The buyer path is much more complex than it ever used to be. This is due to the sheer volume of information on the Internet and social networks that connect people all over the world, building their circles of influence. Thus, people now travel a much less linear path toward purchase as they engage on social platforms. Due to the popularity of key social networks, marketers have been using them successfully to share information about their products and services for years now.
The mortgage industry, unlike most other categories, has been slower to keep up with this trend, missing out on significant opportunity to connect with its audiences. Many companies that do engage on these networks fail to do so in a meaningful way with a proper strategy. Those that are engaging properly have been shown to have a distinct competitive advantage.
Therefore, leveraging social media and doing it well will soon no longer be a competitive advantage, but a necessity.
According to Pew, 7% of American adults were using social media in 2005. As of their study in 2015, that number jumped to 65%. And, in 2016, 78% of the U.S. population had a social network profile according to Statista.
How did we get here?
The first social network, Six Degrees, was launched back in 1997. It was based on the idea that people are more closely connected to others than they think, making the idea of meeting people and building new relationships less intimidating. This was quickly followed by the introduction of blogging sites and a medley of other social platforms, many of which failed but some survived and are used by many today.
So, given that the infrastructure of the Internet wasn’t fully developed back in ’97, it took a few years for it to catch up with the concept of large, developed social networks. Therefore, having a marketing strategy that included social media at that time would have been, at best, an experiment with little payoff.
However, as the Internet continued to evolve into the early 2000’s, so did social media platforms with the introduction of Myspace, LinkedIn and later Facebook and Twitter in 2006 – and many more as time went on. Businesses learning how to leverage these networks to reach targeted audiences was a natural progression in communications.
Today, if you want to be considered relevant as a business, build brand awareness and be competitive, it’s a necessity.
A question that often comes up in conversation with many mortgage industry vendors is the value of social media for them as entities that don’t serve the general population.
Social media is about communicating with people. For those who think that B2B social media strategies are unnecessary because their target audience is too “serious-minded,” don’t have time or are of the wrong generation to care, remember, businesses are made up of people. They engage in a range of topics both on and off the job, including on various social platforms. They seek information and advice on everything ranging from the best running shoes to mortgage compliance technology and CRMs. Leveraging social media platforms to target specific audiences must be an integral part of your marketing mix so that info about your compliance technology or a compliance-related post finds its way onto their Facebook page, Twitter feed and more.
Therefore, knowing which social networks various demographic groups use – whether at home or at work – is an important component of a marketing strategy. Additionally, since these platforms really want you to pay money to reach a substantial portion of your target audience, a paid social media strategy hones in on your specific audience is critically important. A purely organic strategy that relies on the free tools provided by social networks to build a community only reaches a very small percentage of your audience.
Your social media strategy should include…
- Your business goals for using social media, such as increasing your brand awareness, retaining customers or reducing marketing costs.
- Achievable marketing objectives, such as identifying how many leads you wish to generate, or marketing cost-per-closed you wish to achieve.
- Analytics and tracking tools you will use to ensure you can measure how you are performing against your objectives and what adjustments in strategy need to be made.
- Your target audiences are and what makes them tick – their age, occupation, income, interests, challenges, likes, dislikes, objectives and motivations.
- Competitive research – what networks key competitors use and what their content strategy is in terms of topics covered, post frequency and anything else you can discern.
- Which and how many social media platforms you are going to use. This should be based on audience demographics, bandwidth and budget for paid promotions.
- A content strategy – identify the type of content you will post, time of day you’ll post it and how frequently.
- A budget that is based on the objectives you’ve outlined and the tactics you’ve chosen to execute your social media strategy.
- Assignment of internal roles and responsibilities for creating content, curating content, posting content, managing your social media activities and measuring them.
- Ability to adapt. Your social media marketing strategy should not be written in stone. As you move forward, adapt quickly and introduce the necessary changes to your overall strategy.
Which social media sites are “necessities” and why…
Whether you’re a B2B or B2C firm, the social media sites you include in your strategy should be based on site demographics and whether your target audience falls within the demographic audiences the site is geared toward. For example, if you’re a retail mortgage lender, you could make a great argument for Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. You could also look at LinkedIn for recruiting purposes and branch acquisition. Also, don’t forget about Google+. Google as a search engine will favor those companies in search rankings with a solid G+ presence.
Top engagement activities
Variety is a key factor to keep your audience interested and engaged. Without successful engagement, your social media strategy will fail. Here are some recommended activities that nurture genuine engagement:
Upload interesting videos – Whether you use YouTube or Facebook, engaging your target audience with videos is becoming increasingly important. You can also easily stream videos from your phone with apps such as Periscope and Meerkat. Mastering these tools can push you ahead of your competitors when it comes to social media engagement.
Incorporate hashtags – Searching for content is easier when hashtags are used – even for people who aren’t following you. In fact, tweets with hashtags get twice the amount of engagement than tweets without them. They are also more likely to be retweeted. But, be careful. If you overdo it, your engagement will drop.
Start a dialogue – When you ask questions on social media, you will get responses which can help establish a two-way dialogue with your followers. Questions help increase your comments and likes too. If you have a B2B strategy, participate on forums like LinkedIn Groups and answer questions in your area of expertise to engage with people and establish your brand as a credible source of information.
Focus on “how to” content – Provide solutions that help people solve their problems. An effective content marketing strategy helps your followers understand how your products and services can make their lives easier. “How to” content typically drives higher levels of engagement.
Include a Call to Action – Ask your audience to respond to your post and tell them how to do it! A call to action is an essential element to include in your social media posts if you want to increase engagement and your ROI. If you ask them to “Click Here, Subscribe Now, or Learn More,” – they will!
Showcase your knowledge on LinkedIn – With LinkedIn’s publishing option you can easily boost engagement because LinkedIn notifies your network whenever you publish a new post. In addition, posts that are viewed often are picked up by LinkedIn Pulse, which will boost your views and engagement that much more.
Avoid overdoing self-promotion – The best way to become acknowledged as a source for useful content is to follow the rule of thirds. Be sure to share content relevant to your audience, both original and curated. Also, share information about who you are as a company, what you believe in, philanthropic efforts, etc.
Feature customer testimonials – Provide social proof that your company is legit by sharing great customer reviews or testimonials. It lends credibility to your brand and demonstrates that you value your customers’ feedback. And, posting positive customer reviews have a way of encouraging more customers to share their own experiences with your brand.
Repurpose your content – People consume content differently. So, it’s a good idea to take the text you post and repurpose it into a video, podcast, or even an infographic. This will help you engage with a much broader audience than if you only create content in one format.
Social media platforms will continue to evolve and come and go. But what they won’t do is go away. The stats earlier in this article point to an upward trend in engagement across all generations. Therefore, now is the time to get it right so you don’t get left behind and must struggle to catch up!