Blogging Platform

By Rick Grant

By now, I hope I’ve convinced you of the importance of blogging to promote your own thought leadership. If you want to distinguish yourself as an expert in your field in today’s technology age, blogging is absolutely critical. This is particularly the case on the Business-to-Business side, where starting a conversation and offering your unique and valuable expert advice not only opens you up to potentially profitable relationships, but enriches your industry as a whole.

Your next step is deciding how to get your blog up and running. Fortunately, you have a number of excellent options. There are plenty of blog hosts, platforms, and software programs to choose from, but these are my two favorites. I use them both and recommend them whenever I speak to an executive who is ready to start blogging.

To my mind, blogging can’t be made any easier than it is at www.Blogger.com. The platform is owned by the people at Google, so that should be some indication of how fast, easy, and flexible it is. It’s also free.

You won’t spend longer than a few minutes clicking a few buttons on their site before you have a blog to call your own and you can start spinning out your thoughts. You can add a link to your website, embed your Twitter feed, point your readers to your social networking profiles and more. Blogger has a simple interface, but keeps you looking professional. You can even make a multi-user blog if you want to share the stage with other executives at your company. I’ve had my own blog on Blogger since 2005 (http://rickgrant.blogspot.com), and I have never been dissatisfied.

If you want to get a little fancier for the same price, www.WordPress.org is just as easy to use and just as free as Blogger. It’s an open source Content Management System powered by PhP and MySQL, and can be used in a variety of ways as long as you’re hosted on a Linux web server. But even if your website is hosted on a Windows server, you have the option of using the free hosting service provided by www.WordPress.com.

WordPress offers so many plugins, themes, and templates that you can easily customize your blog to your liking. And the actual blogging is as easy as it is on Blogger—it’s just a matter of you showing up to your keyboard to keep those posts coming regularly.

There are certainly many other options available to host your blog, but Blogger and WordPress offer the easiest and most accessible methods I’ve yet found, so go get started. You have no excuses left!

Rick Grant has been an editor, writer and new media advocate for nearly 20 years and has focused on various facets of the mortgage industry for the last decade. Prior to starting his own company, Rick Grant & Associates, he served as the special reports editor for National Mortgage News and was the launch editor for Origination News Magazine, Broker magazine and Home Equity Wire, as well as managing editor of Mortgage Technology magazine while employed with SourceMedia, formerly Thomson Media. Rick then served as editor of Real Estate Technology Insight, an October Research Corp. publication. A successful freelance writer, Rick continues to write for the industry in addition to running his own consulting company. He is a proponent of new media communication tools, such as blogs, podcasts, video blogs and online presentations. He can be reached via e-mail at rick@rga-pr.com.


Start Your Facebook Page as An Index

By Rick Grant

By now, the many excellent reasons that companies didn’t jump into Facebook are starting to all sound like excuses. It is true that companies, especially publicly traded firms or those operating in highly regulated industries, must operate carefully in social media of any kind. Still, for every risk I’ve heard there are a number of effective risk mitigation strategies.

In the sure knowledge that no amount of preaching will convert a company when its management has not already embraced the idea of social media, I offer this idea to those firms that are ready to start engaging with their prospects in this manner.

Set up a Facebook page for your company and use it like an index that points to existing company news and thought leadership.

Setting up a facebook page is simple. You first have to have a personal facebook page, which is free. When you log in, you’ll notice you have a sidebar on the left with links to various parts of the Facebook site, including message, events, friends and more. Only some of the links are displayed and you may have to click “See More” to, well, see more. One of the links that appears, if it’s not already there, will be “Ads and Pages.”

When you click on this link, it will take you to a page where you can see all of the pages that currently have you listed as an administrator (i.e. someone who can put stuff up on the site in the name of the page). There is a link at the top of the page to create a page.

Once you create your page, you’ll find that it resembles a regular page in most every way. You have some additional functionality available to you, but we’re not going to get into that now. Posting to your page is exactly the same as posting something to your normal profile.

By linking to thought leadership and news on other websites here, you’ll create an index of information that visitors to your Facebook page can use to find out more about you. We use our Facebook page in exactly this way. Visitors to facebook.com/rgapr can click on the “See All” link in the Links section of our left sidebar and see everything we’ve ever pointed to from our webpage.

Once they begin to scan down through the list, their attention can be caught by a clever headline or a good graphic.

