Actually, lots of people (under the age of 35) do! It’s all about Facebook and Twitter. This is one of the efficient ways that the younger set go about their daily business. They are: Very public; very brief; very specific and targeted; very honest; and very community-minded. Gone are the days of the mega-corporation with a virtually invisible board of directors and high-paid executives.
Today, young people want to know who you are and what you are all about—the corporate executive that is. And how did they come to require this accessibility? Kind of simple—they have been indoctrinated, and thereby trained, by following Apple’s Steve Jobs and Microsoft’s Bill Gates since they were old enough to log on to anything. Jobs was a most public chief executive—visible and approachable at public meetings, seminars, at Apple roll-outs/presentations/announcements. From the outset, his face and his “self” was the public image of Apple. We all learned about his family, his home life, his illness—all very personal—as well as his business life. The same happened with Gates. From early on, we all knew how he got his start … his lengthy bachelorhood, etc. Then we found out about his new-found love and her story too; then, the well-publicized marriage, the new 30,000-plus square foot home, their yacht, airplanes, and much more. Recently, we learned about how he gives his money away. This private businessman is more “public” than the President of the United States.
And the effect on the kids has been: “We know these guys. We like them. We trust them. Let’s do business with them.”
During my “old-school” days, with rare exception, we did not know, nor did we often care, about who the chief executives of Kraft Food, Proctor and Gamble, General Motors, IBM, Nestle, Coke or Pepsi (just as examples) were.
Actually, these questions or discussions about chief executives rarely even came up, unless the executive was caught with a hand-in-the-cookie- jar—like the president and board chairman of Beechnut Baby Foods, who 30-plus years ago, substituted sugar-water for apple juice and sold it in India with a false label. They were caught and prosecuted. Now we know who they are!
On a different vein, remember when your mom used to go next door and have a cup of coffee with her best friend. They would spend time talking about their day, share stores about their kids (and husbands), gossip about the neighbor .. well, that’s officially over. Instead, young women post on Facebook that they have finished their shower and they are feeding the baby. Everyone in the world now knows about this shower! Strange perhaps, but more important to the poster, with a once sentence “Status Update” on Facebook, she has advised all of her good friends on her daily activities. It takes less than a minute, and any number of close friends knows all about what’s going on in her world. No phone calls or visits to neighbors. With the speed of life today, these kids believe that they have no extra time for such niceties. For them, just a simple posting does the trick.
Remember the “party-line” phone? This device was shared with many people in the neighborhood, perhaps with a different ring for each house signaling an incoming call. But anyone could pick up the receiver and listen in—there was no privacy at all. We couldn’t wait for our own dedicated phone line!
Eureka! If you think about it. Facebook and Twitter are actually party lines! We communicate with those folks in our immediate circle, but anyone can listen-in. These kids don’t seem to care about others eavesdropping. And why should they? Their postings are honest, so if someone listens in, it doesn’t matter (just try to post something that isn’t true … your friends and others who are eavesdropping will immediately post their negative comments). You are expected to be honest with all such postings!
Let’s talk about the real power, beyond the “social,” behind Facebook and Twitter (the two biggest networks.
In spite of self-serving or ludicrous tweets from athletes and movie stars, Twitter is something to pay serious attention to, and incorporate into today’s marketing and business development.
Remember the earthquake in Chile in February 2010. The damage knocked out wires and other traditional means of communication for weeks. Using smartphones, out of the chaos, came a few tweets from on-the-scene survivors. Suddenly, the world was following the struggles of the Chilean people in dealing with the terrible earthquake on Twitter—reports that were seconds old. News media also followed the tweets, as did the average person. This free, once laughable high tech phenom, became a serious communications technique. Twitter has expanded to include photos and videos. No news organization anywhere can compete with on-the-scene reports from actual people who are experiencing some major (and also tiny) event at the moment. Remember the Tsunami that wiped out eastern Japan’s shoreline? An earthquake, fire, vehicle crash, street fight to name just some, where up-to-the-second reports are circulated, easily, quickly and all for free.
