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The Power Of Social Media In Financial Services

Recurring revenue from existing customers is essential for continued success in any industry, but it’s especially important for relationship-based services like banking. Since the housing crisis in 2008, banks have revamped their community reinvestment and outreach programs to rebuild their image and relationships with their customers.

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While the CFPB has traditionally provided an outlet for customers to file complaints, social media has become a powerful marketing tool for brands, and banks and financial institutions are no exception.
Consumers increasingly turn to social media to both leave reviews of companies they love and lodge complaints against policies they don’t like. As a result, public feedback on social media channels are gaining influence over consumer protection in the financial industry.

Changing Tides of Influence

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Given new leadership and recent turmoil at the CFPB, banks and consumers are asking what will happen next for the regulatory body. While it’s unclear exactly how the CFPB will operate moving forward, the question may not be what will happen, but what is already happening?

Social Posts are Publicly Available

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Since social media amplifies both positive and negative feedback, consumers’ dependence on online reviews can greatly impact revenue and customer acquisition strategies. With 91% of consumers regularly or occasionally reading online reviews, reviews have a significant impact on a business’s reputation.

Social media may feel overwhelming at the onset, but when done right, it has the power to position brands as leaders in consumer protection, customer service, and grow a loyal consumer base.

Faster Response

The educated consumer uses the publicity of its reviews as a bargaining tool: banks can either respond quickly or risk their reputation.

Perhaps the most well-known example of this in the banking industry is Bank of America’s attempt to institute a $5 monthly fee for debit card use in 2011. According to reporting from the Washington Post, within a few days 300,000 people had signed a petition against the change that circulated widely on Facebook and Twitter. Another 21,000 people took to social media pledging to close their Bank of America accounts if the changes took effect. Shortly thereafter, Bank of America removed the proposed fee.

It’s easy to see this need for immediate response times as a burden on banks. However, it’s also an opportunity for banks to differentiate themselves from the crowd with public examples of responsive customer service.

Consumer Protection in the Social Media Era

Banks and other financial institutions should redouble their efforts and attention on the power of social media in consumer protection and customer service. In this age of constant connectivity, consumers hold the power to influence many industries, including financial services. Incorporating customers’ use of social media into a financial institution’s best practices demonstrates reliability and accountability, and in return gains their customers’ trust and loyalty – a win-win for all.

About The Author

Jessica Zeigerman

Jessica Zeigerman, Compliance Professional at RiskExec, has spent more than a decade as both a senior and executive level analyst in HMDA, CRA, and fair lending at several national banks including National City, Cardinal Bank, and Capital One. Her work includes identifying risk and regulatory exposure as well as gaps in lending and forecasting. Jessica has significant breadth and depth of experience in developing, managing, and overseeing retail operations, loan officer trainings, and outreach programs related to fair lending and community reinvestment. Prior to Asurity Technologies, Jessica served as the Vice President, CRA Officer at WashingtonFirst Bank; AVP, Fair Lending Specialist at Cardinal Bank; and as a Community Reinvestment Act Compliance Manager at Capital One.

Get Engagement

How do you win in the current mortgage market? You have to get your client and prospects engaged. How do you do that? Good content is one way.

In the article “These Master Copywriters Share How to Go From Being a Good Copywriter to a Great Consultant” written by Margo Aaron, she shares some tips. She first reports that The Copywriter Club is resurrecting the lost art of engagement by cultivating community online and off. Here’s how they’re doing it:

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Recently, Kira Hug and Rob Marsh have managed to do the impossible. They resurrected the lost art of engaged Facebook groups, launched a successful podcast, and cultivated a community of over seven thousand copywriters launching and growing businesses.

The Copywriter Club, or TCC as they’re known by insiders, has quickly grown into one of the most engaged communities of direct response copywriters on the Internet.

Recently, 75 of them gathered in a small room at Hotel 50 Bowery in Chinatown where they kicked off the first annual TCC IRL Event. The who’s-who of the copy world showed up to support the event, share copy secrets, and swap war stories on how to create copywriting success.

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Against their better judgment, Kira and Rob let some take a peek behind the curtain at what they created and share what was learned with you fine folks. Here’s what you missed at the TCC event in Manhattan.

For decades, copywriters have claimed you can find success by being the “hired gun” that jumps from client to client, beats the control, and collects royalties from her chateau in France. Turns out, that model doesn’t work anymore.

