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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   September 2017

Forging a Digital Connection

We all must learn the social media ‘rules of engagement’

Forging a Digital Connection

Few words get mortgage loan originators, branch managers and marketing professionals as excited about life as the term “social media.” Perhaps “fast closing” or “free food.” Something special happens inside people’s heads when they think about social media. It’s like a little siren begins blaring, “Free advertising space!”

Anyone who has used social media as a marketing tool can tell you that mastering this medium is not as easy as putting on an electronic helmet and beaming your thoughts across the internet. Certain rules of engagement must be learned if you want to break through the clutter and chatter that exists online, and the operative word there is “engagement.”

When mortgage professionals — or any salespeople, really — first learn about the power of social media, they often dive in and become active on a myriad of social media sites to offer all the information they have to give to the public. This sounds great from a business standpoint, because it can set them up as experts.

But where is the engagement? They can achieve information sharing and expertise development through traditional media. That’s what radio, TV and print ads are there for.

Let’s not sugarcoat it: Social media is advertising. It is advertising at a personal level, but it is advertising. This is a hard concept to grasp, without directly selling or persuading, so take a moment to meditate on the idea.

Become more social

Where many mortgage companies and originators fail on social media is, ironically, on the “social” part. Sometimes, when individuals look at your page, they don’t want to be bombarded with mortgage information.

You have a website. You have people who answer questions. Potential clients can go there. Your social media can move them there. But it is time to focus more on the “social” aspect of this unique media. This can be particularly hard for some, because it is so tempting to see social media as another selling opportunity.

Try to empathize with the audience for a moment. The most active times for people to engage online is before work, after work or on the weekends. Most normal people (not marketers or go-getting loan originators) are in a Zen-like, relaxed mode while perusing social media sites.

These people are still alert, but they are not living for information at that time. They are living for cat videos, motivational quotes, quick news tidbits, GIFs — something that will add to their day, but not add too much. Striking a balance between what customers want and what you can offer is the art of social media. And it is an art, like caring for a bonsai or even just a regular houseplant.

Think about your current social media output. Look at your page through the eyes of the audience. Are there things on your page that will make sense to the average borrower? Are you dropping acronyms like FHA, DTI, ATP and LTV too often? These terms might be very important to you, but not to your potential clients.

This is not to say that you should spam your social-news feed with health tips, cute puppies and funny videos. That may work for popular Facebook personalities like David “Avocado” Wolfe or George Takei, but perhaps not for a mortgage professional. It can be confusing.

Stay authentic

So, if both puppies and acronym-laden information are out, what should you be doing on social media? Here are a few things to consider as you try to put forth more relatable content on your social media feed.

  • What is your brand and story? Every mortgage company and originator needs a unique story to tell. Not everyone can be in the business of making home-loan dreams come true or live their life for superb customer service. Dig deeper. Be more authentic. That’s how you stand out.
  • What do you want to see on your page? Have a clear picture of what you want your social media presence to look like. Stay true to that vision. 
  • Look at reach instead of likes. You want to reach the highest number of people, not get the most likes. If you post content that has a high “shareability” factor, that will go further than any number of likes.
  • Does your page look like a giant advertisement? If it does, it’s time to do some redecorating. You are not the center of attention. Your customers are. Talk about them.

Social media is your chance to talk about your borrowers. It is the one time you get to engage with them, get them to engage with you and not have them feel like they are being sold something. Social media is their escape from all that. Don’t be like telemarketers who call late at night during dinner or “Wheel of Fortune.” If you think about it that way, it borders on inconsiderate.

Sure, you can talk about yourself and how awesome you and your office are. But don’t just talk about that. In fact, it would be best to put an embargo on the phrases, “Call me today!” or “Act fast!” on social media — which probably every mortgage professional has been guilty of posting on their pages.

It doesn’t take a lot of deep thinking and reflection to figure this out. All it takes is some empathy with your audience to transform your social media platforms into engaging forums.

Tailor your style

The other great thing about social media is that each platform allows you to communicate with your customers in different ways. With so much variety out there, a lack of imagination is not really an excuse.

Consider Twitter as an example. What you immediately notice about Twitter is the speed of it. If you follow more than 50 people, it is almost guaranteed that your home page will fill up if you look away for a minute. Twitter moves fast, as do Twitter users. This is the one platform where you can afford to put out as much information as you want, without it coming across as spam.

This is still no excuse, however, for slacking on the quality of content. Again, users don’t want to be sold to. They want to be able to browse through your Twitter feed and find something to like or retweet. Those two buttons are addictive. And they need to be just as addictive to you because every time you like a tweet, or retweet content, people notice you.

You can’t just wait for followers to come to you and then tell them to follow you. Twitter is perfect for understanding what engagement is all about. Not only do you have to engage with your audience, you have to engage with other Twitter users, influencers and companies if you want to spread your reach. The only people you see with a huge number of followers are celebrities. That is not to say that you won’t achieve celebrity status as well, but as a mortgage originator, the likelihood might be less.

LinkedIn is terrific for recruiting and professional networking. It is the social network equivalent of a dinner party. This is the place for you to pitch yourself, without it sounding like a pitch. Treat LinkedIn like a networking event and act accordingly.

Very rarely is someone you are trying to woo going to say, “Please, tell me all about you and you alone, because that will leave a lasting impact on me.” Despite being a great environment for professional and understated bragging, LinkedIn is still not just about you and your resume. It is most prominently about your connections. Send thank-you notes, write endorsements and publish posts on topics that matter to you. It is still a platform where you need to be authentic.

•  •  •

Social media was designed for conversation. It was designed to close that strangely large gap in communication between businesses and marketers and their customers. Make use of this. Talk to your borrowers and potential clients. Show them you are interested in their issues. Engage them with content that interests them. And remember the most important lesson of all: Social media is not about you. It is all about them.


 


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