A visit to New American Mortgage's Facebook page reveals, among other things, a video of staffers dancing to the song "Thriller" by Michael Jackson, labeled "when the boss is gone," pictures of one of the company's new offices, birthday cake photos and pictures of families standing in front of their homes.

But there's not much information about mortgage rates, or selling, or details about financial products.

And that's the whole idea.

For New American, of Virginia Beach, using Facebook and Twitter in much the same way that consumers use the popular social media websites is the doorway to relationship building, branding and image marketing.

"We still believe that people want to know the personality of who they are dealing with. [Realtors and sales representatives] need to have their authentic voice online … they should talk about their kids or their hobbies. Only about 20% or so of what you have on Twitter or Facebook should be business," said Casey Crawford, New American's chief executive.

Its branding and marketing strategy comes as social media adoption is starting to mature.

According to Javelin Strategy and Research in Pleasanton, Calif., 52% of U.S. adults now use social media, especially the young — 81% of people ages 18 to 24, 67% of 25-to-34-year-olds and 59% of 35-to-44-year-olds.

"Brand building seems to be a natural way to use social media," said Mark Schwanhausser, a senior analyst at Javelin. "It's a natural connection. For banking consumers, there's less of a wall for people who are just getting information about something."

Many financial companies are at least dabbling in social media websites.

Bank of America Corp., for example, uses Twitter for customer service. HSBC Holdings PLC's First Direct online bank in the U.K. operates a social media "newsroom."

And Wells Fargo Inc., First Mariner Bancorp and Addison Avenue Credit Union all use social media as part of their branding strategies.

In New American's case, Facebook is a crucial tool for customer relationship management and business expansion, and a way for consumers and New American to learn about each other.

"Social media isn't just a place where people are wasting time, or a way to see who's saying that your company stinks," said Stessa Cohen, a research director at Gartner Inc.

"It's a place where you can learn peoples' influences. It's getting the experience that provides banks with an understanding of how consumers live their lives on a daily basis. And their lives have very little to do with financial services," she said.

If banks don't take the growing use of social media sites into consideration "they're making a big omission in their approach to consumer banking."

Crawford said in the year or so since it started putting Facebook out front — its Facebook page can be found on the lender's Web landing page — New American has accrued more than 2,000 "fans," opened about three dozen offices and is now closing about 400 mortgages per month.

While New American doesn't attribute that volume entirely to Facebook, Crawford said some of the company's loan officers say they are closing eight to 12 loans per month via social media contacts — one loan officer has accumulated 400 "followers" and 1,000 "friends."

Its social media style looks informal on the surface, almost giddy in fact, but the strategy is quite detailed.

New America employs four social media experts who outline its presence on sites such as Facebook — its preferred network — as well as other sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

New American develops all of its sites and programs in-house, believing that using a third party or an outsourcer could dilute its message.

New American also offers courses for Realtors, as a way to soft sell business relationships by providing a guiding hand into a new channel.

"We found that many Realtors didn't have an idea as to how to use Facebook," Crawford said. The half-dozen classes cover topics such as how to manage a database using Facebook, how to manage social media accounts and how to use Twitter.

Its early growth aside, New American could also face challenges in keeping consumers engaged over a long term. Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at Aite Group, said social media sites may be used by people who are searching for a lending experience that goes beyond rates.

But at the same time, mortgages tend to be a "one-off" type of transaction for most consumers, rendering a continuing automated relationship less effective. "You're not likely to be a 'fan' of a [mortgage lender], but are checking it out as part of due diligence," Shevlin said.