Speakers joked that a control barely lasts 14 minutes nowadays, where it used to last months. Today, it’s about being the entrepreneur, advisor, and expert inside of a client’s business, as much as it is about copy that converts.

Brian Kurtz, a “titan” of direct response, drove that point home when he reminded the crowd of the 40/40/20 rule. Forty percent of your success comes from your list, 40% comes from your offer, and 20% comes from your copy. Which is a particularly bold rule to underscore at a copy event.

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“Go to a list of people who REALLY want your offer with [expletive] copy and I bet you make a sale.” Mmmmhmm. The man knows a thing or two about sales.

There were also honest conversations about whether JV partnerships are worth it, when to raise your rates, why “not segmenting” is the biggest mistake you can make, what to do about lapsed list engagement, and lots of other nerdy fun DR copy things. Like these:

>>Copyhackers founder Joanna Wiebe reminded the crowd that “our job is to make them decide” after hitting us with the sobering statistic that 60% of sales are lost to apathy and indecision.

>>Talking Shrimp founder, Laura Belgray, warned attendees of the dangers of being the “drunk uncle” – the guy who shows up out-of-the-blue and asks for money.

>>Copy and content maven Hillary Weiss taught attendees why personal branding actually matters and has palpable business consequences. “Your business is what you do. Your branding is how you differentiate yourself from everyone else.”

>>Abbey Woodcock, copy and conversion whisperer proved that nailing a client’s “voice” is not a unicorn quality like I’ve always thought. Apparently, anyone can do it (and she showed attendees how).

>>Copy juggernaut Parris Lampropoulos took attendees back to the basics when he explained, “practice makes permanent, not perfect.” And advocated for a community or mentors who could provide feedback, course correction, and critiquing (the good kind. Not the fluffy kind).

While the content was solid, the best part of the conference was what happened between and after the presentations: The community.

The event brought together an incredible blend of beginners and masters bonded by their mutual affection for this obscure industry they’ve all arrived at by accident. The connections made and opportunities created at this event mirrored what Kira and Rob have successfully created online (only, it was IRL).

They curated dinners, encouraged joint lunches, and facilitated introductions that will no doubt launch careers, expand businesses, and foster a community of quality direct response copywriters for decades to come.

So, what’s the takeaway for the mortgage industry? You have to network in a meaningful way online and offline. Our industry loves LinkedIn. In fact, it’s where most Fortune 500 decision-makers and executives like to spend their spare time. The best part?

More often than not, they’re actually scrolling through actively looking for valuable content to read. There isn’t the same barrier you need to break down like on other social platforms like Facebook. They’re not there to find Buzzfeed quizzes, wedding photos, or memes. They’re looking for content that can change the way they do business, which is most definitely music to the ears of a B2B marketer.

According to Business Insider Intelligence, TechCrunch and Fortune, LinkedIn has officially crossed the half-billion user mark back in 2017. Since they were founded in 2002, they’ve continued to grow their user base year after year.

LinkedIn’s monthly active user based reached 260 million back in March 2017. That’s almost 2.5x the 106 million monthly active users last reported in 2016. This number comes from research conducted by web usage company Apptopia and has not been confirmed by LinkedIn.

Of those using the platform monthly, up to 40% are accessing it on a daily basis. If that is the case, that’s over 100 million professionals you could be targeting every single day. To make that even more excited, LinkedIn users typically use the platform to find relevant content, meaning they’ll be much more willing to check out what you’re sharing.

From a B2B perspective, the decision-makers you’re trying to reach are using LinkedIn. If you double down on your LinkedIn efforts, you’ll be able to target the right people in the place they like to spend their scrolling time.

Also, Mobile is booming and LinkedIn’s mobile user numbers reflect that. Their mobile user count is climbing every month, which only makes it easier to reach the people you’re trying to reach. Mobile makes it easier for a user to just open the app and scroll through, giving you more opportunities to reach them.

The big takeaway is that mortgage companies should utilize the services of experts to help them better engage clients and prospects, which for our industry in particular, should include a solid LinkedIn strategy.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Ensuring A New Kind Of Compliance

Comergence, an Optimal Blue company and compliance solutions provider to the mortgage industry, has launched its newest compliance solution, Social Media Compliance. Powered by sophisticated regulatory intelligence capabilities and embedded with the specific policies and procedures of a licensed mortgage originator, the unique service addresses the growing need and seemingly insurmountable task of monitoring social and digital media communications within a regulatory framework.

