An industry full of late adopters can successfully make the plunge into social media by following a few simple rules.
Contributor BC Business
Recently, the Wall Street Journal published an article about U.S. commercial real estate firms finally getting on board with Twitter. The article provides anecdotes of brokers successfully finding leads and customers through social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter.
The real estate industry is known to be a late adopter, but that is changing due to client demands. A 2012 study conducted by Google and the National Association of REALTORS in the U.S. revealed that a full 90 per cent of American homebuyers use online resources while searching for a new home. The study also showed that 52 per cent of first-time buyers start their house hunting online.
Although the study doesn’t specify which websites potential homebuyers use, it’s logical to assume social media sites are part of the mix since Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ pages tend to be favoured by search engines.
In B.C., a handful of leading developers are moving ahead with social media. Adera Development Corp., for example, consistently updates their community about sustainable living, new projects and the benefits of the West Coast lifestyle — topics consistent with the company’s branding. In addition to more than 2,000 Twitter followers and 1,000 likes on Facebook, Adera has a growing Pinterest presence and a well-read blog.
It is worth noting that social media is just one of many ways to improve a company’s online presence. Companies such as BuzzBuzzHome and Vancouver-based company Allur Group offer real estate developers opportunities to market projects online. Both companies use a mix of content marketing and social media to promote new home developments.
Realtors and developers thinking of establishing a social media presence should keep these tips in mind:
Listen, and then participate.
Unlike other marketing channels, social media is more about active participation and less about broadcasting sales messages. Commit to listening to your community first before pushing out messaging. Respond to questions and complaints, and thank people for sharing your content. Social media is a great way to gather valuable insight from potential homebuyers — if you are willing and able to spend the time listening to what they want and need.
Utilize tools such as Hootsuite’s geo-location search to monitor and find locally relevant conversations and keywords. Research hashtags local communities already use (e.g. #NewWest, #SurreyBC) and use them when applicable.
Produce valuable content.
Compliment your social media efforts with a content strategy. Write blog posts, create videos, produce your own infographics and then share these on social networks. While it’s OK to promote your projects occasionally, you should focus on providing content that is helpful and interesting to your target audience. Engaging content is more likely to be read and passed along.
Connect with journalists and bloggers.
One of social media’s best features is that it allows you to connect directly with almost anyone. Many journalists are active on Twitter, so follow them and respond when appropriate. Get to know their interests and the topics they report on, and be genuinely helpful when they are looking for information about your industry.
Real estate is visual by nature, so invest in a decent camera or photographer and make it a habit to share photos online. Ideas include showroom and community photos along with project renderings and images of your projects’ hottest features.
Establish measurable goals.
Social media’s return on investment is a contentious topic for many, but developers can avoid ROI confusion by establishing measurable and realistic goals early. Depending on your team’s analytics expertise, measuring your social media success can range from creating a simple Excel sheet that tracks leads to buying enterprise-level software. Don’t forget about qualitative data and anecdotal evidence — growing your online community is more than just about numbers!
Showcase your company’s personality.
Don’t be afraid to show your corporate culture. Highlight superstar employees and provide a behind-the-scenes look at your company. People are more interested in other people than brands.
Give it time.
In general, real estate companies approach marketing and PR on a campaign basis. Social media is a different kind of marketing, however. Think of it as an extension of your brand. In most cases, developers and realtors should be prepared to devote three to six months to consistent participation before they see a return on investment.
Also, don’t disappear and then reappear in your online community based on when you are launching or promoting a project. Consistent engagement is key as you build your brand and relationships online.
When it comes to online PR, more isn’t necessarily better. Be realistic with your resources. While Pinterest is hot right now, you may find that you don’t have the time to participate in that community. If you’re working with an agency to enhance your social media presence, keep them in the loop so they can help you develop and execute a strategy that makes sense for your business.
Social media is no silver bullet when it comes to real estate PR, but it provides a platform for developers and realtors to connect directly with potential customers, develop relationships, promote and build their brand and make valuable connections.
For more information on Dunn PR and how we incorporate social media into our PR campaigns, visit us online.