Okay, let’s face it, more and more of us have become addicted to one or more social media Web sites than we care to admit. Social media sites have gone way beyond something of a fad or a passing fancy. I believe it represents the biggest shift since the industrial revolution … seriously! There’s real tangible value to social media Web sites and it is time that you get on board with this train before it leaves the station. Our industry hasn’t been known as the “early adopters” of technology … far from it. But if you will invest the time reading this article and doing some research on the Internet, you will discover an immense number of people are already participating in social media Web sites … it is astounding, and the numbers are increasing exponentially. As a result, an increasing number of mortgage companies are waking up and beginning to incorporate social media plans into their core business strategies. Why? Because it is the future!
Not yet convinced, consider the following two dozen facts:
1. By 2010, Generation Y will outnumber Baby Boomers … 96 percent of them have joined a social network.
2. Social media has overtaken porn as the number one activity on the Web.
3. One out of eight couples married in the U.S. last year met via social media.
4. Years to reach 50 millions users: Radio (38 years), TV (13 years), Internet (four years), iPod (three years). Facebook added 100 million users in less than nine months. iPhone applications hit one billion in nine months.
5. If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s fourth largest between the United States and Indonesia (note that Facebook is now creeping up, having recently announced 300 million users.
6. A 2009 U.S. Department of Education study revealed that, on average, online students outperformed those receiving face-to-face instruction.
7. One in six higher education students are enrolled in online curriculum.
8. The percentage of companies using LinkedIn as a primary tool to find employees—80 percent.
9. The fastest-growing segment on Facebook is 55-65 year-old females.
10. Generation Y and Generation Z consider e-mail passé. In 2009, Boston College stopped distributing e-mail addresses to incoming freshmen.
11. The number two largest search engine in the world is YouTube.
12. Wikipedia has more than 13 million articles. Some studies show it’s more accurate than the Encyclopedia Britannica and 78 percent of these articles are non-English.
13. There are more than 200 million active blogs.
14. Because of the speed in which social media enables communication, word of mouth now becomes world of mouth.
15. Thirty-four percent of bloggers post opinions about products and brands.
16. Seventy-eight percent of consumers trust peer recommendations.
17. Only 14 percent of consumers trust advertisements.
18. Only 18 percent of traditional TV campaigns generate a positive return-on-investment (ROI).
19. Ninety percent of people that can TiVo ads do so.
20. Twenty-four of the 25 largest newspapers are experiencing record declines in circulation because we no longer search for the news, the news finds us.
21. In the near future, we will no longer search for products and services they will find us via social media.
22. More than 1.5 million pieces of content (Web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) are shared on Facebook on a daily basis.
23. Successful companies in social media act more like Dale Carnegie and less like David Ogilvy … listening first, selling second.
24. Successful companies in social media act more like aggregators and content providers than traditional advertisers.
If you send me an old fashion passé e-mail, I’ll be happy to provide you the source for each of the above statistics.
The above statistics tell the story, social media isn’t a fad, and it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. It may make the difference in your business expanding or contracting, and as the old saying goes, “Adapt or die!”
Consider this innovative approach selling airline tickets at a time when the airline industry struggling for survival. Last year, United Airlines found a new way to use Twitter to reward customers and fill empty seats. In May, the Chicago-based airline began offering a limited number of Twitter-exclusive fare deals, or "t-wares," to domestic and international destinations. The last-minute specials are sent out once or twice a week and typically expire within one or two hours. United said that most sell out in seconds!
In an interview with a United Airlines executive, they said that, "We want to give our followers something special that no one else can get," while allowing the airline to fill seats that might otherwise go unoccupied.
Harnessing social media tools can give a huge boost to your business by connecting with potential customers in new ways. Also, it will help increase your mortgage company’s brand recognition which has become standard operating procedure in Corporate America. More than 60 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies with a Web site will connect to or host some form of online community to build customer relationships, according to Gartner Inc., a Connecticut-based information technology research company. There’s a saying that (in the world of technology) if you’re standing still, you’re actually moving backwards.
The three social media tools I am going to recommend you consider using immediately are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Whether you are an individual working as a loan originator, a small mortgage company or a large financial institution, my recommendation is for you to start creating “your community” via these three social networking platforms.
LinkedIn is, in my opinion, the most important business-oriented social network on the web. While Facebook and Twitter have been more in the limelight, LinkedIn has been quietly refined and shaped into a very impressive platform.
How to use LinkedIn
1. LinkedIn Groups
A “Group” can be established around almost any topic related to your business, but keep in mind, you want to attract “members” to your group to make sure your “group” is centered on a compelling topic that will draw members. Begin adding discussions and news items to make sure there is always worthwhile content available to those who have or interested in joining. At some point, based upon the compelling nature of the group, your group will just grow and grow on it’s own.