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“Social media is a powerful tool used more and more by today’s loan officers to source business. Yet, with numerous regulations today and even more expected in the future, the risk is high for unintentional social media mistakes that could pose significant financial risks for lenders,” stated Scott Happ, Chief Executive Officer of Optimal Blue. “We recognize that adherence to growing compliance demands will be challenging for lenders if social media compliance remains a manual, time-consuming effort coming at a great cost. By delivering this robust automation at an extremely affordable price, lenders discover an immediate ROI – regardless of whether they have five loan officers or hundreds.”

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The Social Media Compliance system can evaluate social media activity across all loan officers and all venues in real time via automated scheduling. The platform also identifies potential violations, highlights usage trends, and provides 360-degree audit reports for a deeper violation review so lenders can communicate and remediate internally and externally – all within a single, turnkey compliance tool. The system provides enormous advantages for the hundreds of organizations that already rely upon other Comergence compliance solutions, including streamlined organizational and user set-up.

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“Social media presents a large playing field and a new frontier for today’s lenders that is not going away anytime soon. Leveraging automation removes the heavy lifting and positions lenders to properly take full advantage of the opportunities through this great marketing asset,” said Greg Schroeder, Vice President of Comergence. “Everything lenders need to self-manage social media compliance is available in our solution, bringing efficiencies, simplicities, and real-time oversight with little effort.”

About The Author

Tony Garritano

Tony Garritano is chairman and founder at PROGRESS in Lending Association. As a speaker Tony has worked hard to inform executives about how technology should be a tool used to further business objectives. For over 10 years he has worked as a journalist, researcher and speaker in the mortgage technology space. Starting this association was the next step for someone like Tony, who has dedicated his career to providing mortgage executives with the information needed to make informed technology decisions. He can be reached via e-mail at tony@progressinlending.com.

Communicating Like Never Before

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In PR and communications, we’ve faced a familiar challenge for quite some time. Sometimes, we do the usual: send a few press releases, do some media outreach, pat ourselves on the back and do it again tomorrow. But for a long time, our industry has needed evolution. We do the same thing, and yield the same thing – yet wonder why we don’t earn more budget or praise.

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When we talk about evolution, sure: tools, technology and breaking down silos have been the key to many industries taking the step to greater value within their organizations. But, there are often more simple, overlooked steps we can take to communicate faster, more effectively and enact more change than public relations has ever been able to before. At the Cision World Tour stop in San Francisco, Altimeter principal analyst and visionary Brian Solis shared some of his research based tactics for being positive change agents in our industry:

1) ROI doesn’t always have to mean Return on Investment. In fact, it can mean Return on Ignorance.

The risk of remaining stagnant might not be that daunting for some, but let’s put it into perspective: would you rather do the same old things and produce the same old results, or implement new things and be able to demonstrate new, exciting and meaningful results? It’s not always easy to break out of the mold and get approval to experiment and try new things or A/B test, but done right, these learning experiences can garner valuable takeaways for brands and inform future strategy.

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2) More mindfulness, less strategy.

This tenet may seem counterintuitive, as strategy is a term thrown around a staggering amount of times daily by brands, but at its core, it’s about keeping the audience and end-user in mind first, rather than the other way around. Cision CMO Chris Lynch echoes a similar sentiment – consumers should dictate influencer and outreach strategies, so that we’re communicating the right message at the right time to the right audiences.

3) Success lies in how we use technology to see around the corner and fundamentally change.

Adopting new technologies is essential to brand evolution, but it’s not always about chasing the shiny object and spreading yourself thin across tools or platforms. Having the foresight to evaluate the implications of technology and the big picture, long-term effects can help advise you on where to where to spend your time and money to ensure you’re getting the most out of new tech.

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4) Brands shouldn’t leave experiences to chance – experiences should be designed.

Just because User Experience (UX) isn’t necessarily the “duty” of the communications team doesn’t mean that PR can’t contribute. So how can we be a part of it? There are many ways: provide great customer experience on social media no matter whether a customer is having a great experience or not, engineer an influencer experience that immerses key audiences into your brand via an activation or content, or utilize data to refine strategy across your team. Like #2, keeping the consumer at the forefront of your planning does more benefit to your brand than harm.

