Using Social Media in Real Estate Today
In 2014, social media is our outlet to share informative content and use this content to create engagement and build an audience. Okay, that's a nice-sounding, academic statement, but what does it mean in a practical sense?
To understand how to use social media in your real estate business, let's first cover two basic concepts:
1. The power of engagement
2. The strategy, techniques and technology of social media
Once we have a basic foundation and understanding on where social media marketing is today, we can get into more specifics about how to use Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and the rest.
Social media ("social," for short) has evolved. Just a few years ago, most organizations did not dedicate resources for social, but today all of that has changed. Companies both large and small have dedicated staff for social. Technology has been a huge driving force into how we are all connected to one another at any one point throughout the day. Our mobile devices keep us in constant connection with one another no matter where we go, so long as there's an Internet connection.
As technology improves to bring us even more connected than we are today, it also changes how we use the Internet, websites, search and social. We are developing patterns and behaviors around the use of these devices in our daily lives. Take a second to think about your phone. Where exactly do you place it every night before you go to bed? Now ask yourself, what is the first thing you do in the morning: brush your teeth or check your emails and Facebook newsfeed?
Engagement on Social Media
Social is all about providing value to your connections. It's not about getting "likes" from friends and family or gaining thousands of followers. Social is not a modern-day classified section to advertise products and services directly.
Don’t get me wrong, we do use social to sell. But there is a process to get a sale via social, and it becomes just one part of that process. We use social to create awareness of our real estate services and homes for sale. Your connections on social will buy and/or sell a house at some point in time. If used correctly, social will inform them about your services and keep you top of mind when that time comes.
Engagement has become a social media buzzword, and it's a broad term that’s easy to say in an article like this as the solution to all of your online marketing woes. However, in practice it's easier said than done. What’s important to know about engagement is that all of the social media platforms thrive on this concept. Without engagement, social dies. All of our engagement activities will attempt to make the best use of social to maximize the return of those activities.
The minute the activity stops, the platform begins to become obsolete. Think of MySpace, which has completely died and become irrelevant because people stopped engaging on it. Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+ understand this very well. Every time social makes a change to their platforms, you can bet this is done in an attempt to "create" engagement.
The driver of your marketing efforts with every social media platform should be "creating engagement." Engagement on social is also what drives your posts, comments and videos to be seen by more of your audience and connections online. Posts and videos that receive more engagement activity will become more viral. Now creating engagement on social through the use of good content requires specific strategies and techniques, and we change them depending on the social platform.
Selling on Social Media
To sell on social, you have to give relevant content and information and create awareness. The formula is more like give, give, give and then sell. As a matter a fact, your sales technique on social is the age-old marketing tactic of “sell without selling.”
I wish it were as easy as just posting new listings online and, bam, the leads start funneling in. It worked this way back in the pre-2010 days. Today, there is simply too much information out there. If you want to reach your audience and connections via social, you have to provide value first and be creative so that you can cut through all that clutter.
Our strategies and techniques also change as the social platforms change. One thing that is consistent about online marketing is that it's all in a constant state of change. What works today may not work one or two years from now. Likewise, what worked two years ago on social doesn't really work today in many cases. Let's take a look at Facebook marketing in early 2014 and identify some of the current changes taking place.
In July 2013, Facebook announced a series of changes in how the newsfeed and Fan Pages were going to operate. Basically, Fan Pages would have to create more "engaging" posts for those posts to be seen by the people who have liked the page. Organically, only 9 to 16 percent of a Fan Page’s posts would be seen by those people unless the content was engaging.
If the content was engaging then posts would become more viral and seen by more people. An algorithm was created by Facebook to rank postings made by Fan Pages. If these postings were more engaging, then the algorithm would kick in and make those posts seen by more people – making the posts more "viral."
A real estate agent who owned a Fan Page over the past several months and has seen diminishing views of their posts in the Facebook analytics can see direct evidence of the algorithm at work. These changes that Facebook made are partly a business decision and backed by the concept of engagement. It will reward you for creating engaging posts by showing your content to more viewers. Engagement is key because Facebook wants to keep the newsfeed relevant for today's users.
The newsfeed of Facebook is essentially the lifeblood of the platform – this is the place where users spend the most time. People don’t spend as much time on the Fan Pages as they did just a few years ago, mostly because a majority of the time spent on Facebook is occurring in the newsfeed and using mobile devices.
The strategy for using Facebook then has changed to creating awareness and engagement on the newsfeed. We don't worry about getting more people to like our Fan Pages today because the value is all in access to the news feed and getting a potential prospect and/or client to click an ad or paid post, which will offer some type of information in exchange for an email address. Information, such as an online CMA of their property, a local real estate report or tip for prepping a home for sale, creates value and can encourage activity and engagement.
I mentioned earlier that technology also plays a factor into how we market using social. Again let's use Facebook as an example. Facebook's mobile app is versatile. It shows images and video vividly and offers you almost all the same features that you have using the desktop version of Facebook. This is because Facebook knows mobile usage is growing rapidly, and they want to provide a consistent user experience.
Mobile devices keep more people concentrated on the newsfeed and make them screen through the content in the newsfeed more quickly. Think about your own personal use of the Facebook mobile app and how quickly you scan through the news feed.
The move to mobile devices by the Facebook users and the algorithm have both changed how marketers use Facebook to offer products and services. An agent in 2014 who wants to use social into their real estate business must think of themselves as being a marketer and seek out the best possible information for how to use social and maximize it. Understanding just this little bit of Facebook information should open up your mind into how important it is to get it right and how huge of an impact it can be in your business.
As social continues to evolve and technology brings our connections closer, our marketing and how we use it will evolve. We may even reach a day when Facebook is no longer the number one social media platform. As long as people are using social media and staying engaged, there will be a need, want and desire for marketers, including real estate agents, to be part of it and not miss out on potential business.
Since graduating from Bradley University more than 15 years ago, George Cuevas has been a serial entrepreneur. This former Soldier in the U.S. Army and real estate agent now speaks and trains agents across the country on how to market themselves and their listings online.
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