By Rosa Romaine
One: Forget Everything You’ve Heard about Facebook and Real Estate
Real estate has always been a business of relationships, so of course there’s a lot of excitement around the use of Facebook – which leverages relationships – as the next, great marketing tool.
But have you noticed Facebook has been a bit oversold as this feel-good, collaborative environment where you can magically engage and connect with your prospects, and then just drive your numbers through the roof? Seriously, the constant cascade of “expert” advice on how easy it is to revolutionize your real estate practice with Facebook can be bewildering and paralyzing.
The fact is, there are more than 750 million people on Facebook, including your prospects, so it is absolutely possible to make a dramatic positive impact on your real estate business. But as with any marketing vehicle, success requires a strategic plan.
Two: Approach Facebook Like Any Other Marketing Program
Forget that it’s this revolutionary, multi-faceted, business to-consumer space. Come at it as just another presentation of your brand.
Just as with your website, a direct mail piece, a door hanger or a billboard, the first thing you need to establish is brand compliance, right? In fact, let’s not settle for just compliance. As steward of your brand, you’re aiming at nothing less than complete brand integrity, not just in your own social presence as a real estate franchise or top-tier broker, but all the way down the line, to every single REALTOR® who is part of your organization.
Brand integrity in real estate is absolutely critical. And it means, obviously, that whatever you and your REALTORS® do on Facebook has to be in alignment with the core values of your brand. For example, if you’ve identified excellence as an essence of your brand, then how are you going to use this tool to create the best result possible? And we’re talking about your prospect’s point of view, of course. Anything short of an excellent experience from that perspective, and you’re going to risk doing more damage than good.
Three: Embrace Transparency
Every interaction on Facebook is there for the world to see. You can’t afford to get caught saying one thing while doing another. So be authentic. And be consistent. If people have a bad experience with your brand—that is, if their expectations are not met—they will gleefully share all the details with their friends, and their friends’ friends, and pretty soon you have a viral embarrassment on your hands. You can avoid this kind of scenario by doing your best to live up to your stated values—which are always just a 10-second Google search away.
Four: Thou Shalt Not Dump Your Visitors onto Your Wall
The wall is the default landing place for anyone visiting your newly created Facebook page. News flash: Anything goes on a Facebook wall. It’s a party that’s already in full swing. People can say whatever they want. It doesn’t have to be true, much less brand-compliant.
Therefore, the wall is not the ideal place to welcome your first-time visitors. You want a guided experience that shares what you believe they are seeking, and compels them to take a desired, measurable action, like clicking on the “Like” button, allowing you to place your branded messages in their newsfeed. Why measurable? So you can monitor what works in terms of visitor-to-fan conversion; what prompts visitors to inquire for more information, and so on, and adjust your presentation to be more and more effective over time.
Five: Welcome New Visitors on a Custom Landing Page
The guided experience mentioned above is a custom landing page. Make this absolutely brand-compliant and offer a value/reward to become a fan of your business, and you are on your way to building a marketing base. And while it feels great to have a large and growing fan base, this in itself does nothing for your bottom line. You must somehow leverage this asset to further fan engagement as you go.
For instance, when BrightStar Care’s CEO and Co-founder Shelly Sun, CFE, appeared on the CBS show “Undercover Boss,” we helped her execute a quick Facebook makeover. We created a landing page, location finder and a franchise information page. The goal was to drive conversion actions and produce measurable results. And what were those results? In the days leading up to, and the day after the show, BrightStar’s Facebook page had a conversion rate of 94 percent.
Six: Find a Trusted Partner
Facebook changes constantly and staying up on it is a full-time job. That’s why agencies and vendors employ experts in Facebook strategy and execution. Find the best one you can and work with that vendor so that you can concentrate on what’s important: enhancing your system and awarding more franchises or recruiting top brokers. A few sub-commandments to follow here:
• Partner with someone who understands franchising and recruiting for real estate. Ask around and get referrals from other business professionals or top-tier brokers.
• Make sure you get periodic updates on what’s happening. Does a new strategy affect your campaign?
• Insist on a solution that lets you see at a glance what’s happening at the corporate and franchisee levels, so you can continually monitor and adjust your Facebook presence in real time.
Seven: Get Smarter and Adapt as You Go
Facebook marketing is still relatively new, so there’s not yet a tried and true roadmap to success. But once you have your landing page in place, you have the underpinnings of an online marketing strategy. Now you can launch a promotion that’s linked to your business goals, and see how well it works. The key is to measure everything, and use that intelligence to make your Facebook execution progressively more effective.
Eight: Engage Fans at the Local Level
Think global, act local. It goes for fan engagement, as proven by Facebook statistics mavens SocialBakers, which identifies itself as the “heart of Facebook statistics.” They analyzed data from brands including BMW, Nike and Starbucks, and found that Facebook fan engagement at the local level was 300 to 500 percent greater than at the national level.
It makes sense, right? You are not going to speak to prospects in Louisiana the same way you are going to address them in Seattle or New York. Therein lies a tremendous logistical challenge, however. How do you direct and control your brand presentation in hundreds of local markets across the country? This is why it’s imperative to partner with a trusted vendor (see Commandment Six) who has specific expertise in local Facebook marketing on a national scale.
Nine: Listen and Amplify
The whole point of Facebook is to communicate, and communication is a contact sport.
• Develop some guidelines for your authentic, brand-compliant voice (see Commandment Two).
• Post some stories that your prospects will care about.
• Ask questions, listen and respond. Let your fans know that you appreciate them.
• Provide them with special promotions that reward them for their engagement with your brand. Running a contest can be a very effective way to gain new fans and grow your marketing base.
You’ll be more effective at all of this when you empower franchisees to connect and share with their local audiences.
Ten: Have Some Serious Fun
If you use Facebook to its potential, you are going to gain insights about what works and what doesn’t. You are going to learn more about your prospects and customers, and what they think and like about you. You’ll have opportunities to leverage this intelligence so that your brand is more closely aligned with the wants and needs of your customers, and that’s a pretty picture.
In summary, the best way to start leveraging Facebook is to develop a strong foundation for execution. Remember when you started in real estate? You had extreme clarity around providing value to your clients.
You need that kind of clarity. Get your Facebook execution right at corporate, and then provide the guidance and support necessary to execute at multiple locations. It is not rocket science and it can be accomplished with minimal resources. Do it now and in three years when you look back you’ll say to yourself, “I wish we had engaged earlier, but I am sure glad we are where we’re at now.”
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