5) Be truthful. Be engaging. Be proactive. Be human.

During our “Creating a win-win relationship with the media” panel, a recurring theme from brand leaders from Adobe, Kimpton Hotels and Evite were these simple rules. Transparency, focusing on more than just engaging and being more than just an auto response can foster an emotional connection with a brand that has been proven to be a significant amplifier when someone considers a purchase. Can comms drive this? Absolutely.

In essence, what’s old is new again in the communications industry, and the basic principles we were taught still remain: public relations is about people and relationships, and without this foundation, many comms practitioners fail. Once this philosophy is part of the equation in everything that we do, we can then layer on the tools and technology to knock it out of the park.

About The Author

Stacey Miller

Stacey Miller is the director, communications at Cision. During her ten years with the company, she has pioneered influencer marketing, employee advocacy and social selling programs through both traditional and social media. An internationally sought keynote speaker, her writing has appeared in Forbes, CIO and VentureBeat, as well over 500 authored blogs. Stacey is frequently quoted in online publications as well as published books, including several college textbooks. Consistently mentioned in “top people to follow” and “up and coming pros” lists, Oracle named Stacey a finalist for its Community Manager of the Year Award in 2012.

A New Way To Communicate

In real estate, communication is the most important part of the relationship between an agent and the client. Understanding “how” to communicate is daunting. Rapid-fire methods including email, text messaging and social media channels are preferred methods of contact for most Millennials, Gen Xers and even Baby Boomers these days. In order to help REALTORS get up to speed on the latest trends in social media, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England and Westchester Properties has scheduled “Social Media Bootcamps” taking place this fall to teach best practices in Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat. The newest member to the group – Snapchat – needs a class all on its own and with it, a real estate specific guide was created to get their agents engaging and ‘snapping’ with clients.

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Like Real Estate, Snapchat is a visual entity. Snapchat is used to send photos and videos via a downloaded app for smartphones. REALTORS who use Snapchat can record videos when previewing a home to create a virtual open house, showing off unique aspects of a listing while using text to convey a short description. The use of Geofilters adds to the diverse features Snapchat has to offer by identifying where a video or photo was taken within a geographical area using the phone’s GPS. As the app’s consumer base expands, so does its value as a convenient marketing tool for businesses to promote and communicate directly to its users.

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“Snapchat is an innovative tool for REALTORS,” stated Candace Adams, President and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England and Westchester Properties. “It visually tells a story and allows for more personal engagement with clients. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England and Westchester Properties understands the importance of social media in the digital age. It is essential to reach clients where they are already looking.”

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Even more valuable than Snapping listings, Snapchat lets REALTORS be more personal. It’s a great way to show clients how homes are marketed for today’s modern era and have fun showcasing their personality.

In an article created by eMarketer, they project “58.6 million US consumers will use Snapchat at least once per month in 2016. eMarketer’s user estimate would represent 28.3% of US smartphone users and 18.1% of the US population.”

By adapting new technology trends early, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England and Westchester Properties REALTORS will benefit greatly by acclimatizing quickly in an ever changing industry. They will engage with clients, provide valuable information and promote their expertise. Why do I bring this up? Because mortgage lenders should learn from their REALTOR friends and use this same technology to improve the mortgage process and better communicate with borrowers.

About The Author

Tony Garritano

Tony Garritano is chairman and founder at PROGRESS in Lending Association. As a speaker Tony has worked hard to inform executives about how technology should be a tool used to further business objectives. For over 10 years he has worked as a journalist, researcher and speaker in the mortgage technology space. Starting this association was the next step for someone like Tony, who has dedicated his career to providing mortgage executives with the information needed to make informed technology decisions. He can be reached via e-mail at tony@progressinlending.com.

LinkedIn As A Business Generator

People think of LinkedIn as just social media, but it’s not. LinkedIn can help you grow your mortgage business if you use it wisely. You have only a few seconds to make a good impression with your LinkedIn profile. Here’s how to create a profile that immediately captivates your audience.

Be consistent with your name, suggests Quill. “Match your LinkedIn account name with the name you use on your business cards, email signature, and resume.”

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Also, add a professional photo. “Your photo should reflect your current age and should be a head-on picture of mostly just your face without a very distracting background,” states Quill.

