Is Facebook the powerhouse lead resource it once was?
You may have come across “link bait” blog posts and articles recently that suggest Facebook is no longer a good platform for real estate professionals.
Statista reported in “Most popular social media websites in the United States in September 2014, based on share of visits” that Facebook held 58.88% market share, followed by YouTube at 18.86%, Google+ at 2.74%, Twitter at 2.64% and LinkedIn at only 1.1%. (Pinterest and Instagram came in below LinkedIn.) While Facebook now has more competition, it's still the biggest social media player by far.
We believe that Facebook should be taken very seriously when marketing your real estate business.
The 4 Facebook Tools
1. Your profile
A few years back, Thomas J. Peters claimed, “Your power is almost directly proportional to the thickness of your Rolodex, and the time spent maintaining it… You can take everything from a successful networker, but if you leave the Roladex, all can be replaced within a year or two with those contacts.”
Your most powerful business asset is your network, and in 2014 your profiles are at the heart of it. Social media and your email list are the “new Rolodex.”
In our coaching and social media makeovers, we come across some sorry LinkedIn profiles, but they are usually fairly easy to whip into shape. Most of our work is additive.
With Facebook, the situation tends to be reversed, and serious junk removal is often required before the account can be presentable to potential clients. We become the digital equivalent of the Got Junk haul-away crews. It can literally take days to de-clutter. That's because these accounts have often been used for years of chatting with friends and family.
You may be wondering why you can't just set up a second account, for business use. First of all, Facebook's terms of service permit only one personal account. You can have multiple fan pages, but only associate them with a single account in your name.
Some of you may be smirking at this, having already set up more than one account. Acknowledged, it's fairly easy to get around Facebook's one account restriction. But here's the second caveat. You may rest assured that any potentially embarrassing photos, videos and comments in your personal account are uncomfortably available to real estate buyers and sellers that decide to check you out. There will be a lot more information, in most cases, on the original friends and family account, so guess which one will come up first on Google?
Am I saying you can't use Facebook for friends and family any more? Not at all. To keep a part of Facebook private, I recommend using Groups over Lists. It's too easy to send off a reply, to a list, and forget to change the setting. A reply that was to be private is suddenly out there for the world to see. With your own friends and family group, you can limit access to only your inner circle. I'll cover Groups more below.
You have the option of setting up multiple pages, to address specific marketing needs.
Your official Facebook Business Page. This is the first page you should set up. The terms of service prohibit you from using your personal profile for commercial purposes, but here you are encouraged to use your logo, branding, slogan, photo of your office, etc.
Places and Location Tagging. Agents have discovered a special use for Facebook Places and location tagging. That's right, you can include geo locations for prominent listing “Places” and open houses, by checking in.
Community Pages. Another way to become recognized as a local authority is to develop a community page for your farm neighbourhood(s).
Join or Start a Local Real Estate Group. These groups usually only include local agents and investors. Some are ‘open'; others are ‘closed', requiring an approved application request before entry is granted.
I usually advise clients not to pitch listings in social media, but these networking groups are generally the exception. They are the Facebook equivalent of your VIP Updates or Listing Alerts email list.
If you're joining an existing group, take a moment to confirm that publishing listings is okay. If you decide to start a group, be sure to honor your commitment to your members. You must deliver value.
Nobody wants to join a group with 3 members, or where there are no new, interesting or helpful posts. You must proactively pull people into a new group., so you will have to send out quite a few invitations to local agents to gain some momentum. And you should be writing a post at least once a week. If you can get a few of your colleagues to write as well, or a writer from your content marketing agency, you should be able to stimulate some lively discussion within a month or two.
Groups tend to foster a sense of belonging, so the response is generally a lot better than to a blog post. A blog post that may only get 2 or 3 comments could receive over 20 if published to the group instead.
Create Family and Friends Group. Many professionals set up a private family and friends group, with closed access. In the group you can chat freely, without everything displaying on your main wall, for prospective clients to see.
Create and Manage a Neighbourhood Group. You want to attract local residents, prospective sellers and people considering a move to your area. This is a place to discus local issues in a positive light, new developments under construction, zoning, new amenities, exciting new businesses, etc.
To keep the group positive and inviting, you will have to set some ground rules and define expectations initially. And you must be ready to enforce them.
You are not going to generate any leads from a group that bickers about local issues, trashes on the mayor and town council, and complains about what a dump the town is. You also cannot permit other agents to pitch their listings, or spammers to promote their offers. Take-over bids for leadership must be suppressed quickly. Bad apples will have to be tossed out, before the entire barrel spoils.
Having said that, neighbourhood groups can be kick ass lead sources, particularly from new buyers.
4. Facebook Ads
What makes Facebook ads so incredibly powerful is that few agents have caught on to them yet. You have the ability to define a very targeted audience; more so, I would say, than with AdWords. It's a brilliant place to advertise a new listing to the most likely buyers.
You have the choice between cost per click, or cost per impression. Facebook Ads are very affordable. Currently, clients are spending somewhere between seventy cents and two dollars a click. As with AdWords, you can put a cap on your ad spend. Something you can't do with AdWords is put your phone number in the ad. This can cut your click through costs considerably.
A set-it-and-forget it approach isn't going to get the job done. Like Google AdWords, you need to continually tweak your ads. And you also require high converting landing pages on your website to maximize your return on investment.
In the next post, I'll discuss how you move your Facebook connections through the lead funnel, beginning with the development of your audience.
Need some help getting systems in place and content developed? I encourage you to take advantage of my 20 minute free coaching call to see how I can help you focus your online marketing.