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Does Social Media Work For The Real Estate Industry?

First, we need to admit there is a problem… For many of us, Social Media doesn’t appear to have worked… 2007 is when Facebook really started to take off in Australia.  So, the biggest Social Media platform really is only 10 years old.  Over time, it has changed a lot and consumer usage has changed a lot.  Everyone sets up a Facebook page, an Instagram page, Twitter, and LinkedIn and they have this expectation that it is actually going to help them.  Perhaps you take the next step and start posting on a regular basis and it is possible that you are a few years down the track and come out scratching your head trying to figure out if it has done something for you or not.  Perhaps we should address the fact that we may have unrealistic expectations or we may have been pulling the leavers the wrong way.  Either way, the very short answer to the question, “Does Social Media Work For The Real Estate Industry?”  is… “yes it does”.  The caveat I would put on that is that it needs to be done in the right way.

Paradigm Shift: Transactional Marketing vs Relationship Marketing

The first paradigm shift that we must start talking about here is whether we are doing transactional marketing or relationship marketing.  Transactional marketing in the real estate industry would typically be putting DL flyers in people’s letterboxes that show a house that has sold in a street nearby and looking for a direct response.  This is a call to action type of marketing and there is nothing wrong with it at all.

However, when we are looking at Facebook, we need to acknowledge why people are on Facebook and what they are doing.  The main reason people use Facebook is to connect with friends and family.  So, when they log on they are in a social mindset, not in a buying mindset.  This is very different to Google.  When they log on to Google, they type in something they are searching for. This is not true with Facebook, they want to look at cat video’s, argue about politics or post pictures of their food.  They are in a social headspace (have a read of our blog Keeping Social Media Social). The best analogy I can give to this is 30 years ago when you are watching Different Strokes on TV and an ad came on you weren’t sitting there watching the TV for the ads, you were watching it to be entertained… “what you talking about Willis?”.   The same is true when we are talking about Social Media.  People aren’t on there to buy.  So, when we put a message on Facebook it needs to fit with the social headspace.  It doesn’t mean we can’t make business claims it just means it has to be balanced out with social claims.

We need to understand that we are going to form relationships with people and they need to know, understand and like us before they make any decisions.  Facebook is brilliant at this because we can do it on a large scale.  If we approach Facebook with a transactional mindset, that is we run a PPC campaign that says “contact us for a free appraisal today,” we will probably be disappointed with the results.  You may get some people who buy in, you may get some time wasters, most likely you will get very little results at all.

Everyone buying or selling a house is engaging in one of the biggest financial decisions of their entire lives.  It also ranks high on the most stressful events of someone’s life. When you have someone in a stressed state making a huge decision there are a whole lot of feelings going on within them.  The odds are, they are not going to put their trust in someone to handle the heavy weight of responsibility based on one Facebook ad, so we need to clear that idea off the table.

What we want to think about, is if your friends were looking to sell their house, or get their investment property managed, how would you look after them, as opposed to some stranger walking off the street?  I know we would all like to think that it wouldn’t be any different.  But I think in truth because there is an existing relationship there, we would be a little more inclined to look at them through the relational lens rather than the transactional lens.  Up front, you would be more than happy to help them, give them as much information as possible, build some trust.  Facebook needs to be far more in this fashion rather than let’s get the deal done and get leads in the door mindset.  What that requires is that we build our brand in the eyes of our customers, offer them genuine helpful value and only then offer them to get a free appraisal.

Here are 9 points to making Social Media work for your Real Estate Agency

1. You need to take the long-term view

Relationships are not built quickly.  If we are going to build relationships with our customers we need to consider at least a 12-month focus.  Maybe think for a 1-3 year timeframe.  A lot of CTA (Call To Action) marketing is thought about in the 3-month timeframe, and I think you will be disappointed in the first 3 months results if you take that mindset into a Facebook campaign.

2. You need to offer genuinely helpful information to potential customers

This can look like all sorts of things.  If your Facebook feed is filled with contact us, here is our latest property or here is an overview of our new sales agent, ie. all stuff about you, they will tune out.  Remember they are in a social headspace.  They will read an article about how to keep their pool clean in winter if it helps them, they aren’t so interested in the award you received for being the top real estate agent in your town.  So we need to come up with a content calendar with genuinely helpful information to give to your customers.

3. You need to be aware of the time investment.

Let’s break this down for you. If you are going to set up a Facebook schedule of 7 posts per week, 1 post per day, you are going to write the post, schedule the post, check on the posts, respond to any comments, you will need about 2 hours per week.  If you are going to employ a PPC strategy (which I highly recommend,) you will need to spend 2 hours per week managing the campaign. You actually don’t need to spend a lot of money, but your organic reach on Facebook is not very strong so you need to push the post to the right customers. If you are writing blogs and creating original content that is genuinely helpful for people in your area, you are going to be looking at 2 hours per blog.  If you write 1 blog per week, we are looking at a total of 6 hours per week.  If you are looking at duplicating that over other channels, there is going to be more time needed. We can’t pretend that we are just getting on Facebook and posting something and will only need 5 minutes.  If you are going to do it properly have good images, interesting original content, and structure it strategically, it is going to take time and investment.

