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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   October 2012

Post, Blog and Broker

Use social media platforms to find — and educate — your customers

As brokers and originators finalize their marketing strategies for this fourth quarter, it’s easy to see how much more challenging the industry has become since the height of the recession. Increased regulations, penalties and requirements have caused countless brokerages and banks to adjust the way they do business and tighten their belts — so much so that some organizations have left the industry altogether.

In a way, however, that’s good news for the majority of current brokers and originators who are competent, informed, ethical and committed. At a time when industry ranks have been slashed, the brokers and originators working today may have the biggest window of opportunity they’ve ever seen. In short, industry competition isn’t what it used to be.

How can mortgage professionals take advantage of this vastly reduced playing field? For one thing, they can serve the many borrowers who complain about the difficulty of getting a loan. What these customers really want is professional, trustworthy advice and direction from a competent mortgage originator. With that in mind, be responsive to potential customers’ requirements by providing all the education they need.

The challenge then becomes delivery. How do you get quality industry education to your customers? In this respect, the Internet and social media can play a vital role in your business practices. Of course, virtually every organization has its own website, but brokers and originators also should make sure that they have their own personal pages within their companies’ sites. Educating your customers is a multistep process, and that process begins with you.

Web presence

Your first mission, in other words, is to educate your customers about who you are. In this regard, you should consider your web presence as an individual in addition to any professional credentials that may appear on your company’s website. A borrower may be interested in learning about your seven-year history in the mortgage business or your involvement with local charity activities, but it can be less than helpful for borrowers to catch a glimpse of you cutting loose at your high-school reunion. Don’t doubt that potential prospects will search for your name and photos online — maintaining a professional Web presence is something that everyone should consider in this day and age.

"Of course, virtually every organization has its own website, but brokers and originators also should make sure that they have their own personal pages within their companies’ sites."

Once you’ve handled your personal résumé and Web presence — that is, once you’ve educated your potential borrowers and referral partners about who you are — you then need to begin providing your clients and colleagues with education about the loan process, as well as your service commitment and expectations. These are the topics that will be of greatest interest to your soon-to-be clients, as opposed to information about underwriting guidelines or disclosures. This information may become necessary or valuable to your customers eventually, but it’s not something that’s likely to bring you business in and of itself.

Reaching your audience

Communication is at the heart of educating your clients and colleagues. And, when it comes to transmitting education about the industry or about yourself, the world of social media can provide a multitude of platforms for conveying information.

Of course, Facebook and Twitter are the most popular social media sites, in addition to LinkedIn. Blogs, however, perhaps can be the most effective way to demonstrate your prowess as an informed and reliable originator. Because these social media platforms are often free, the expense for using them essentially is the time necessary to maintain them. Adding fresh content is the lifeblood of any successful social media campaign, especially when it comes to blogs.

There are several popular sites that provide you with the opportunity to set up and customize a blog at no cost, perhaps the most notable of which are WordPress and Blogger. There are other free blogging sites, as well, and over the last few years, blogs have become increasingly easy to set up and use. In a number of ways, a blog is probably the best place to provide your prospects with valuable information about what their loan process will look like should they choose to get a loan with your help. Regardless of your blog’s design, give your prospective customers an honest service commitment and value proposition; now more than ever, clients want to understand their mortgages and set realistic expectations.

Blogs don’t necessarily have to focus on one subject exclusively; for instance, you should feel free to write about recently announced economic indicators one day and loan-application preparation the next. With that in mind, you should organize and categorize your blog in such a way that allows your readers to search for postings that pertain to specific subjects or just read through everything chronologically.

Regardless, your objective should be to make yourself look knowledgeable and portray yourself as a kind of teacher or adviser. Further, be sure to thoroughly promote your blog and suggest to prospects that they should visit it to learn more about the mortgage industry and loan process.

Additional sites

In addition to blogging, there are a number of other effective ways that brokers and originators can set themselves apart from their competition. For one, Facebook now offers business pages, which don’t necessarily need to be attached to your own personal Facebook profile. As always, there’s no cost associated with this platform. Setting up a Facebook business page also is relatively simple, all the more so because there are templates that you can use to enhance your page’s appearance.

Whatever its design, your objective with Facebook should be similar to your blogging objective: You want to portray yourself as a qualified, reliable source of information, and you want to accumulate friends. In working with Facebook business pages, however, consider directing your efforts toward Realtors and other types of referral partners. In particular, Facebook can be used to direct your readers to third-party articles of interest, making it even easier to drive your content toward one specific audience or another. Ultimately, your posts should be designed to inform your readers and entice them to engage in virtual conversations with you.

Finally, as most brokers and originators have already realized, LinkedIn can be an extremely useful way to promote yourself and your business. Although LinkedIn began primarily as a place to form professional networks and tout your résumé, the site has grown considerably beyond that. Even though many professionals now use LinkedIn, some still don’t take advantage of its numerous discussion groups and posting abilities, which again allows you to educate your audience. If you aren’t already doing so, be sure to devote some effort to LinkedIn to enhance — and expand — your professional relationships.

Regardless of the specific platforms you use, reader engagement is the ultimate sign of a successful social media campaign — and, once again, the educational nature of your content is what will bring you the most success. This is all the more reason to make sure that you continue using social media once you begin.

•  •  •

Social media can be invaluable in allowing brokers and originators to provide educational content to their prospects. Although business opportunities may not be as rife as they were a few years ago, borrowers and referral partners still are out there and ready to do business. You can use your e-mail signature to include links to all of your social media sites and profiles. You also can provide Web addresses on your business cards or any other form of publication or advertising.

Education undoubtedly is the sales tool of this era. Although there have been many changes to our business within recent years, originators who are capable of educating their audiences in clear, laymen’s terms can be assured of ongoing success despite any hurdles they may face in the future.  •


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