2. LinkedIn Q&A
Once you start getting connected to people (I have more than 1,000 LinkedIn connections), you can start polling them to get all kinds of valuable information. Just don’t go overboard on creating a long list of questions. It is better to just write one carefully worded question. You will get a far greater number of respondents.
3. Sharing Web content via LinkedIn
You can share content from your Web site via LinkedIn. It is a way to draw people to your site, as well as a way to increase your ranking in many leading search engines.
4. Advertising on LinkedIn
In a sense, simply using LinkedIn in the ways I've described above already provides some free advertising, but you can also set up paid, targeted advertising on LinkedIn. This allows you to target your audience by various means.
How to use Facebook
1. Manage your profile
First and foremost, fill out your profile completely to earn trust. Set up a business and a personal profile and use common sense in what you have in your business profile. Being “personable” is different than being too “personal.” Create lists, such as “Work,” “Family” and “Limited Profile” for finer-grained control over your profile privacy. It goes a long way to connect with people when you post professional or business casual photos of yourself. It reinforces “your brand” (you)! Depending on the type of photos you post, you may want to consider limiting your business contacts seeing your personal photos.
2. Connect and share with others
Obtain a Facebook vanity URL so that people can find you easily. Add your Facebook URL to your e-mail signature and any marketing collateral (business cards, etc.) so prospects can learn more about you. Post business updates on your Facebook Wall. Focus on business activities. Share useful articles and links to presentation and valuable resources that interest customers and prospects on your Wall, to establish credibility. Combine Facebook with other social media tools like Twitter. Find experts in your field and invite them as a guest blogger on your blog.
3. Use Network, Group and Fan Pages
Start a Group or Fan Page. Add basic information to the Group or Fan Page, such as links to a company site, newsletter subscription information and newsletter archives. Post upcoming events, including Webinars, conferences and other programs where you or someone from your company will be present. Update your Group or Fan Page on a regular basis with helpful information and answers to questions. Join networking, industry and alumni groups related to your business. Use search engines to find Groups and Fan Pages related to your business.
How to use Twitter
1. Start “following” people
Most of us want to be leaders and not followers, but when it comes to Twitter, following the right people is really the key. Following people is really easy, but following the right people is so important in the Twitter world. You might say, “You will be known by the people you follow” more so than the company you keep!
2. Get “followers”
Getting others to follow you, especially the right ones, is a whole different game. That is where combining Twitter with LinkedIn and Facebook can be of value. Your objective is to get your past and present customers following you. The key to getting them to follow you is one thing. Keeping them following you is all about content and regular posts where you are providing them information.
How to get started
Start with a plan
Determine your goals and objectives and what role social media will play in your overall marketing plans. Then, find ways to share content and bring communities together. Market and promote your company's blog, Twitter contacts, Fan Pages, YouTube channels, and any other media to targeted prospects and clients. Be strategic and purposed.
Identify which social media sites your customers are using
Search for your brand name, your competitors names, keywords or industry. On Twitter, tools such as Advanced Search, Twitter Grader and Twellow can help you find people who may be interested in what you have to say. Join Facebook, Flickr or LinkedIn groups relevant to your business and become part of the conversation.
Register your name on as many social media sites as possible
It doesn’t matter whether or not you plan to use them. Oh, and be sure to use the same name on each Web site.
Don't chase technology
Social media changes rapidly and it's hard to keep up with. Don't chase every new social media Web site out there. This is NOT in conflict with the point above. Registering with every social media site is different than chasing every social media site. Use only that which your customers use. Instead, commit to one or two social media sites and work on creating regular content. Readers, viewers and search engines will better recognize your expertise if you're consistent. And you can very quickly overextend your capacity by being in too many places and not doing it effectively.
Generate compelling content
It all comes down to having compelling content. You don’t have to write it … simply reference it. Besides, there is so much info available on the Internet that you don’t need to be creating content … use what is already out there and readily available, and most importantly, what is compelling to your target audience.
Post regularly and frequently
This, combined with the point made above, is key to getting people coming back to you which is the primary goal and objective of developing an effective and sustainable social media initiative. Content in a Web site that isn’t updated regularity has about the same “shelf life” as fresh bread … very short.
When I started my social media journey, it was slow going at first. I didn’t see any of the benefits for almost a year. But slowly and surely, my efforts are paying off. Now, I am a believer and have caught the vision. My efforts to learn how to use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter (more are being considered as they become proven) are beginning to pay big dividends. I encourage you to do get involved and adapt to this rapidly expanding digital world in which we live. As a C-Level executive, it is the right thing to do for your business!
David Lykken is president, mortgage strategies and managing partner with Mortgage Banking Solutions. David has more than 35 years of industry experience and has garnered a national reputation. David has become a frequent guest on FOX Business News with Neil Cavuto, Stuart Varney, Liz Claman and Dave Asman with additional guest appearances on the CBS Evening News, Bloomberg TV and radio. He may be reached by phone at (512) 977-9900, ext. 101 or e-mail [email protected]