In the 1960s, there were several marches on Washington, D.C. in an effort to halt the war in Vietnam. It took many weeks of organizing in cities and towns all across the United States. Then rallies, buses and more to get about 300,000 people into D.C. This required weeks of planning, lots of advertising dollars and a huge organized effort.
On the other hand, how about the 2011 Egyptian revolution, all organized using Facebook? It is reported that one guy, using Facebook, posted that a demonstration was planned for that evening in the main square in Cairo, Egypt. And quickly, hundreds of thousands of young people joined the movement, with many showing up at the event. And this continued daily for months and spread to many other cities, and then the world. People who heard about the movement signed themselves up. All at no cost! Marketing and recruiting doesn’t get any better.
Both AT&T and Domino’s Pizza monitor Twitter around the clock. My son was on a beach in Maine and tried to use his AT&T smartphone, with no signal. He tweeted this. Less than two minutes later, he got a message from AT&T asking precisely his location so they could address the issue. You know that little plastic device that holds the pizza lid off a hot pizza? That was developed after Domino’s got a tweet complaining about the cheesy mess on the box top. Just one tweet revolutionized the pizza delivery business!
Yes, things are different today. Here is what the climate looks like now ...
Young people prefer to do business with a company based on a personal referral from a friend; with business owners who they know, or know something personally about; with businesses that re-invest in their community; with eco-friendly and green-friendly companies; and more. That’s why Twitter works so well. Someone writes, “Just ate a great meal at ABC Food down the street … great meal.” Like the Facebook posting about feeding the baby, the whole world gets this somewhat “private” message. But more important to the “Tweeter” and the “Facebooker,” so do all of the people who are “Following” them—their close personal friends and their selected acquaintances. And their postings are believable—they are honest! And most important … it’s all free!
People have built successful businesses exclusively using Facebook and Twitter during recent years. No costly advertising, no telemarketing, no direct mail, no door-to-door sales, no salespeople … just a few minutes daily of posting those often very personal updates, thereby creating a knowledge of the person behind the business, and a trust is established between that person, their business, and their “following” audience. All for free.
There is another side to all of this free and open posting or messages. Honesty. It’s as easy to post a positive recommendation as it is to post a negative one. And a negative gets immediate attention too. If a business, or a staffer representing a business, acts in a manner that is deemed by the customer as unfriendly, inappropriate, unresponsive or in any other way to the negative, this will most likely be posted. Once that happens, it’s hard to “put the toothpaste back into the tube!” Accordingly, it is imperative that a business do the right thing, for the appropriate price, within the right time period, and do it with the required level of courtesy. Or else the world will know!
This honesty phenomenon is why eBay works—sellers post items for sale as honestly as they are able. If not, they get a negative rating and will have a tough time selling anything from then on. The same applies to Web sites such as Travel Advisor, where guests report on hotels where they stayed, and the hotel gets the rating they deserve (notwithstanding the professional rater’s opinions!). Of course there are many more such Web sites, all free, seeking user ratings, and they are growing exponentially.
Bottom line … mortgage brokers must learn, understand and make use of these newfangled media and Web technologies. I urge all mortgage brokers to use the Web to develop and grow their businesses, by being open and forthright, honest to a flaw, posting and tweeting routinely, being responsive to any and all inquiries, and helping the client population to know who you are, where you live, where you work, about your family. And then, after the “personal” is covered, let everyone know about the business you offer. You cannot afford to laugh it off anymore. Social media is way more than social—it’s proved to be serious business. It’s our future, and if you haven’t already, you better get aboard, and soon.
Brian Opert is chief executive officer of Sterling Commercial Capital, a New Orleans-based private nationwide commercial mortgage banker specializing in hard-to-finance transactions over $2 million. He may be reached by phone at (800) 497-8606 or e-mail [email protected]