Moreover, use simple language and avoid buzzwords. Don’t describe yourself as a ninja, wizard, or guru. Good words to use include “organizational,” “motivated,” “dynamic,” and “extensive experience.”

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Forbes advises that you join groups that will let you connect with people who are in your target audience but are not contacts. Being part of the group gives you permission to reach out to them and invite them to join your network. You don’t need to upgrade to Premium to do so.

In order to be successful on LinkedIn you have to know the top five strengths for which you want to be recognized and use them in your profile – repeatedly. If your top skill is project management, describe your project management proficiency in your summary as well as in multiple experience descriptions. This will help the right audience find you.

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How do you create this content? Reuse and repurpose the content you already have available. This amplifies your message and delivers brand consistency. Communicating different forms of the same content in distinctive ways helps reinforce your messages within your brand community. Convert your Blog posts into activity updates and embed whitepapers and articles in your profile.

Also, ignore LinkedIn’s advice to only accept connection requests from people you know. That helps sell Premium, but it doesn’t help you get found. LinkedIn’s search algorithm favors those who are in your network. That means when people are looking for what you have to offer, the results of their searches are displayed with 1st level connections first, then 2nd level connections and so on.

You also need to integrate your point of view (POV) into your summary and experience where appropriate. Join groups where you can share your POV as it relates to your area of expertise. It’s a great way to distinguish yourself from competitors.

Think of it this way: Your profile is not a resume or CV. Write as if you are having a conversation with someone. Inject your personality. Let people know your values and passions. In your summary, discuss what you do outside of work. You want people to want to know you.

And don’t be afraid to ask your contacts to endorse you for your top skills. Having the highest number of endorsements for your signature strengths will influence those who are looking at your profile. Have the courage to delete or reject the endorsements that aren’t central to how you want to be known.

On the same topic, only give recommendations and endorsements to those whom you genuinely admire. When you recommend other people, their reputation is seen an extension of your values.

So, use LinkedIn to the fullest to grow your business.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Win The Day

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TME-MHammondWe all want to be winners. However, we realize that winning isn’t always easy. But wouldn’t it be helpful if there were some guidelines or rules to winning? It would certainly make things a lot easier. A big part of winning in the mortgage industry comes down to the quality of your people. This industry is very much about people.

So, how do you know which people will be winners and which people will lose? In the article entitled, “11 Things Ultra-Productive People Do Differently,” by Travis Bradberry, he says, “When it comes to productivity, we all face the same challenge—there are only 24 hours in a day. Yet some people seem to have twice the time; they have an uncanny ability to get things done. Even when juggling multiple projects, they reach their goals without fail.

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“We all want to get more out of life,” insists Bradberry. “There’s arguably no better way to accomplish this than by finding ways to do more with the precious time you’ve been given. It feels incredible when you leave the office after an ultra-productive day. It’s a workplace high that’s hard to beat.”

So, how do keep that high going every day? With the right approach, you can make this happen every day. You don’t need to work longer or push yourself harder—you just need to work smarter.

Ultra-productive people know this. As they move through their days they rely on productivity hacks that make them far more efficient. They squeeze every drop out of every hour without expending any extra effort. The best thing about these hacks is they’re easy to implement. So easy that you can begin using them today.

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Give them a read, give them a whirl, and watch your productivity soar.

They never touch things twice. Productive people never put anything in a holding pattern, because touching things twice is a huge time-waster. Don’t save an email or a phone call to deal with later. As soon as something gets your attention you should act on it, delegate it or delete it.

They get ready for tomorrow before they leave the office. Productive people end each day by preparing for the next. This practice accomplishes two things: it helps you solidify what you’ve accomplished today, and it ensures you’ll have a productive tomorrow. It only takes a few minutes and it’s a great way to end your workday.

They “eat frogs.” “Eating a frog” is the best antidote for procrastination, and ultra-productive people start each morning with this tasty treat. In other words, they do the least appetizing, most dreaded item on their to-do list before they do anything else. After that, they’re freed up to tackle the stuff that excites and inspires them.

They fight the tyranny of the urgent. The tyranny of the urgent refers to the tendency of little things that have to be done right now to get in the way of what really matters. This creates a huge problem as urgent actions often have little impact.

If you succumb to the tyranny of the urgent, you can find yourself going days, or even weeks, without touching the important stuff. Productive people are good at spotting when putting out fires is getting in the way of their performance, and they’re willing to ignore or delegate the things that get in the way of real forward momentum.

