Update on community platform.

I want to update my earlier post on using the social web as a community platform.

This morning we launched the Vancity Bike Share. In a nutshell…

Vancity Bike Share wants to see you to get on a bike, share it with others and spread the word about cycling. It is a chance to try alternative transportation, increase your daily exercise and share with your community.

We used ChangeEverything.ca as our platform to engage people and drive them to find out more and register. We ask participants to use the site to blog about their experiences with the bike, and also to find the person they want to pass the bike to after they’ve been riding it for three weeks. In addition to ChangeEverything.ca, we also used Facebook as a way to get the word out.

To be honest I wasn’t sure how it would go. Would people use these online tools to get involved? Could we use the social web to get people to take action? I hoped so, but I wasn’t sure.

But this event proves the power of a social network site. Within a week we had 23 applications to get a bike through the site, and the media attention has driven more people to the site to register and take part in the discussion.

Vancity has two factors working in our favour here: One is that we are local and deeply involved with the local community so the relevance factor is high. We tapped into issues (bike sharing and eco-friendly transportation) that Vancouverites care about and therefore the discussions on the site are meaningful to them. Second is that the values of Vancity, which are well known locally, fit with this initiative. People see it as genuine and trust the process. It doesn’t seem like ‘marketing’.

Asking some of the people who took one of the 40 bikes this morning, four told me they heard about it on Facebook. Amazing that at least 10% came from leveraging this social utility for free.

Read the bike share blog posts on ChangeEverything.ca.

Powerful stuff.

PS: I also need to say that Kate is my new favourite person!

The social web as community platform.

Vancity, like many mission-driven organizations, is involved with lots of community activities and events. We ask our members to vote for organizations to donate money to and for our Board of Directors, as well as asking them to engage in a variety of community events that we’re involved with or sponsor.

Now that ChangeEverything.ca has been operating for almost a year and has well over 1,000 registered users, it’s big enough we can use this community platform to engage people in the issues we are involved with. Let me make it clear that we won’t use it to promote our product or services, our rates or promotions, nor our main credit union or banking functions. But we can use it to engage people in the myriad of community activities we’re involved with, activities that our members say they want to know more about.

Now, every mission-driven organization doesn’t need their own social networking site to do this. Vancity’s Online Community Moderator, Kate recently used Facebook as well as ChangeEverything.ca to launch our Bike Share Program. The details, as well as how to get involved are listed at ChangeEverything.ca, but she used Facebook as a way to get the word out about the kickoff event. You can see our Facebook event here.

I would argue that Facebook represents an important, free opportunity for credit unions to leverage, and expand the knowledge of what they’re doing in the community among their members and prospects. Not as a place to directly acquire new members (although that may be a happy outcome), but as a place to engage your community (whether members or not) around your mission. It’s an advantage credit unions have over banks because they’re inherently more community-oriented and therefore have more credibility in a place where people gather online.

When I first happily got sucked into the world of Facebook, I noticed that there were already two Vancity groups, one for employees and one for investors. These weren’t created by Vancity intentionally, but the community wanted a place to discuss issues about us. We can either be passive and watch these conversations about us take place, or we can engage back and inform these discussions, not direct them, but get involved and see what we can learn by doing so. As long as the people involved understand and respect Facebook and aren’t there just to obviously shift the focus to a sales and service approach, we should find ample opportunity there.

Oh, and next time you’re on Facebook, please say hello.

Facebook and Twitter

I’m not very good at keeping up with my Twitter. I guess I’m just a poor Twitterer. I like the concept of microblogging but I’m not much of a text messager, nor do I go to Twitter very often to update via the web. Now that I’ve been sucked into the wonderful world of Facebook and am loving it, I found out about a site that will update your Twitter status when you update your Facebook status. It’s called fbtwit.com and it seems to work great.

The nice side benefit is that when you update your Facebook, and your Twitter status is also updated, you can use Twitter’s status widget on your blog to tell everyone what the hell you’re doing.

Thanks to Alexandra Samuel for this tip.