Social media app TikTok is expected to reach 1.8 billion users by the end of 2022 – will you be one of them? Many mortgage professionals are turning to the platform as a way to connect with prospective borrowers and educate them on mortgage, as well as market themselves.
We spoke to UMortgage Branch Manager Arielle Best, known as the VA Loan Lady on TikTok, about the platform and how best to utilize it as a mortgage loan originator. Best joined TikTok in 2020 and today has 61.3k followers and 524.8k likes on the platform. She’s part of UMortgage’s “Lender Avengers” team, along with Rebecca Richardson (The Mortgage Mentor) and Nate Fain (The Mortgage Creator).
“We’re on [TikTok] mostly to educate and provide information, it’s not necessarily a sales platform,” Best said. “We’re on there to provide accurate information, and if people want to use us, that’s awesome.”
Best’s top three tips for loan officers using TikTok are to be your genuine self, keep it short and sweet, and “just do the video.”
“Even if the first one sucks, you can only get better,” she said. “You can look at it and say, ‘How can I make this video better?’”
She said one mistake she sees a lot of loan officers new to TikTok make is talking to the camera rather than through the camera to their audience.
“Be your true self,” she said. “Act like you’re talking to friends when you’re explaining something, as if your best friend came to your house to ask you mortgage advice – talk to your phone like that.”
According to Best, her biggest learning curves upon joining TikTok were learning how to use the app’s features and understanding what the algorithm was looking for when putting out content.
“Putting out information – useful information – wasn’t gaining traction unless you made it less than 10 seconds, put catchy music behind it and put the words on the screen,” she said. “The biggest thing with TikTok is understanding how viewers want to consume the information, even if that information is something that’s important, getting it to where they’re going to see it.”
She said the app’s algorithm is looking for “small bites of information that are useful, digestible and understandable, and in as short a time as you can provide it.”
She also recommended learning how to organize your TikTok by using the playlists feature. Best has playlists for her Q&A Wednesday series, satire videos and true stories, among other types of videos. Playlists make it easier for your followers to binge your content and absorb all the information.
When it comes to deciding what to make videos about, Best says she looks toward her commenters.
“I always will go to my comment section, because those are the people that are looking for answers, are the ones asking questions,” she said. “I let them decide what I’m going to talk about.”
“That’s another great thing about TikTok that I love – one person can ask me a question that is useful to so many people, and I’ll reply to that with the answer,” she said. “Then so many more people have that knowledge and information now that didn’t and wouldn’t have known where to find it, because the average borrower is not going to go dig through the chapter of a handbook to find information for their loan circumstance.”
Best also recommends making videos on important news updates borrowers need to know about.
Building a brand
In terms of building a brand, Best says it’s crucial to know your market and to combine your passion with what you’re already doing. As the VA Loan Lady, she specializes in VA loans because she’s passionate about helping veterans.
“Build your brand around the things that you love to do, and then your brand comes to you a little more naturally,” she said.
The best way to grow your audience is to post routinely, and be sure to cover controversial and often misrepresented topics by providing accurate information, she said.
Return on investment
Best said she spends less than 10 hours a week on her TikTok.
“I’ll spend probably an hour today just replying to videos, and then editing and posting and kind of batch-dumping videos,” she said.
What kind of ROI does she see for her time on the app? In April she had 400 people fill out inquiries and applications from TikTok. She posted a video in July that had more than 1 million views, and said that about 530 people reached out afterward.
“It wasn’t all applications, but we had inquiries up above 500 for one video,” she said. “If I were to average, it’s no less than at least 150 to 200 either inquiries or applications a month.”
Ultimately, Best said, the key to TikTok is to remember that your audience consists of real people you’re connecting with, rather than people you’re trying to pitch or sell yourself to.
“You are there to educate and inform them of their options for financing,” she said. “Don’t sell yourself, be yourself.”