Consider setting up a Facebook page to capture links to every press release you post to your site and every bylined article you put on the web. Unlike most static websites, the Facebook page will allow your visitors to post responses to your material, starting conversations that can lead to relationships, which is the only thing that ever leads to a sale.

Rick Grant has been an editor, writer and new media advocate for nearly 20 years and has focused on various facets of the mortgage industry for the last decade. Prior to starting his own company, Rick Grant & Associates, he served as the special reports editor for National Mortgage News and was the launch editor for Origination News Magazine, Broker magazine and Home Equity Wire, as well as managing editor of Mortgage Technology magazine while employed with SourceMedia, formerly Thomson Media. Rick then served as editor of Real Estate Technology Insight, an October Research Corp. publication. A successful freelance writer, Rick continues to write for the industry in addition to running his own consulting company. He is a proponent of new media communication tools, such as blogs, podcasts, video blogs and online presentations. He can be reached via e-mail at rick@rga-pr.com.


To Blog Or Not To Blog

By Rick Grant

If you stay involved in social media marketing for any length of time, you will eventually come a decision that will determine, to a large degree, how successful you will ultimately become. Sooner or later, if you’re serious about capitalizing on these New Media social networking websites and the millions of prospects that are already linked up into relatively easily accessible mini-networks, you’re going to have to decide whether or not to become a blogger.

Some New Media historians will tell you that it all started with the Web Log (blog) and that everything we enjoy today in Internet-based social media is the result of those first bloggers doing the work of attracting an audience. I suspect early bloggers have a hand in this and that the reality is that the same technology that enabled blogs (RSS) was really responsible for the phenomenon that grew into the most successful aspect of the web. But either way, blogs have been from the beginning a critical part of the development of the social web.

Today, some are debating whether they are still as important when we have tools like LinkedIn and Facebook to share whatever we want with our networks. From the start, my position has been that there is no better New Media tool for sharing thought leadership in an easily accessible method with the capacity to go viral than the blog. I have seen nothing to make me change my mind.

Especially on the Business-to-Business side, where most of my friends spend their time, the blog is the best way to establish a voice in your market and that’s what people in B2B must do. People do business with people they know in the B2B world and that means you have to find a way to get known by as many people as possible. You can start buying billboards in the cities in which you want to do business, but it’s easier to start sharing your mind with the people you want to serve.

Over the years I’ve been a proponent of the business blog—and that’s been since 2005 in the financial services industry—I’ve come across two somewhat acceptable justifications for not blogging: (1) as a busy executive, I just don’t have the time and (2) our business is so heavily regulated that compliance is a risk that is too high to ignore. To these I have a number of responses.

Successful executives are busy, it’s true. If you ask one to write a 250-word blog post they’ll never find time to get to it. However, if you send them a brief e-mail about how a competitor says they’re way off base and doomed to fail, you’ll get a 500 word response in about 2 minutes flat. There’s a secret there for those who want to get their executives blogging. Let he who has ears hear.

As for the second, no one can deny that compliance is a critical concern in today’s marketplace. We do nothing here without running it past the compliance folks first. So, run your blog posts through compliance already. Problem solved.

When an industry is in crisis it cries out for leadership. Leaders are always identified by position. During the Civil War, they were either out front with the flag or on the big horse on the hill in the background. Their soldiers knew where to find them, which is how they were able to lead. Today, it’s no different. There are only a few places people expect to find their leaders. Increasingly, one of them is in the blogosphere. If you want to be perceived as a leader in this industry, you need to be blogging.

Rick Grant has been an editor, writer and new media advocate for nearly 20 years and has focused on various facets of the mortgage industry for the last decade. Prior to starting his own company, Rick Grant & Associates, he served as the special reports editor for National Mortgage News and was the launch editor for Origination News Magazine, Broker magazine and Home Equity Wire, as well as managing editor of Mortgage Technology magazine while employed with SourceMedia, formerly Thomson Media. Rick then served as editor of Real Estate Technology Insight, an October Research Corp. publication. A successful freelance writer, Rick continues to write for the industry in addition to running his own consulting company. He is a proponent of new media communication tools, such as blogs, podcasts, video blogs and online presentations. He can be reached via e-mail at rick@rga-pr.com.


Becoming A Facebook Fan

By Rick Grant

When it comes to leveraging consumer technologies, the financial services industry tends to follow most other industries and stick to older tools longer. Fax machines, once a staple of all business operations, are now pretty much only used here – and that’s alright because they still work. When it comes to giving businesses the opportunity to connect to millions of prospective customers in meaningful ways almost effortlessly, nothing works better today than Facebook.

