Making Friends on Facebook

Perhaps you need a few more friends.

An increasing number of loan originators have incorporated social media strategies as part of their comprehensive marketing programs.

Of course, Facebook is the most popular and effective method to expand your database of “friends,” many of whom could eventually become customers.

“If someone is not utilizing the benefits of Facebook to grow their business, then they are missing out on an opportunity to take advantage of a platform that is free and allows one to engage with an unlimited audience of people in their industry,” said Michael Deery, Citywide Financial Corp., San Diego, Calif.

Getting Personal

Facebook is a proven way to strengthen relationships with personal and professional contacts, and can serve as a short- and long-term business builder. Joe Bigelman considers it a valuable piece of his overall marketing strategy. “It is an ideal opportunity to let friends and others know the business you are in,” said Bigelman, John Adams Mortgage in Troy, Mich. “Plus, it gives customers and prospects a chance to see the personal side.”

Louise Thaxton, Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation, with several offices in central Louisiana, uses her Facebook profile to highlight different aspects of her personal and professional lives. “My Facebook pages show the real me—as a loan originator, mother and grandmother, with pictures of families, as well as my team,” she explained. “It also shows my commitment to our military clients, and that resonates with the military and the Realtors who are involved as well.”

Whenever possible, it is important to interact with your new friends. “When someone adds you to their list of connections, or ‘friends’ you, don’t just accept and ignore – send them a reply!” said Chip Cummings, Northwind International Corp., Grand Rapids Mich.

Cummings sends a personal note or post to every person who connects with him on Facebook and LinkedIn. “I try to reference something in their personal profile (such as employment, location, experience or mutual friend) in order to solidify the connection,” he said. “I make sure to ‘like’ or comment on people’s posts on a regular basis, and add to the conversation in a non-confrontational and enjoyable manner. These posts will be seen by others associated with that contact, resulting in higher personal visibility – and additional requests to connect.”

Sharing Resources

Facebook offers an ideal opportunity to share resources and other information that benefit both potential customers as well as referral partners. For example Beata Bukowski posts articles that may be of interest to her Facebook friends. “I post articles on my Facebook page and LinkedIn, which has been very effective,” said Bukowski, Ultimate Rate Mortgage, Chicago. “The articles are usually about the latest economic news, housing reports and mortgage programs. I’ve found the key is to make them informative and helpful.”

Bukowski realizes that sharing such resources helps her realize a long-term benefit. “People have responded by e-mailing me with their questions. Rather than generate immediate business from this, it has helped create greater visibility for me.”

Highlighting Your Friends

Most people like to be recognized for their achievements and special milestones and one way to do that is displaying their photos.  For example, Thaxton features photos of her customers who recently closed their loan. “We ask if we can take their photo at the closing table and then add them to my Facebook page,” she said. “They love it.”

Tagging is another option. This involves being friends with people on Facebook, clicking on a specific picture taken at a real estate office, borrower’s home, special event or elsewhere, and typing their name in to “tag” them. Once tagged, their photos and a brief description then appear on the person’s own Facebook page, which helps generate more visibility for them and for you. “Part of your success in the world of social media, and especially Facebook, is viral content and tagging,” said Cummings. “This enables others who would not normally see your posts or activity to get involved with what you are doing. I also use tags on names in posts (such as @ChipCummings), which creates a direct post and link to that person’s page. I’ll do the same with photos, and when the posts or photos are shared, then the tags travel with them – giving you additional exposure. If I have a really interesting photo or link, I will use a ‘sponsored’ link to a specific targeted demographic group such as ‘real estate agents in Houston.’”

Cummings explained that sponsoring a link can be done for “just pennies” through the ads section, and allows you to have posts show up on thousands of non-friend pages, thereby creating extra visibility. Located on the left side under “Pages,” the “Create Ad” link allows you to create mini ads, promote specific posts or pages, or even sponsor stories. “This is especially powerful when promoting events or online promos, and you can track specific views and click results for just that post.”

The Business Page

More originators are also developing a business page, in addition to their personal Facebook profile. Jeff Lake considers it an ideal way to expand his social media network, which also helps reinforce his overall brand as a successful business professional and involved community leader. “A business page (compared to a personal page) on Facebook helps present a strong, positive business image and makes a distinction between our more personal information, which may not be as relevant to old customers and prospects,” said Lake, Guaranteed Rate, Chicago.

The business page provides Lake with better control over the content on his Facebook profile. “With personal pages you can’t always control what everyone is posting to your pages or sites. We’ve found that it is best to keep your personal pages private to your friends and family.” Of course, the business page provides a more appropriate forum to highlight interesting mortgage or financial-related information. “I’m able to include posts that wouldn’t necessarily be of as much interest to my friends and family on my personal sites.”

Lake also looks for opportunities to include personal items on his business page. “If I have something ‘brand-worthy’ that’s personal – like a picture of me with one of my children at a ball game or holding a grandchild or something like that – then I can just share it from the personal to the business page. This gives me a way to share any personal news when I think it is part of my brand as a family-oriented individual and would be interesting to my customers and connections.”

Deery has created a business page especially aimed at Realtors called “Free Resources for CA Real Estate Agents.” (https://www.facebook.com/FreeResourcesForRealEstateAgents?filter=1 .) “I share lots of great resources, marketing materials, sales tips and other content that is relevant, unique and helpful to grow a Realtor’s business, which in turn keeps people tuned in,” said Deery.  “Of course, I market myself and my business too.”

Deery stressed that it takes time to develop such a tailored Facebook section.  “I have had this page since November 2010 when I had less than 50 people on there,” he said. “Like most things, it was a struggle to get it off the ground at the beginning, but I saw the potential. Consistency is key, as I like to post on my page at least once or twice a day. I have also started writing articles for the real estate section in our local newspaper, so being able to post these on my page is giving me a lot more credibility.”

Deery and other originators definitely have seen the benefits of Facebook exposure. “I am getting at least three leads a day from agents who I have met through this (Realtors) page and I am closing at least six transactions a month as a result,” noted Deery. “My goal is to get to at least eight leads a day in the next year or so, as my page and my credibility continue to grow.”

If you haven’t yet started a Facebook page, now is an ideal time to test different techniques. Look at what other loan originators are doing and create your own distinctive style.

David Robinson is Associate Editor of Broker Banker.

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