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With such easy access through technology and social media, why wouldn’t you use it to your advantage to help build and improve your personal brand? According to National Association of Realtors (NAR), 69 percent of home shoppers who take action on a real estate-branded Web site begin their research with a local term (ex. homes for sale) on a search engine. Also, 52 percent of first-time homebuyers started their search online and 77 percent drove by a home that they viewed online. Seventy-eight percent of new home shoppers visit three or more sites prior to taking action on a real estate site. It is more important than ever to have a strong online presence. A Web site by itself is not good enough anymore, you need to have a strong presence on social media. Social networking is an easy way to get in front of a larger audience outside of your regular sphere of influence. In the relationship-based mortgage industry, social media is making it easier to identify and target the right potential borrowers and referral partners. The ability to connect and communicate with potential, current and past client is simple. Take advantage of the tools available to you and you’ll be top of mind long after the loan has closed. So when it’s time to refinance, buy or refer a friend/family member, you will be their go-to originator.
Millennials are just entering the market. They are self-educated and often complete online research before deciding which lender to use. This makes it crucial to have great online presence. So what can you do to improve your online brand? Become a trusted advisor. Educate borrowers and work through mortgage myths such as “without a 20 percent downpayment you cannot buy a home.” Host and/or attend events and post about it before, during, and if appropriate after the event on social media to increase awareness and reinforce your expertise. The strongest way to build your network and client base is word of mouth. While one person telling another person is great, digital word of mouth can be accomplished with testimonials and have a much higher impact. Testimonials are a great way for your clients to share their personal experience with your services to their friends and family. People tend to trust their friends and family; so post testimonials along with photos of the happy new homebuyer(s) on your website, social media, or both (don’t forget to tag them in your posts as well). This will help personalize a home loan and help others understand that ultimately you help people and families. Social media also gives you greater insight on your client’s needs and wants. You are able to do research on a potential client to see if you can find a common bond to help you connect. This can help break down potential walls with prospective clients or referral partners.
When developing your business or marketing plan, it’s important to consider where to spend your time and resources. Social media should be a part of this plan. Create a social media calendar. Take an hour a week to sit down and pre-schedule posts through systems such as Hootsuite. This will guarantee that you are posting consistently and saving time to post more time sensitive things less sporadically.
As far as content on social media, make sure it is not all sell, sell, sell. Be sure to use the 80/20 rule, which should apply to all of your marketing efforts. Eighty percent of your content should be value-added content insightful, resourceful and engaging. No more than 20 percent should be direct sales pitches. Don’t worry, value-added content can also contain a sales pitch subliminally, while you are highlighting your expertise in the mortgage industry. Clients pay attention on social media when it is relatable and useful for them by providing helpful ways to increase their home value, home décor tips, etc. If too much content is dedicated to selling your product/business, clients will feel that they are not receiving value and lose. Images are far more effective than just plain text, so be sure to get the most out of your social media by posting even simple images.
The key is to be consistent and post interesting content. Don’t think you can just post once or twice and that’s it. You have to stick with it over time to really reap the benefits on social media. Facebook and LinkedIn offer pay options to boost your posts. With a little investment, boosting your posts can expand your audience greatly. Be mindful of your online audience. With LinkedIn, tailor content towards your referral and business partners. With Facebook, content can be tailored to referral partners, as well as potential and existing customers. Therefore, some content can be used multiple times as a way for you to get the most bang for your buck.
Social media is also a great place to advertise your niche. Niche marketing can help grow your personal brand by allowing you to break into new markets and gain a larger target audience. Are you an expert is a specific program? Do you help families with downpayment assistance programs? Are your service levels your strength as a competitive advantage over others? No matter what you are specializing in, this is a great time to grow your audience and brand through social media.
Liking and interacting in social media groups with clients and referral partners will increase your online presence and help get your name out into your desired audience. Don’t only focus on existing and potential clients; remember your real estate agent partners as well. You can offer your niche program, co-branded marketing material, exclusive company, and any other differentiators. Similar to your clients, real estate agents are looking for something of value as well. So don’t just bombard them with sales pitches. Show them the services that you provide which will save time and benefit their business as well.
Remember that social media pages by themselves do little to help grow your personal brand. Inactive social media pages can actually have negative affects if not update, as it makes them look neglected. Use social media and online presence to reinforce your brand and stay top of mind to your clients and business partners with valuable posts in order to be their number one originator. Don’t forget to give it time. Your business won’t transform overnight, but stick with it and you will definitely see the payoff in the long run!
Tiffany Hade has been with Mountain West Financial for over four years and she holds a bachelor of science degree in business with an emphasis in marketing from California State University, Long Beach. She currently is public relations and social media specialist at Mountain West Financial where she manages public relations and social media campaigns for the organization, as well as supports the marketing department with advertising material, Web sites and brand development.
This article originally appeared in the July 2016 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.