5 Truths About Real Estate Social Media
I’ve spent the last 6 years working with organizations to develop digital and social strategies, and there are a few things that all of the best ones have in common.
At the same time, a lot of my friends started getting into Real Estate, which is awesome, until they started spamming my feeds with listings and awards posts. I love them and what they’re up to, so it killed me to hit unfollow – I’m sure that you’ve felt the same way at some point.
I’d go for coffees, offer advice and make recommendations, but there’s only so much that can be passed on quickly, and I didn’t know their industry well enough to have great ideas for them.
The problem bugged me for years, and I just wasn’t willing to accept that it’s impossible to work in real estate, use social media to build a brand, and have feeds that people legitimately want to follow and share with their friends.
So, I did what I always do when I’m entering a new industry: I researched.
Countless meeting with real estate friends, hours spent lurking the best examples out there and reading materials from inside the industry produced a massive pile of notes, and some very consistent elements across all successful examples – I’ve distilled them into this note: 5 Truths. Please read it, use it, argue points (comment to call me out if you do), and share it with all of your real estate friends. I’m sharing them for free here because I want to live in a world where we can share our friend’s excitement and enthusiasm for their work, especially in real estate.
First off, I want to set some context around the real estate social media industry:
You are a business, albeit many of you are a business of 1.
What we’ve found that’s unique about real estate is this: It’s true that you are a business like no other. Nowhere else in the business world is there such intense competition between so many entrepreneurs with so much at stake on a daily basis. And nowhere else in the business world does the businessperson’s job change so dramatically when the market turns, without really changing at all.
Here’s what I mean: In a hot market, listings are scarce. Everyone’s fighting for them, but once you have the listing, it’s relatively easy to get rid off. In a cold market however, we see just the opposite: Anyone can get a listing, but it takes a real pro to move that listing at a reasonable price.
That was a major realization for me: what I had uncovered was that long term success and value development in this industry was based not just on an agent’s ability to get listings, or sell them. What I found was that big, valuable real estate businesses are built on trusted brands that can add value on either side of the market cycles.
Now, I can’t tell you the best way to run an open house, or to handle paperwork, but I can tell you how the best in business run their social media to build powerful brands starting from very little, and that’s what I’m going to do in the next few pages.
There’s a secret in the social media industry that no one talks about: No one has this stuff figured out.
Not Nike, not Apple, not even some the brands that are winning awards for the greatest social media on the planet. Even some of the biggest brands scramble for content to publish, and spend more time than they’d like to admit Google-ing “how to” when the next social media update comes out.
While none of them have it figured out, the ones that are successful and are building Billion dollar brands with their social channels all have two things in common:
1. They have a unique and authentic story to tell, which makes them the best in the world at telling it because they are the only people qualified to do so.
2. They commit and persist. My friends over at VancityBuzz, now Daily Hive, are killing it right now. They are currently one of the most read news sources in all of Canada, and doing Millions of dollars in advertising revenue, but just 4 years ago, they were sending out tweets asking if anyone knew how to fix their broken WordPress blog. It wasn’t pretty, and they didn’t really know what they were doing, but they identified a specific subject area that they were uniquely qualified to dominate, and they committed and persisted.
Okay, so that’s great for the big guys, but what about for me? How does that relate to someone trying to get listings and sell properties?
First of all, I need you to recognize that you are so much more than that.
A computer program can process listings and run the necessary paperwork to make a sale. You are not your listings. What you are is uniquely you. Now, if I were working with you like I work with brand clients, I might identify that your brand is trust, or luxury, or the genuine desire to create amazing homes for families, but that’s on you.
And that’s what a brand is.
“A brand is what people say about you after you leave the room.”
— Jeff Bezos
That’s why people work with you. That’s what the big brands recognize, and that’s what I want to get across to you more than anything: 5 social media truths that can have a dramatic effect on your business.
You can be your own media.
Businesses have spent the last 50 years spending billions of dollars buying attention in magazines, TV, radio, wherever the eyeballs were. And when they showed up, they were interrupting the thing that people were there for.
Now each one of us has the chance to be that medium. We can create an editorial magazine with our Facebook Pages, newspaper with our Twitter accounts, a radio station with a podcast, and a TV show with a YouTube channel.
We all know that big brands are investing heavily in these channels: Christian Louboutin’s Instagram lululemon’s Twitter account Audi’s blog
But what can we do as individuals as a part of a larger brand?
Example: Jessica Edwards TheCarolinasFinest.com 1,300,000 views on YouTube 10,900 Likes on Facebook 1,900 Followers on Instagram
In order for her to buy that much attention in traditional media, it would cost her roughly $15,000. That’s every time that she wanted to show up for those people.
And when she did show up, it would be an annoying interruption, rather than content that adds value to people’s lives.
Alright, but how do I grow a channel to become that media?
Channels grow by being specific, and being the best at it.
Users have a near-infinite number of channels, accounts, and sites that they can bring up, so why would they follow yours?
Value-adding content is stuff that people legitimately want to see in their feeds. Sometimes property listings are interesting, but often only to people who are looking to buy now and looking to buy that type of property. When we create content that is legitimately useful, we not only get people following, we also get them sharing our content and telling their friends about it.
