"This is the first time Harborstone has used a social media tool in this way," said Harborstone's Marketing Communications Specialist, Michelle Foster. "Our social media presence on Facebook and Twitter had previously been limited to daily posts and conversation exchanges with individuals who follow us."
Launched on Nov. 20, 2012, the new product was designed by the Silicon Valley-based Shastic, which counts Kinecta Federal Credit Union, Logix Federal Credit Union, Numerica Credit Union and Scott Credit Union among its clients.
"Loan calculators are convenient tools that provide something useful for members and fans to do when they visit our Facebook page. They help us expand our brand awareness to Facebook," said Foster, who added that creating the ancillary page took approximately 10 minutes and required no training.
Foster said the credit union is hopeful that there will be an uptick in loan transactions. This could be achieved, in part, by the application's "alert me" feature, which monitors interest rate changes and notifies the user of savings opportunities.
The $781-million Harborstone CU has 12 branches, 180 employees and 52,000 members.
As with any new initiative, Foster explained a marketing platform is required to raise awareness. "Perhaps the easiest way to explain how it works is to share a few of our marketing talking points that were provided to help staff understand and explain the program to members," she said.
These talking points include "Play With Your Financing Options" and "Save Money." While somewhat self-explanatory, the former allows any member to apply for a loan with a simple click of the "Apply Now" button located at the bottom of the Facebook calculator. "Anyone can save their estimates and return as many times as they like. The calculators constantly monitor our best auto and mortgage rates-directly from the Harborstone website-and alert users, via email or text, if it finds potential savings opportunities for them," noted Foster.
The social media component is best realized with the "Ask a Friend" feature, which Foster explained allows members to share their automobile or mortgage payment estimates and ask for opinions from friends and family. Additionally, the "Take Me With You" feature allows members to install the Harborstone-branded calculator on their own Facebook page and share it with friends.
Since the program is new, metrics and feedback are limited. As of Dec. 5, the Harborstone mortgage loan calculator had had 40 visits, one "apply now" click and zero registered users. Its auto loan calculator also had 40 visits, seven "apply now" clicks and two registered users.
"The registered users feature is how we will eventually be able to track actual ROI-from Facebook calculator estimates to Harborstone funding a loan," said Foster. "However, it will take time and promotion before true results can be realized."