What started out as a tool to allow kids on college campuses around the country to keep up with each other has grown into the new front porch for casual conversationalists all over the world. Instead of walking outside and occupying a rocking chair to see who was moving through town, people today log on to Facebook and scan down a news feed made up of comments from all of their friends and neighbors. People who barely knew how to turn on a computer a year ago are now Facebook addicts, sharing all manner of trivia with each other every day.

Businesses were slow to get into this game because it wasn’t clear how they could effectively interact with people through the site and be both genuine social networkers and for-profit businesses. Facebook enabled that through Fan pages, which eventually just became additional social profiles for businesses or organizations.

Today, thousands of businesses are on facebook and many, including the major automobile manufacturers, are driving traffic to these sites instead of their regular websites. Starbucks, Southwest Airlines and Zappo’s shoes use Facebook pages to promote their services and have millions of Facebook “fans” who are paying attention to what they are selling there every day.

There are three primary reasons companies are doing this and they are the same reasons that firms in our space, even if they are involved in business-to-business marketing, should get on Facebook, too.

First, everyone is already there:  about half a billion users in all. This month, comScore reported that Facebook has officially surpassed former industry leader Google in terms of time spent onsite. In August, U.S. internet users spent 41.1 million minutes on Facebook, which surpassed Google’s 39.8 million minutes, according to Nick O’Neil on AllFacebook.com. Since you don’t know who knows the person you next want to sell to, it behooves you to connect with as many as you can. Facebook is your best opportunity to do that.

Second, Facebook’s business-like profile pages make it easy for you to spread the word about your offerings and expertise effectively. The interface is easy to use and the tab system gives the user a lot of flexibility for embedding custom formatted information.

Finally, as the most successful of the social networking websites, Facebook makes it far easier for company information to “go viral.” When compelling content is passed from each user who sees it to multiple followers over and over, well, it’s so beautiful it can make an Amway salesperson cry.

How do you create content that can do that? Well, that’s a subject for another column. For now, get on Facebook and get your page set up. And be sure to follow us at facebook.com/rgapr.

Rick Grant has been an editor, writer and new media advocate for nearly 20 years and has focused on various facets of the mortgage industry for the last decade. Prior to starting his own company, Rick Grant & Associates, he served as the special reports editor for National Mortgage News and was the launch editor for Origination News Magazine, Broker magazine and Home Equity Wire, as well as managing editor of Mortgage Technology magazine while employed with SourceMedia, formerly Thomson Media. Rick then served as editor of Real Estate Technology Insight, an October Research Corp. publication. A successful freelance writer, Rick continues to write for the industry in addition to running his own consulting company. He is a proponent of new media communication tools, such as blogs, podcasts, video blogs and online presentations. He can be reached via e-mail at rick@rga-pr.com.


What’s Up With Twitter?

By Rick Grant

How valuable would it be to your business if during the middle of a conversation about the issues that are most important to your target market, some trusted member of the audience piped up with a positive comment about your company or brand? Probably pretty valuable. At it’s best, this is what micro-blogging is all about.

Personally, I think it started out as a joke. I bet I can make that point in fewer words. No, I can do it in 140 characters! Today, millions of people around the world log on to Twitter.com and post 140-character comments on every topic imaginable. You might be surprised to learn that some of them are tweeting about your industry. Getting into those conversations can be an important part of a good social media strategy.

Twitter is a free service. Just log on to www.twitter.com, choose a unique username and a password and you’re ready to go. Easy to use search tools will allow you to find other people who are already tweeting about the topics that are most important to you. You’ll find many of the same people you’re connected to on LinkedIn using Twitter. Following these folks is a one-click process, allowing you to see every tweet they make.

I don’t know anyone in our business who spends the time to actively monitor tweets. The return isn’t very high for that activity. But I have spoken to quite a few who use search tools like Tweet Scan (http://tweetscan.com), BackTweets (http://backtweets.com) or Google to monitor the topics they are interested in.

Twitter allows users to segment the people they follow into lists. I have a list on my account (search Twitter for nyrickgrant) that lists the people I follow who tweet about mortgage industry topics. Periodically, I scan down through the recent tweets from this list to see what topics are hot. It’s quite rewarding.

Sign up for Twitter today and find out what people you may already know are tweeting about.

