Early on, something told me I needed to move my business to the Internet. It was the mid-1990s, before the Web really took off, when many of my colleagues and I began using e-mail. Almost instantly, I saw this simple communication device as a means to connect with other professionals and get the word about my business. I started a Friday morning e-mail distribution to a group of real estate agents, writing about things that were happening in real estate and in the mortgage industry—things I thought others would want to know and to keep my name out there. For the past 15 years, I have continued to send that e-mail.
Over the years, as new opportunities appeared, this effort began to snowball. In 2004 or 2005, a buddy of mine who received my Friday newsletter suggested I should start blogging. So in 2005, I started a blog. I would write articles for my blog, but also set things up so that every Friday morning, my blog article would be sent to the same people who subscribed to my Friday e-mail. Then Facebook rolled around, and I began leveraging my blog into Facebook posts. Eventually, I started doing video and started tying in YouTube to my blog and Facebook page. When Twitter came along, bingo, I had another tool to use! So now my Friday e-mail has morphed into one message spread across multiple platforms.
I'm no Ashton Kutcher in terms of online popularity, but I do pretty well. I have 136 followers on Twitter, more than 300 fans on my Facebook Fan Page, 1,000 friends on my personal Facebook page, and more than 500 connections on LinkedIn. These connections have enabled me to educate borrowers on their mortgage options and help our real estate agent partners grow their businesses. I should mention I’ve also gotten quite a few successful leads along the way. But I’ve also learned a few things, too.
Consistent communication is key
While one might think that social media has made my life more difficult—I have all these platforms to manage—the reality is that it’s made things a lot easier. I don’t write as many blog posts as I used to, because now we’re using Facebook and video posts, too, and both are less time-consuming. What hasn’t changed is the Friday distribution. I’m probably overly religious about doing something every Friday, because my audience expects it. There are perhaps one or two weeks out of the year when I don’t do something that Friday. Otherwise, I’m very consistent with it, even if it is short.
By staying consistent, I’ve been able to leverage social media to build my reputation as someone who communicates well and communicates often, which is extremely important in the mortgage business. Real estate professionals and borrowers are both inundated with information on a daily basis. There is so much happening so quickly, from changes in rates to new rules and regulations to new loan programs, that it’s impossible for any one person to keep up with it all on their own. My company in particular, Fairway Independent Mortgage, is extremely progressive when it comes to learning and sharing what is happening with the market, with our partners and in government. So every time I’m learning something, I’m sharing it so others can benefit, too.
Identify your audience
Another thing social media has done for me is increase my exposure. People know me when they see me, even if we’ve never met. I certainly receive business from my social media efforts, but another benefit is that it makes communication easier when a new client has already read my post about jumbo mortgages or some other topic he or she is interested in. Likewise, there are real estate agents I’ve never met who have read a post of mine and reached out to me on LinkedIn or Facebook. But no matter what social media platform I’m using, I try not to focus too much on the mortgage business. That might sound funny, but the fact is most people are not thinking about mortgages all day long. Over the years of using social media, I’ve gained an understanding about what people are really interested in.
Real estate agents, for example, are particularly interested in sales and marketing techniques, or what I call “head medicine.” And pretty much everyone is interested in money, health, their homes and wealth building. I tend to think my clients are somewhat like me and care about those things, so I find thought-provoking information to read and share these things with them. Social media is a great tool in that sense. It is, ultimately, about sharing, and you really learn what people care about based on how many people are reading each blog, watching each video, or “Liking” a particular Facebook post.
Aim your message
I’m platform-conscious with social media, and tailor my messages depending on what service I’m using. I may have one blog article, for example, but will retool it slightly depending on what platform I’m sharing it on. For example, LinkedIn has become a powerful tool for companies and business professionals to connect, so my office will use it to share a lot of business-type posts. I also participate is group discussions on LinkedIn, but again, I don’t sit there and talk about mortgages all day. I will talk about what is pertinent to that group.
On Facebook, however, it’s even more social. You can’t beat people over the head by marketing your products and services every hour. We post to our business Fan Page on Facebook and my personal page only with appropriate messages. People use Facebook during their spare time, and when they do, they don’t want to be bombarded with sales pitches or even subjects that are too serious. Facebook is a great place to have fun, though. For example, I routinely give away gift certificates by holding a contest and asking people to “Like” my Facebook Page or write a comment.
It’s not too late
I know there are a lot of mortgage professionals who think they don’t have the time or can’t write, and don’t even have the time for it anyway. The truth is, you don’t need to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning author—almost anyone can crank out an interesting Facebook post, and that only takes five to 10 minutes a day. You can take that same post and put it on LinkedIn. Then you can create a free blog using Google’s Blogger platform and put the same post there, and maybe expand on it. Using social media, there are all kinds of ways to leverage the same or similar content.
And by the way, I don’t handle all social media by myself. I conceive and create most of the content, but we have a marketing assistant in our office who handles the distribution side of things. She’s able to take my blog and video posts and rework them for LinkedIn and Facebook. There are also services out there that will allow you to take a single article and post it simultaneously to multiple platforms. In our case, however, I prefer to push the content we create directly onto individual platforms. It’s my opinion that we get better, more focused exposure, plus we have the opportunity to customize the message based on the particular audience that will see it.
Even if you are really busy—and fortunately, many of us are doing great business this summer—you should be putting some time into your marketing your business every day. The best part about social media is that all these tools are free, and each of us already have friends and spheres of influence that we already market to. You’re just trying to create a little tribe, and then keep them informed and entertained. If I can do it, anybody can!
Ken Pederson is a branch manager and Certified Mortgage Planner Specialist (CMPS) at Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation in Lancaster, Pa. Ken has 25 years of experience as a mortgage originator, branch manager and educator. He can be reached by phone at (717) 431-9299 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.