REALTORS® are looking for ways to cut costs and conserve cash in today's challenging markets. When it comes to saving money on marketing, Amy Chorew, an expert on helping REALTORS® use technology to boost their businesses, has the answer – social media.
While websites, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, are often associated with teenagers sending a nonstop stream of messages, photos, videos and music, this sort of instantaneous, personalized interaction is exactly what makes them such ideal marketing tools for real estate professionals, says Chorew, vice president of platform development for Better Homes & Garden Real Estate. And, best of all, they are free.
Facebook, the world's most-visited website, can be an especially valuable marketing tool for REALTORS®. Just as when marketing yourself offline, the key to effective marketing on Facebook and other social networks is finding people with shared interests, making personal connections and then looking for business opportunities that might arise from these.
Start with people you know, Chorew says, by joining the Facebook pages of schools you have attended and of organizations, clubs and community groups you belong to. Monitor these pages and listen to what people are talking about so you can post information that is of interest to them.
"Eighty percent of what you post on these pages should not be about real estate at all," Chorew says. "It should be about your interests and passions, your life and anything to do with your community. When people know you're on the school board, or that you like to run or cook or are a wine aficionado, when they are ready to hire a REALTOR® they will think of you first because they share the same interests."
Chorew, for example, belongs to a Facebook book club that has resulted in business for her. Another agent she knows, who is an avid runner, started a Facebook group for runners in her area.
Facebook is also ideal for prospecting and networking. Agents should strive to reach out on the site to three new people every day, Chorew says, and introduce themselves with short, friendly messages free of any real estate references. "Just say hi and be yourself," she says. "It's the new way of prospecting."
Online videos are another powerful and cost-effective marketing tool. YouTube should be every agent's go-to website for posting videos that deliver value to clients instead of simply serving as a promotional tool, according to Doug Devitre, a St. Louis-based REALTOR® and founder of a consulting firm focused on helping real estate agents apply technology to improve results.
Too many agents are posting dull, unmemorable videos in which they talk about themselves and don't provide people with helpful information, Devitre says. They should be educating viewers on topics, such as what to expect in a short sale, or covering frequently asked questions that come up in a transaction.
The most effective videos also contain what Devitre describes as "a call to action," or a clear, unmistakable message to viewers, such as a request to visit an agent's website, share their contact information or pick up the phone and call.
To separate themselves from everyone else, agents should strive to make their videos as unique as possible. "You want your video to get people to say, 'Wow, that was really great. I know somebody else who should watch that.' When you plant a seed in the mind of a viewer, that's when a video goes from 10 views to 200 views to 2,000 views, because other people did the marketing for the agent," Devitre says.
Another cost-effective marketing tool for agents, Devitre says, is www.slideshare.net, a free site that allows you to post PowerPoint presentations online. "This is the YouTube of PowerPoint presentations," he says. For an extra $20 a month, you can have pop-up windows appearing throughout a presentation asking for contact information, which can be an effective way to generate new leads, he says. PowerPoint presentations produced on the site are also mobile-friendly and can be easily turned into a link that can be sent to any mobile device or posted to any website.
With Facebook, YouTube and other newer online marketing tools available to agents today, it's easy to forget that one of the most powerful and cost effective remains "good old email marketing," according to Robyn Walker, director of education and recruiting at Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel in Troy, MI.
After setting up email lists of different groups of people you want to stay in touch with, such as past clients, it's easy to keep your name in front of them by sending out regular messages. These can range from market updates covering key statistics in your area to information completely unrelated to real estate, such as community news. "It doesn't take much time for someone to forget what you do for a career, so the constant drip of information that gets flowing to them is a great reminder," she says.
Besides the ability to specifically target and stay in touch with different audiences, email marketing is effective, Walker says, because most email management systems allow you to track when emails are open and which links are clicked. "It's a great way to actually measure what type of a return you’re getting on your time and investment and track where your clients are coming from."