Rick Grant has been an editor, writer and new media advocate for nearly 20 years and has focused on various facets of the mortgage industry for the last decade. Prior to starting his own company, Rick Grant & Associates, he served as the special reports editor for National Mortgage News and was the launch editor for Origination News Magazine, Broker magazine and Home Equity Wire, as well as managing editor of Mortgage Technology magazine while employed with SourceMedia, formerly Thomson Media. Rick then served as editor of Real Estate Technology Insight, an October Research Corp. publication. A successful freelance writer, Rick continues to write for the industry in addition to running his own consulting company. He is a proponent of new media communication tools, such as blogs, podcasts, video blogs and online presentations. He can be reached via e-mail at rick@rga-pr.com.


Making The Most Of LinkedIn With Groups

By Rick Grant

I’ve been talking about the importance of jumping into the social media pool and how to go about doing that. I’ve also mentioned that the first place you should jump in is at LinkedIn.com, which represents the shallow end of the pool as far as B2B social media marketing goes.

As a business-to-business networking site, LinkedIn truly has the most to offer the mortgage professional, not only in terms of building contacts and relationships, but in providing solutions to those who would see their industry not only survive in this difficult  economy, but actually thrive a bit.

Over 70 million executives in more than 200 countries are registered on LinkedIn, and the site receives almost 12 million unique visitors per day. If you do a group search with the keyword mortgage, you’ll find over 1,400 groups. Clearly, this is the place to be for all levels of mortgage professionals.

For my money, the best value on LinkedIn comes from its groups. The best thing you can do for yourself, after joining and creating a good profile on LinkedIn, is to find a group and join it.

Finding a group could not be easier. You simply click on Groups in the menu and do a search with one or two select keywords. You’ll be rewarded with a whole list of options to pick from.

Now you will have to weed through the list to find the groups that are worth joining. Stay away from ones that are purely about advertising, for example. You didn’t join LinkedIn to be a consumer, you joined to add your voice to the conversation in a productive and valuable way. So find groups where the other executives involved seem to feel the same way.

Seel out groups made up mostly of top executives who are actively engaged in trying to work out the problems in the industry—those are the groups you want to join. Not only does it put you in a place where you can learn from other experts, but you’ll also have the opportunity to add your own perspective on problems and issues the industry is facing. And just as you are benefiting from the comments of respected individuals in the industry, they will benefit from yours.

By being honestly and earnestly involved, you will show yourself to be personable and relatable—the kind of individual who people can respect, who they’ll remember as a source of advice and insight, and who they’d like to do business with. When you make your voice heard in a valuable way, you’ll reap high dividends.

If you want to be able to truly connect with people this conference season, the best and way to do it is through LinkedIn. Don’t be left out when it’s so easy to join in.

Rick Grant has been an editor, writer and new media advocate for nearly 20 years and has focused on various facets of the mortgage industry for the last decade. Prior to starting his own company, Rick Grant & Associates, he served as the special reports editor for National Mortgage News and was the launch editor for Origination News Magazine, Broker magazine and Home Equity Wire, as well as managing editor of Mortgage Technology magazine while employed with SourceMedia, formerly Thomson Media. Rick then served as editor of Real Estate Technology Insight, an October Research Corp. publication. A successful freelance writer, Rick continues to write for the industry in addition to running his own consulting company. He is a proponent of new media communication tools, such as blogs, podcasts, video blogs and online presentations. He can be reached via e-mail at rick@rga-pr.com.


Social Media Profiles That Work

By Rick Grant

One of the most important elements common to almost all social media networks is the personal profile. This is the section of the website where the user is allowed to enter some information about himself. This is important as one of the major benefits to social media is meeting new people and expanding a user’s personal network. This would be very difficult if some mechanism wasn’t provided for them to learn about the people they are considering for their future networking partners.

The profile is your opportunity to tell the people you want to meet about who you are, your experience and your usefulness to them. It’s an opportunity to sell yourself and therein lies the problem. Too many people forget the first rule of selling: listen more than you speak, to say nothing of the second: sell the benefits, not the features.

Creating great online profiles is like walking a fine line. You need to talk about you, but you must also realize that you are likely to be a far less interesting topic to another user than what they are seeking—and everyone on a social networking site is seeking something. You must find a way to describe yourself in a way that makes you appear perfect for what they are actually looking for. That means that the last person you should be thinking about when you write your own profile is yourself.

