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The power of social media to develop business relationships is undeniable. Yet the mortgage industry has been slow to embrace it because of regulatory risk and fear of ever-changing technologies. But it’s time to face the fear and figure it out once and for all–for the benefit of your consumers and the success of our industry. Let’s review how you can break through the complexities and seize the opportunities.
What regulations must be considered?
Because social media is generally considered a form of advertising, the same regulations that apply to advertising in the mortgage industry also apply to information shared on social media.
Among other things TILA (and Regulation Z), ban advertising practices that may be deemed deceptive or misleading and ensures the meaningful disclosure of consumer credit terms. TILA specifies terms (also known as “trigger terms”) that must include additional disclosures when included in an advertisement.
Similarly, Unfair, Deceptive, or Abusive Acts or Practices (UDAAP), under the Dodd-Frank Act guidelines make it unlawful for financial services providers to deceive or mislead a consumer. Loan terms, costs, pricing, and other product information must be properly disclosed.
Avoid advertising rates or using any over-exaggerated language or promises. Avoid terms like: “lowest,” “best,” “guaranteed.” A “one-click” exception for electronic advertisements allows you to include triggered disclosures on a separate page via a direct link in the advertisement.
What social media guidance do regulators provide?
The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), a member of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), released guidelines to help financial services professionals understand and successfully manage the potential risks regarding the use of social media. The FFIEC guidance requires that a financial institution should have a risk management program that allows it to identify, measure, monitor, and control the risks related to social media. Rather than discouraging the use of social media or establishing any new obligations related to the use of this technology, the Guidance is intended to help financial institutions understand and successfully manage risks in this area.
What platforms are the most worthwhile for a mortgage professional to start on?
►LinkedIn: At the very least, a complete professional profile on LinkedIn is critical. The platform makes it easy for potential clients and referral partners to find service providers, review professional backgrounds, network, and make connections. Share professionally relevant content here to build thought leadership in the industry.
Here are 3 tips to break through on LinkedIn:
1. Post regular status updates with professional relevance to keep your name and face in front of your network and to help build thought leadership. Share things like breaking news, pro tips, industry trends, legislative updates, inspirational and educational insight. Ask questions to increase engagement.
2. Upgrade your Headline! The Headline defaults to your current job title, which doesn’t do much to make you stand out. Instead, update it to highlight who you help—and how you help. Create a simple value statement that gets you noticed in just 120 characters.
3. Use the Summary Section to tell your story. Your real story—not a reiteration of your resume loaded with keywords. Tell the story in first person and keep it to 250 words or less. Share who you are, not just what you sell. Why do you do what you do? What led you to a career in the industry? Why do you love what you do? Add some media to this section—a link to a video, a presentation, or some type of helpful document. End with a call to action.
►Facebook: With more than 1.5 billion active monthly users worldwide, Facebook is a social media powerhouse. A Facebook Business page is highly recommended. The business page is created from within a personal Facebook profile. But the business page offers advanced features not available through the personal profile, including affordable, targeted advertising. Keep this page up to date by consistently sharing informative, educational and entertaining content. This is an effective way to stay top of mind within your network to garner repeat business and referrals.
Here are three tips to make your business page shine:
1. Have some fun with the content on Facebook. Think in terms of educating, entertaining, and creating conversation. Photos and videos are eye-catching in the news feed so share images that will make people stop scrolling—candid photos of the team, events, and happenings at the office or in the community.
2. Upload a crisp and simple cover photo that is properly sized. Avoid too much text and test it out to be sure the image does not interfere with the default text and buttons that are static on the header image.
3. Create a “Learn More” call to action button that links to a source of more information, such as your Web page.
►Google My Business: While Google+ hasn’t taken off as a social media platform the way Facebook has, it is still important in terms of Google search results. A complete Google My Business profile enables a richer search result that includes a map, directions, photos, customer reviews, and links to more complete information.
Here are three tips to get the most out of Google My Business:
1. Upload a photo of the exterior street view of your building to make it easier for people to visualize how easily they can find you.
2. Share the link to your Google My Business page with your clients who use Gmail so they can easily leave a review using their already-established Google+ account.
3. If you really want to get high tech and fancy, check out GoogleStreetView to add a virtual tour of your office.
►Yelp: It’s no secret that consumers rely heavily upon recommendations from people they trust. But, more and more consumers are saying they trust online reviews as much as a personal referral, which has propelled Yelp as a platform of choice to share customer feedback. Get started on Yelp.
Make sure all social media profiles include the same complete, accurate information that one would provide on a compliant business card. This includes: Name, company, title, office address, phone number, e-mail address, Web site, NMLS # and any state licensing numbers and required disclaimers.
Learning social media technology and regulations are the only thing holding anyone in the mortgage industry back from participating. But your customers are on these platforms, and if you don’t join in and drive conversations with them, a competitor will. It’s not too late to seize those opportunities—adapt, get connected and innovate! It’s time to figure it out.
Amy Malloy is digital marketing specialist for RPM Mortgage Inc. where she manages the corporate content strategy and online reputation for the brand. Amy also works closely with loan advisors to help them leverage the power of social media to connect and engage with clients and prospects. She may be reached by phone at (925) 743-3516 or e-mail [email protected].
This article originally appeared in the July 2016 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.