Tweet Me! Friend Me! Buzz Me! Digg Me!


BLOG VIEW: If you follow Sen. Chris Dodd's Twitter feed, you might have done a double take at a Nov. 18 tweet that popped up at 11:36 a.m. ET. The message attributed to the outgoing chairman of the Senate Banking Committee stated, ‘U love torturing me w this s***.’

The individual being addressed in the tweet was not identified – those with a playful imagination could theorize that Dodd was venting his frustration with his pre-recession BFF Angelo Mozilo or his post-TARP BFF Barney Frank. Minutes after the intriguing tweet appeared, it abruptly vanished and was replaced with a more serious announcement: ‘From Dodd Staff – Apologies to Dodd's followers, last tweet was not from Chris Dodd.’

This digital hiccup stands out because it is among the relatively rare mistakes to permeate the social networking media related to the financial services sector. In taking a look at how this sector – which I define as the financial institutions, vendors, regulators, elected officials, trade groups, nonprofits, think tanks and financial media – it is fairly remarkable how smoothly this environment has gained comfort in this relatively new way of distributing information and opinions.

Four years ago, I first began to keep track on how the industry tiptoed into this online environment. In the December 2006 Secondary Marketing Executive E-Feature ‘Mortgage Banking Comes To MySpace,’ I noted that the pioneers in social media networking were not the major players in the industry, but the smaller independent lenders and credit unions that were tapping into the MySpace phenomenon to stay in touch with their younger customers. The larger institutions, for a variety of reasons, were extremely reluctant to dip into this still-new and untested environment.

Fast-forward to today, and things are very, very different. Every corner of the industry appears to be in overdrive with links, tweets, text messages and requests for following on a dizzying number of channels and sites.

Lately, I have found myself staying abreast of breaking news by following the data and links provided by my mortgage banking friends who are linked to me via Twitter and Facebook. In many ways, it is like having a personal news service that keeps me updated on both the industry and the wider world.

And even one of my favorite guilty-pleasure websites, YouTube, has seen an invasion of mortgage banking-related messaging. Among the endeavors that stand out is a series of homeowner education videos produced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that can be found on its YouTube channel. HUD now has 18 videos online, including productions in Spanish and sign language.

Also on YouTube is the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), which recently debuted an animated video designed to explain how its member institutions will be impacted by the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. ICBA has this video on its YouTube page, and it is using the popular site sell the message of community banking to both Capitol Hill and Main Street.

YouTube is well stocked with a seemingly endless number of videos that range from mortgage banking-related political advocacy to in-depth training on various industry topics. Of course, not everything online needs to be very serious – for example, Coester Appraisal Group, based in Rockville, Md., used YouTube to announce the return of company founder Timothy Coester by creating a video that parodies the legendary training sequence from the Oscar-winning film ‘Rocky.’ But instead of Sylvester Stallone running up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Coester dons the gray athletic wear to get back into fighting condition. This amusing video can be found here.

The ultimate question, however, is, where is this going to lead us? Even more importantly, how do we stay ahead of it? There are still some entities that are lagging behind: The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), for example, is conspicuously absent from Facebook and YouTube, but clips of the cruel but funny ‘Daily Show’ episode on the MBA jettisoning its Washington, D.C., headquarters can easily be found on these sites.

But with almost everyone on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, how is anyone going to stand out from the crowd? For marketing and communications experts, that will be the ultimate challenge. After all, anyone can send a tweet or post something on Facebook or Digg – but how do you make money from it?

Ultimately, I hope that we don't wind up in a situation of information overload and overkill that results in people's shutting off from the rising volume of data, videos and links. At the end of the day, the very last thing we need is having our intended audiences borrow a turn of phrase from the Chris Dodd Twitter account and fault us for torturing them with this�well, you get the idea!

– Phil Hall, editor, Secondary Marketing Executive

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