Love it or loathe it social media needs to be a part of your business moving forward, according to Rebecca Tait, national recruitment and business development manager at L J Hooker Home Loans.
Why? Because that’s where your customers are already spending all of their time. People (read: potential customers) are not listening to the radio or watching TV or reading magazines or the paper like they used to, says Ms Tait. “The penetration of TV is being diluted by streaming services such as Netflix, Stan and Presto,” she adds, “and radio with services such as Spotify, Pandora and now Apple Music, while poor old print is ceasing circulation at a rate of knots.”
Instead, they’re scrolling through hand-held devices hopping from one social media platform to the other. According to the latest Digital Down Under report, 13 million Australians spent 18 hours a day on social media platforms in 2012. And according to statistics gathered in November 2014, the average person spent between 36 minutes and 51 minutes per day on social media platforms. In January 2015, this average spend increased to 1.72 hours per day, according to marketing company Sensis – and it's still on the up.
If that doesn’t convince you – here are two more compelling reasons not to overlook the role of social media in your business.
Firstly, it’s a guaranteed low-cost tool to drive traffic to your website.
Lending specialists understand the importance of a good website. However, there is no use having the best website in the market if a potential customer searches for your service on Google and it doesn’t appear in the top five organic search results on the first page: “Truly, when was the last time you looked at page two in Google’s search results?”
There are many great – and many not so great – companies that provide a service to boost SEO and SEM services. “However,” says Ms Tait, “not only can they be costly, but they can also cause long-term damage.” Google regularly changes its SEO and SEM rules, so if you use a company that goes one way and Google has changed direction and that way is no longer allowed, your page will incur a penalty. In short this means your website won’t make it past page five for at least a year – and this could go up to three years in extreme cases.
“But having a strong social presence and a clear social strategy will successfully drive traffic to your website without a large expense, and organically rank your website higher for organic search results,” says Ms Tait.
Secondly, it’s how your customers find and choose you.
Gone are the days of Yellow Pages. If customers want to find a service or a person, they search Google. “Therefore, if you do not have a strong digital footprint customers will not be able to find you,” she says.
Lending is a relationship business. It’s the quality of your service and your expertise that sets you apart from your competitors. “Customers use social platforms such as WOMO, LinkedIn (recommendations), Facebook (testimonials, status updates, shared content), to see what other customers say about you and if your services are recommended,” she says.
According to a Forbes Market Force report, customers are 71 per cent more likely to make a decision to buy your product or use your service based on social media referrals, she says, while 81 per cent of customers’ purchase decisions are influenced by friends’ social media posts.
Meanwhile, Sandra Pigram, social media strategist and trainer at Social Media Business Boosters, says if she had a dollar every time a mortgage broker asked her why they should bother with social media she could probably buy a small island.
“It seems the industry has an overwhelming desire to crack the code of this new phenomenon,” she says, “though everyone is so busy with their core business that they are unsure how to do it.”
She describes implementing a successful social media program as being more like a marathon than a sprint. It’s about relationships, she says, pure and simple: “What relationship offline works without commitment, effort, longevity, integrity, trust and presence?”
Her advice? Understand how it works first — and then do it properly.
To those who ask her why they should bother, she replies: "At no other time in history has there been such an ability to understand the hearts and minds of your customers. If you want to bring your audience closer to your organisation, this is the time to do so.”
At The Adviser's 2016 Better Business Summit, in her distinctive new presentation, Digital and Consumer Insights: The Guiding Light for Business Success, the head of performance solutions at Google, Susan Wheeldon-Steele, will share her unique perspective into the digital world.
Among other useful insights, she will discuss where it is heading and the impact it will have on the mortgage industry going forward. Delegates will learn about anticipated digital media consumption changes and online behaviour profiles, as well as the keys to increasing revenue by driving online engagement with homebuyers and ways to turn audience data and behaviour into new (and repeat) business opportunities.
[Related: Digital marketing an 'invaluable tool' for brokers]