As consumers increasingly turn to digital channels to drive their home buying journey, compelling content distributed via social media has become an integral tool for any loan officer looking to accelerate their sales pipeline and close more deals.
In a recent webinar hosted by the American Bankers Association, First State Bank Mortgage joined Gremlin Social, provider of ABA's endorsed media content management and distribution platform, to share best practices for enabling loan officers to take advantage of modern social selling techniques without exposing the corporate brand to undue compliance risk.
Gremlin Social CEO Doug Wilber and Sean Brennan, Mortgage Marketing/Digital Systems Officer at First State Bank were on hand for the discussion, which centered around proven methods that leading banks can employ to arm their loan officers with the tools and social selling strategies to help them close more deals.
Topics ranged from digital trends in home buying and the evolution of the modern home buying experience to compliance best practices and tools for managing content creation and distribution.
Digital Home Buying Trends
The home buying experience has undergone a seismic shift. Highly informed, digitally native millennials are increasingly beginning their home buying journeys online, with self-service platforms like Zillow and Trulia. The lion’s share of homebuyers are now under the age of 36, and 66% of these are first-timers.
Whereas most consumers once used newspapers, flyers, or realtors to research and buy homes, they’re now flying solo:
- 44% of buyers begin their search before engaging with an agent.
- 95% will ultimately use an online tool during their home buying process — (In fact, 99% of millennials will use online tools).
This is the age of the self-service home buying market, where consumers can search at any time, from anywhere, and share their results via text, email, and social media platforms.
In the millennial demographic, 1 in every 5 minutes spent online is on Facebook, and 30% of first-time home buyers are now millennials. Younger demographics increasingly consume all their information through social media, and that includes researching and buying real estate.
What kinds of information are millennials seeking out during their home buying process? School statistics, police and crime statistics, neighborhood information, and tax histories on properties.
They’re also turning to the web to research mortgages. Consumers want to know what they’ll be on the hook for financially if and when they pull the trigger on buying a new home. And they’re already using social to answer these questions.
But despite the fact that consumers are increasingly doing self-service shopping during the beginning of their home buying journey, the vast majority still end up working with an agent (88% for all buyers and 92% for millennials).
And buyers are still financing. 88% of all buyers, and 98% of millennials finance their homes. In other words, most buyers will still want and need to engage a loan officer or a mortgage company.
The Modern Home Buying Experience
The game is still the same — referrals drive most business for agents. It's how these referrals are coming in that has changed. One loan officer in Sacramento receives over 80% of her business as referrals through social media. This is effective social selling in action: tangible business results driven directly by social media activity.
The Real estate market has become so intertwined with the digital landscape that agents and industry professionals simply can’t afford not to be there: Amanda Ray, a research analyst from the National Association of Realtors recently commented that “being on social media is probably too hard to ignore.”
Given that home buyers — and millennial home buyers especially — still overwhelmingly tend to rely on their agents for loan officer referrals, social media offers unique opportunities for loan officers to leverage their networks to generate business.
Social Selling 101: Generating Real Business From Your Social Media Presence
What is social selling? It’s a social media marketing strategy that leverages the personal and professional networks of employees to advance a business’ strategic initiatives. Social selling enables salespeople to interact with and gain insight into current and potential customers directly via social media.
Social selling is a critically important weapon in a loan officer’s arsenal. It enables them to differentiate themselves, gain credibility as thought leaders, and provide consumers with transparency to earn their trust.
Social Selling Best Practices for Loan Officers
- Loan officers must know their buyer. Loan officers must understand the demographics they’re selling into, as well as the markets they’re looking to enter, and write specifically to that audience.
- Engage your ecosystem. Loan officers must engage their networks of referrers on social media — real estate agents, contractors, and house-flippers, as well as customers and prospects. The way to engage them is by provide something of value — information, guidance, anything that can solve a problem or help them do their jobs better. Engagement can also mean nudging realtors to move their applicants through the loan process more quickly.
- Curate quality content. Your channel partners are time-constrained, and likely already have existing relationships with other loan officers. In order to engage them you need to break through the clutter with content that grabs their attention.
- Publish with the right cadence. A reputable and diversified content mix helps position loan officers as thought leaders and approachable individuals. Use the 4-1-1 approach to content mix, which suggests four industry-related articles (4) for each company update (1) and personal update (1). Timing is crucial. Use a scheduling tool to push content when your audience is most likely to engage. For real estate agents and home buyers, posts in the evening and later in the week tend to perform better and see higher social shares.
- Be compliant. Loan officers operate in a regulated industry, and content needs to adhere to agency and internal regulations. Tools like Gremlin Social help mortgage companies and loan officers manage social media compliance processes with features like approval processes and workflows, archiving, team management, and a managed content library.
Case Study in Effective Social Selling with Gremlin Social and Measurable ROIFour years into his relationship with Gremlin Social, the ROI metrics are pretty clear for Sean Brennan, who runs a team of 60+ loan officers: For every hour a loan officer spends on social selling, the return is about 1 extra deal.
Some of his loan officers are seeing an extra 3 deals per month as a result of their social selling programs. It produces the most attention for the least amount of investment, and gives visibility into ROI in a way that magazine ads or flyers cannot.
Social media compliance may be the feature that sold his banking partners on Gremlin Social, but impactful content marketing is what sold Brennan. Gremlin Social’s function is central to Brennan’s ability to manage his team’s social selling programs — ensuring compliance, moderating posts, and pushing content for loan officers to post.