This article was originally published to The Financial Brand.
Digital mortgage lenders are putting the squeeze on traditional financial institutions. Human connections, however, still provide an edge. Empower your loan officers and other employees to use social media as a way to be human across a wider footprint. Their success can give your institution a little breathing room in the mortgage wars.
With the return of low mortgage rates, refinancings and originations have soared, and lending competition is even more intense — much of it digital. Rocket Mortgage has performed well enough in the last few years to become one of the top-rated lenders in the United States. Other digital lenders highly rated by NerdWallet include Better.com, SoFi, and NBKC.
The good news is that traditional lenders still have several advantages that digital-only services can’t match — the most important of which being their ability to build human connections with customers. Financial institutions need to focus their marketing efforts toward encouraging loan officers and employees to use social media to make these connections even stronger.
Getting a mortgage is still a big deal. Young people and new customers especially need advocates to help them through complicated processes. Even though they may search and compare online, and can apply on their phone if they want, many people have questions and want to have someone explain things to them.
“A digital platform will crunch the data and tell consumers what they need, but a financial specialist can dig into the details behind the facts.”
— Doug Wilber, Gremlin Social
And for customers with a complex financial history, a digital platform will crunch the data and tell them what they need, but a financial specialist can dig into the details behind the facts and counsel them on the solution that suits them best.
Loan officers are also more trusted and credentialed. People share a lot of personal information in the home buying process, and entering that information into online platforms can put them at risk for identity theft. Many consumer still feel more comfortable when they know the person receiving their data.
Use Social Media to ‘Digitize’ the Relationship
Despite the advantages of credentialed employees, there’s no denying that the all-digital mortgage platforms are stiff competition. Social media can help traditional lenders compete locally with the national digital platforms. Social is a conduit for personal connection. Loan officers and other bank and credit union employees can have regular contact with clients through social channels, strengthening that connection with each piece of useful advice. Social media also adds speed and convenience to the equation — the ingredients that make all-digital lenders so appealing.
An Ellie Mae survey reveals that lenders and borrowers are communicating across various channels about 20% more than three to five years ago. Customers want to connect with their financial institution now more than ever — and they want to do it digitally. The average customer communicates across more than five different channels, most of them social.
It’s up to bank and credit union employees to meet them there. Three tips can help.
1. Examine Your Marketing Spend Carefully
Being smart with your marketing budget is timeless advice, but in this era of margin compression, your dollars count more than ever. Fortunately, social advertising is a generally smart investment: It’s going to cost you about $30 to reach 1,000 people through a TV ad, whereas you can reach the same amount of people on social media for less than $3.
“Social media allows loan officers to build real-world connections to make consumers see your brand as a genuine partner that’s worth their time.”
Consider, too, that most people don’t trust advertisements these days — and only somewhat trust the brands behind them. They trust word-of-mouth reviews over paid celebrity endorsements, and they make decisions based on what they see of a brand in the wild, not on TV. Social media allows for loan officers and other employees to build real-world connections to make consumers see your brand as a genuine partner that’s worth their time.
2. Embrace Your Brand’s Humanity
Social media seems more human than TV or radio ads because it is. On any social media platform, bank and credit union employees can speak directly with consumers to answer questions, address concerns, and bond over shared interests. They can share content with their networks to get people interested in your brand on a personal level. But even if it comes from a human, an ad is still an ad, so arm your employees with more personal content than sponsored information to share.
Allowing individuals within your financial institution to share personal stories and industry achievements will help build credibility for both them and your brand. Sharing content about what your institution is doing locally can also strengthen your connection to the community you serve. That’s why turning employees into advocates on social can make them 45% more likely to exceed their sales quota.
3. Be Sure Social Complies with Regs … and Your Brand
While letting your employees embrace their humanity on social media is the best strategy for building real connections, it’s only effective if those interactions are compliant with regulatory guidelines and aligned with your brand messaging. Protect your institution and make compliant social management easy by providing guidelines and employee training, auto-archiving all posts, and offering a library of compliant content.
You should also compile and publish a clear list of social media rules specific to the preferred messaging of your brand. Then, establish an easy-to-follow approval workflow so the right people can ensure each message or post complies with your guidelines before it’s shared.