They stick to the schedule during meetings. Meetings are the biggest time waster there is. Ultra-productive people know that a meeting will drag on forever if they let it, so they inform everyone at the onset that they’ll stick to the intended schedule. This sets a limit that motivates everyone to be more focused and efficient.

They say no. No is a powerful word that ultra-productive people are not afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, they avoid phrases such as I don’t think I can or I’m not certain. Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.

Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Learn to use no, and it will lift your mood, as well as your productivity.

They only check e-mail at designated times. Ultra-productive people don’t allow e-mail to be a constant interruption. In addition to checking e-mail on a schedule, they take advantage of features that prioritize messages by sender. They set alerts for their most important vendors and their best customers, and they save the rest until they reach a stopping point. Some people even set up an auto-responder that lets senders know when they’ll be checking their e-mail again.

They don’t multitask. Ultra-productive people know that multitasking is a real productivity killer. Research conducted at Stanford University confirms that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.

But what if some people have a special gift for multitasking? The Stanford researchers compared groups of people based on their tendency to multitask and their belief that it helps their performance. They found that heavy multitaskers—those who multitask a lot and feel that it boosts their performance—were actually worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another. Ouch.

Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.

They go off the grid. Don’t be afraid to go off grid when you need to. Give one trusted person a number to call in case of emergency, and let that person be your filter. Everything has to go through them, and anything they don’t clear has to wait. This strategy is a bulletproof way to complete high-priority projects.

They delegate. Ultra-productive people accept the fact that they’re not the only smart, talented person in their organization. They trust people to do their jobs so that they can focus on their own.

They put technology to work for them. Technology catches a lot of flak for being a distraction, but it can also help you focus. Ultra-productive people put technology to work for them. Beyond setting up filters in their e-mail accounts so that messages are sorted and prioritized as they come in, they use apps like IFTTT, which sets up contingencies on your smart phone and alerts you when something important happens. This way, when your stock hits a certain price or you have an email from your best customer, you’ll know it. There’s no need to be constantly checking your phone for status updates.

Bringing it all together. We’re all searching for ways to be more efficient and productive. I hope these strategies help you to find that extra edge.

About The Author

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Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

The Path To Purchase

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Get the stats on how much consumers rely on their friends and family for advice about their purchase decisions.

Here are the highlights from Social Media Link’s survey of its consumer influencer community. It captured data from more than 21,0000 respondents.

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“At least once a month, 83% of respondents hear about new products on social media before they hear from any other source,” states Social Media Link.

Moreover, 67% of respondents say they always or often seek out recommendations from family and close friends when gathering information about a product/brand purchase.

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To find out more about how reviews and recommendations affect the path to purchase, check out this infographic:

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Social PR For Your Business

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TME-MHammondAre you using the Internet and social media to the fullest? In an article entitled “How Savvy Marketers Are Using Social PR in Their Online Strategies” by Laura Hampton, she says that savvy marketers are investing in social media for PR (or social PR) as an essential part of their efforts to build brand identity and credibility online.

The same techniques also contribute to improving the perceived authority of their website, resulting in more website traffic and higher rankings in the search results pages. Even smaller businesses that might not have capacity for full-time PR employees can benefit from social PR.

Here are 6 tips to help you craft and implement a successful social media strategy for PR:

1) Recognize the stories that are newsworthy within your business

I like to use the term brand stories with my clients. By this, I mean the key narratives that the business wants to promote. PR is all about promoting stories within the business. So, you need to be able to spot those opportunities. Be alert to things happening within your business that communicate your brand stories. Consider what constitutes news in your business and how this communicates your brand stories. Work with a PR agency that can assist you with this process, one that truly understands your business and how to differentiate it in the marketplace.

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2) Craft news stories that appeal to your target audience

The next step is to craft those stories into a format, which appeals to your target audience. This might be a press release, written in the traditional style whereby important information is included early and further detail is added as the release goes on.

In social PR, though, you needn’t feel restricted to this one traditional method of story promotion. Because we’re sharing content online, we have far more opportunities to display that content in new and more interesting ways. You might, for example, choose to display statistical information in the form of an infographic—this is a great technique for bringing potentially bland information to life.

Or why not create a video? Whether you do something professional or even animated, or simply film something on a tablet or mobile phone, video content can be a great supplement to a standard press release or email.