Since no one can be all things to all people, writing your profile starts with identifying the people you want to read it. How much do you know about what they need and who they would like to find? What experience and skills do you bring that makes you a good fit for these users?

Like all good marketing, the work doesn’t begin with the product, it starts with the people you want to buy it. The more you know about the people you want to connect with on social media websites, the better able you’ll be to describe yourself in a way that makes sense to them and makes you an obvious person to connect with.

Once it’s complete, ask someone from your target market—perhaps an existing client—to read it over and tell you whether they would connect with you based on your profile. Take their feedback and polish it up.

No one can capture everything about who they are in a social media profile, but if you can create a good snapshot of yourself that will appeal directly to your target market, you’ll make new connections, which will give you plenty of time to get to know each other.

Rick Grant has been an editor, writer and new media advocate for nearly 20 years and has focused on various facets of the mortgage industry for the last decade. Prior to starting his own company, Rick Grant & Associates, he served as the special reports editor for National Mortgage News and was the launch editor for Origination News Magazine, Broker magazine and Home Equity Wire, as well as managing editor of Mortgage Technology magazine while employed with SourceMedia, formerly Thomson Media. Rick then served as editor of Real Estate Technology Insight, an October Research Corp. publication. A successful freelance writer, Rick continues to write for the industry in addition to running his own consulting company. He is a proponent of new media communication tools, such as blogs, podcasts, video blogs and online presentations. He can be reached via e-mail at rick@rga-pr.com.


Demonstrating Your Passion

By Rick Grant

I’ve mentioned before in this space that I believe there are only three things you must do online in order to be successful with New Media marketing. You must make it clear that you’re a real person. You must make it clear that you know what you’re talking about. Finally, you must find a way to let your passion for your work show through to your prospects. For most, this is the tough one.

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember and I love how a good author can transport me to another place and time with nothing more than a well turned phrase or a bit of description. When I was younger, I thought it was some kind of literary magic that good writers used to hypnotize us and take control of our imaginations. Later I learned that it was really a good writer’s ability to become invisible, to disappear from the page so that all the reader was left with was his own imagination and a pathway into another world, one that existed partly on the page but mostly in his own imagination. Why should you care?

That’s all fine and good for fiction and poetry, but when it comes to changing hearts and minds in the real world, we can’t depend upon the reader’s imagination. To really get people to take action, you need a passionate leader.

That’s exactly what you’ll need if you expect to build your business. People must see that you are passionate about what you offer, about serving your target market, about delivering real value. A passion that burns like a flame will draw customers like moths to a candle.

Sometimes, we can catch a reflection of that flame in writing. Those are good days to be a writer. But if you really want to show people the fire on a consistent basis, you need to explore multimedia. Fortunately, it’s quite simple to add audio or video content to your social media websites. Doing so is the only way, short of meeting your prospects face-to-face, that you will truly be able to share your passion for your business.

It doesn’t take fancy lighting or expensive video cameras or the highest quality microphones. You don’t have to build a giant set, hire a dialect coach or get James Cameron to direct. You do have to be genuine, knowledgeable and passionate about what you want to accomplish. You have to look into the camera or speak into the microphone and share your vision for a better future, your understanding of the challenges that must be overcome to get there and your faith in the fact that you can help bring that future into being.

For my money, passion is the best competitive differentiator you can have, next to evangelistic clients. New Media is emerging as the best platform for demonstrating this passion to geographically dispersed audiences.

Rick Grant has been an editor, writer and new media advocate for nearly 20 years and has focused on various facets of the mortgage industry for the last decade. Prior to starting his own company, Rick Grant & Associates, he served as the special reports editor for National Mortgage News and was the launch editor for Origination News Magazine, Broker magazine and Home Equity Wire, as well as managing editor of Mortgage Technology magazine while employed with SourceMedia, formerly Thomson Media. Rick then served as editor of Real Estate Technology Insight, an October Research Corp. publication. A successful freelance writer, Rick continues to write for the industry in addition to running his own consulting company. He is a proponent of new media communication tools, such as blogs, podcasts, video blogs and online presentations. He can be reached via e-mail at rick@rga-pr.com.


Getting Started With New Media

By Rick Grant

When I started blogging it was something the kids were doing to share information on cool new websites they had found, not something that was being considered by serious businesspeople. My employer at the time wouldn’t even consider letting readers comment on my posts. At the time, it just wasn’t done.

