Two of the most important keys to a loan officer’s (LO) success are trust and relationships. And while that aspect of the business hasn’t changed, the strategy to build trusting relationships has evolved. The old “grow and nurture” method included in person meetings, cold calling, and advertising – and then nurturing those leads with emails, calls, or letters. Growing and nurturing your network is still important, but now in addition to using a call sheet or email list, you have social media platforms. It’s no longer just about a sales pitch, but staying in touch and adding value to your network in as many ways as possible.
This is especially crucial given the state of the housing market so far this year. Two concerns that could derail an increase in loan originations are credit, and home prices. According to an article on CNBC.com, getting approved for a home loan is still tougher than before the market crashed in 2007. “Borrowers need higher credit scores, less overall debt, and full documentation of finances.” What this means for LO’s is a smaller pool of loan-ready clients to choose from, and heavy competition for qualified applicants. Looking to get referrals from Realtors or referral partners? Adding social media to your networking strategy showcases your professional abilities, and ensures that, when the time comes, it won’t be a matter of which LO to use, but which loan to select.
In this series, we’ll guide you through the most popular social networks for loan officers. We’ll provide tips for setting up your social accounts, and advice on how you can leverage them for prospecting, networking, and nurturing relationships to closed deals. First up – LinkedIn.
What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is the professional networking site, with 332 million users worldwide. Similar to Facebook, you can Like, Post, and Share content with the people to whom you are connected. The difference is that you want to keep it squeaky clean – this is all about business and your personal brand. LinkedIn also offers a variety of features to help you grow your network, including:
- InMail– LinkedIn’s proprietary email system allows you to send messages to people who are not yet connections with no introduction, and no contact information required (although it does require a paid account).
- LinkedIn Groups– Of course you want to network and gain leads on LinkedIn, but don’t forget – it’s important to add value to your network as well. Joining industry related LinkedIn Groups not only allows you to network, but also add to the conversation with like-minded individuals.
- Who’s Viewed Your Profile– In this section of your LinkedIn dashboard, you can view a list of people who have looked at your profile. You can see their company information, and ask to connect as well.
- LinkedIn Connected– Use this app to sync your connections and calendars, reminding you of important events in their lives. You can also quickly scan this feature for information on a contact you are about to meet.
How to set up your account
Setting up a LinkedIn account requires just a bit of personal information, an email address, and you’re up and running.
- Go to the website, http://www.linkedin.com
- Fill out the form with your first name, last name, and email address. Create a password.
- Begin filling in your profile. At a minimum, you should include a professional head shot (no selfies!), and a headline that describes what you do. Include industry keywords in your headline so interested parties can find you during a search.
- Add contact information, whether that is an email address, phone number, or website. You can also add links to other social network accounts by clicking the Websites tab, and choosing Other from the dropdown menu. Type in the name of the account, and then add the website address.
- Add relevant work history. As you become more seasoned with social media, you can embellish with work samples or Slideshare presentations to further highlight your skills.
If you already have the basics on lockdown, go ahead and play around with some of the more advanced features, including a customized URL or background image.
LinkedIn Do’s and Don’ts
Since LinkedIn is for professional networking (as opposed to social networking), here are a few rules of engagement you should keep in mind:
DO treat your profile as a digital resume. Your profile and background pictures should be tasteful and appropriate, as should all of your updates and comments.
DON’T ask to connect to people you don’t know. Seek introductions from colleagues, or try to engage with them in LinkedIn Groups first.
DO write a personal message when asking to connect, instead of using the default “I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn network.”
DON’T be overly promotional. Share content, add to conversations, start discussions in groups. Remember the 80-20 rule - if your content is 80 percent informative, 20 percent promotional, you should be fine.
DO keep your profile active. LinkedIn recommends posting at least once per day, during business hours. Peak times are 12:00pm, and between 5:00 and 6:00pm.
DON’T use hashtags or @ signs – reserve those for other social networks.
DO tag colleagues, influencers, and companies you follow in relevant posts – it’s a great way to stay top of mind with people or brands you’re trying to cultivate for business.
The changing landscape of growing and nurturing networks on social media for loan officers doesn’t have to be intimidating if you start small. Choose one social network with which you feel comfortable, become an expert, and then expand your horizons. Is Facebook more your style? Make sure you watch for our next installment of this series where we walk you through setting up a professional Facebook profile.
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