We love our social media sites for many reasons, but have you noticed how comfortable we all have become with sharing information? The word “transparency” is taking on a whole new meaning. We “share” where we are, what we just did, are doing or about to do. We “share” those impromptu-taken on-the-go pics, we share what we just ate, where we ate and what we thought about it. We even share what we are thinking. You name it; we are “sharing” via social media just about everything under the sun with our online community. We are learning how to grow our social media “community” and the better we are at it, the greater the chance we can develop business referrals from within our social community. But, as we do, we need to consider the unintended consequences of being too transparent or, better said, unwisely transparent.
To drive home this point, let me share with you what I learned growing up in a small mid-Western community, in a population of 767 located in Central Minnesota and see the parallels to our own social media communities. In the small town I grew up in, I had my immediate family, then my closest of friends, followed by my other friends on out to acquaintances, like concentric circles (remember this point as I want to come back to it later).
Consider this … in the small community where I grew up, there was one K-12 school that everyone attended. My high school graduation class was all of 42. With a few additions and deletions, the same group of kids that started in kindergarten together was the same group that graduated from high school together. We pretty much knew everything about each other.
Transparency and familiarity was everywhere. Basically, we pretty much knew how one another thought and reacted to things. And then, of course, those adolescent developmental years gave opportunity for some really awkward “wish-we-could-forget” moments and memories … I’m sure you can relate.
As we grew up and went through the later teenage years, mischievous fun was often the objective. As I approached those years, I distinctly remembered my dad’s advice when he quoted Benjamin Franklin’s saying: “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it!” He also regularly reminded me how a bad reputation can linger a lot longer than a good reputation. Those words of wisdom worked as a governor on my behavior and probably saved me from making some potentially big mistakes in my pursuit of “fun.”
After graduating high school, I moved to the “big city” where I quickly realized things were very different. I went from everyone knowing everything about everybody, to no one knowing anything about anyone. That was very liberating in that the fear of what others thought faded some. This helped me in my career development, but I never totally lost sight of how what I was doing or saying might be perceived by others. I was grounded in caring about what my community thought about me.
Here is where I am going with all of this. Social media is like living in a big city, but with all the dynamics of a small town. The sheer size of social media sites such as Facebook can give us the mistaken notion as if we lived in a big city where what we post won’t matter. What I hope to accomplish with this article is to help you realize that posting “Status Updates” on social media sites such as Facebook is more analogous to living in a small town than you might realize. What I want you to see is that if you post a “Status Update,” what you share could have direct impact on your reputation, and therefore, potentially on your ability to do business within your community.
Not too long ago, there was a sales training event in Las Vegas that seemed well attended. I am sure you have heard the saying, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!” Well, that saying seems to have gone out the window with some attending this event. I was blown away as I viewed some of the message posts and accompanying pictures taken on-the-fly while enjoying the “moment” in Vegas. I was Facebook “Friends” with some number of them, and as some of the posts and pictures started appearing, I wanted to “comment” back with, “What are you thinking posting this?” “Are you out of your mind?” “Do you have any idea the message you are sending about yourself as a mortgage ‘professional’ to your community?” They were obviously clueless. It revealed another side of their character that changed the way I, and I am sure others, viewed them in the marketplace.
But Dave, come on, you know as well as I do that Vegas is a “special place” where people go to let their hair down (or set it on fire) and do some crazy things they wouldn’t think of doing back home. Yes, of course, I totally get that, but is it wise to post your crazy “letting-your-hair-down” moments on Facebook for all in your small community to see? Ask yourself this, “What do my posts say about me as an individual and as a mortgage professional?” Sure, you can and should post what you are doing, but what I am trying to communicate is the need for some common sense in doing so and to create an awareness of what too much transparency might be saying about you. I can tell you for a fact, what you post on your personal social media site can open doors of opportunity or slam them shut. The serious side of this is that a single post can result in a job killer (i.e. you could get fired). I know for a fact how it has limited the career growth of more than a few individuals, as well as has been a career killer for others.
