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Online Marketing: Cost-effective Tips

by Tracey C. Velt

traceysarticleMarketing yourself and your properties doesn't have to break the bank. It can be expensive to market your properties on the listing portals or purchase a lead generation program, so we rounded up a few other options that are free or cost very little.

What we found was that social media is the way to go when it comes to low-cost or free marketing. From email newsletters to Pinterest and Facebook, the key to an effective promotion is that it builds relationships that can be brought offline.

"The deal with social media," according to Linda Lee, CIPS, CRS, GRI, PMN, who is a broker-associate with Keller Williams Realty San Diego Metro, in San Diego, "is that anyone who is my friend either asked to be my friend. Or they agreed when I asked." Through a permission-based marketing vehicle, your audience is naturally interested in what you say and do.

lindalee"You must be intentional," Lee says. "All of these online tools are just tools; you have to have a strategy." Here are the tops ways to market inexpensively online:

Facebook

"I get the best bang for my buck on Facebook," says Leigh Brown, CEO of Leigh Brown and Associates and broker-owner of RE/MAX Executives in Concord, NC.

leighbrownBrown has both a business and personal page. "I don't promote real estate on my personal page, but I find ways to talk about it," she says. She puts listings on her Facebook business page and features a new listing as the cover photo for a couple days.

"I alert the seller when they're going to be the featured property, and I ask them to share it with friends and family," she says. "I pick up three to five page likes each time I do that, and it doesn't cost a dime."

In addition, Brown says, "When we post a listing to our business page, we spend $20 to boost the post to a very targeted segment. For example, if the listing is in Fort Mill, the most likely buyer is someone who lives in Charlotte proper and wants to get into a better school district with lower taxes, so I pay to boost it to that specific audience zip code."

Lee also gets a lot of business from her Facebook page. "I have 5,000 friends. The only thing I post about real estate is escrow opened, escrow closed. I talk about the clients in terms of first-time homebuyer or military veteran, but I don't use names. I respect my client's privacy," she says. Instead, Lee posts about her dog, Sugar, traveling with her parents and positive, inspirational stories. "I also post some of my feelings and thoughts in Chinese so that my Chinese clients feel closer to me," she says. "I don't advertise, and I don't pay." Lee says about 25 to 30 percent of her clients come from referrals from her Facebook page.

joycarterThe key with Facebook, says Joy Carter, PMN, a broker-associate with Keller Williams Realty Advantage in Plantation, FL, is to be real and control your own postings.

"I hired a company to post on Facebook for me but it hasn't been that successful. Part of that is due to my inactivity following up with people commenting, but part of it is that it's not me doing the posting," she says.

Rating Sites

Real estate professionals are just starting to see the benefits of ratings and review sites. "Clients can comment about you on Yelp. I encourage clients to comment about me, and I've gotten business that way," Lee says.

Brown agrees. "One thing agents don't realize is that you can get leads from Zillow by generating five-star reviews from clients. You need at least 25 to get visible on that list," she says. Brown recommends you call past and current clients and ask them to write a five-star review.

"Give them the parameters. If they don't want to give you five stars, then they probably won't review you," Brown says. "Send them a link to your profile page. If you get enough reviews, you'll generate organic leads on Zillow."

E-newsletters

About a year ago, Carter discovered Happy Grasshopper, a drip e-newsletter campaign that has made an impact. "Each month I get to choose from three or so different emails. I pick one, and Happy Grasshopper does the rest," Carter says. She gets a few phone calls each time an email goes out.

"The emails aren't like the usual e-newsletter," she says. "They feature interesting stories that are short. For example, one was called 'Get Out of Jury Duty,' and it was all about the hilarious excuses people have used to get out of jury duty." The cost depends on how many contacts you have in your database.

Pinterest

Another fun, inexpensive way to promote listings is through Pinterest. "I just took a Pinterest class," says Carter. "It was about individual property sites on Pinterest and how you can post all of the photos of the property to the site. I'm going to try it," she says.

We've found that the most successful real estate professionals on Pinterest feature hyperlocal pictures of favorite eateries, communities and parks.

No matter what the online vehicle, the goal should always be the same: to drive people to meet you in person. "It's about your reputation and moving to an in-person conversation," says Carter. Lee agrees and adds, "You need to be authentic. Choose a space and be intentional about the information you're sharing."

Tracey C. Velt is an Orlando-based freelance writer.

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