You can’t measure social media. Facebook is a waste of time. No one wants to hear from their credit union or bank on Facebook. Ever heard any of those objections within your financial institution? Social media experts preach the importance of using these new tools to engage consumers. But how do you really do it?

Linn Area Credit Union (Iowa; $294 million; 24,000 members) used Facebook to accomplish just such engagement.

Their Facebook engagement example didn’t actually start on Facebook. It began with a local community event the credit union sponsors (Balloon Glow in Cedar Rapids, Iowa). While Tara Bross, marketing specialist for Linn Area Credit Union, and other Linn Area CU employees were cleaning up after the event, a couple approached the group with a stuffed monkey—an obviously very lost and very loved stuffed monkey.

Rather than just put the monkey in some ambiguous lost and found, Bross took action. But not just any action—she took to social media. Linn Area Credit Union’s tagline is “we are family.” Those are not just words to Linn Area Credit Union employees—they live that slogan daily.

“The monkey was so obviously loved,” Bross said in a blog post recapping the ordeal. “So obviously going to crash and burn the world of some little child out there!” So what did Bross do? She posted a picture of the monkey who had lost his “bestie” on the Linn Area Facebook page. The message read, “Missing: My Bestie. I was accidently dropped last night while at Balloon Glow. I’m guessing my BFF didn’t sleep well last night without me! Don’t get me wrong—these people at Linn Area Credit Union are really funny, but I miss my home! Please SHARE and help find this sweet little monkey’s best friend!”

They didn’t just post the message on their own Facebook page, however. Linn Area CU also used the event’s and local news outlets’ Facebook pages as well. Word immediately began to spread.

The credit union also had ongoing fun with the monkey. They posted regular pictures and captions of what the monkey was doing at the credit union: sitting in the CEO’s desk, taking a picture of himself on the copy machine, testing fraudulent bills, etc.

One week later, thanks to someone seeing the Linn Area Facebook page and post, a friend of the monkey’s owner realized the connection. When the mom posted on Facebook about losing their child’s monkey it didn’t’ take long for others on Facebook to connect the dots. And of course, there was one incredibly happy reunion.

So what’s the ROI on all this (a cynic CFO might ask)? Well actually, Linn Area tracked the results. According to Alice Hagerman, Linn Area Credit Union’s vice president of marketing, the credit union had the following results:

  •  150 comments on their story
  • Their organic Facebook “likes” increased by 132
  • 2,125 credit union members “shared” the story with their Facebook friends
  • Over 150,000 people were reached by the story
  • Local media covered the story
  • A local television station ran the story twice
  • The Cedar Rapids Gazette published an article with photos

“This was a textbook example of using social media to entertain, engage and promote our brand image,” Hagerman said. “Much of the credit goes to Bross and her creative thinking.”

Notice the social media lessons:

  • Branding—The actions Linn Area Credit Union took on social media tied directly to their brand (We Are Family).
  • Engagement—They asked questions, enlisted the help of their Facebook community to spread the word, used video, had some fun, etc.
  • Measurement—They tracked the results (although that wasn’t their motivation). They were able to show tangible benefit (awareness, news coverage, number of impressions, etc.)

So the next time someone questions the validity of using Facebook and social media channels, point them to Linn Area Credit Union as an example. You can read the full account of the monkey business at Linn Area Credit Union’s blog.