RISMEDIA, June 16, 2010—More than 1,100 industry professionals gathered last week in Rye, N.Y. for RISMedia’s 21st Annual Leadership Conference—two days of high-level educational sessions and networking, this year centered around the critical subject of integrating social media profitably in real estate. The highlight of “The Social Media Summit,” as the event was billed, was the keynote address, “Leveraging Your Social Media Links,” presented by Allan Dalton, president of The Top 5 in Real Estate Network® and RISMedia’s chief marketing officer.
Dalton opened the address with a video titled “Social Media Revolution (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIFYPQjYhv8),” which demonstrates how Social Media is impacting our world:
• “If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 4th largest: China, India, United States, Facebook…”
• “80% of companies are using LinkedIn as their primary tool to find employees.”
• “80% of Twitter usage is on mobile devices. People update anywhere, anytime. Imagine what that means for bad customer experiences?”
• “What happens in Vegas stays on … Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, Bebo, Flickr, Digg, MySpace, YouTube…”
• “If you were paid $1 for every time an article was posted on Wikipedia, you would earn $156.23…per hour.”
• “25% of search results for the world’s Top 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content. Do you like what they’re saying about your brand?”
• “Social Media isn’t a fad. It’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. Welcome to Socialnomics™”
The video set the stage for Dalton to discuss the power and importance of providing “actionable, relevant content” in today’s real estate business.
“Fewer people can point to making significantly more money from Social Media than from prospecting or marketing,” said Dalton, who is also the former CEO of Realtor.com. “This was very concerning to me and catapulted me into doing research on Social Media and Social Networking. There is a missing link in terms of applying Social Media and Social Networking, and that missing link is content.”
The importance of differentiating your business through providing content as a solution in today’s challenging real estate environment was Dalton’s singular mission, which he showcased around his beliefs that “Information share equals market share,” and “VOI (value of information) equals ROI (return on investment).”
“What would someone pay for information prior to making a decision?” he asked. “Google’s entire world is based on information and content. Information is extremely celebrated.”
Dalton introduced a new term he coined called “content-sequences,” which symbolizes the idea that those real estate professionals who do not provide a consumer content solution will become irrelevant.
By following out-dated practices such as providing magnets and calendars to consumers and putting photos of themselves in newspapers around their listings, Dalton said such agents are not engendering themselves to consumers, which ultimately results in consumers trusting friends or other non-industry professionals to advise them on important real estate matters rather than turning to brokers and agents.
Other key revelations from Dalton’s keynote included:
• The 10 best-selling books about real estate on Amazon.com are written by non-traditional real estate practitioners. There is an absence of robust content that helps people arrive at one of the most important decisions of their life.
• Brokers and agents are predisposed to communicate with the consumer not the way they want to be communicated with and that needs to change.
• If people think that Social Media and Social Networking are the same or interchangeable, it deprives them from ever fully leveraging each of them. If you don’t understand the distinctiveness you can’t integrate them. You can’t integrate sameness. That is why a lot of people are very busy with social media, but they’re not being thought leaders and finding ways to make it effective for them in business.
• There is a doctrine associated with Confucius called the “Rectification of Names,” which means, “Without the proper rectification of names, society would essentially crumble. The beginning of wisdom is to give things their proper name.” The industry continues to confuse selling with marketing, said Dalton, inquiries with leads, service with skills. “We’ve been challenged in terms of understanding what things are, but this is of paramount importance. Until you make the convergence of Social Media and Social Networking, then it will never help you improve your business.”
The Dalton/Hundley Formula for Success: Social Networking + Social Media = Social Real Estate Marketing
Dalton’s captivating presentation continued with a new concept he introduced to the industry called “Real Estate Social Marketing,” a phenomenon that results from the convergence of the differences between Social Media and Social Networking.
“The real estate industry has resisted every single thing in the interest of consumers—the Internet, IDX, agency representation—but we don’t resist social networking. Why? Because we think it’s in our interest. We’re giddy over it; we’ve formed an industry conga line around it…but we’re not making any money at it.”
He continued: “When we combine Social Networking and Social Media we arrive at a holistic hybrid: Real Estate Social Marketing. Everything about Social Media has to solve a problem for consumers. Everything we write, the information, the content, we have to think, ‘how is this solving a problem for consumers?’”
When agents talk about what they did on the weekend or concern themselves with how many friends they have, it does nothing for the consumer, Dalton stated. He pointed to industry leaders such as 1parkplace’s CEO Steve Hundley, with whom he co-created RISMedia’s Dalton/Hundley Real Estate Social Media Census (results of which were revealed at the event); and Top 5 agent Gregg Neuman of Prudential California Realty Neuman & Neuman in San Diego, as such professionals who understand the difference and are taking the charge in Real Estate Social Marketing. Neuman, for example, operates 118 websites, he noted.
“What are you doing to address the most pressing and relevant issues in the marketplace on your websites,” he asked. “Expired listings, educating consumers on what every home seller should demand, short sales…these are all important issues consumers want to know about.”
