Savvy loan officers are joining an increasing number of real estate agents who post daily, short-term content on Snapchat and Instagram — so-called disappearing stories — to raise their profiles in their communities.
Those stories are said to be helping mortgage professionals build name recognition, increase referrals and reach more of their core audiences. Snapchat has 166 million daily active users, and Instagram Stories has 250 million, according to CNBC.
It has become essential for business professionals to promote important events or activities as they happen, said Kristen Ruby, the CEO of Ruby Media Group.
“It's not 2009 anymore," Ruby said. "Businesses and brands that are winning right now are all over these live features…They're showing people 'here's what I'm doing, here's the event I'm at, here's an open house.' Showing that part of their life or their business, that's what resonates with people.”
Different platforms reach different demographics, and business people’s preferences vary.
With 71% of its users under 34, Snapchat proves most beneficial when targeting a millennial audience, according to the digital marketing agency Omnicore.
However, while 59% of Instagram users are 18 to 29 years old, 33% are between the ages of 30 and 49.
In targeting millennials and their "helicopter" parents, Mason-McDuffie Mortgage’s chief information officer, Jason Frazier, prefers Snapchat over Instagram Stories. He describes Snapchat as the "clear winner” in audience engagement.
"[Snapchat] has definitely been a game-changer; it's given us a hook where other companies have not. Every company likes to talk about how they do social media…We've been able to stand out on social media and make that one of our biggest hooks," Frazier said.
"For the last year, it's been a great community builder for us, it's been great at getting business, it's been great at getting partnerships, and it's really given us an edge," he continued.
Mortgage professionals can take advantage of Snapchat text overlays called "geofilters" that users can select and place over their content. Geofilters can run during a specific event or more permanently at the address of an office space.
"[Geofilters] can help [professionals] put their branding on the map and allow others to see that they even exist in the first place in that area," Ruby said.
"If I had a small business that I was working with, the first thing that I would recommend to do is to buy a [geofilter]. It's really affordable, it costs I think under $1,000 a year, and it makes the most sense for a business to leverage that feature," she said.
Users of Instagram Stories cannot produce geofilters, but they are able to tag a specific location within a story. They can also save live videos recorded through Instagram onto their stories.
Still, more social media users are choosing Instagram Stories over Snapchat, which has a narrower audience and is less efficient in searchability. Snapchat also defaults user profiles to private.
"I'm focusing a lot more energy on Instagram Stories, and a lot of agents that I know are, too, just because it's a different audience and it's not as private," said Ben Johnston, branch manager at RPM Mortgage.
"Instagram is more open, and with the [discover] feature for Snapchat, you really have to look for somebody to find them…It's not as easy as floating through Instagram and clicking on a hashtag and just going directly to that feature or that direct topic," he said.
Johnston uses Snapchat and Instagram Stories to strengthen and develop relationships with real estate agents. He is also adding loan officers and using the platforms for recruiting.
Loan officers have found most success with stories when they upload basic lifestyle content in addition to their business-related posts. They also noticed a connection between mortgages going digital and professionals in the industry implementing innovative social media strategies.
"I think it's the storytelling and the behind-the-scenes that's powerful," Frazier said. "If you're in real estate and mortgage, you need to understand that content and community is what's going to play an important role. Especially as more leads go online, you want to make sure that you're telling those stories through [different methods]."
Instagram launched in 2010 as a photo-sharing network, and Snapchat in 2011 as a disappearing storytelling platform. Within a year of its introduction, Instagram Stories' daily active users surpassed Snapchat's by 84 million.