Think about this for a minute. Consider the climate we are in as an industry. We are under the microscope of every local and state regulator on the planet, all the way to the federal level. Our industry is being scrutinized beyond anything this industry has ever experienced. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, is charged with cleaning up our industry, and protecting consumers from abusive lending practices. Some of the message posts I see on social media sites are NOT helping our cause. Social media sites can work for us as much as they can against us … the same goes with transparency.
Some friends of mine, like Carl White of the Marketing Animals and Jeff Usner of LeadStore.com, have really helped me to recognize what a powerful and effective tool social media sites can be as a business development tool. I still consider myself a neophyte at social media, but I’m learning quickly and already experiencing success from a branding and business development marketing tool. Folks, social media WORKS! I am dead serious when I say, “It can do wonders for your business,” especially when the refinance business goes away.
Here are a couple of examples of individuals knocking the cover off the ball with social media:
►Scott Hudspeth using Facebook is having great success connecting with the real estate community in the markets he serves and beyond. Scott is following Carl White’s methodology and has dramatically increased his presence in his market and well beyond.
►One of my favorite stories is about a loan originator who I met (who has asked that his name not to be used), who lives in one part of the country and was nominated as the “Loan Originator of the Year” by the Realtors Association in a large metro area located nearly 1,000 miles away. This individual became so effective at creating a virtual presence, that the Realtors who gave him the award had no idea that he was not from their area. He had to discretely fly in to accept the award.
►We discussed another example of this on my May 7, 2012 radio broadcast where we focused on social media (you can listen to that broadcast by clicking here). Carl White was my guest on that broadcast and he told the story of an American citizen living in Europe working from there as a loan originator having amazing success originating loans in the USA.
So if you haven’t started using social media as a tool, I encourage you to do so, but be smart about it.
Folks, I’ll say it again, social media works … so make social media work for you and not against you! I am convinced that it will be the primary tool by which most consumers will choose the loan originator with whom they will work with on their next real estate financing transaction. There are so many data points appearing everywhere to confirm this to be not just a wave of the future, but the way of the future for loan origination. The best part is that social media, when properly used, empowers individual originators returning the power of the relationship to the individual originator. I’ll be writing about this more next month, so be looking for next month’s article.
Here are a few things you may want to consider in posting anything on social media:
1. First, consider who is in your community
Know with whom you are connected. Understand their values and post accordingly. If your community is a more conservative financial community or someone you hope will consider using you for their next real estate financing needs, you may want to reconsider what you are communicating about yourself when posting some of those moments and pictures of you letting you hair down while Los Vegas.
2. Secondly, consider what it is that you want your social media community to know about you
The things I want to share with those closest to me is understandably different than that which I might want to share with someone with whom I am doing business or hope to be building a business relationship. It is NOT that I am suggesting you “pose” one way with one group and another way with others in your community. What I am talking about is the degree of transparency you share versus pretending (posing) to be different than who you really are. The key to establishing a meaningful connection with people is being genuine. That said, being genuine should not give occasion for you to post pictures of you doing things in Las Vegas that are contrary to the character or values of your community. This may seem like common sense, but I have wondered where the common sense is when reading some of the posts on Facebook.
If you are not aware of the various options you can select when making a post on your favorite social media site, I would recommend you take a few moments to review those options by going through one of the many free online training courses. Write to me if you want my recommendations. Even for those of you who know about these options, it may be a good idea to refresh your memory as to the options.
In closing, I would love to add you to my Facebook community as well as get connected via LinkedIn. To do so, search my name “David Lykken” in both of these social media sites. I will be posting updates, important messages and updates that will help you in using social media more effectively.
David Lykken is president of mortgage strategies and managing partner with Mortgage Banking Solutions. He has more than 35 years of industry experience and has garnered a national reputation, and 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. 10, or e-mail [email protected]
or [email protected]