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Company Spotlight: Thinking Outside the Site – Coldwell Banker’s Social Media Strategy Keeps Consumers Coming Back for More

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By Paige Tepping

RISMEDIA, August 30, 2010—Resting on its laurels is not an option for 104-year-old brand Coldwell Banker. As real estate companies continue to become more aggressive with the latest technologies and social media platforms to keep in touch with consumers, Coldwell Banker is taking its foray into the future seriously. With a presence on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and now an active participant in the blogging world, Coldwell Banker is staying at the front of the social media wave. In this exclusive interview, Coldwell Banker Chief Marketing Officer Michael Fischer discusses how the company is anticipating consumers’ needs and always staying one step ahead.

Paige Tepping: Coldwell Banker has a huge social media presence. What is the company’s overall social media strategy?
Michael Fischer:
The idea behind our getting involved with social media was to establish a better relationship between the Coldwell Banker brand and consumers as well as with our agents. Certain networks and platforms work better for different audiences. We have a strong Facebook and Twitter platform for our agents while our YouTube channel (On Location) and Blog (Blue Matter) focus on creating a conversation and establishing dialogue with our consumers. Social media has been a wonderful opportunity for the Coldwell Banker brand to continue the conversation beyond our internal newsletter to agents or website to consumers.

On Location meets an unmet need for home buyers and sellers. Our entire rationale in video is to combine an agent’s personality, which clearly comes across in video, with the unique aspects of a property. It’s a marketing opportunity our industry hasn’t had before. We have had thousands and thousands of videos uploaded in a little more than a year…and consumers have responded as well.

PT: Why is it important to have a social media presence, especially in today’s market?
MF:
We take pride in the fact that we travel around the country in order to speak face-to-face with our agents, brokers and managers. By taking advantage of the social media platforms that are available, we can create even more constant dialogue with them on a daily basis. We are committed to social media as it gives us the chance to create a two-way conversation within the brand as well as with our consumers. By being present in social media, we can put a face to the Coldwell Banker name so that our clients can connect with us on an even deeper level.

For example, On Location provides not only Jim Gillespie (CEO) with a forum to address real estate matters, but our agents are using the site to showcase their expertise on local market conditions and expose their listings.

PT: How will the newly revamped coldwellbanker.com be valuable to today’s consumers?
MF:
We have put a lot of thought and energy into our new Coldwell Banker website and have worked to create a site that is different from all the others on the Web. Revamping our website was all about helping consumers find the information they are looking for in a more straightforward way. One new feature is a rating system, which is used internally to drive algorithms on the backend that will recommend properties to consumers, much like iTunes recommends music according to songs you have purchased in the past.

In addition, our new BlueScape Search feature is a Pandora-inspired search that takes the rational thinking out of the home-search process and creates a truly emotional search. After rating at least five photos, BlueScape compiles a group of properties that are unique to an individual consumer’s taste. It’s more visual and completely new to our industry.

PT: While On Location is dedicated solely to consumers, what was the motivation behind creating your Blue Matter blog?
MF:
We felt the real estate industry, when it comes to blogging, was not focused on the consumer. The Web is full of real estate blogs, but they are all just industry people talking to each other. With Blue Matter, we have an opportunity to share unique insights and thought-provoking commentary.

Coldwell Banker has a strong point of view on how to guide consumers through today’s difficult market. Our blog gives us a chance to be honest with consumers and provide them with a reasonable path through today’s real estate market.

PT: Why is it important for today’s real estate companies to not be content with just having a great-looking website?
MF:
Today’s consumers want information where they are. The old philosophy of creating virtual brick and mortars and driving people to online sites is no longer going to cut it. Consumers want information coming directly to them or served in areas where they spend time, such as social media sites. Consumers are more mobile than ever, so we need to make sure we are reaching them—whether it be through an app, a mobile-enabled site, TV commercials or video.

PT: What is your goal in being so actively involved in social media?
MF:
Our goal in being involved with social media is to understand what our customers, brokers and agents want and need, and there is no better way of keeping a pulse on what is going on than by being involved in social media. While Coldwell Banker has been around for 104 years, we never want to rest on our laurels. We have always been interested in understanding what’s out there as well as what we need to do as a company to adapt to consumers’ needs and ensure we respond more quickly to these needs than other real estate companies. Our use of social media has differentiated us as a company, and at the end of the day, we want people to be proud of their association with us.

PT: Looking toward the future, where do you see Coldwell Banker headed with social media?
MF:
As we move into the future, the social media platforms that are popular today will change as there are always going to be new ways of connecting. We are constantly working to stay on top of what is available and what is coming down the road so that when there is an opportunity to connect and engage with customers, we will have tried and understood the new medium and be ready to move forward.

For more information, visit www.coldwellbanker.com.

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