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Are You Ready to Take a Stand? Three Ways Financial Institutions Can Leverage Social Media to Amplify Impact

This article was originally published in CUInsight on May 14, 2019.

Is it time for your financial institution to take a stand? Many credit unions give generously to local nonprofits, but it is one thing to support local high schools and quite another to rally against education funding cuts.

According to a 2015 study, 91% of Millennials say they would switch brands to one associated with a cause. Another study by Sprout Social revealed that 66 percent of survey respondents say it’s important for brands to take a public stand on social and political issues, and 58 percent prefer this to happen on social media over other channels.

Businesses tend to shy away from social and political issues for fear of being divisive. The fear is understandable, but taking a stand can also unite and energize your base. If your cause is authentic and genuinely resonates with your core membership, you are more likely to garner their loyalty and support than cause unwanted controversy.

Here are three tangible, effective ways to highlight your cause on social media:


1. Tell the stories of your members and employees

It’s one thing to rant and rave; it’s quite another to share multimedia stories that humanize the issue at hand. If your cause resonates with your members, chances are, they have some stories to share.

As one of the only financial institutions in Oregon that provides lending to non-citizens, immigration policy is always a top concern for Point West Credit Union. Point West published a Declaration of Beliefs emphasizing their commitment to a diverse, inclusive community — which included stories from their members — and shared it via an award-winning social media and print campaign.

Point West


2. Capture the conversation with a hashtag

A hashtag helps to bring your members into the conversation across social media channels. Not only can a hashtag further engage members but it can help to bring more visibility and build more momentum for the cause. PointWest invited its members to contribute using the hashtag #CitizensofPW, which not only highlighted the needs and challenges of the “underbanked,” but also resulted in positive word-of-mouth marketing for the brand.

While the #bankblack movement was not started by a specific financial institution, OneUnited Bank did an excellent job of incorporating the movement into its marketing because it was already part of its brand identity. If used wisely, this approach can be powerful because while people don’t need to be familiar with the brand to use the hashtag, they may be introduced to the brand through the hashtag.


3. Respond to current events

When current events surface that relate to your cause, a swift but thoughtful response on social media channels can help you leverage external momentum and bring prospective members into the fold. Wildfang, an apparel company for “tomboys,” is famous for reacting to current events in unexpected, clever ways that not only generate positive PR but also help to elevate their causes.

When Wildfang reacted to Melania Trump’s jacket that read “I don’t really care, do u?” by creating its own jacket, “I really care, don’t u?” the company not only generated over 23,000 likes on Instagram and press coverage in hundreds of media outlets, it also donated over $250,000 worth of proceeds to the jacket to RAICES, The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.


Just remember, don’t take a stand for the marketing value alone. Today’s consumers are particularly savvy to inauthenticity, which can backfire spectacularly. On the flip side, as the movement to vote with your dollars continues to grow, taking a genuine stand on an issue can unite and energize your base. It also offers an avenue for differentiation that your products don’t. If your cause resonates with your brand and your community, social media can help to amplify your impact, engage your current members, and grow your membership base.