The Facebook Advantage

By Jo Ann Theirault-Fazio

If you’re not using Facebook as part of your overall marketing campaign, I suggest you consider the opportunities and get started as soon as possible. A Facebook presence provides an informal way for friends and prospective customers to get to know your company. More people are familiar with the personal pages that have become so popular, but Facebook also enables you to develop a special section that can help expand your business.

Our Introduction
When I first joined Facebook, my primary intent was to connect with my friends from college, sorority and high school. However, I found that most of my status updates revolved around work: what I was doing at the office and what was going on in the lending industry. I decided it would be an ideal forum to share information and become an invaluable resource to friends and family. I then started a team “fan” page. Any time I post something new to the
page—whether it’s a quick status update about rates, a link to an article or a new blog post— members of the group will see the update on their own Facebook home page.

Getting Started
It is a fairly simple process to launch your Facebook page. First, check in with www.facebook.com to sign up for a free account and follow the steps to establish a basic profile. You can then click “create a page” for your business at the bottom of your personal page.

You’ll need to determine what business-related content to share and who you want to reach. You can develop mortgage related content such as:
*10 steps for getting a loan.
*Reverse mortgages
*The “how to” of short sales
*Interest rate updates
*Other news items

On our team page I also post “personal” pictures. For example, we sponsored a charity carnival to raise money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and I included photos of my team members and their children.

You can gradually expand your audience of fans, those business-related contacts you want to attract. Include past customers, prospects, Realtors, builders and others.

Promotion
Of course, you want to be sure to promote your Facebook presence. I send e-mails to clients and referral partners to join our fan page. I also have the Facebook icon link in my e-mail signature. You can just click on that link and it takes you to the page.

When I set up our team page, I decided that the easiest way to get information out to our “fans” was to import our blog. That way, I wasn’t doing double the amount of work. Every time we post something on our blog, it automatically imports into our notes on Facebook. All of our fans will see this on their Home Page. They can comment on the blog posts or click “I like.” It drives a lot more traffic to the page that way.

We also tested the benefits of advertising on Facebook. While we obtained some fans from the ads, I felt it wasn’t targeting the right audience. We have always worked by referral, so it just didn’t “feel like us.” Instead, I decided it would be better to target our current client and referral partner base and those with whom they are connected. Our team/fan page definitely has been beneficial in increasing traffic.

Responding to Others
You can also respond to your Facebook friends’ status updates, which may involve mortgage-related questions. Many of my friends are my age and younger and are either first-time homebuyers or move-up buyers. They might post a note asking for a Realtor referral, which is a perfect time to cross-sell. Or someone might have a question related to the mortgage process. I make sure I either comment on their post or send them a private message through Facebook. For example, my friend’s sister-in-law changed her status to say: is looking at condos online. Need something cute and cheap. Although she is someone with whom I do not speak frequently, Facebook gives you easy access to your friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances. I was able to immediately e-mail her to explain I would be happy to help. She hadn’t even started thinking about mortgages; she was just searching online to take advantage of the $8,000 tax credit. She replied that she would appreciate my help.

Facebook has given me a way to reach people I previously may have overlooked as potential clients or “raving fans.” It can add another dimension to your ongoing marketing.

Jo Ann Theirault-Fazio, The Lake Team, is branch manager/vice president of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate, Northbrook, Ill.

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