To tweet, or not to tweet, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind, to speak one’s mind and to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous followers, or to take up tweets against a sea of flotsam, and by engaging, win out. To tweet, to Post, to hashtag, to Follow and, by doing so, end the boredom of a thousand re-tweeters. I suspect that Shakespeare would have been the first to jump into social media. Shakespeare was an entertainer of the masses, a student of life and a mirror of the outlandish behavior our species is apt to engage in … much like Twitter. Someone asked if I thought social media was a valuable marketing medium for the mortgage or financial industry and if I thought that automating various aspects of social media was useful. Absolutely! If used haphazardly, social media can be a huge time sucker. Twitter can become “Fritter” and comedian Conan O’Brien recently pointed out that the new layout of Facebook allows you to see exactly what you were doing on this day a year ago and, nine times out of 10, it was wasting time on Facebook. But, if used strategically and with some automation, social media is one of the best methods for getting your foot in the door, getting past a gatekeeper, and fishing (phishing?) for prospects and leads. For instance, did you know that, with the right Twitter tools, you can automatically seek out and “Follow” the “Followers” of a competing mortgage company? Why not their customers learn who YOU are, and, when/if they become dissatisfied with your competitor, they have someone to turn to. Is there a real estate company you work with? Follow their Followers too. Now combine social media with “content marketing.” In doing so, you increase your credibility by creating a “recognition factor” and by “pre-selling” your prospects. It’s said that an “expert” is someone from out of town with a briefcase. In other words, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. With social media you can be an expert in 140 words, or less. And, by engaging with social media, you can simultaneously learn more about the mortgage business, and look like the expert to your audience (prospects). Research topics of interest in the housing and finance market that you can tweet and Post. You’re sure to learn things of value, pick up a tidbit or strategy, or stumble upon a lead. Worried about compliance issues? Simply forward links to interesting articles already in the media. There are lots of great articles on NationalMortgageProfessional.com that you could tweet and Post. Just use a “Short URL” tool to save space (and to track traffic). You can also use what you learn to write a compelling article or blog. With either strategy, you increase your credibility in the eyes of your referral sources, prospects and clients. One of the most valuable things you can do in any business is to be VISIBLE. This is even more important in an industry like the mortgage and real estate business where the clients you seek may not need your services right away. So, it’s even more important that, when they do need them, it’s your name (and face) that pops into their head. Social media accomplishes that. Here are 10 tips for increasing mortgage business via social media: 1. Join real estate-related groups on LinkedIn (you can join 50) and contribute regularly. Create your own topics (they get mailed out periodically to the group so are like free ads). Give leads, tips and advice. Be a “GIVER” and yee shall receive. 2. Get a “Twitter Robot” and automate your tweets. Twitter is like a rolling billboard. There are free Twitter robots, but Tweet Adder is my favorite and worth the investment. You can use it to automate “Follows,” such as following all the followers of a guru in the real estate, mortgage or investment industries—these will be excellent potential referral sources. 3. “Do it yourself” video ads. Use a screen capture program (like IShowU) and narrate over a PowerPoint presentation to create informative how-to videos to post on YouTube, such as “How to decide which type of mortgage is best for you,” “How to pay off a 30-year mortgage in half the time,” etc. YouTube is the number two search engine behind Google, so make your titles compelling and use related tags to draw traffic. For instance, use the titles of top rated TV shows about houses or finance. Put your phone number and Web site link in the description. 4. Get people to engage with you on Facebook by asking what they think of controversial topics and current events. Be Switzerland (remain neutral), however, and refrain from posting your own opinion. 5. Be friends with the world! 6. Use tools like HootSuite to coordinate your social media so you can post on one and have it reposted on others automatically. However, do this strategically. You might want two Twitter accounts—one that strategically (but much less often) posts to your LinkedIn and Facebook, and another that is “Twitter on steroids.” 7. Don’t ignore your accounts once you automate. Always have fresh topics to tweet and post. Stay on top of real estate and mortgage trends. Tweet listings for business friends in the industry. 8. Create compelling content and write articles. Use quotes, humor, interview clients, (and other professionals), for their input, and include “bullets” of useful nuggets of information. Include photos and graphics. 9. Post your content on various sites (Digg, Yahoo Contributor, StumbleUpon, your own blog), and give it away to smaller, industry publications that will appreciate the articles. Keep print media in mind too; small community and industry newspapers appreciate well-written free content. Additionally, consider paid ads in targeted publications to support your social media. 10. Use all of this to drive traffic to your Web site and mobile Web site. Don’t have a mobile Web site yet? Get one quick! Over half of all local searches are done from mobile phones and that number grows daily. Google knows when someone is searching from a mobile phone and ranks your site higher if you have a mobile version. This gives you a window of opportunity to capture market share before your competitors catch up. Have a “capture” form to build your database. Integrate social media with your Mobile Site. I recommend www.MobiMonster.ca for mobile Web sites. They do great looking designs, at about half the cost of other designers, and have a cool trick they can do to integrate your Facebook and Twitter feeds (look at their site on your Smart Phone to see what I’m talking about). Mobile sites are the best investment you can make right now. 10.5) Use something unique as a prospecting tool to call leads you gain from Social Media. It’s difficult to be distinctive when you are cold calling as one of thousands of mortgage brokers, real estate agents or financial planners. Is there a unique product or service (related to your business) that you could incorporate into your business? Beyond free tools, consider paid digital marketing. The effectiveness of this varies depending on the quality of the ad, as well as the targeting of where your ads run. Fortunately, through use of Google Analytics, there are digital advertising mediums that can profile your audience through demographic, behavioral and geographic factors, even narrowing it down as far as zip code (why pay for clicks outside your market?). I recently saw an ad campaign for a hotel that filled their property. They were quoted a cap of $3 per click, but final cost landed at .81 cents. If you have a budget and can do a targeted campaign, don’t hesitate to jump into the “paid game”—it can magnify your social media results. Whatever you decide to do with social media, it does require a commitment of your time, a strategy, old-fashioned common sense and perspective. This is your public persona, so if your nephew is an idiot, learn to use the delete key. For business, the “social” side of social media should be taken with a grain of salt. Keep in mind that Andy Warhol once said: “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” Social media is exactly like that, except you're not really famous and your 15 minutes goes on forever. Sue Copening is a marketing consultant and founder of ConnectionsGroups.com, a business networking organization built around social media. She may be reached by phone at (407) 443-0348 or e-mail [email protected].