7 Online Blunders that Can Hurt Your Brand

Spending more time on properly managing your brand online has become an absolute necessity. Your target audience has evolved to the point where expectations are higher than ever…and they’re only increasing, not stabilizing. That said, there are some very basic online blunders that some companies in the mortgage industry are still making that can easily be corrected.

These basic mistakes could be altering the perception of your brand and even costing new business opportunities. The following seven blunders seem to be common but so easy to fix they need to be called out…

1) Not taking ownership of the primary social media profile pages. Have you ever tried to launch a Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest or any other social media profile page only to find out that the name you are using was already taken by someone else?

Make sure you take ownership of the key social media venues your target audience uses. If you don’t, someone else with a similarly named company, or even a competitor, could register ahead of you. This may force you to buy that name from them, start legal proceedings to get it for your use, or you could even be forced to alter/abbreviate your name in a way that’s not as ideal for your target audience to find you.
Some venues you should review and evaluate include Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Vimeo, Pinterest and Twitter. Not all are valid for every company, so make sure you review and understand each of them and their target audience profiles so that you don’t waste your time in the wrong venue.

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2) Not managing your reputation online. This is a big one! Not everything that’s said about you is going to appear in your blog post comments section, on Facebook or on Twitter. You need to pay attention to any place people have access to a box where they can type and click “post.”

For this reason, there are sites like Trackur and Mention that will keep track of everything being said about you online. Google Alerts is a widely accepted way of tracking brand mentions, but doesn’t go beyond two pages deep in search results. I recommend these other services to compliment Google Alerts or replace it.

There is another aspect to managing your reputation…and that is being present online in key social venues (see #1). If you’re disconnected, you could open yourself up to others shaping your brand against your will. Let me explain…

If a competitor is thriving with a nice social media following, engaging their audience and building widespread positive awareness of themselves and their team…they are, in effect, keeping you at bay. Whether you realize it or not, they’re shaping your brand, making it less relevant. Now, what if someone were to have a poor experience with your company and then post comments about it in a social venue where you’re not present? If this happens, you have no way to really deal with that effectively or possibly even be aware of it.

The cost of ignoring modern communication venues is higher than you might think. Don’t be disconnected.

3) Removing negative comments. One would think it’s common knowledge not to do this, but brands do it more often than you think. They see a negative comment, don’t know how to react and then just delete it. Here are three reasons not to do this:

a) Transparency: Consumers demand greater transparency today than ever before. If you scrub criticism from your Facebook timeline, you can be sure they’ll figure it out and then point it out to everybody. Brands that embrace all feedback get points for this!

b) Backlash: Think of how much more upset someone will be with your brand if they see their comment(s) deleted! They will re-post with more venom, tell as many people as they can and cause others to talk about it as well.

c) Customer Service Opportunity: Negative feedback can present a great opportunity to show that you’re listening, transparent and responsive…and that you really care. How you respond is what will shape customers’ opinions of you.

I won’t say you should “never” remove a negative comment, but in most situations, I would not recommend it. If you find yourself in a particularly nasty situation, likely the worst thing you can do is react on your initial impulses. Take a deep breath and seek professional help from a good PR firm that knows how to handle it. Ideally, you would have one already in mind for this very reason that knows your  company.

4) Not having a social media policy posted for all to see. There are many benefits to social media, but with them come risks. Companies have very limited control over what is said about them on the Internet beyond the scope of their own corporate websites – and the potential audience for any negative comments is huge. Companies also face risks from the inside, through the possibility of employees misusing their access to social networking sites.

This is where a social media policy comes in.

A social media policy sets out the standards that a company expects from its employees when they’re online. It normally gives guidelines of acceptable behavior and explains what employees should and should not do when using these sites in the course of their employment.

The benefits that social networking sites can bring to companies in the mortgage industry in the form of new avenues for business generation outweigh the possible risks. It is neither practical nor desirable for companies to try and ban their use outright in the work environment. However, prudent companies will recognize that risks do exist, and take steps to manage them. One of these steps is the introduction of a social media policy, which will control how social media sites are used, and give companies a level of protection in the event that such use is abused.

5) Not having a website that adapts to mobile devices. A responsive website, one that renders successfully on mobile devices, is important because people are increasingly reliant on accessing information on-the-go. It’s also worth noting that on April 21st, 2015, Google released a new website ranking algorithm that favors mobile-friendly pages.

According to a recent extensive study conducted by Google and Nielsen, 77% of mobile searches happen at home or work, despite a PC being nearby. 46% use mobile technology exclusively as a primary research tool. These are two great reasons to make sure you rank well on mobile devices!

If you’re a business-to-business company in the mortgage industry, you’re not off the hook! Business people have heavy travel schedules and frequently find the time to research potential new vendor services just before that cabin door is ready to close and “all electronic devices must be turned off,” when they’re commuting on trains, taking advantage of Gogo, waiting for a late appointment to arrive for lunch, are between appointments and so on.

6) Lack of contact information on your home page. Sure, this may seem quite obvious, but on some corporate websites, you really need to be motivated to find contact information – ideally a clickable phone number or email. I was just on a lenders sight recently that had zero contact information on their home page. I clicked through to a “contact” page and saw that the only way they were accessible was through email. What does that say about them? As a prospect, that would tell me the lender is too busy to take phone calls or they only want my business if I’m willing to communicate on their terms.

7) Not telling people clearly and succinctly what you do on the home page of your website. Sometimes creativity gets in the way of practicality. This happens more often than you think and the culprit is usually an overzealous creative individual or group that hasn’t taken the time to understand your target audience. Without this clear understanding, they fail to communicate with them in a way they understand.

I encountered this recently when reviewing the website of a company that not long ago conducted a full brand overhaul. One of its executives, who was not happy, sat down with me to share what happened.
The group in charge of the overhaul decided to create something that they deemed youthful, “Apple-esque” and something they thought would better attract Millennials. I wish I had a dime for every company that said they wanted to be “Apple-esque!” But I digress.

As it turned out, the imagery didn’t remotely convey anything having to do with what the company does. It was completely off base, but something the creative group argued would be more “inviting.” The verbiage was manipulated to such an extent that key words that attract the attention of mortgage industry professionals looking for their service were totally absent from the home page, replaced with verbiage they deemed friendlier and “cool.”

These are all very basic online brand management issues that can easily be resolved. Taking the time to fix deficiencies and properly manage your brand online is an absolute necessity now. People have changed, society has changed and, generally speaking, more is expected of your online presence than ever before.

I hope you found this information to be useful. If you have any more you’d like to add, please let me know!

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