Karen O’Brien on Western Union’s multicultural Facebook communities

Western Union transfers money across borders in 200 countries and 130 currencies.

Constant innovation and looking at every single part of the post — the messaging, the creative, the targeting — that's critical.

And with over 500,000 agent locations all over the globe, they set out to tell a story that's extremely diverse. To scale their global presence, they brought on Karen O'Brien as their VP of Global Social Media, Brand, and Engagement.

In her presentation at our Member Meeting in Los Angeles, SocialMedia.org member Karen explains why her team set their sights on millennial customers to achieve that goal: “If millennials aren't already most of our customers, they will be our next biggest customer,” Karen explained. The problem: two-thirds of millennials block ads. “How do you negotiate and engage with a customer that blocks ads?”

The solution: Content that makes you feel, think, and act.

Karen says the three levels of social media content at Western Union are:

  1. Feel: Content that helps customers connect emotionally on things that are important to them
  2. Think: Content that showcases the products and services in an appealing way
  3. Act: Paid social media and mobile app ads with a direct call-to-action

Through social listening, Karen's team figures out what's important to their customers. Then, they create content that makes people “feel.” This “Feel” content establishes a relationship — it doesn't mention Western Union's products or services.

“The ‘Think' and ‘Act' types of content performs much better if we've already established that relationship with the ‘Feel' content,” she says. Karen explains that this proof point allowed her to earn buy-in to make the “Feel” posts about 40 percent of their content mix.

For their more CTA-driven, “Act” content, Karen says experimenting with creative formats paid off. For example, one of their top-performing paid Facebook ads featured a 3D gif, which beat other ads 4 to 1.

Western Union

Karen's team leverages Feel, Think, and Act content across three multicultural Facebook communities.

WULatinos focuses on Western Union's Spanish-speaking market, WUIndie for India, and WUPinoy for the Philippines (their most active audience). They use regional marketing partners to determine what's culturally relevant and how to connect locally so they can pull off posts like these:

In one Facebook campaign, WUPinoy customers could customize their own parol (a type of star lantern that's an iconic symbol of Christmas in the Philippines) and send a message to their friends and family. Karen's team integrated the social and digital efforts into a live event, where they lit 200 of the star lanterns and hung them in a tree in Manila.

Western Union

Purpose-driven philanthropy is another core tenet of Western Union's content.

“To demonstrate the movement of money around the world, we wanted to show what a small amount of money could do for someone's life,” Karen explains.

For their “Chain of Betters” campaign, people in each of Western Union's communities could nominate someone whose life could be greatly impacted by a small amount of money. Karen's team took those stories and created six social videos chronicling how a solar generator helped keep the lights on in a hospital in Ghana, a boat made it possible for children in India to go to school, and a bicycle made work more practical for Mexican farmers operating a milling machine.

She says this campaign made a big impact on brand consideration, purchase intent, brand preference, and brand image according to focus groups and transactional campaigns they ran in the area.

Karen attributes their success to thorough creativity. “Constant innovation and looking at every single part of the post — the messaging, the creative, the targeting — that's critical.”

Watch the presentation to learn more about how they helped a woman who sought to become South Africa's first female pilot and what they did when their CEO took a stance on the refugee crisis. Follow Karen on Twitter here.