One of the inherent challenges credit unions face in connecting with members and building relationships is learning how to effectively leverage technology.  The new world of social media has changed the game for those who participate, but for others it raises more questions than it answers.

In Trust Agents, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith provide a foundation for building an effective online presence in this new world that is worthy of consideration by credit unions seeking to tame this new frontier.  The authors advocate ‘being human’ as a core element of your strategy for becoming a trust agent.  In other words, putting a real face on your online presence that accurately reflects what your credit union stands for.

Drawing a concept from the book The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford, the authors suggest that trust has four components:

  • Credibility…the signals you send out to show that you are who you say you are;
  • Reliability…the degree to which you show up on time and do what you say you will do;
  • Intimacy…the feeling people get from you and the genuineness you project; and
  • Self-orientation…the negative element that results from your actions seeming to be focused only on what will provide you with a benefit.

Your degree of trustworthiness is the result of the combination of your credibility, reliability, and intimacy adjusted for your self-orientation.  On the web, Brogan and Smith note, your trustworthiness score is to a large degree established by groups.  Because of this, it is important that you become seen as “one of us,” a status that arises from interacting frequently and regularly.

From a practical standpoint this means that credit unions need to join the conversation within their target market or industry.  Attend online events, read and comment on blog posts from thought leaders, post your ideas and insights on a personal or business blog.

Beyond that take time to answer questions, reach out to recognize the success of others, and share freely without the expectation of anything in return.  In short, do the kinds of things that reveal your sincere desire to build a relationship with the people who participate in the community.

ACTION ADVICE: Read this book, or at the very least acquire a summary of it so that you can gain the insights the authors share.  The lessons are valuable and should be used to develop and maintain your credit union’s online presence.  If you can succeed in positioning your credit union as a trust agent in the minds of the members who interact with you online, they will become ambassadors who actively help you expand your presence and your impact.