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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   April 2013

Get Online and Get Noticed

Reach customers by implementing a sound social media strategy

With more than 500 million users on Facebook, hundreds of millions of tweets sent daily and more than 200 million registered users on LinkedIn, it’s not a question of if your company should leverage social media but when your company should leverage it. Perhaps even more important, however, is the question of how you can approach social media in a professional and compliant manner.

An important benefit of social media is the ability to not only reach your core customers, but also to engage with the people who influence them. Although your core audience may be people who are currently in the market for home loans, it’s also important to reach those potential customers’ families, friends and overall spheres of influence. 

Whether you’re fully immersed in social media or just trying to figure it all out, it’s essential to develop and follow a structured approach. Consider, for instance, the following tips when developing or expanding a social media plan for your mortgage business:

  • Review company policies regarding electronic communication and use of external websites
  • Create a social media taskforce of company decisionmakers and develop company guidelines
  • Develop social media business objectives and success metrics to share throughout your organization
  • Agree on social media roles and responsibilities
  • Determine and implement monitoring capabilities
  • Get executive approvals and implement strategies
  • Test, analyze and replicate success and refine tactics

Here’s a closer look at a few of these strategies for social media success.

Taskforce and guidelines

A primary step in any social media plan should include early and ongoing collaboration with key departments in your organization. These departments likely will include sales, legal, compliance, human resources, information technology and your executive team. Depending on the size of your organization, some of these critical departments may be combined.

Regardless, getting your company’s decisionmakers on the same page is key to success. Be open to understanding the risks associated with online communication so that you can better prepare your company to mitigate those risks and capitalize on the branding and lead generation that social media can unlock.

Guidelines for your use of social media should be clear across your organization. Will your company only allow marketing personnel to update your social media sites or will your sales teams — with proper training and monitoring — be allowed to connect and expand their customer bases through Facebook and Twitter? How will negative comments (as well as positive) be handled? Each of these questions requires a clear, company-wide answer.

Objectives and metrics

Don’t begin or elevate your social media presence simply because of a site’s “coolness” factor. In using social media, your organization should have clear business objectives and measureable goals in mind, such as:

  • Improve and amplify your brand awareness
  • Increase your website traffic
  • Achieve measurable lead generation
  • Establish your company as a thought leader
  • Build audience and brand advocates across selected social platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)

Roles and responsibilities

Deciding which personnel will be allowed to leverage social media should be based on risk and benefit. Many companies implement social media within their marketing teams, assigning specific duties to staff members with relevant experience. In these cases, the marketing team often works with business units, including sales, production and compliance, to ensure proper branding, messaging and adherence to important regulations.

Large upticks in brand awareness and overall online presence can be gained by expanding the footprint of social media across specific departments such as sales and customer service. This past year, for example, Morgan Stanley broke new ground in corporate social media policy by allowing their 17,000 financial advisers limited access to certain social media sites such as Twitter. Although the benefits of such an effort can be significant, it’s important to take great care from both training and monitoring perspectives.

Strategy implementation

Once you’ve established some of the fundamental elements needed for your social media plan, it’s time to implement and cultivate your success. It’s no longer sufficient to have just one person driving social media on a part-time basis. Make sure to dedicate social media roles within your organization and then integrate social media across all of your marketing and communication efforts to fully realize its potential. 

Ongoing testing and tracking of different forms of social media, as well as determining the best content for your audience, is crucial for success. Social media is not a get-rich-quick endeavor, and you should set your expectations accordingly. Sites like Twitter and Facebook should be part of a multilayered marketing approach that, when implemented properly, can provide a low-cost method for brand awareness, customer engagement, recruiting and lead generation over time.

Once your accounts are set up, you can begin tracking your audience. For instance, when it comes to Facebook, you can measure your audience in terms of “likes,” gender, age, geographic dispersion, engagement and total reach. Compare these results against your core target audience to determine if you’re hitting the right constituents.

The amount of connections you develop through social media is related directly to the perceived value of the content you post. Content posted to Facebook, for instance, should consist of topical and valuable insights surrounding the mortgage and real estate markets. Don’t hard sell and don’t be afraid to add some personality to the posts, as well. People are interested in your thoughts, not simply statistics. Regardless of the site, you must test various types of content including photos, video and other rich media to determine what resonates most with your audience.


 


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