Here’s a useful exercise: Imagine that your best customer is out for coffee with her best friend who’s never heard of you.
Suddenly, your customer stops in mid-sentence and says: “I almost forgot to tell you! You have to follow my realtor on social media because…”
For those of you who have social media channels right now, I want you to run through that conversation in your heads for a moment.
Were you able to finish the sentence?
If not, then that is my #1 piece of advice to you. Everything else that I write about here is less important than you being able to finish that sentence.
For those of you who have answered the question, the next step is building on it and delivering on that reason that your client loves your channels so much.
Brands build value over time through commitment and persistence.
We build valuable brands when we deliver on our brand promise consistently, and persistently over time.
Billboards, TV ads, and radio don’t have zero value, but they’re inefficient.
When we’re building our brands through our social channels, we may not get that huge hit right away that gets us excited, but every new like, every new follower, every interaction is another brick in our business empires that we’re building. An ad on a bus loses all of its value the moment that we stop paying for it, but great social media content pays interest over time and builds value.
People don’t want to call, or even email. They want to contact you where they are, when they are.
Do you know what the smartest thing that Holt Renfrew’s social media team is doing right now? They’ve empowered each one of their salespeople to run their own WeChat accounts.
*WeChat is a person-to-person social media network, not unlike WhatsApp, that started by becoming extremely popular in some Asian markets and has since made it’s way to North America.
When you go in to look at an item, and tell the salesperson “let me think about it”, or “I’ll shop around”, right away that person is going to hand you his business card, and if he’s taken advantage of the opportunity, his WeChat handle will be on there.
What happens next is when you’re at home, thinking about that bag that you almost bought, or having non-buyer’s remorse about those shoes that got away, you can simply shoot your new friend a question, have him order in another colour or size, or even use him as a resource to price compare against his competition.
Other brands are implementing customer service via Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp, and still the #1 channel for customer feedback is Twitter DMs.
With great content comes great advertising opportunities.
Social advertising is bananas. We get to target people based on where they live, their age, education, and all kinds of other standard information, but some channels (especially Facebook) go a step further and allow us to target users based on behaviour, likes, and even recent life events.
“Recently married”, “just had a newborn”, and “newly retired” are all segments that we can use to advertise. Even better, we can use the content we’ve been posting that’s been resonating well with our audience and customize it for that specific group.
The result: Content that we know is effective, customized for a segment that we know is a high value, and targeted only at that group of people.
Video is taking over.
I’m not just talking about those long form YouTube videos that take hours and equipment and a script to shoot just one video in the hopes that it goes “viral”.
I’m talking about Instagram Video, Facebook Live, Snapchat, and now Instagram Stories.
If you haven’t been keeping up, don’t worry – they’re all pretty much the same, and they all have a few things in common:
- They’re interesting when they’re real
- They reward great storytellers
- They work best as a part of an overall social media plan
Here are a couple of examples of realtors making effective use of the YouTube format, and much of what they’re doing can be applied to the shorter-form social video formats:
Home City Real Estate creates low budget, informative videos about the neighborhoods that they serve. They’re easy to produce and helpful for people who are researching their next home purchase:
Jessica Riffle Edwards took the one thing that every realtor has to spare – time spent in her car – and turned it into a mini-reality show. All that she does is answer simple real estate questions like a real person in simple language, and talk about what she’s up to. youtube.com/user/thecarolinasfinest
People love her because the advice is super-specific to her home area, and they feel like they get to know her, so when it’s time to buy/sell a home, they already feel comfortable with her.
Finally, I know what you’re thinking: All of this stuff sounds great, but when can I possibly find the time to do it?
That’s industry secret #2 – none of us have time.
I’ve worked with social media teams that consisted of over a dozen people, and even they are stretched thin to create the amount of content that their brands deserve. But they’ve developed a system, and we can take advantage of it (without all of the meetings and approvals that they have to deal with)
Making the most of your Social Media time.
Have a content calendar
It’s as simple as an iCalendar or a spreadsheet. Just plan out what story you want to tell over the course of a month, and schedule it in.
Batch your content
Whether it’s a photo shoot with some of the other people on your team or a series of quick video clips on your iPhone, with a well defined content plan you can crush out at least 2 weeks of content in a few hours.
Everyone is looking for great content, not just in real estate social media. Are you the expert on a neighbourhood? Find some rad gyms or craft breweries to do a collab with. Have a great relationship with a local blogger? Do a crossover piece about all of the best places in the city to work when you’re out of the office. Most importantly, partner up with people who are telling a similar story to yours and figure out a way to tell it together.
Keep it Simple
Less content, higher quality will always win over a spray of cheap stuff without direction. If you don’t have something to post one day, that’s fine. No one is sitting on the edge of their chairs waiting for you to post. But make sure that you bring the fire the next day to make up for it, because you’re building a major brand here and you don’t want to lose your momentum.
I’m so excited for you guys, because each one of you has such an awesome story to tell, and this is the most amazing time ever to tell it – just remember the 5 Truths:
- Truth #1: Be your own media
- Truth #2: Be specific, and be the best at it
- Truth #3: Build value through commitment and persistence
- Truth #4: Be available where potential clients are
- Truth #5: With great content comes great advertising opportunities