zers made a purchase decision based on a recommendation from social media last year.

Knowing this, it is crucial for credit unions to understand the differences between various social media channels in order to best use them to their advantage.

Instagram and YouTube

Credit unions can approach Instagram and YouTube in two different ways. The first option would be to run paid ads and target audiences based on specific criteria, such as age range, gender, interests and behaviors. Before doing that, credit unions should build a detailed understanding of their target audience and set an ad budget that fits their business. The credit union’s marketing team could take this project on and even repurpose existing advertising material. This approach is a fast and effective way to acquire new members.

The second option is to set up accounts on Instagram or YouTube and create content for the purpose of building an audience and educating that audience about credit unions. Before doing so, credit unions may want to check with their regulatory team to ensure they comply with the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s guidelines for posting.

Instagram and YouTube’s algorithms heavily favor content that is posted consistently, so credit unions should create a realistic content plan and stick to it. This is a more time-consuming approach than advertising and requires a dedicated social media manager, but it will likely generate more members in the long term. If credit unions choose to pursue this approach, they need to understand what types of content are the best fit for each platform.

Instagram is a visual and fast-paced platform whose users dislike long captions and low-quality imagery. The key to running a successful Instagram account is to create short and snappy written content that is always accompanied by creative designs, high-quality imagery or even short videos. For example, credit unions could share fun-fact posts on what differentiates them from other financial institutions, a short list of easy ways to save for a vacation, or brief videos that demonstrate their efficient account-opening process.

In contrast, YouTube is a video sharing website where users upload, share and react to videos. Creating content for YouTube is a bigger job than posting on Instagram but a more effective and comprehensive way of educating your target audience.

Twitter and LinkedIn

Credit unions can also leverage Twitter and LinkedIn by running paid ads in a similar fashion to Instagram and YouTube. However, the best use of these two platforms is to build a brand voice and communicate directly with the brand’s target audience.

Twitter’s primary purpose is to allow users to share their news and thoughts—in short form—with a wide audience. Credit unions should leverage Twitter’s audience-targeting solution to build up their audience and post consistent content, like industry news and trends, announcements and links to thought-leadership content. Twitter limits the length of post to 280 characters, so tweets should be concise and engaging—and, if possible, include visual assets. Twitter is a great platform to debunk myths about credit unions and engage directly in conversations with existing and prospective members.

In contrast with Twitter, which is well-liked by both Gen Zers and millennials, LinkedIn is more popular with millennials, as it is a professional networking service and Gen Z has only just begun to enter the workforce. LinkedIn should be used by credit unions to increase their visibility through company announcements, create a voice for their subject matter experts by sharing thought leadership pieces, and recruit young professionals. The content posted on LinkedIn should be lengthier and more sophisticated than other channels and doesn’t necessarily require the use of visual assets.

Credit unions have a great opportunity to leverage social media platforms to appeal to younger generations, especially in today’s environment. Young people are entering the job market with record student loan debt and are looking for optimal interest rates and low fees, as well as a flexible and personal banking experience. Millennials in particular have a built-in reticence towards big banks following the 2008 financial crisis, and the pandemic has made many young people become more involved in their local communities. All of these factors make credit unions the perfect financial partner for millennials and Gen Z.

Sabina Andrei is account director at William Mills Agency, the nation’s largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. The agency can be followed on Twitter @wmagency, Facebook, LinkedIn or its blog.

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