You want the last word when it comes to your reputation for service. But in the new world of social media, how do you accomplish this?

Tom Woerner, president and founder of Vergrandis Marketing (and former publisher of Brandweek), believes social media can help you promote your credit union’s brand as member-centric. But it can also drag an otherwise highly service-oriented credit union down. THINK caught up with Tom to ask how social media should be done:

THINK: Sometimes social media seems like a Pandora’s Box; it’s easier to leave it closed. What’s the downside to staying away from social media?

TOM WOERNER: Credit unions need to care about social media. There are conversations going on in the marketplace about your brand already. There are questions being asked and answered between members. Credit unions should at least monitor the conversations taking place among their members, even if it’s not specifically about their credit union. I guarantee you members are having conversations in the social media environment that are relevant.

THINK: Does that mean having a social media presence is no longer optional – it’s a necessity?

TOM WOERNER: You need to have a minimum presence or awareness of what the platforms are so if there is a problem occurring – a negative conversation taking place – you’re prepared to enter that conversation and give your response. If the member doesn’t feel like he’s being listened to, that creates more animosity. You may not have a solution to the problem, but just recognizing that you’re listening and aware, that is most important to the member.

THINK: Communicating your commitment to service excellence via social media is different from using old modes of communication, isn’t it?

TOM WOERNER: Social media is very different from the type of communication that (previously took) place between the producer of a service and its customer. The very nature of the social media platform allows for personal communication to take place between individuals – and between individuals and groups – (outside of your control).

(Communication) used to be very one-directional. We’re no longer in a one-way world. It’s a true communication process. It’s the convergence of mass communication and personal communication coming together. You have to manage those mass communication relationships as you would personal communication relationships.

Editor’s Note: Social media requires a new variety of communication skills for service providers: It also offers new opportunities to connect with large groups of interested readers on a personal level. In your experience, who’s doing social media the right way? What does a good experience look like?