I have spoken to a lot of real estate agents lately. The last few times I have spoken at events, real estate agents have come up to me and asked questions about how they can do a better job of marketing their properties – and themselves – using social media and online marketing.
I should tell you that I have never tried to sell my own home before, either online or offline.
However, I have worked with a few real estate agents and brokers now, and the following suggestions have all been successful to varying degrees in their businesses once we implemented them.
So here is what every real estate agent should be doing with social media:
1. Ride The Facebook Wave.
With around 800 million users in the world – and around 15 million in Australia – to ignore Facebook when designing an online marketing strategy would be pretty silly.
But to engage in Facebook without a plan or to engage in Facebook without any other complimentary ideas would be just as silly.
The Facebook strategy for real estate should comprise of 4 applications: Facebook Pages, Facebook Groups, Facebook Ads and Facebook Places.
This one is a no-brainer. They are free to set up, have great functionality and usability features, and more than 20 million people connect with one of them every day.
A Facebook Page can be set up for an agency, an agent, or even individual properties that agents are trying to sell.
It’s important that a Facebook Page includes the following features:
* exclusive content for fans and non-fans * engaging content that encourages comments, likes and interactions * uniform branding with your other online content and * lots of great images and videos.
By that, I mean the NEW Facebook Groups.
You can now create small, exclusive groups around a real estate business, group of developers or buyers or sellers, even around people who are interested in an individual property.
One of the best features of the new Facebook Groups is the chat facility where you can host an online chat session between yourself and people in your group in real time. The individuals in the chat don’t need to be ‘friends’ on Facebook which means you can use the chat for negotiations, promoting new listings, or promoting events and upcoming open houses and so on.
A big part of what we do online is designing, implementing, testing and reporting on Facebook Ad Campaigns. And some of what we do has become promoting property sales (and rentals) for real estate agencies.
The beauty of this kind of advertising – as opposed to traditionally advertising property sales and rentals in local print or even on radio – is that you can target the ads very specifically to the users you want to reach.
Using Facebook Ads has been the single most positive change to the online marketing efforts or real estate agencies’ we work with that we have made in the last few months.
With research showing that nearly 90% of people move within a 7km radius of where they currently live, this makes geographic targeting pretty easy in most cases. But it doesn’t end there. You can target your ads using demographic filters as well – age, gender, education, likes and interests and so on.
Facebook Places and FourSquare
Both of these applications, one inside the Facebook platform and one outside of it, are based on the geographic location of the users.
For instance, if a user has a smartphone and one of the apps on that phone, they can have local specials, discounts, or – in the case of real estate, open houses or new listings, promoted to them directly on their phones. And it’s not invasive or spammy because the users have already opted in to the service.
2. Back That Up With Twitter.
Some real estate agents we have worked with had little success previously with Twitter, but mostly because they weren’t using it correctly or they didn’t have a strategy around it either.
There are 3 really good ways to use Twitter in real estate: having a corporate account for an agency, having individual (but corporate branded) accounts for individual agents, and having an account exclusively for new listings.
Agency Corporate Account
This is the most obvious use of Twitter and is probably the most dry and boring one as well.
Still important though, particularly from a branding perspective, the corporate account of an agency is a great way to let people know that you are at least engaging in modern and progressive ways to sell homes, and also a good portal to list general information, tips and other information about the agency and its services.
Individual Agents’ Accounts
A lot of agents may already have their own Twitter account, but for an agency, it’s important that the agents retain some of the corporate branding in their Twitter presence as well.
For instance, John Smith from ABC Real Estate might have already been tweeting as @JohnSmith for a couple of years, but he should also have an account that includes the agency, for example, @JohnSmithatABC.
This adds an extra dimension, though, and you should have some monitoring in place to ensure that your branding isn’t being compromised by any of the agents using it to promote themselves exclusively.
New Listings Account
When someone is looking to purchase a house, one problem for them is usually that there are not enough listings or not enough of the right listings around.
They will know about every single property being sold in their target area and price range and will be hungry for news of new listings that perhaps other buyers don’t know about yet.
This is where your ‘New Listings’ Twitter account comes in. They follow the account on Twitter and when a new listing comes up, they can be one of the first to know about it. Actually, they can be the first to know about it, if you promote the fact that listings will appear there for a set time before being publicised elsewhere – a great way to build follower numbers as well.
3. Get Linked In.
A lot of real estate agents will already be a member of Linkedin, but not a lot of them are doing a great job of using the full features of the platform.
Linkedin is a great way to sell properties (indirectly) but more importantly, it’s a great way to promote yourself online.
And on Linkedin, real estate agents should be doing that by using two different approaches: the Linkedin Profile and Linkedin Groups.
This is the ordinary account that every Linkedin user has. But there are ways to really pimp it and make it so much more effective.
Similar in some ways to the Facebook Groups, the Linkedin Groups include features like an automatic email distribution of new content and a way for you to promote listings, news and other information about your agency to other members of the group on Linkedin.
You can start your own group about real estate news, upcoming events, or new listings in a particular geographic area. You can also invite some of your VIP clients to be part of a special group where you give exclusive content to them as way of reward for their support of you in the past.
4. The Most Important – Embrace Video Marketing.
If you are a regular on this blog, you will know that I love YouTube.
The world’s second largest search engine, YouTube is also a darling of Google who own it, which means that any video you upload to this video-sharing juggernaut is treated very favourably by Google when potential buyers sit down to research new properties.
Nothing tells a story like someone telling a story in video.
You can do a walk-through of the property, interview the sellers, interview the neighbours, showcase unique features of the property, even get video testimonials from potential buyers at open houses – the potential of online video is almost limitless.
But you have to do it properly. And by that, I don’t mean get a professional TV-quality film crew to do it, but you don’t want it looking too ‘rustic’ either.
We have a lot of experience making video for clients (as well as thousands of YouTube users tested) in all kinds of industries including real estate and property sales, so if you would like us to take care of your video production, editing, captioning and uploading to YouTube, please let us know.
5. Get Organised.
You should be utilising some sort of cloud application like Tungle.Me or even Google Calendar so that you can easily organise viewings, open houses, client meetings and so on and not have to rely on administration staff to do it for you, as well as avoiding the likelihood of double booking yourself and generally looking unprofessional to potential buyers or sellers.
By syncing your existing calendar with Tungle.Me you can:
* Eliminate double-bookings, time zone mishaps and the back-and-forth of finding a time to meet * Easily schedule meetings, inside or outside your organisation * Invite others to schedule with you, without having to sign up
6. Get Famous.
Podcasts and webinars now give you the opportunity to reach a large number of people without those people ever having to leave their desk or home.
Podcasts are audio recordings which can be listened to online or downloaded to listen to later from audio-sharing applications like iTunes.
Webinars are virtual meetings where you can present on a particular topic using a webcam on your own computer and people can watch the webinar in their office or home on their own computers.
A lot of webinar applications don’t even require the participants to sign up or download anything, just click on the link that you provide prior to the webinar.
These can be a great way to establish your credibility as an expert in real estate, while also allowing you to target potential buyers and sellers in any given market.