Enthusiasts, Skeptics Review Social Media Tools

The social media frenzy that keeps many glued to numerous networks is generating a different buzz among marketing service providers willing to turn it into a business opportunity.

"How we communicate has changed and that the investing industry needs to change with it," says Jeff Ramson, CEO of ProActive Capital Resources Group LLC, New York.

"I have seen some mortgage servicing companies use Facebook pages," Brian King, president of Wisemar Inc., Charlotte, N.C., told this publication. One company in Charlotte made the local news headlines for censoring comments posted by the public into their Web space. Judging from his personal exchanges with people in the mortgage industry, as of now it seems that even if they may be discussing it in-house, the issue of using or not using social media does not appear to be a hot topic. His marketing peers, however, are chatting about the best ways to use social media in the mortgage space. "When using social media it is important to keep the content up to date," he says. Insiders are also talking about whether it is best to allow customers and the public to access content or send out information packaged in a periodical newsletter format. It can be an important way "to push out certain content" that is screened to reflect a firm's business strategy and client demand.

Catering to such needs ProActive introduced Integrated Strategic Messaging, a digital social media platform that connects emerging growth companies with potential investors using Google, Yahoo, TechCrunch, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, PitchEngine, Facebook and blogs. The goal, Ramson says, was to create a cutting-edge platform and integrated digital media portal that provides strategic messaging services for the small-cap market. So it combines the use of social, new and traditional media.

PRISM is designed to assist users "harness the power of social media in a new way" that promotes more effective and transparent investor relations. Social media combined with the company's newsroom helps users reach thousands of investors and current shareholders. The ProActive Newsroom permits the platform to function "as the central hub and distribution point" for users' corporate news, press releases, social media accounts, news feeds, investor reports, blogs, and stock market data and filings. Independent ProActive consultants assist with content and strategy. Each user receives a client-specific page at ProActive Newsroom, an in-depth analysis of the current social media landscape, social media presence development, maintenance, monitoring and detailed reports.

Affiliate companies provide corporate videos and news distribution to financial publishers nationwide.

PRISM-type tools are attracting social media enthusiasts. Skeptics on the other hand are weighting the medium's advantages and disadvantages.

There is a risk that business owners are "overdoing it," says Ivan Misner, the author of "Networking Like a Pro." Unless entrepreneurs carefully review their social media engagement they risk to make mistakes that have the potential "to turn deadly" for their business. It is quite possible to become too involved in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media networks.

"Business owners are spending hours upon hours each day positioning themselves on these social media sites, many of them are completely neglecting their business's own products and services, letting quality fall by the wayside," Misner says, because if a network "is a mile wide and an inch deep" it is bad for the business. The trick, according to the Los Angeles-based senior partner for the Referral Institute and chairman of BNI, a business networking organization he founded in 1985, is in keeping the right balance between quality and quantity while building up a social media based brand.

"Using social media efficiently can be the difference between boom and bust for business owners. You can't put all your eggs in the online basket. Entrepreneurs must incorporate social media into a larger networking strategy to be successful."

In fact various reports show that larger industry networks are flourishing within the mortgage market space as financial service providers are committing more time and resources to customer education and outreach.

For example, the Financial Services Roundtable, Washington, which represents 100 of the largest integrated financial services companies that provide banking, insurance and investment products, has entered into a five-year Joint Framework of Financial Literacy accord with nonprofit Operation Hope. Most recently the group redesigned My Money Management, its financial literacy website adding social media channels as tools of engagement for their online visitors. The expectation is to open up and multiply personal finance related dialogues in Facebook, Twitter and its weekly newsletters.