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3) Use Twitter to seek out new promotional opportunities—and work with an expert to filter through the noise

Twitter is really popular with journalists. Consider how busy they are and how limited their time to find news stories, and you’ll understand why. The constant stream of bite-sized news stories can be a hotbed of content and inspiration for them.

And you can capitalize on this. Savvy marketers are using Twitter to identify new PR opportunities in two main ways: 1. When you find journalists on Twitter, you can start to build relationships with them by following what they have to say and tweeting to them directly to pitch your news stories. 2. You can also respond to journalist requests, which they post using hashtags such as #journorequest and #prrequest.

Of course, it can be challenging to sort through all of the content on Twitter. The news feed is constantly updating and, especially if you have limited time, it can be difficult to find the tweets that matter and therefore make the most of the opportunities therein.

That’s where working with a firm that truly understands how to effectively use social listening comes into play. With a few key tactics, they can help you sort through the noise on Twitter and efficiently identify those PR opportunities that are right for your business.

4) Have your PR firm set up custom search streams

You can start filtering Twitter’s content for PR opportunities with a custom search stream, where you state what you want to stream to search for and therefore the tweets you want it to deliver, like this:

“#journorequest” OR “#prrequest”

The search above will deliver all tweets, which include the common journalist hashtags I mentioned earlier, thus delivering a stream of journalist requests to which you can respond.

Further to this, you can refine the search above to make it more relevant to you and your business. For example: “#journorequest” OR “#prrequest” AND “mortgage” AND “lending” You could also do it by location, e.g: “#journorequest” OR “#prrequest” AND “California”

So this would deliver tweets where journalists are seeking information and mentioning California within their request—great for business’s that are California based.

There are also opportunities beyond the common journalist hashtags. Try searching for mentions of your product in your local area and create a stream to deliver you just those tweets, e.g: “LOS” AND “POS”

This can result in earned media placements…

5) Look for earned media opportunities

Earned media refers to those opportunities, which you make for yourself through your activities. This can include press mentions, interview opportunities, and article placements in industry leading publications. The key is to work with a firm that already has those media connections to maximize your media exposure.

In addition, your company can leverage social media to gain exposure. You can use twitter to extend the shelf life a of a recent article of yours that was just published, hashtag a popular MBA session that you are attending, you can use LinkedIn to schedule meetings at the MBA Annual or announce that one of your executives is speaking on an industry panel. Include photos in your posts to humanize your company, post video discussions from the event to YouTube, these are just a few ways that you can maximize your exposure.

The key is working with the right firm that can cost effectively help you maximize these opportunities.

Of course, success in earned media comes from a detailed understanding of the target audience. In your business, think about how you can appeal to the specific needs and desires of your target audience, and then get creative in the way you meet those needs online.

6) Promote your own content through self-publication

Promotion of your content doesn’t need to solely come from external sources. In fact, it’s arguably just as important to make sure your brand stories are communicated on your own channels—including your website and social media.

Businesses shouldn’t be afraid to promote their own content, and many are incorporating media centers or content hubs into their own websites as a home for that content. Publish your own press releases and make them available to those people who might come across them, and over time, you may find your media center becomes a regular content source for journalists relevant to your business.

It’s also important to be able to, strategically, promote your own content through your social channels. This means avoiding becoming a broadcaster—those businesses that only push their own content—and instead using your content to contribute to a wider conversation. On Twitter, Hootsuite can be useful in this by setting up search streams for your product or service, or looking out for retweets of your content. Across other channels like LinkedIn and Facebook, it means just being aware and present in order to recognize what your target audience is interested in.

Social PR can be an extremely involved process, and there are professionals and agencies that dedicate all of their time to making the most of the extensive opportunities therein. But no matter the size of your business, there are opportunities for you too.

About The Author

[author_bio]

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Become A Powerhouse

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TME-MHammondWe’ve all heard the adage that content is King. But, as someone marketing a business, creating content that drives ROI can feel elusive. In fact, it can feel downright impossible. Whether you’re flying solo or working within a team – finding the perfect balance, rhythm and flow for your online content is crucial.

So where do you begin? In an article entitled “How To Become A Content Marketing Powerhouse: Secrets To A Super-Sticky Strategy” by Rebekah Radice, she suggests that you first ask yourself: What is Content Marketing?

