Loan originators who have a trust relationship with prospects have an easier sale. When a client knows you and trusts you, their decision becomes about which loan to select, not whether to have you do the loan. When you know your clients, you face less rate shopping and less comparison to other lenders.
An alternative is to buy leads, but that means you call as a stranger and will always fight a battle over rates. With refinances all but going away, working leads will not be a viable strategy for most originators.
Advertising is a way to get known, but in the last decade, the world has changed. Most consumers know that an ad is a stranger asking you to trust them. Ads carry almost no value, and sometimes negative value in getting trusted. People trust word of mouth, especially from friends. People also trust the advice of others who offer free help and ask for nothing in exchange. That is what is happening online.
Networking is about being known and trusted. Successful loan originators have always built networks of clients. In the past, that was about meeting in person. Loan officers would go on property tours to meet real estate agents. They would visit open houses or offer seminars to meet borrowers. But today, everyone is busier. People cannot meet the old way or do not want to. Many prospects want to do as much of their shopping online as they can. In fact, a recent survey showed that over 90 percent of homebuyers started their search for a home online. So, if you aren’t growing your network online, you probably aren’t growing your network.
If you originate reverse mortgages, you may believe you don’t need to be online because seniors do not go online, but you would be wrong. A Pew Research Group study showed that rates of seniors online are at an all-time high. Grandma is on Facebook! Reverse mortgages are also interesting because they are a refinance with very little rate sensitivity, so they will probably be growing in popularity, not waning.
Successful loan officers have always used the “Grow and Nurture” strategy, working every day to grow their network, or nurture the people in it. But today they do it through social media. Their network is not a list of people in a spreadsheet, but a network of connections on social media platforms. The most common are e-mail, Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogs, Google+ and Twitter.
The beauty of a social media strategy is that you can start very small. Almost everyone reading this article already uses social media personally. You e-mail friends and family, and you probably have a Facebook account, so you are almost an old pro already. Creating a professional social media strategy can start very small in a very similar way. The hardest part is usually making the commitment and taking action. Once you start, it’s very easy to work daily tasks into your schedule and grow your practice over time.
An important thing to remember is that you don’t need to be alone in this project. You can always get help. Any employer worth their weight in salt should be providing you social media support. They can create blogs for you, provide content, do your postings, etc. At a minimum, they should help you learn what to do. There are also many social media marketing companies who can help you for a fee. You may also have family members who can help with tasks. Ask your employer what they do, if you don’t know, and assess your existing network to see who can help you. Use every resource you have available.
Whatever you do, it’s crucial to start now. Your social media efforts are like a garden. They take a little work up front, and things don’t seem to go anywhere early on. You will want people to find you online, and that means having search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo! trust you. Trust takes time because they look at how long you have been around. You need to start now, to start their clock ticking. Then, much like a garden, everything starts to grow, and it gets exciting.
So, now that I have convinced you to tackle social media, how much should you do, and what should you do first? Like any successful exercise program, you will want to start your foray into social media small, make little changes and build up habits. Below are the steps that I think make sense, in the order most people should tackle them.
The first step is setting up your LinkedIn Profile. LinkedIn is your online resume. It’s where people go to be found professionally. You may not be looking to change companies, but you should still be there. For one thing, more and more clients are hip to LinkedIn, and when they meet you, they will look you up. If you have a great profile, they feel like they “discovered” a great guy or gal. But if you aren’t on LinkedIn, or worse, you have a weak profile, they are going to be asking themselves why they want to work with you.
There are a handful of things that make your profile look great, and LinkedIn even gives you tips on what to do. Start with a great photo. It should be a headshot, where your eyes are direct to the camera, you’re smiling and you look happy. Pay a photographer if you need to because photos matter. Next, fill in your profile as completely as possible. Highlight your experience. Join relevant groups. You will want to show that you are experienced, connected and are pleasant to work with.
The last step with LinkedIn is spending a little time each week making connections to people in your community who you want in your network.
Are you ready for more? The best next step is creating your own blog. The easy next step is Facebook. If you are scared to blog, at least set up a professional Facebook Page.
Why is blogging the next step? Your personal Web site or blog is your “Home Base.” It’s the place on the Web where YOU control what is written about you and how you look. If your social media work is a solar system, your blog should be the sun and LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms are the orbiting planets. When people find your blog, it should be like a profile. They should get a quick look at who you are at the very first glance. You should have a great photo, contact information, and you must have your local address. Here is why. Everything about your social media strategy is about getting found and getting trusted. A local address tells Google and others that you are local. When people in your community search, you want to show up high on the first page of search results. That happens when Google knows you are local, trusts you, and thinks you are relevant.
Webpage or blog?
A blog (short for Web-log) is a Web page, but it’s one where you regularly post updates. An update might be a story you write, a video you record, or a link to someone else’s story or video. If you want to be relevant (and you do), you must have a blog, and you must post regularly. If Google gets that you are local and thinks you are relevant, you win.
Sound scary? It’s really not. I record a few videos each week (and you can too), but you don’t have to. It turns out that it’s just as effective to “curate” or post links to other people’s articles and videos. It’s easy to watch the Web and find good stuff if you put a little time into it. This is an area where your company should be helping you by providing you stories and videos, and often posting to your blog for you. Make sure they are working for your success!
One last note about blogging. The more you watch the Web for articles and videos, the more you will learn. Before long, you will have more knowledge and will want to write your own posts or at least post comments about the articles and videos you curate. You will become the expert you need to be.
Back to the world of Facebook
It's up to you if you want to have a presence on Facebook. You probably have an account already, but if you are posting pictures of you at the family picnic, you really need to create a new, professional account. If you have a Facebook account, make sure your profile is attractive, professional and informative, just like your LinkedIn account. Post updates to Facebook regularly. You can curate to Facebook just like you do on your blog.
Time for a quick note about the blogosphere and social media in general. You always want to be helpful, and contribute useful content and advice. You never want to be advertising (blatantly) or be asking for anything. I wrote a whole book, and I give it away. That’s how social media is and why it’s so powerful. When creating content or curating, always give value and always offer help.
If you are already taking these steps … then what’s next? Google +. In fact, I should have said Google +, and then Facebook. Google + is Google’s social networking platform … its answer to Facebook, and then some. On Google +, you have a profile, you connect with people, and you post and follow content, much like Facebook. However, on Google you put your connections in “Circles” or groups. You name the circles by what they have in common, and you can post to limited Circles. So you can have friends, family and professional, and keep them all straight. Picnic photos to family, professional articles to your professional network.
The reason Google + should be ahead of Facebook is “authority.” When you have a Google + page, Google considers you the “author” of that page. You can then make your Google + identity the “author” of your blog and other social media platforms. All of this tells Google that you have “authority,” and that makes your Google + account and your blog rank higher in Google searches. That gets you found when people search for “Mortgage,” which is what this is all about.
I would tackle Twitter next, but I have to admit that I’m not that hot on Twitter personally. I’m sure it works great for some, but I don’t quite get it. I think your message is likely to get lost, so I put Twitter after the social media other platforms.
So, is this all doable? Absolutely. Start small. Create a LinkedIn account, and make sure your profile is great. Look to your company for support; they should be helping you. Understand the reasons you are doing it. This is the modern version of “Grow and Nurture,” and it works!
Scott Gordon is president and chief executive officer of Open Mortgage LLC. He may be reached by phone at (512) 422-3642, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Scott’s blog at www.openmortgageceo.com.