Thinking Like a Googlebot
Effective Social Media means thinking like a computer, Dalton added. “For the past 100 years we’ve been willing to accept inefficient approaches. We’ve never had a predilection for relevancy, but suddenly with Web 2.0 we are forced to comply. You’ve got to think like your consumers.
“If we view consumers like ‘Googlebots,’ (software used by Google to collect documents from the web to build a searchable index for the Google search engine), that they are looking for relevant content, then everything we do in our career will change,” he said.
Dalton covered a range of complex technology topics, breaking down the benefits of SEO, and “deep linking,” to name a few, where rather than an inbound link to your home page, a more specific hyperlink that points to a specific page, article or image on your site is of greater search engine optimization benefit.
“If you are still advertising your exceptional service on the park bench, you’re delusional if you think that will benefit your business. You need to think about how you are inserting yourself deeper into the consciousness of consumers.”
Another take-home covered was the benefit of creating “long tail” keywords, or keywords that fall outside the most popular and heavily searched terms, such as “real estate for seniors in Greenfield area of Westport, CT” versus “real estate Westport, CT.” The long tail theory suggests that the collective sales of products in low demand can exceed that of popular products and bestsellers.
When applied to websites and search engine traffic/marketing, it means that most websites are likely to receive most of their search engine visitors through a variety of low-volume search queries instead of a handful of major keywords, like the one outlined above. The benefits include higher conversions, easier ranking, more visitors and higher monetization potential.
Dalton explained this, adding, “If you own that search criteria, you can go to consumers and tell them you own it. Own less traveled search paths.”
Leveraging Your Social Media Links
Dalton also offered a sneak peak into some of the topics he covers in his soon-to-be released book, Leveraging Your Social Media Links.
“Effective Social Media requires a strategy,” he said. “If you don’t have a proper strategy you will not be successful.”
For example, he said one of the aspects of Social Networking that prevents people from creating a strategy is “social anxiety,” or fear of being “in public” essentially on Social Networking sites or even knowing what to write about or how to promote themselves correctly.
“Dwight D. Eisenhower said, ‘Plans in battle are basically useless, but they’re indispensable for preparing for battle.’ That’s why I wrote the book.”
Another of the topics that will be covered in greater detail in Dalton’s book explains the phenomenon of “triangulation.” Dalton explained, “triangulating is when you take the opponent’s issue and make it your own. Politicians do this all the time and it can be used in utilizing Social Media effectively. Dalton offered the following example:
“When I was working with Murphy Real Estate in New Jersey years ago, I heard from countless homeowners that they were sick and tired of having their state denigrated by the rest of the country. I created a slogan, ’New Jersey is a great state to visit, an even greater place to live,’ with our company logo on it. This campaign took off and ultimately one of the Senators from New Jersey wanted his picture in the paper with us and the slogan on the sign, which had our logo displayed clearly. He was triangulating – making our success his success, and we benefited with our logo included in every picture published.”
Other ideas he suggested were, video-interviewing agents from competing companies in other markets; being present at new restaurants openings and other community events. “Patrol everything going on in your marketplace,” he said, “Think differently. When something is rooted in truth, people respond to it.”
The Real Estate Social Network
Dalton concluded his presentation by intriguing attendees with yet another new industry concept he announced called the “Real Estate Social Network,” which not only offers a way for agents to use social media to increase their business but also through a free membership, marry the desire for consumers’ desire to belong to a group with that group now exclusively being associated with a particular agent.
“Social Media enables you to upgrade your friends from coach to first class by making them members of your social network,” Dalton said. “First properties were aggregated; now people are aggregated. Consumers have been tenderized and are being aggregated into networks. Real estate professionals should take people who are conditioned to online aggregation and aggregate them into their own real estate social network.”
Dalton likened the idea to American Express’s powerful marketing strategy wherein it offers “membership” to their credit services.
“We’re all ‘belongers;’ we belong to a certain church or political party,” he said. “Why don’t we elevate consumers to ‘belong’ to us? How many consumers are a member of you? We’ve lowered our professionalism to these emotional appeals and that’s why we don’t have people in our networks.
“The reality is people are never going to be that immersed in your website because they have better things to do, but even if they find their way there once, they can become a member of your Real Estate Social Network, which will offer many benefits, such as a searchable archive of 20,000 real estate articles, features to find out how to make your home worth more, direct access to you and forums where people in the community can go to ask questions or discuss real estate issues and more.
“There are social networks for hiking, for hobbies, even for lying,” he noted. “Now is the time to have your own Real Estate Social Network. It’s about how driven you are and having a goal to make a change that will be reflected in the way you use Social Media to benefit your business.”
The Real Estate Social Network will be available from RISMedia’s Top 5 in Real Estate Network® in the coming months.
Stay tuned to RISMedia.com for more online and video coverage of this year’s Leadership Conference—The Social Media Summit.