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Content marketing at its core is connection marketing. It’s offering the right content to the right people with the right frequency and consistency. But it’s also relationship marketing – something many companies are still (IMHO) failing at. Many see people as numbers rather than looking at the engagement process as this:

How can I bring more food to the table then I came with?

In other words, how can you become a resource so vital that the marketplace simply can’t live without your product, service or app? The key to that is through the content you create. Whether it’s blog posts, videos, presentations, webinars, Infographics or podcasts, your content – when shared with the right people – helps tell your story in a powerful and meaningful way.

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Great companies tell great stories. And that’s the secret great companies understand. They know that stories can create an emotional bond with customers. Just look to brands like Apple, Coca Cola, GE, Facebook, and Disney as examples. Each one weaves storytelling into their marketing in a way that immediately connects their audience to their mission and vision.

You need to create differentiation. Look to social media marketer Peg Fitzpatrick, author of “The Art of Social Media” and you’ll see a brand that stands out from the crowd. No matter where you look, Peg’s signature look is undeniable.

Your stories should allow you to stand out in a crowded marketplace. For example, Denise Wakeman of “Adventures in Visibility” uses stories to bring her fans and followers along on her adventures. By creating a fun and interactive space, Denise shows others how to use a personal journey to make better (and stronger) online connections.

Stories should offer maximum impact with little effort. And given how crowded the online marketplace has become, making an impact is more important than ever before.

Twitter has 284 million monthly active users. Instagram has 300 million monthly active users. Facebook has 1.35 BILLION monthly active users; 23% are on Twitter; 71% are on Facebook; and 74% of online adults (ages 18+) use social networks regularly.

While those stats are staggering, they don’t show a complete picture. In fact, you may see those stats and think – if you’re going to be seen or heard – you have to produce and share more content. To that I say – STOP! The idea isn’t to create more content, but rather the right content that connects with your audience. The only way to differentiate your business is to realize that it’s your message and the value you provide to your community that set you apart. Here’s how you do it:

1. Define Objectives:

What are you looking to achieve with content marketing? As Chuck Palahniuk says, “If you don’t know what you want, you end up with a lot you don’t.” Grab a pen and paper or your favorite app and start writing. What are your objectives? Here’s a few examples:

>> Raise awareness

>> Extend your reach

>> Build thought leadership

>> Grow your brand

>> Launch a product

>> Promote a book

2. Get Specific

Now drill down into specific goals. If you are too general, your content becomes meaningless.

3. Do Your Research

Who is your target market? What do they look like, do for a living and what problems do you solve? Build out your persona by looking at the data. Uncover who you’re talking with and how you’ll be able to help them on a daily basis.

4. Identify Content

What content do you currently have in place and what will you produce? To become a content marketing powerhouse, you have to create SHARE WORTHY content! Don’t worry about reinventing the wheel. Begin by identifying what you have and how you can repurpose it for your online marketing.

5. Know Your Networks

Understand each social network: how will they support your objectives? Every avenue such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, Pinterest and YouTube have prose and cons. You need to know their strengths and tailor your content accordingly.

6. Commit to Consistency

Commit to a consistent content creation and posting schedule. People should know when your content is coming out.

>> Raise awareness

>> Extend your reach

>> Build thought leadership

>> Grow your brand

>> Launch a product

>> Promote a book

7. Get Involved

Get involved in the conversation. It’s critical that if you’re going to use social media, you stay interactive. And most importantly – create content that shows you’re a giver, not a taker!

8. Create a System

Now its time for you to put your content marketing into a system. The goal is to use what works best for you. While there are many tools to choose from, stick with what’s easy, such as Excel or Google Calendar, for example.

9. Promote Your Content

A mistake I see many make is posting content once and then moving on. It’s not enough to tweet or post once. Not only do you miss getting that content in front of a larger audience, you lose the ability to touch every single one of your fans and followers. Because let’s face it – not everyone is online at the same time.

10. Create Your Daily Workflow

What does a basic social media marketing workflow look like? You have to have a solid plan of action.

All that’s left to do now is synthesize this great pipeline of information you’ve created and find all the ways you can begin to act on the results you’re seeing. As you do so, make sure the information keeps flowing. If you’re on your own or at a small company, it should be easy enough to share and act on what you’ve learned so you can keep getting better.

Create your daily workflow – rinse and repeat! Get started today.

About The Author

[author_bio]

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.