In 2002, social media was considered a fad. In 2009 it was cutting edge and what all businesses were doing to get ahead of competitors. In 2014, social media marketing tools are a critical component to a brand's overall integrated marketing communications arsenal.
When launching a brand in the mortgage industry, social media marketing helps build brand awareness, trust, drives leads, interaction, builds community, offers repeated exposure to target audiences, and establishes your company as an authority and as an influencer.
Here are some key statistics you should be aware of:
- 82% of consumers trust a company more if they are involved with social media (source: Forbes)
- 85% of customers expect businesses to be active in social media (source: Vocus)
- Businesses that blog get 55% more web visitors and 67% more leads (source: Vocus)
Here are seven tips to embrace for a successful brand launch in social media.
- Find out where your target audience is. So you're launching your business and you know you need to be on social media. But the number of outlets is overwhelming — there's Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and many more, not to mention everyone seems to think you should have a company blog. Where do you begin?
First, do your research. Find out where your competitors are placing emphasis as this will be the quickest way to understand where you likely need to be as well. Also, conduct demographic research on the most popular social media venues so that you have a clear understanding of the target audience for each.
Focus at first only on the venues where you will garner the very most benefit. Your venue selections will depend on the type of business you're in. If you're a wholesale lender vs. a retail lender, for example, your primary venue selections and where you place most emphasis will be different. Don't feel like you need to do everything at once, especially if you know you don't have the resources to keep up.
Finally, even if you won't be active on all venues applicable for your company in the immediate term, it's important to take ownership of them quickly. Do this to avoid issues in case another company with a similar name should creep up and take control of those venues ahead of you.
- Have a plan and define what "success" means. You need to integrate your social media efforts into your company's overall communications plan. This is not even an option these days.
Your plan should include an editorial calendar, posting schedule, contests, drawings and much more. It should also be adaptable to changes in the market, new products and new services and it should accommodate other newsworthy items of interest to your audience.
Consider who will be on your planning and plan implementation team. Most social media teams are made up of one to three people. They are skilled in public relations, marketing, web analytics, search engine optimization and customer service, plus they have an understanding of the legal aspects of what you can and can't do in the mortgage industry.
Finally, your plan won't mean much unless you determine what "success" means. So, once this plan is constructed, make sure you know what you're going to measure to determine success. For example, on the front end you might measure new website traffic, interactions, information downloads and new lead quality among other items.
- Engagement is expected and necessary. The primary purpose of social media is not to sell on the front end; it's to increase brand awareness/exposure and build a community of followers. Some will be qualified leads that you can then engage in a variety of ways. Some will develop into customers.
Write blog posts that answer questions relative to your product or service offering and include sharing links to allow distribution across social channels.
The key is writing and distributing useful content so that your followers connect with you for the right reasons. If you're a retail lender, your social media posts, for the most part, should speak to topics of interest to those in the market to obtain mortgage financing vs. how to build a sandbox, for example. Wholesale lenders could focus on special products and how they can help brokers close more loans, market news and more that directly affects their business.
When people start to connect with you, a huge part of community- and conversation-building is actively listening. Be sure to initiate conversations with your followers to find out what content you're distributing that they find valuable, their experience with your company, and what you can do to improve it.
Follow the 70/20/10 rule for content, which means that 70% of content is brand- and business-building (information valuable to your followers), 20% is content shared from other sources, and the remaining 10% is self-promotional.
Since social media has become a legitimate go-to feedback tool for many customers, have a plan in place for responding to feedback, both positive and negative.
- Be consistent and authentic. One of the benefits of social media is that it gives companies the ability to put a personality behind their brands easily and quickly. It's imperative that your social media personality match your brand, and that your voice is consistent across all communication channels including paid media (advertising), earned media (media relations) and owned media (social media, blog posts).
If your social media content doesn't seem to jive with your company's advertising or media interviews, you'll appear inauthentic.
It's important to establish a consistent posting schedule so users will know when to expect new content. Capitalize on current events, seasons and holidays to make your content more relevant.
- Media-rich content is king. Seeing is believing, right? A picture is worth a thousand words? We've all heard those expressions and there's a reason they resonate; a photo or video is more engaging than words on a page. According to 2013 Arbitron and Edison research, Americans spend an average of four hours per week watching videos online.
Media-rich content will differentiate your company and is more fun, interesting to read.
- You can't do it all in 34 minutes a day. There have been several posts written about how you can squeeze all of your interaction into just 34 minutes a day. It sounds too good to be true, right? I'm not sure where or how this would work.
It takes time to develop great content and thoughtful posts to your social venues. A big mistake some make is posting without thinking through what they're posting. Rushing through and posting items with poor grammar, misspellings or simply inaccurate information will all serve to reduce the trust in your brand you were looking to build.
Building successful social communities, and doing it well, takes time. Short-cutting this process will only make your community-building take longer. If you invest the proper time for building up front, then long-term you should recognize the benefit to your brand which should give you the drive to even increase activity.
- It's not a stand-alone communications solution. Social media is not a magic bullet that can replace your other communications activities. Not by a long shot in the mortgage industry. Social media is an integral part of public relations and a complement to all other communications efforts. A multi-touch approach gets the job done.