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Pinterest a flop in banking, but not at CUs

MADISON, Wis. (1/31/13)--Although Pinterest blew into the financial industry with much hype in early 2012, it has mostly been a flop for banks. Credit unions, however, have seen success with it, according to
Pinterest is a pinboard photo-sharing website that allows users to create theme-based image collections around their interests and hobbies. They can browse other people's pinboards for inspiration, "liking" photos or "re-pinning" images to their own collections. Today Pinterest has 25 million users, said (Jan. 30).
Firefighters Community CU in Cleveland is employing Pinterest to socially engage with members on all of its communications channels, Brooke Bates, the credit union's digital marketing specialist, told News Now. "We're trying to stay on the cutting edge of technology in general and explore new channels," she said.
Bates' position was added about one year ago. Now Firefighters CU has a dedicated resource to carry out its strategies on how to use the Pinterest platform. "It is a way to connect more fully with our members," she explained.
The credit union joined Pinterest in February 2012.  
"Some of the staff at the credit union were using Pinterest on a personal level before the credit union decided to use it, and we then realized other people were using it too," Bates said. "Women are a large percentage of our membership, and 70% to 80% of Pinterest users are women. So we made connections that way because women were flocking to Pinterest."
"We found more success on Pinterest by sharing content that helps users and helps them solve their financial problems. For instance, it provides financial tips and ideas on how to save money. There is no reason why we can't take our type of services and place them into the context of Pinterest," Bates said.
Pinterest made it evident that the passions of the credit union could intersect with its members' passions. For example, Pinterest often carries personal information such as recipes. The credit union runs a "Cheap Eats" section and provides economical tips on places to eat and how to save when grocery shopping.
Rather than just promoting itself, Firefighters CU tries to illustrate its expertise in areas that Pinterest members already talk about--saving money on recipes or hobbies, she added.
One of the credit union's most popular Pinterest boards is called Home Equity, which provides loan information and more, including tips on how to save money on renovations, remodeling to add value, and how to sell a home.
"We don't just limit ourselves to information about the products and services we offer," Bates said. "We offer tips such as 'The 13 painting secrets the pros won't tell you.'  We try to illustrate our financial expertise that is relevant to members' everyday lives."
The credit union has not tracked its return on investment in Pinterest because it is not a mature offering yet, she said. 
"We use members' responses to Pinterest to guide our content strategy with other channels such as Facebook," Bates concluded. "We try to gauge how interesting content on Pinterest may guide other marketing strategies."
Another credit union, Anheuser-Busch Employees' CU in St. Louis, Mo., with $1.39 billion in assets, started Pinterest in July. The past six months were good, Pier Alsup, the credit union's senior vice president of marketing and communications, told News Now.   
"Our success with Pinterest is headed in the right direction; we have increased the number of followers," Alsup said. "Also, we are reaching two important segments of our membership, females and young adults, both active users of Pinterest. Plus, Pinterest is image-driven so we are able to show our brand via another media channel."
Anheuser Busch Employees' CU currently has 28 boards, with more than 750 images pinned, and 100 followers.
Some of its board names are: Holidays, ABECU in the Community, Useful Infographics, Current Promotions, College, About Credit Unions, Get Organized!, Kids Financial Planning, Back to School, Autumn, Things to Save For, Budget, Save, Spend, Quick & Easy Recipes, Games for Kids, Games for Pre-Teens, Household Tips, Travel Tips, Get Creative & Save!, Taxes, Money Artwork, Home Owners, Teens & Money, Misc, Games for Teens, St. Louis Mo., and Patriotic.
"We try to provide timely and diverse topics, Alsup said. "We hired a social media specialist last year so we could be more proactive within a variety of social media spaces."
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