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CASE STUDY: The Learning Curve; Carolina Collegiate credit union has thousands of student members. Will they learn to love the CU on Facebook?


Carolina Collegiate Federal Credit Union based in Columbia, SC may have the best possible customer base for a financial institution hoping to reach customers via Facebook. The University of South Carolina is the credit union’s primary sponsor and has 41,000 students in their teens and twenties – exactly the demographic most at ease with Facebook and theoretically the most likely to use the site for financial transactions.

Last year, Carolina Collegiate adopted Fiserv’s MyMoney application, which students can download onto their Facebook page and use to check balances, view transaction history, and make transfers. “We’ve always been viewed as high tech, and this is an extension of that,” explains Helen Powell, vp of human resources and business development at the credit union. “Students are hard to reach, but I feel they will [do financial transactions on the site] if they know it is there.”

Getting the word out is critical, she says. And as luck would have it, Powell teaches a course on financial responsibility at the university that 4,000 students attend each year. She doesn’t miss the opportunity to tell them they can join the credit union through their Facebook page. “The MyMoney connection is key because it lets them stay within Facebook,” she says, not get redirected to another Web site. “They don’t want to go away from Facebook.”

But even with the perfect target market, and ample opportunity to speak to them directly about the channel, by April the credit union had only 65 MyMoney users and 108 fans, a miniscule fraction of its 16,000-person membership. But Powell is optimistic and says the credit union is “learning as we go along.” Since the launch, Carolina Collegiate has added an ATM locator feature to the page, and “My Coop,” a texting service to find the closest surcharge-free ATM. Later this year, Powell hopes to launch a contest on the page soliciting video entries that address financial or budgetary topics. The idea is to imbed the winning video in the credit union’s Facebook page.

She’d advise any financial institution considering a Facebook launch to tap the target demographic for Facebook page content and design. “Utilize someone in that group. It’s a wonderful way to reach potential members.”