Social media gives real estate professionals great forums for promoting themselves and listings, demonstrating expertise and connecting with prospective clients.
For all the benefits, though, there is a downside, too. Effective use of social media adds another layer of responsibility to already busy schedules, claiming time which might be better spent away from the screen, more directly engaged with buyers and sellers.
“Ideally, we want our agents to be out in front of people and networking,” says Joe Averett, director of marketing, Summit Sotheby’s International Realty in Salt Lake City, Utah. Chatty, mobile multi-taskers might comply and still maintain an effective presence across social networks, but as Averett and others throughout the industry acknowledge, many need help and guidance to effectively work these media tools and maximize the benefits.
This has spawned a range of social media marketing strategies and services. Summit Sotheby’s has four offices and 125 agents on staff, and assisting them with digital marketing is Averett’s responsibility. “We’re a full-service brokerage and strive to provide our agents with all the best tools we can,” he explains.
Online, that includes content feeds for social media accounts. “We advise our agents to be on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, at the very least,” says Averett. “I help those who need it by setting up their accounts and creating content that can be used by everyone in our company.” He provides posts at least three times a week, and can schedule them for the company or individual agent using social media management tools Hootsuite and Buffer.
On Mondays, the posts highlight new listings, linked to their video tours. Later in the week, the focus could be open houses, articles about neighborhoods or homeownership.
“I tell agents the key to using the content effectively is to personalize it in some way. Some of it can seem pretty generic if they don’t add that personal touch.” The posts link back to the company’s main site, giving Averett his best measure of social media success.
“When social media is working for the agents they are picking up new clients, and they tend not to tell me about it,” he explains. “With Google Analytics, I can track the traffic from the individual social networks to our company site and see the results we’re getting,” he says. “The number of views our videos are getting can be very encouraging.”
Video also figures into the social marketing strategy of Ron Thom, broker and senior vice president, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Floberg Real Estate in Billings, Mont. His site features a WordPress blog with regular updates on new listings and video tours. There is also a page that promotes his YouTube channel, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“When I make a listing presentation, I like to be able to tell people about our print advertising, the professional quality of our tours, and that I will also promote their home on social media,” says Thom.
That’s the extent of his direct involvement with social networks. Thom’s wife, Audre, manages his accounts. “When we redid our website three years ago, we also started using social media because we didn’t want to get left behind,” she explains. “We primarily use Facebook to promote our professional image and our listings.”
She’s experimented with content creation services, and other networks, but found it most effective to simply concentrate on listings. Thom is well established in his market, and estimates that 80 percent of his business comes from repeat referrals. He doesn’t face the brand-building challenges that often inform social media strategies. When Audre tried other approaches, she couldn’t tell if they were having an impact, despite the effort or expense.
“Our Facebook posts seem to be working since we are seeing the YouTube views increasing on our videos,” notes Thom. “Until the next big thing comes along, we’ll continue what we’ve been doing.”
At Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate David Winans and Associates in Dallas, Texas, Vice President Mark McDonough tried the do-it-yourself approach in support of the company’s 100-plus agents before entrusting that responsibility to Lumentus Social for Real Estate.
“We look at social media as one of the best avenues available today for creating brand awareness and getting our brand out there to the industry and consumers,” says McDonough. The company uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, and may add Instagram and Pinterest accounts in the future.
“Consistency is the key to effective social marketing,” according to McDonough. “Ideally, you want to post something of value every day or at least every other day.”
For him, the challenge was deciding when, where and what to post. “It might take just 15 minutes to write a post, but a lot more time trying to figure out what to write about and researching it,” he explains. “It was taking up a lot of my time and I knew we had to make a change.”
The opportunity presented itself when he learned of and explored Lumentus Social. One in a new class of real estate marketing services, the company specializes in social media campaigns, content and the tools for online community management.
“Real estate agents today realize they need to be where their clients are, and that’s on social media,” says Lumentus Social Co-founder Adam Selig. “The problem, as many discover, is that it requires their attention every day, there’s so many channels and it’s a lot of work.”
“In just 20 minutes a week, I can schedule our next three weeks’ worth of content,” reports McDonough. Facebook updates speak to the lifestyle concerns of today’s buyers, while content for LinkedIn is geared more toward industry news. Twitter serves as a way to cryptically promote new content and videos.
He says the service has proven so effective, 12 agents have signed up for their own accounts, to date. “It’s helped us build a social media campaign with far better results. We can see a dramatic increase in the number of likes for our company business pages, and consumers are engaged and sharing our content.
“And, it’s allowed us to accomplish all this while saving a tremendous amount of time.”
Michael Antoniak is a contributing editor for RISMedia, and a freelance writer based in Tennessee, covering technology in real estate.