4. You need to increase your reach by using Facebook PPC

In 2012, I remember having a conversation with one of the guys in the Facebook office in Auckland, he was saying that at that point the organic reach of any single point had a reach of 16%. That means, if you had 1,000 followers and you put a post-up of “Hello, I hope you are having a nice day,”  only 160 people would see it.  Over the course of the last few years, that number has reduced even further.  Now it is estimated that it sits at around 2%.  If you have 1,000 followers, you put up a post “Happy Friday!!!” it is now estimated that only 20 people will see it.  The algorithm works that if people start liking it, sharing it or commenting on it, it will get pushed out to more people. That’s the starting point Facebook gives you. What this means is that you need to increase your reach using Facebook PPC.  However, you don’t need huge budgets to do this.

What you need to do is work to a targeted audience.  The target audience I would suggest are people going through major life events.  For example, target people who have kids that are 0-10 and need to upsize or people who have kids leaving the home and they want to downsize, empty nesters or people with kids over the age of 20. The need to sell a house can be triggered by the loss of a loved one, by divorce or changing work circumstances.  Use Facebook targeting to find people that are in these categories.  You might get a number of around 30,000 which is a reasonable number of people to target.  You can then spend anywhere from $10-$50 per day pushing your fresh & helpful content in front of these people so they come to know you over time.

5. Understand the stages that people go through in order buy from you

If you find a customer has never heard of you, the first thing you need to do with that customer is to make them aware of you. The ideal medium for this is to use a video to get your name into their heads for the first time.  This is the top of the funnel at the “Awareness” stage – they may see this video once or twice and come to know you just a little.  After that they go they go to the next stage called “Interest”, perhaps they are thinking about selling and you may have been on their radar for a while. It is at this point you can push them interesting content to stay in front of them.  The next point is called “Consideration” where they are actively hunting for a real estate agent.  The final stage is “Purchase.” If we have nurtured them through this whole process they will naturally choose you because they know and like you.  We must understand that we need to communicate different things with people at the different stages to actively push them through the funnel.

6. Create an engaging customer-focused video for the top of funnel (Awareness Phase)

These videos can take a few different forms.  One idea is to use a storytelling video; telling the story of someone selling their house and moving. What you want to do is feature the customer as the hero of the story.  The real estate agent is the guide who helps them with their story.  Tell the customer story, their emotions of leaving an old house where all their memories are to the excitement of moving into a new house. A second idea is to give information and data about the area, about its growth and other helpful information. A third idea is a testimonial highlighting what a great experience someone has had with your agency.  This type of video should be approximately 90 seconds – that is the sweet spot, however, a little shorter or longer is ok too.

7. Create genuinely helpful information for the middle of the funnel (Interest Phase)

Come up with a content plan that gives them all sorts of helpful things. For example, in July you might want to say “time to prune your roses” then give them 6 points on how to do it, then in spring, “how to get the bindii out of your lawn,” “tips on spring cleaning and decluttering”, “summer tips for saving on energy bills”. You can also have conversations with local cafes and once a week you can do a giveaway of free coffee at a local café, or 2 free meals at a local restaurant, to help a local business. You could also just give the local business a shout out.  You could also do things like highlight good causes, schools, clubs, charities.  Essentially, what you are saying is HERE WE ARE!!!, we are good people we are helping you and we are giving away these things to help you sell your property.

8. Give away some high-level content in exchange for an email address (Consideration Phase)

This could look like a number of things.  One idea could be to write a comprehensive document of 2,000-3,000 words such as “A Step By Step Guide to Increasing the Value of Your Home by 10%” – get them to enter their email address and then send it to them by email.  That way you capture their email address and are able to continue communicating with them.  The power of the email address is that it is a free ongoing opportunity to continue communication.  Sure, it takes time to prepare the email, set up an automated sequence, give them extra tips and remind them to call you for extra information, but this is a great way to stay in front of them in a more direct manner.

9. Offer a free appraisal last (Purchase Phase)

Having spent the time to build the relationship, given them heaps of content for free, you have now earnt the right to ask them for their business.

Does this all sound like a lot of work? Well, pounding the pavement is a lot of work, getting DL printouts is not cheap, making phone calls is a lot of work. I would suggest that social media presents a great opportunity to add to your existing offline strategies and reach people, grow your brand so people will come to you first because you have built trust and are in front of them at the right time.

Does this all sound complicated? This is a service we offer and we are happy to have a free discussion as to how we can help you with your social media marketing. Please feel free to contact us and we’d be glad to help.

 

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James Parnwell

James is the Managing Director and resident strategist at TheOnlineCo. He is clever and creative with a flair for making complex things sound simple. He has been in the marketing game for over 2 decades and has watched the landscape slowly shift. James has his finger on the pulse of every aspect within TheOnlineCo, meeting with all clients as well as every core team member and strategising a specific plan tailored to each client.

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