This article was originally published to The Financial Brand.
To better compete for Millennials' credit needs, financial marketers can help empower their lending teams by embracing three practices used by the broader real estate community to build relationships and business.
As you probably have noticed if you’ve been in the home-buying market recently, real estate agents are aggressive users of social media. Recognizing the relationship-building power of social media, they increasingly use live virtual tours, closing photos, Facebook contests and other similar tactics to build their business. They leverage social to not only keep up with clients, but also stay top of mind and demonstrate their community connection.
Real estate agents have more quickly adapted to using social than financial institution professionals because of its clear return on investment. The more they can get their face out into the digital world, their thinking goes, the more people will approach them for their buying and selling needs. Plus, with 99% of Millennials beginning their home searches online, agents recognize that they must be on social if they hope to compete for this critical segment.
Banking and real estate, though different businesses, both benefit from building long-term customer relationships. And just as real estate agents can engage more clients by presenting themselves as trusted advisors and go-to sources for consumers, financial marketers can maximize the mortgage unit of their bank or credit union by presenting loan officers in the same way. When it comes to social strategies, financial marketers should arm their loan officers with valuable and engaging content to share on social.
There are several ways to banks and credit unions can use social media to foster relationships, reach clients, and become valuable assets in their communities. Here are three of the most essential.
1. Humanize Your Institution’s Brand
Research confirms that social media helps humanize companies, and people trust humans more than brands. Consider that one 2018 survey discovered that 61% of respondents agreed that when a CEO participates in social media conversations, it makes consumers feel like there are actual humans behind the brand. That’s a powerful addition to a catchy tag line and clever ad campaign. What’s more, nearly three-quarters of respondents said they feel a stronger connection to a brand when its employees share information on social media.
It’s the same for mortgage lenders and other consumer lending staff. To build trust, it’s essential that customers see them as people, not just cogs in the machine — a viewpoint even more important now that artificial intelligence and algorithms have entered the everyday parlance of consumer finance. A key way for lenders to humanize themselves is through social media. Consumers need to feel like they know their mortgage loan officers well enough that they can rely on them to act in their best interest and help them reach their personal goals.
“Think of social less like marketing loan officers and more like empowering lenders to share the stories they care about most.”
— Doug Wilber, Gremlin Social
But when banks and credit unions choose to share only promotional content about their products and services, they miss out on a huge opportunity. Sharing more relatable content, such as narrative-driven client success stories and case studies, will present the brand and associated officers as people, rather than products.
Think of social less like marketing loan officers and more like empowering lenders to share the stories they care about most. This better enables them to spark connections with potential customers on a more personal level, which helps foster trust in the working relationship.
2. Reinforce Your Community Connection
Successful real estate agents understand that their role within their communities is more than simply facilitating the buying and selling of properties. That’s a transaction. To truly understand their customer base, they need to be part of the community.
Social media platforms are the perfect vehicle for showcasing that involvement and solidifying their connection to the broader community. They can post about everything from attending local charity events to supporting clients and friends in the causes they care about. As a result, consumers don’t feel like they’re hiring a stranger to help them navigate an important and expensive transaction — but rather, someone who’s part of the community.
Mortgage loan officers really are in a very similar position and can (and should) take a similar approach. They can set themselves apart from big corporate or digital-only lenders by demonstrating the established knowledge of the community they serve — not to mention their commitment to supporting it. As consumers continue to move toward digital, direct mortgages, this becomes increasingly important. If your bank’s social strategy highlights your officers’ place in, and value to, a community, people may choose the friendly neighborhood loan officer over the faceless digital option.
It’s not an either/or proposition, however. To be most effective, a humanizing strategy on social media should be paired with an efficient and intuitive digital lending capability. Consumers expect that. But human and digital together can be a powerful antidote to digital-only competitors.
3. Encourage Engagement with Posts
In the real estate world, photos of happy people who have just purchased a home tend to be some of the most popular posts. That is because agents are sharing a special, relatable moment in the lives of their customers. It also shows the real estate agent’s involvement in this unique milestone and gives both parties’ networks a chance to comment and engage.
Closing photos work well for bank and credit union consumer loan officers for the same reason. With so many customers equating social media engagement with a company’s quality of customer service, it’s important for lenders to foster dialogue with their networks and demonstrate their interest in engaging the community. Visual content is an especially powerful way to generate online chatter and social proof — and it is even more effective when you can leverage user-generated content.
Like real estate agents, loan officers need to stay top-of-mind among consumers. Social media still presents a largely untapped opportunity for mortgage and consumer loan officers to engage with prospects, demonstrate a community connection, and ultimately be the natural choice when a prospect is ready to buy or refinance a home.