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Jumping Onto the Social Media Bandwagon and Reaping the Profits

Apr 02, 2012

Most people in sales remember their first cold call as pretty scary stuff. You could practice your approach until your face turned blue, but you never knew what was going to happen once you were on the phone with a borrower or meeting them face to face. The more you did it, however, the more comfortable it became. Getting over that initial fear of putting oneself “out there”—to be scrutinized, disrespected or ignored—is tough. Today, I think the same fears apply to social media. We all sense the potential for lead generation, but the Internet continues to evolve so quickly that it is hard to put one's head around what to do and how to do it. Meanwhile, we see our competitor's blog, Fan Pages on Facebook and videos on YouTube and we say, “I wish I could do that.” Last spring, I took the plunge and began using Facebook for my mortgage business. I created a personal page and then a Fan Page, “Ray Eickhoff Mortgage Coach.” I wanted two pages because I wanted my business content separate from all my updates about my grandkids (this was my personal choice, however, to each their own). Of course, I invited all my friends to join my Fan Page, and many did. I began posting surveys, polls, questions, and bits of news about the mortgage industry on my Fan Page. Since then, I’ve gotten eight qualified leads off my Fan Page that turned into closed transactions. So far in 2012, I have four more loans in process based on Facebook leads. So I know it works. Still, so many people in our industry haven’t bought into it. And the number one reason, in my opinion, is fear … fear of lost time, fear of expense and fear of the unknown. The biggest fear is that there’s not enough time. But I was able to generate and convert my Facebook leads by investing just a few hours a week. Of course, I did not spend my business hours building my contacts on social media when I could be networking in person, meeting borrowers, taking loan applications and closing transactions. I prioritized personal meetings. But when I had down time here or there, social media became a great use of my time. Blogging and video blogging on YouTube may take slightly more of a time investment because there is more to produce, but not much. Twitter, with a maximum of 140 characters per “tweet,” takes even less. The second fear is expense. And yet with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and most blogging sites, this issue is moot as these services are entirely free to use. In fact, not only are they free, but they also come with analytic tools that allow you to see which posts, videos or keywords are drawing the most attention. The instantaneous feedback from these social media outlets allows you to tailor your message for the greatest effect. The one exception is video blogging, which involves some startup costs. I’ve just recently become involved with YouTube and linking up video posts with my Facebook Fan Page. As a musician, I have some experience working with video, so I spent money to create a studio in a dedicated room in my branch where I can bring in real estate agents, builders, partners and other loan officers. My total investment, however, was only $500, and this is on the high end of the scale. Today, video cameras and editing software have become so inexpensive that loan officers can get a classy, high definition Webcam, a clamp-mounted light and video editing software for under $100. At that cost, one closed loan would give you an immediate return-on-investment (ROI) and then some. The last fear is probably the biggest, and that’s the fear of embarrassment. It seems to be a pretty popular fear in our culture, this innate dread we have against doing something new for risk of humiliation or failure. It starts when you’re in kindergarten and the teacher tells you to draw a horse. Everyone in the class draws a horse. When the same thing happens in fourth grade, maybe 10 kids in the class will actually draw it. In junior high, just one kid will do it. Why? Because by then, all the other kids have been told they cannot draw. We all regularly come up against this fear, the one that says we cannot do it. But overcoming that anxiety is so critical in this business, because those who do are able to blow through production walls. Everyone’s first attempts at using social media for marketing are bound to come out a little rough. One way to get over this fear of embarrassment is through preparation. We have all heard that taking advantage of social media tools requires planning. I recommend taking a month to research which social media strategy would work best for your line of work. Many mortgage and real estate professionals still prefer to blog, but I prefer video content versus the written word as its immediate and personal. More professionals today are leveraging multiple platforms, and borrowers today are likely to find loan officers on any one of these platforms. Once the fear is overcome, the next question is obvious … what do you post? For me, it’s humor, some personal tidbits, mortgage news and information about the economy—anything that entertains and/or brings value to people. If it gets your attention, there’s a good chance it will get the attention of others. And by the way, even though my Facebook fan page is my business page, it doesn’t mean I don’t share some personal stuff. For example, this winter I created a video highlighting a non-profit called, a site that invests a portion of your order to Amazon, Home Depot, and other approved vendors to six non-profits listed on their Web site. And it costs the consumer no more than if they had gone directly to the vendor’s site! I put a video up on Facebook and 74 people watched it. It’s not related to mortgages, but it certainly kept me on everyone’s radar. I’ll also post information about the kinds of things we can do at my company, Fairway Independent Mortgage, that our competitors cannot or will not do. For example, I’m preparing a post now on our escrow holdback policy, which allows money to be held in escrow even after the loan closes for repairs that cannot be immediately made. For example, the deck or roof on an existing home needs to be replaced, but the seller is unwilling to repair it prior to closing. Or perhaps the seller does not have the funds to complete the repair prior to closing. Typically, an escrow holdback will only allow for this in winter due to snow on the roof or deck, for example. Not everyone knows this is available, but I can easily inform them via social media. When I do, I solidify myself as the expert and someone looking out for their interests. What about those stories about people getting in trouble for using social media for work? Certainly there are examples of this, just as there are many state and federal regulations that dictate how we can advertise rates and products in print and online. Many companies go a step further and draft policies for loan officers to comply with when using Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms. Some simply ban their use altogether. At my company, we have a new social media agreement that talks about the things we can and cannot publish online. Fortunately, Fairway allows for a lot of vanity and personal branding and believes the originator’s value lies in how he or she builds relationships. Regardless of the company they work for and their market area, loan officers should check with their company’s compliance office before jumping on the social media bus. Speaking of jumping on the bus, keep in mind that social media is still in its infancy and it’s not too late to get started. I personally believe that if you want to extend your reach, generating leads through social media will separate the real performers from everyone else. Those in this industry who have well-crafted social media initiatives are starting to rise above the crowd. The truth is we can only physically talk and visit with so many people in one day. Each of us gets only 24 hours. In exchange for a small investment of my time, however, a social media presence allows me to communicate with many people at once—even when I’m asleep. And just one closed transaction justifies the very meager expense. Just like cold-calling, marketing through social media may you feel a little uncomfortable at first. I strongly suggest giving it a chance. Especially in this market, why wouldn’t you want to use all the tools that are available to grow your business? The results might just surprise you. Ray Eickhoff is the Northwest regional vice president for Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation in Edmonds, Wash., a nationwide mortgage banker. Ray has 27 years of experience as a mortgage originator, branch manager and educator. He may be reached by phone at (425) 318-1299 or e-mail [email protected].
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