In the conservative, and sometimes old-fashioned, world of the mortgage industry … you may wonder: Is there a place for social media? While there are arguments for both sides, we side with those who agree social media is just another way we can reach out and seem more relevant to current and future customers.
In our everyday life, many of us are accustomed to meeting someone who ends up asking, “Are you on Facebook?” Well, with 600 million users, most of us are. In fact, there are more Facebook users than people in the United States.
The average age of social network users has increased from 33 years of age to 38 years of age, and currently half of all adult social network users are over 35 years of age. While those numbers might not be surprising, these next facts might be: Facebook users are more trusting that others, have more close relationships and are more politically engaged than those who don’t. Social network usage inspires trust … interesting findings with interesting implications about the way our organizations should be engaging with current and potential customers.
So it’s safe to assume that social networking sites are here for the duration. The big question is whether not you or your organization should get involved. For those interested in social networking sites (SNS) for primarily personal use, decisions about what to share and who to “Friend” through Facebook and other social media sites are rather simple. In business, engaging with current and prospective customers via SNS is a different ballgame.
Organizations interested in engaging customers via SNS must make sure their social media activities are aligned with their core marketing objectives and integrated with existing communication channels. Messages conveyed through SNS channels and traditional channels such as e-mail, television or radio should support each other. Organizations should also be prepared to handle negative communication via posts, comments or other means. Overall, the goal is to encourage customers to get involved in a dialog with you, earn their trust, allow them to share their opinions and encourage them to provide feedback.
For the interests of businesses, the “Create a Page” option for Facebook would be for you. You can elect to identify your organization as a local business or place, a company or a brand, as well as what industry category your business falls into. A business account does not have friends like personal Facebook accounts, instead, a business account on Facebook has fans. Fans click the “Like” button on your business page to show their support, but do not need to be fans to read your page content. However, a person must be a fan to post comments or like posts on your business page. This presents a good opportunity for you to interact or have meaningful conversations with your current or future customers. A fan page also allows you to post helpful links or promotions to your fans, which can turn out to be a great resource for information related to your business.
Another popular SNS that is seeing increased growth is LinkedIn. It is the world’s largest professional network used to link job seekers with employers, to share professional expertise, and for general networking. To begin on LinkedIn, users create a profile indentifying current job status or industry of interest and a variety of other information typically found on a standard resume. Examples of information a user can customize on their profile include work experience, education, skills, as well as academic awards and achievements. While you can purchase upgraded accounts that allow for things like advanced searches, most new users should generally be content with the free basic service.
You begin using LinkedIn by connecting with other LinkedIn users. You can search by a person’s name, the organization they work for, school, a past company they worked at, their job function and many more options to find people you may know. LinkedIn can serve as a great way to connect with industry professionals such as real estate agents or other mortgage professionals.
The more partnerships you have with real estate agents, the bigger your referral business grows. By connecting with mortgage professionals, you can discuss current industry hot topics and bounce ideas off each other. Another way to connect with people is to join professional groups that are related to your industry. Once you become part of a group, you can post questions or discussion board topics, answer questions or engage in other people’s conversations to build your connections.
The final big player in SNS is Twitter, which boasts more than 200 million users. Twitter is essentially a micro blog that users use to “tweet” messages 140 characters or less. Shortened URLs are often used within the content of a tweet to direct followers to a page with more detailed information impossible to convey in a little tweet. Tweets are blasted out to the group of Twitter users who have elected to follow you (Followers) and you receive tweets from the Twitter users you have elected to keep tabs on (Following). Retweets (RT) allow users to share links, tweets and other gems tweeted by others.
Signing up for a Twitter account is similar to the log-in process for Facebook or LinkedIn. Once you’ve created an account, Twitter provides a list of topics that you can select from or a search bar to enter in topics or people you may be specifically interested in. Follow them to receive tweets from that group or person and click the following button to “Unfollow.”
Ideally, loan originators can use Twitter as a way to provide important or useful information to their followers, who may be current or future customers, other industry professionals or businesses you work with on a normal basis. Since Twitter is more for quick posts or updates, feel free to throw in some fun or interesting posts along with the informational ones. Your followers don’t want information solely regarding you and your business; give them a reason to want to follow you - either because you are the first to post the next viral video or you have a great taste in music. Again, by combining the fun stuff with important information that pertains to you and your business, your followers will be more involved.
Ideally, a strategic social media marketing plan would incorporate Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. The real value derived from integrating social network use with traditional channels of communication will vary from organization to organization. Many professionals use social networks to establish credibility and visibility in their industries for the purpose of building relationships. Others use social networks to provide articles and other useful content in effort to drive traffic to their Web site. While others utilize social networks in conjunction with other search optimization practices, assuming that social networks are fast becoming an important factor in the way Google, Bing and Yahoo determine a Web site’s authority, page rank, and ultimately, its position in the coveted organic search engine results.
No matter how or why we decide to engage in social networking, our customers are already out there forming connections and building relationships. Since social networking sites are generally free and very simple to set up, why not explore for yourself and see what kind of business they bring in.
It’s recommended that you don’t spend more than an hour each day in the beginning stages of your social media plans, until you really start to build a following. If you’re stuck, always remember you can visit other mortgage professionals’ social media pages and see how they are interacting with others to get ideas for yourself. If anything, it’s another way to establish yourself as a professional and reach out to groups you may have not connected with before.
Note: This article was co-authored by Ericka Smith.
Ashley Duvernell is marketing coordinator, public relations and social media for Inlanta Mortgage. She may be reached by phone at (262) 797-7111, ext. 6103 or e-mail [email protected]
Ericka Smith is marketing coordinator, SEO and Internet marketing for Inlanta Mortgage. She may be reached by phone at (262) 797-7111, ext. 6102or e-mail [email protected]