Social Media for Small Business

Much of what I blog about is related to social media, and many of the people with whom I’m engaging online are other social media evangelists or people in health care who are interested in using tools like blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. And I think the examples we’ve been able to show through our Mayo Clinic work definitely show not only the potential of social media, but also the actual, real-world benefits, for large organizations. 

But what about individuals, or smaller organizations? Can they use social media profitably?

That was a question I addressed a couple of weeks ago with a young professionals group in Niles, Ill. So when I tweeted from the airport about my travels for the week and got a response from Tom Vanderwell, a mortgage lender from Grand Rapids, Mich. whom I had met previously through Twitter, I immediately asked him to share his experience.

When we talked by phone that night I asked him, “Do you get real business from your blog?” His response: “Well, today alone I got two emails from potential clients. One is in a state where I can’t do business, but I can connect the person to someone I’ve met through social media who has previously referred business to me. The other one I can do. So yes, I’ve definitely gotten business from my blog.”

I asked Tom to follow up with an email with some of the details about his blogging experience, and I’ve reproduced an edited version below.

Tom works for a large bank, so in that sense he’s not really a “small business” example, but on the other hand as someone whose compensation is based on business generated, he’s the ultimate entrepreneur. Many people like him invest in advertising to get people’s attention. I don’t know whether Tom advertises or not. But it seems his blog is a great way for people to get to know him and how he thinks, building trust in his perspective.

Here’s some straight talk from Tom about how he uses social media, particularly his blog, in his business, and the benefits he’s seen:


Here are some thoughts for you and then below I’ve put copies of the two e-mails I got yesterday……

I’ve been blogging since July of 2007, but didn’t start taking it as anything more than a hobby until July of 2008. Since July of 2008, I’ve been:

  • Quoted in the New York Times
  • Quoted in U.S. News and World Report (twice)
  • Quoted in Yahoo’s Real Estate News
  • Interviewed by Money Magazine for an article in July’s issue. See my Press Page.
  • Written a book called “Straight Talk About Mortgages – how to survive and thrive in today’s new mortgage world.” If you want to read a copy of the preface and introduction for free, go here.

I’ve developed relationships with Realtors and other lenders literally all across the country that have given me, in the last 60 days, the opportunity to pursue business in: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Georgia, Wyoming, Colorado and Florida.

I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to pursue any of those if it weren’t for blogging.

If your blog readers and others would like to connect, I can be reached at my blog (Straight Talk About Mortgages) and also on Facebook and on twitter (@tvanderwell).

Hope this helps and if I can help further, let me know.

Oh, one other thing. Like you and I were talking last night, I don’t write about blogging or about social media. I write about mortgages, real estate and the finance world. Why? Because that’s what I’m passionate about, that’s what I’m an expert in and that’s what I want people to know, understand and care more about.

Tom Vanderwell
Author at
Mortgage lender at Fifth Third Bank

Read the book: Straight Talk About Mortgages – The Book: How to Survive and Thrive in Today’s New Mortgage World

The Mortgage Mess didn’t have to happen and this book was written to decrease the likelihood that people will make the same mistakes again.

And now, the de-identified emails with business opportunities that Tom had received just that day:

Hi – I stumbled on your website from a twitter post…

I have an interest only mortgage that resets to LIBOR +2.(something)% in Dec. I would like to refinance to lock in better longer term security. The rub is I am in _________ where housing prices are high, and the total loan package is for $780k, purchase prices was $890k 4.5 years ago. Comps in the neighborhood are mid $800k’s. (I think)

Anyway – would love to have someone help me understand my options. No problem making payments today of $3500 / month, but would like to keep the mortgage around that amount. Going jumbo will be a big increase from the low 5% interest rate we have now.

Is this something you help with?

-Name withheld

Hi Tom,

We have been working with a mortgage broker for a few years, but our most recent experience has left us a little frustrated. It seems that because our situation is not her boilerplate refi, she is not putting forth the effort to accomplish everything in a timely manner (as far as I know our lock expired yesterday, but I haven’t heard anything from her to see if she could get an extension). As a reader of your blog, I figured that I would see if you might be able to help us in the event that the lock is lost and we have to start everything over.

Our current situation:
Current loan: 15yr@4.75, remaining balance ~$145k
Our home value was appraised at 260 (beginning of April), but there are some inaccuracies in the appraisal that lowered the value by at least 5k, and probably closer to 7500-10k (I don’t think it matters because we’re under 80% ltv).

The non-standard portion is that we have 40k in a HELOC. This will get repaid in 12 months or less, so it seems silly to roll it into the mortgage, and it’s at prime or less (don’t remember exactly), so we’d like to keep it.

Our desire is to refi to a 30yr fixed with no escrow. We’re doing this for cash flow purposes since my wife decided to be a stay at home mom, so we no longer have her income as a buffer. Our credit scores are both well above 750 based on the credit reports that were pulled in March.


Because of the Internet, the geographic boundaries that previously limited businesses are becoming less applicable, although in some industries with state-by-state regulation there are still barriers. Social media give people like Tom the opportunity to build a personal brand that isn’t limited to their geographic community.

Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

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