How Facebook Turned the Mortgage Industry Upside Down by Dennis Yu

by 09 Feb 2011
It’s the year 2012 and granted that the world has not ended in a cataclysmic flood of Jerry Bruckheimer proportions, Facebook has grown from a July 2010 base of 500 million users to 3 billion users. Everyone is sharing their personal information passively, tying in their Facebook account with their frequent flyer account, mobile phone, water bill, and social security number. Facebook is not a website, but a public utility- like the electric company- powering everything on the planet that has an on/off switch. Only it’s not electrons or the Energizer Bunny—it’s your data flowing through these devices.   And you need this data to survive.  Whereas once you signed up because your friends were there, now you are critically dependent upon it for your mortgage business.  The world of advertising pretty much died in late 2011, because consumers tuned out advertising, which in turn caused advertisers to shout louder, which in turn made consumers deafer to ads.  Consumers trusted the advice of friends for where to eat, what auto mechanic was trustworthy, and who was a reputable mortgage broker.   It was at the same time that Facebook created a Reputation Score—an ingenious algorithm that took into account how many friends you had and what they thought of you.  Think Better Business Bureau meets eBay user rating system. Consumers would make decisions on which lender to use based on how many users had left positive feedback about that business and how close they were to 5 stars. This created a massive rush for companies to build up their Facebook presence so they would sit at the top of the rankings.    When Facebook released the ratings system, they simultaneously unveiled their Service Finder. Click on “banker” and it would pull up a list of the bankers in your area, sorted by the Reputation Score. As a mortgage broker, you could pay for ads to appear alongside the Reputation Score, just like you used to be able to do in Google in 2010.  But to rank highly, you had to get your customers to rate you and link to you. It was a popularity contest such as the world had never seen, where you earn points the more devices you connect into Facebook and the more people you can recruit.  Mark Zuckerberg got the idea when seeing how popular FarmVille was—he considered how he could leverage that on a greater scale.   This put the yellow pages out of business—although the big book is still made for a great doorstop and flyswatter.  Mortgage brokers shifted their advertising budgets to run through Facebook.  TV ads still existed, since Facebook could power personalized ads that were embedded in programs.  But newspaper and radio took a major hit—a fatal blow after years of steady decline.    Mortgage brokers were the pioneers of the yellow pages categories—ahead of attorneys, restaurants, dentists, and the usual suspects.  The reason why?  They were the first to understand that a service business is a people-based business.  Through The Niche Report, a few thousand brave lenders took the first steps towards connecting their business with all their friends, then leveraging the then nascent Facebook advertising system to market to friends of friends. In the middle of 2010, few advertisers were aware of this powerful feature quietly released by Facebook—the ability to show ads to the friends of your friends, and to show that friend in the ad itself. It allowed businesses to make ads out of endorsements—but still have trust.    mortgage brokers took it a step further by creating Facebook pages for their business that capitalized upon these connections, adding in testimonials and videos, such that whenever anyone wanted to refinance in their neighborhood, their businesses were the first to come to mind.  They had built up this base in advance of the Service Finder, without realizing they were getting a head start ahead of the big rush in late 2010, when Google and Facebook battled out local search.           A year later, many of The Niche Report subscribers remarked that in hindsight, this was a smart decision. But, the reason they signed up was that their Niche Report subscription was expiring.  And they found out that if they renewed their subscription by August 10th, they could receive a free Facebook page and $50 in free Facebook ads.  The only “catch” was that if they did not cancel within 30 days, The Niche Report would charge $50 a month each month for more Facebook ads.  But they did not want to cancel, as their business was increasingly reliant upon it.   Dennis Yu is CEO of BlitzLocal, a firm specializing in lead gen for Fortune 500 companies as well as the neighborhood dentist, plumber, car dealer, or restaurant.  You can contact him at with any questions you may have.  Mr. Yu can be reached on facebook at Mr. Yu has appeared on CBS Evening News, NPR, Fox News, the LA Times, KTLA, and other media outlets to share expertise in online marketing.



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