Was this back in 1995? 2000? No, it was 2005, but that’s how far behind the financial services business has been when it comes to New Media. There are plenty of good reasons that financial institutions stayed out of the social networking game for so long, but anyone still using them must accept the fact that they are just excuses today. There are legitimate concerns about safety and security, as well as post compliance and comment moderation, but there are acceptable solutions for every problem. Anyone who says otherwise isn’t talking about legitimate obstacles; they’re talking about excuses.[protected]

Easy for me to say, right? I don’t have half a dozen government agencies breathing down my neck in an effort to protect homeowners who didn’t have all that much business being in homes in the first place while I’m still trying to originate enough business to keep my institution on the plus side after the buyback requests. I get it, your business is tough and New Media poses questions and potential problems that you just don’t have time to deal with right now. It’s not that different for the many vendors out there trying to provide what lenders want once they figure it out and have five minutes to talk about it. So, go in easy.

The number of social networking opportunities to Internet users today is truly overwhelming. No company has the ability to effectively cover all of the possible sites that might play host to one of their prospective customers. Effectiveness here requires focus, which means the company must prioritize the opportunities and enter the game in one or two places at most. For most companies in the financial services space, LinkedIn offers the most return for the dollar invested.

With more than 70 million executives registered in 200 countries around the world, LinkedIn has become the most successful professional networking website in the free world. Getting involved is free and easy and building out a professional network takes only a few clicks. Companies can create their own page and every executive in their company that has a LinkedIn profile will show up on the page.

Having a tangible representation of the people you know and who know you is valuable. It becomes even more valuable when you can see the people your contacts know and who know them. LinkedIn makes it possible to reach out beyond the limits of your own social network and that can be very powerful, but it’s just the beginning of what LinkedIn offers.

The ability to join or start new groups is very powerful as it provides executives a platform with which to attract like-minded professionals. By adding consistent value to a LinkedIn group it starts, a company can attract a pool of prospects that it can then introduce to its company, executives and brands.

But it’s not necessary to do that much work to get access to the people you need to connect with to advance your business. By joining someone else’s group, new members have access to everyone already in that group. By participating in discussions in the group, they can demonstrate their industry knowledge and willingness to partner with prospects.

Finally, any LinkedIn user can pose questions to the membership at large and any member can answer questions that are posed by others. This gives LinkedIn users an opportunity to be seen as industry experts.

LinkedIn also offers the ability to update contacts through a status tool, link to a blog or travel information and receive periodic updates of the activity of everyone the user is connected to—and all for free.

For companies that have not yet jumped into the New Media pool, LinkedIn is the easiest way to do so and offers many rewards.

Rick Grant has been an editor, writer and new media advocate for nearly 20 years and has focused on various facets of the mortgage industry for the last decade. Prior to starting his own company, Rick Grant & Associates, he served as the special reports editor for National Mortgage News and was the launch editor for Origination News Magazine, Broker magazine and Home Equity Wire, as well as managing editor of Mortgage Technology magazine while employed with SourceMedia, formerly Thomson Media. Rick then served as editor of Real Estate Technology Insight, an October Research Corp. publication. A successful freelance writer, Rick continues to write for the industry in addition to running his own consulting company. He is a proponent of new media communication tools, such as blogs, podcasts, video blogs and online presentations. He can be reached via e-mail at rick@rga-pr.com.


Automating Your Social Media Presence

By Rick Grant

As soon as you dip your toes in the water of the New Media pool you’ll be visited by helpful folks who are more than willing to assist you in getting thousands of followers, automate your status updates and generally create a machine that will vomit out new media content by the bucket load. They’ll also promise you many advantages to these types of programs, but don’t believe it. It’s not true.

As I’ve discussed before in this space, there are only three things you absolutely must do to succeed in social media. The first of these is be genuine. The bots that some people use to get thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook fans overnight are not remotely genuine and the folks who are serious about New Media and not just playing the game know this.

Now, if we were selling sneakers and we wanted to get half a million little Asian kids to follow some auto-tweets that fed a consumer-facing website, we might give this type of thing half a minute of thought, but in our industry it is a mistake you must avoid.

People do business with people they know. Some may doubt that this is true on the B2C side, but here in the B2B world, it’s a fact. Most vendors operating in our space would do better to have 300 solid contacts who work in firms they want to sell into following them than all the little kids in China. This just makes sense, but when you first get into New Media, it’s hard not to get sucked into the game.

