By Joel Dysart
Once an electronic meeting ground for academics and techies, the Web’s social media has burgeoned into an ever-expanding network of everyman communities that are perfect for real estate marketing. All you need is a little savvy, and a fair amount of persistence.
While there are literally tens of thousands of significant social networks on the Web, you’ll most likely increase sales for your real estate business if you stick with the Big Six — Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Foursquare.
“A lot of people are overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin,” says Marilyn Messenger, a broker associate at Andrew Mitchell and Company, based in Concord. “My suggestion is to pick one, fill out your profile, look for people you know, and start by listening. See what people are posting/talking about, then like something, congratulate someone, thank them for posting, ask a question — things you do all the time.”
Also, from a marketing standpoint, the trick is to understand the essential nature of each community you decide to join, and customize your approach accordingly.
With the 1.1 billion-member strong Facebook, for example, you’ll want to reach out to the community by telling your story using Facebook Timeline, a feature that allows you to tell it in words and pictures.
Once you’ve established a beachhead there, you can start reaching out to the community with posts and interactions that reflect your personality, your knowledge of the community, and the depth of service you can offer.
“Facebook has worked the best for bringing new business,” says Angela Harkins of Angela Harkins & Associates Real Estate, LLC, Westford. “My Facebook friends are other REALTOS®, past clients, current clients, business partners, family, and friends. My content is a mix of non-real estate information with some real estate related and listing info peppered in. In the past month alone, I can attribute four direct sales to Facebook.”
You can also pick up prospective clients on Facebook by adding a mailing list sign-up form to your Facebook page. MailChimp, for example, offers a free app to add a mailing list to your page. While you’ll have to pay for MailChimp’s premium services associated with the mailing list, the entry level service is free.
To get better with Facebook over time, you’ll also want to check out tools like Campalyst, that tracks which posts and connections you’re making are leading to sales. Essentially, Campalyst monitors the full history of a Facebook generated sale, from a potential customer’s initial ‘like’ of your Facebook page, to the purchase
of a property.
Once you’re comfortable with Facebook, you may also want to try out Google+, a similar community that competes directly with Facebook. Google+ currently has 340 million-plus members and, like Facebook, offers an opportunity to increase the overall Web visibility for a real estate company.
“After only a couple of weeks on Google+, the editor of one of the Patch publications (Web-only local newspapers run by America Online) contacted me about becoming one of their local voices,” says Messenger. “People read my Patch posts and when we meet, they already think they know me. I also participate in several communities on Google+,” she states.
YouTube, another behemoth of a social network, is also a marketing goldmine for REALTORS®. Many have been posting personal video pitches, customer testimonials, and video tours of properties on the network for years. Says Zeke Camusio, founder of the internet marketing firm, The Outsourcing Company, “So many people are afraid of videos – well, you shouldn’t be. Most videos that make it big are not professional productions. They’re just a guy — or a girl — who gets in front of a camera and talks about what he/she knows best. You don’t need expensive equipment or a professional studio.”
Once you’ve found your video groove on YouTube, you can use the service’s free analytical tool, Insight
, to test the marketing punch of your videos. Insight’s metrics include the overall popularity of your video, who’s viewing your video, where those viewers are coming from on the Web, and what keywords they’re using to find your video. “YouTube Insight will tell you how people are finding your videos, and how many views certain search terms are bringing in,” says Michael Rolfe, digital marketing executive Koozai, a digital marketing firm
. "This may give you ideas on different words you can use to describe your content that better reflect what people are searching for. This can help you optimize your content and increase traffic."
On Twitter, you’ll want to develop a following — or a group of people who sign up to read what you post — by learning how to express yourself succinctly in 140-characters. Currently, many REALTORS® use the medium to post quick alerts of newly available properties, offer insight into the communities they sell in, and create a memorable personality who people will later turn to when they’re in the real estate market.
“My favorite has always been Twitter because it is,for me, the easiest way to establish relationships online and then take them offline for real relational value,” says Leslie Lambert, a REALTOR® and technology trainer at Park Square Real Estate in Westfield.
Once you get the hang of tweeting—or posting those short bursts of thought — you can study how well your tweets are doing on Twitter, and then improve on what’s working with Twitalyzer
. Offered as both a free and paid service, Twitalyzer ranks the impact of your tweets using metrics like your overall influence and the speed at which your tweets are retweeted by others.
Meanwhile, one of the more surprising rising stars among social networks during the past year has been Pinterest
, a social network devoted to the posting of photo and image collections.
While Facebook has gotten all the press, Pinterest has nevertheless quietly become the number three social network in the world. While the charm of Pinterest is lost on some, millions more rabidly visit the social network to put together collections of pictures that say something about who they are, and what they love.
The medium is a natural for REALTORS®, who can use it to post arresting collections of images related to neighborhoods, specific properties, specific community amenities, and more. “I enjoy taking video and photos in Western Massachusetts and Pinterest has been a wonderful way for me to share those,” says Lambert. “I also share many of those photos on Instagram
, which is another platform that I enjoy.”
Meanwhile, REALTORS® appealing to younger buyers will want to check out Foursquare, a GPS-driven social network that enables users to broadcast their precise location to other users by logging into Foursquare with their mobile phones.
REALTORS® have been using the network to build foot traffic to their storefronts by auto-broadcasting specials, deals, and other incentives to the mobile phones of Foursquare users as they pass by.
To get started with Foursquare, you can sign-up for the free service by logging onto the Foursquare web site, searching for your firm in their directory and claiming the establishment as your own. (If your firm is not listed, you can easily add it yourself.)
Once you’ve been verified, you can try out Foursquare’s service by activating pre-designed specials that have a proven track-record. The company also offers an online dashboard you can use to manage your account, which can be used to track and distill which specials are working best for you. As with all social networks, the approach with foursquare is to get started, be persistant, and always be on the look-out for tools that can help you manage your presence more expertly, and more efficiently.
With LinkedIn – a social network devoted to business – you’ll be able to reach out to people on a professional level. On LinkedIn, you can join groups devoted to your special interest areas in real estate, establish yourself as an expert in Massachusetts real estate, and generally enhance your overall business profile.
If you specialize inshort sales, for example, you may want to use LinkedIn to establish your expertise in that area by posting regular articles on the subject, and/or answering people’s questions about real estate short sales. Sometimes, a REALTOR® who would rather not learn the details about a short sale will simply hand it over to one who knows the business– for a modest finder’s fee.
“LinkedIn is a great resume, and I will often ask prospective clients to please take a minute to review my profile "so we when we meet we can focus on you, not me,” says Messenger. “They like the ‘focusing on you’ part, and after they see my profile and recommendations, we can get down to business.”
“Social Media can be profitable if you work it, but don’t just set it up and leave it alone; instead make a plan that works for your schedule,” says Harkins. “If you only have time to update one medium, then just work on that one and work on it until it becomes second nature, then move on to the next one if that is something that works within your business plan. Also, you can schedule your posts through Facebook directly, or you can use another tools such as Hootsuite, Buffer, Tweetdeck to schedule posts for all your social media venues.”