The societal impact of social-media sites has been extraordinary. But while many people use these sites for entertainment or to relay trivial personal information, mortgage bankers have an opportunity to tap into Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to reinforce their corporate brand while connecting with potential customers.
At the recent Mortgage Bankers Association Annual Convention, the panel session entitled ‘Future of Technology – The Emerging Trends’ viewed the subject from two vantage points: the consumer online experience and the challenge facing mortgage bankers to make Internet-based connections.
‘People will shop online for financial products, but will they actually buy?’ asked Craig Focardi, senior research director at Boston-based TowerGroup. ‘When it comes to actually buying financial products and services, overwhelmingly, all age groups prefer face-to-face contact. However, all of the channels are useful – and online is definitely useful for learning about products.’
But that's not to say that consumer behavior will never change. Focardi pointed to a J.D. Power & Associates survey that found the online-exclusive Quicken Loans had the highest rating for residential loan closings, with 78% of all loans closed in 28 days or less. The industry average, in comparison, is 52 days.
‘If that's what you're competing with, that's where the bar has been set,’ Focardi said, adding that this should not be seen as a sign that traditional retail banking is doomed. ‘We are always going to have both brick-and-mortar and online. We have to figure out how to support the technology.’
For Rick Grant, president of Rick Grant & Associates, a public relations and marketing agency based in Jim Thorpe, Pa., social media provides an invaluable tool for sales and marketing outreach.
‘To find out what's going on, what people are saying and what your competitors are saying, you can use social-media tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to gauge the conversation and find out what's going on,’ he said. ‘Because whether you are in that conversation or not, it is going on right now.’
To cut through the digital clutter, Grant recommended focusing on specific aspects of the most popular sites. He noted that LinkedIn is home to ‘hundreds and hundreds of groups, many of which deal with the industry,’ while Twitter's wall of chatter can be telescoped via ‘hashtags for the industry where conversations are going on all of the time.’
Grant also advocated participation on FourSquare, especially for companies with a wide footprint that are focused on location-based marketing.
‘If you have a branch network, go on FourSquare and make [your consumer target] the mayor,’ he said, referring to the site's honorary title for customers with the highest number of visits to a specific place.
As for YouTube, Grant said he believes this is an ideal fit ‘if you are running a company and you are passionate about what you are doing.’ He cited the example of Garth Graham, principal of Plantation, Fla.-based Financial Literacy Solutions, as evidence of the synergy between the medium and the message.
‘Eighty percent of people that use the Internet are using it to watch videos,’ he said. ‘And [Graham] says more than 80 percent of these people know they need more information on financial literacy – and they are going to the Internet to learn more.’
Mortgage bankers who are new to social media and are still fumbling their way through the process need to ensure that this endeavor is properly coordinated.
‘You need to agree on a strategy from the beginning and have executive approval built in,’ said Joe Dahleen, chief strategy officer at Irvine, Calif.-based Mount Olympus Mortgage Co. ‘Get your Internet policy done up front, and tie your brands all together.’
Dahleen added that a new focus on social media should not come at the expense of the corporate website.
‘Build your website – that is your ultimate landing page,’ he continued. ‘Do you want to get business? You better have a kick-butt landing page, because that is where your relations start. Your brand also has to be consumer-facing and have a friendly tone to it.’
Dahleen further noted that if mortgage bankers are involved in online messaging, it is important to have something of value to say.
‘Content is king,’ he said. ‘You have to have content that is relevant and local to what you are dealing with and related to your strategy. You must align your strategy – don't go crazy with social media without aligning your strategy.’
Although getting signed up with LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook is free, Dahleen recommended taking advantage of the fee-based elements of the social-media sites.
‘If everyone is on LinkedIn – what's wrong with LinkedIn ads?’ he asked. ‘They're very effective, very cheap and very targeted. Facebook ads are also huge. If you can filter your marketing with online targeted ads, you will have a much more successful outcome originating leads for your organization.’
(Please address all comments regarding this article to Phil Hall, editor of Secondary Marketing Executive, at email@example.com.)