By Doug Wilber
Social selling is a powerful and cost-efficient tool that mortgage officers, commercial lenders, and wealth managers can use to:
- Connect with their communities
- Build their sales pipelines
- Generate more business
Social selling is different from social media marketing in that messages are posted by individual sales staff rather than the bank’s corporate account. For many banks, this represents new, uncharted territory that can expose the bank to compliance risk if not executed correctly. So, how can banks enable their employees to build a thought leadership presence without putting the bank’s reputation in harm’s way? Here are five best practices.
- Establish a regular pattern.
Creating buzz on social media is all about pace. A salesperson’s followers aren’t likely to be interested in an account that only posts updates every other month. At the opposite end of the spectrum, does anyone want to see a loan officer’s posts clogging up their social feeds? The key to generating new followers (and keeping them coming back) is a reliable stream of social media content.
That said, just posting regularly doesn’t necessarily mean that a sales rep will be able to connect with his or her community and pump up deal flow. What’s more important is the frequency with which different types of content are published. One approach is simply 4-1-1: for every four pieces of new and interesting content you share (housing market trends, local economic data, etc.), you should repost one interesting company update and one personal story. This ensures that you don’t stray too far from the chief purpose of social selling, which is to be a consistent and helpful presence in the feeds of your followers.
- Post relevant content.
Building on the 4-1-1 rule, financial institutions must ensure their sales reps’ content is designed to solve real problems being faced by their followers. The content must exist for a purpose beyond the promotion of your brand. Unless it provides real and actionable help to readers, it’s very unlikely to change how they feel about you and your organization.
Content should not just be relevant to the audience, but to the specific platforms they’re posted on. Users come to Twitter for short updates and playful content, to LinkedIn for industry-endemic news and articles, and to Facebook for a mix of the two. You’ll maximize your impact across channels if you play to the particular strengths of each one.
As Sean Brennan, a mortgage marketing officer at First State Bank of St. Charles in Missouri, puts it: “LinkedIn is a majorly untapped lead generation machine for most loan officers. They are relationship-driven people, and LinkedIn is the best place to do this. It’s essential to their business. Once loan officers use it, they realize how powerful it is. If you claim to be a relationship-driven banker or loan officer, you have to master LinkedIn.”
- Establish strong internal processes and controls.
Without an efficient system for creating, scheduling, and approving content, the time and energy dedicated by teams to social selling will quickly outweigh the value gained—while also creating compliance risk. The goal for any financial institution is to make it as easy as possible for employees to post and get on with their busy day.
One solution for managing social media publishing is to create a library of pre-approved content for sales reps to quickly post. Social media management tools make it easy to house pre-approved content and schedule posts in advance. And if reps want to create posts on the fly, some automated solutions use baked-in keyword filtration and approval workflows that can intervene and relay a post to a designated party for review before going live. With these tools in place, social selling can be enabled and managed with minimal effort through automation.
“Since we are a financial institution, we are held accountable for any post that is made,” said Mike Cruz, digital marketing officer at TheBANK of Edwardsville in Illinois. “Our posts go through approval, filtration, are archived, and can be retrieved for auditing purposes.”
- Don’t just talk—listen!
Social media is much more like a pair of walkie-talkies than a bullhorn. It works best when sales reps are both posting and listening. Customers will often take to social media to post about important money movement events—that is, milestones that involve big expenditures or transfers of funds. Marriage, the birth of a child, and the expansion of a small business all qualify as money movement events that might benefit from the help of an alert loan officer.
Used wisely, social media listening can allow you to detect and seize opportunities to better connect with your community and be positioned as a trusted resource for your customer, instead of just pushing a product.
Heather Dewey, a senior marketing rep at First Bank Financial Centre in Wisconsin, says that “Social media helps us to continually refine the definition of engagement through meaningful, conversation-focused content that builds trust around the bank.”
- Get involved in industry conversations.
Social media presence shouldn’t be all about pushing a product to potential customers. It’s also about establishing yourself as a trusted thought leader in your space. That means contributing to discussions within communities of other loan officers, lenders, and wealth managers. These communities often exist in groups on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, most of which can only be joined with permission from a group administrator.
There’s no real secret to connecting with professional communities on social media—it all comes down to the ability of your team to offer original perspectives on relevant industry issues. The goal should be to become a trusted adviser to the group. Much like the content you generate for borrowers, your industry commentary must be designed to solve real problems faced by your audience. When other professionals in the mortgage lending space face new problems or are considering a new sales tactic, you want your brand representatives to be the first person those professionals think to ask for advice.
Doug Wilber is the CEO of Gremlin Social, a company that combines social media marketing with ABA-endorsed compliance tools to make it easy for banks to master the social media landscape and build business using social networks. Gremlin Social helps ensure safe use of social media communication while maximizing social marketing campaigns, guiding strategies, and monitoring return on investments. To learn more, please contact [email protected].
An ABA report, The State of Social Media in Banking, provides in-depth insights on how bankers are using social media today. Download here.