Whilst agents may have previously treated social media as a ‘tick-box exercise’ – something which should be done but was rarely given much senior-level attention or budget – in the last few years the relationship between property companies and social media has evolved. In part, this is due to the changing way in which users interact with social media. What began as a platform in which to connect with old friends is now a whole new business sector, which, for the majority of internet users, informs and influences all consumer decisions. Social media is no longer a project that agents can give to the summer intern and then let slip for the rest of the year. Done correctly, it is an integral way in which to build an engaged client base, the lifeblood of any successful estate agent.
Twitter and Facebook both offer excellent platforms for brokerages, and senior team members, to show off one of the most important traits of a good agent: a thorough understanding of their local area. Real estate businesses and agents who can show themselves to be locally rooted within any given neighbourhood build both trust and recognition amongst potential clients. In this sense, social media becomes a very important brand building exercise. Image-led technology, like Instagram and Pinterest can also feed into this strategy, as well as providing a useful sharing tool for agents with particularly photogenic homes on their books. Used intelligently, all of these platforms can spark conversation and create relationships with potential clients – without paying the heavy fees associated with billboard, print advertising or leafleting marketing campaigns.
Of course, the risk with social media, is that it is very easy to do it badly. Agents who build up a profile for professional purposes but inundate it with too many personal updates, risk alienating and annoying their audience. Effective social media must be activated from an overarching strategy, rather than just updated on an ad hoc basis, with this latter approach creating a disjointed tone and content that does not tie back to business objectives. It must also be remembered that, whilst social media is an effective marketing tool for capturing the imagination of new clients, it should not require so much energy that existing client relationships are neglected.
For B2B networking, Linkedin is a very useful platform for agents to connect with each other and to keep up to date with industry news. A corporate strategy works well hand-in-hand with a consumer-focused campaign, with both providing a supportive tool in expanding a client base.
Although there is an argument that serious buyers and sellers will get in touch via an agency website and that those engaging via social media tend to be time wasters, more interested in ‘property porn’ than actually purchasing a new home, this can be somewhat short-sighted. Whist those whom agents build relationships with via social media may not be clients today, that is not to say they will not be tomorrow. Time wasters in the property world are not a new phenomenon – open houses of luxury properties are often frequented by curious neighbours or lottery-winning dreamers. By engaging with younger generations via social media, real estate companies ensure that when those millennials are in a place to buy a home, they will come to their business first.
With social media having moved so far in just a couple of decades, the question is: what’s next? In China, multi-function social media platform, WeChat, has dominance of the market and allows listing agents to market directly to buyers. It may be that social media apps in Europe expand similarly, to offer a greater number of functions and a ‘one-stop-shop’ for users. Whatever comes next, one thing is for sure, social media has irrevocably become part of consumer behavior and cannot be ignored. We will be running session on how to utilise social media to sell property at our upcoming Annual Conference and we also offer a dedicated class on the subject within our Institute resource.
Article written by Chris Dietz from RE Talk Asia.