It was really cool when RGA won enough fans to customize our URL. When I first started using Twitter, it was very nice to get past 100 followers…and then 200, and then more. Even today, I sometimes get caught up if I see more than half a dozen people reading my blog. But to be successful in New Media, we cannot focus on the metrics that focus on how we’re doing if it impacts our ability to focus on our clients and their needs. That’s the only way we can create compelling content and that’s what drives social media, not bots.

So, am I suggesting that getting people to follow you isn’t important? Of course, not. What I am saying is that it’s more important that you focus on creating a New Media presence for yourself and your company that is authentic and that adds value to your prospects than it is to get a bunch of people who will never buy anything from you to follow you.

After all, one of the very best uses of New Media content is to make it available to prospects who are performing due diligence on your company. When your next client starts poking around your New Media and Social Networking sites, let them find you, not some marketing firm’s social media auto-bot. You’ll close more sales.

Rick Grant has been an editor, writer and new media advocate for nearly 20 years and has focused on various facets of the mortgage industry for the last decade. Prior to starting his own company, Rick Grant & Associates, he served as the special reports editor for National Mortgage News and was the launch editor for Origination News Magazine, Broker magazine and Home Equity Wire, as well as managing editor of Mortgage Technology magazine while employed with SourceMedia, formerly Thomson Media. Rick then served as editor of Real Estate Technology Insight, an October Research Corp. publication. A successful freelance writer, Rick continues to write for the industry in addition to running his own consulting company. He is a proponent of new media communication tools, such as blogs, podcasts, video blogs and online presentations. He can be reached via e-mail at rick@rga-pr.com.


Making Social Media Work

By Rick Grant

If you thought social media was just a fad, take another look. When something that might once have been deemed “entertaining diversion” becomes “essential tool,” it’s no longer a fad. Social media is here for keeps, knocking down walls between business and consumer, and if you want a piece of the action in the 21st century, you need to be on board. Embrace social media as you would any other tool that can make your business better.

Social media can work for you—if you use it to build personal connections with people, your business will naturally grow from there. But remember that it’s not enough to simply have a presence on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. You need to be a presence. Check out these tips for using social media to its fullest advantage.

1. Convince your readers that you’re a real person. It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between a person and a robot, even online. And despite the proliferation of computers in the last 30 years, people still only want to do business with other people. So don’t fall for the trick that automation is the way to get things done. Remember that social media is not a replacement for actual people, it’s merely another tool for connecting with them. If you want people to connect with your business, make sure they’re connecting with a real person on the other side of their screen. Be authentic; be you.

2. Prove that you’re knowledgeable. Don’t expect people to stick around for long if they’re not convinced you’re a valuable asset. You know what people need to know, so tell them! If they’re checking out your page, they’re interested in finding out more—not just about your business and how you can help them personally, but about your industry as a whole. Post blogs and articles, anything that’s relevant and helpful. Invite questions and answer them. Offer advice and tips on the industry. You’re the expert here, and social media is your platform.

3. Prove that you’re passionate about helping people.  Of course you want to help people—that’s why you went into this business in the first place—so let them know that. And let them know you’re here for them. Put yourself on the page—your face, your voice. Post podcasts and videos that show your passion for this work. Post case studies and press releases about the success of your company. When people see how hard you’re willing to work and that you truly care about the industry, that’s when they become fully engaged in building a connection with you.

When you put effort and care into following these three tips, you won’t have to worry about how to get followers or fans. They will come to you.  They’ll discover a real person who not only knows what he’s talking about, but who cares about it, to boot—someone who can give them the attentive interaction they want and be the valuable resource they need. As long as you’re putting the “social” into “social media,” you will reap the benefits.

Rick Grant has been an editor, writer and new media advocate for nearly 20 years and has focused on various facets of the mortgage industry for the last decade. Prior to starting his own company, Rick Grant & Associates, he served as the special reports editor for National Mortgage News and was the launch editor for Origination News Magazine, Broker magazine and Home Equity Wire, as well as managing editor of Mortgage Technology magazine while employed with SourceMedia, formerly Thomson Media. Rick then served as editor of Real Estate Technology Insight, an October Research Corp. publication. A successful freelance writer, Rick continues to write for the industry in addition to running his own consulting company. He is a proponent of new media communication tools, such as blogs, podcasts, video blogs and online presentations. He can be reached via e-mail at rick@rga-pr.com.