Is Social Media Engagement Essential for Real Estate Success?

Cole Wiebe
November 11, 2014
Read time: 8 minutes

One of the objections I receive most often from real estate professionals is, "I really don't want to join the 'social media party'. It's just not for me." They will point out some of the top sellers in the office who either don't use social media, or if they do,  only use it to blast their new listings to their followers. (That's a horrible abuse of social media, by the way.)

I do get where they're coming from. I'm an introvert by nature, and connecting with strangers still pushes me well outside my comfort zone. However, you've chosen a career in which being highly visible can make all the difference. When selling real estate, you're either famous, or your nothing. You're one of the go-to real estate pros in your city, or nobody's heard of you.

If you are not producing content for the internet, and promoting it in social media, you are basically nonexistent in our society.
- Gary Vaynerchuk

It's important to understand that top sellers who established themselves over the past decades often attract followers in spite of their approach to social, not because of it. They were well known in their area well before social media, and people follow them on reputation alone. In other words, their online marketing approach could be crap, or dead wrong, but they have gained a modest following despite their worst efforts, or lack thereof.

If you're trying to gain market share in your 'farm' area, and you don't already have a large established network that will eagerly seek you out, the current rules of engagement do apply to you. So to answer the title question of this post, yes you will have to engage in social media to succeed online. The good news is you can hire an expert to do most of the heavy lifting for you.

Effective online marketing is a three-legged stool that stands on SEO, creating and publishing valuable content and social media. Without all three, you're on your ass.

Effective online marketing is a three-legged stool that stands on SEO, creating and publishing valuable content and social media. Without all three, you're on your ass.
- Cole Wiebe

How NOT to use social media for real estate

X Spamming your audience with Listing or Open House blasts

First of all, I'm not saying all listing posts are bad. There are social media groups established by local real estate professionals, for other professionals, where the exchange of listings is perfectly acceptable and can be profitable. You'll want to check the rules for any groups you're considering. If you can't find a group for interacting with other agents in your area, and the exchange of new listings and open houses, consider starting one.

Using your public wall or feed to post your listings promotes "you" and "your" interests. It presumes to deliver a solution to a need it has failed to speak to. Listing blasts do not deliver the valuable stand-out information buyers and sellers in your local area crave. It's not about "them", "their" point of pain, answering "their" questions, or helping them solve "their" problems.

Smart marketing is about help, not hype.
- Jay Baer

Some agents argue that their investors actually want to know the minute a hot deal comes on the market. And that may be so. If you do provide insider distressed or foreclosure property information to investors, you want these VIPs on a separate email list. Hot insider tips are not something you post on your wall. VIP buyers and agents want to feel "privileged." Nothing feels less special than a post that was blasted out to the entire internet.

1. Develop your strategy

Most website owners approach engagement backwards. They begin creating blog and social media content, then months later attempt to determine who their audience is, and finally realize they need to establish goals and a set of objectives.

a. What are your objectives?

What are your goals for 2015? Based upon your averages, how many new listings will you need to achieve your goals? How many closed deals? Of the leads you've received in the past, how many have become clients? From that we can determine how many new leads will you need each month to feed the sales funnel, so you can reach your goals?

b. Who is your audience?

Create buyer/seller personas. Let's say that you specialize in selling to young families that are moving into townhomes in Coquitlam. But you also have sold quite a few homes to retirees that love the Tri Cities area.

So you have two very different audience personas to create content for and reach out to. You have one primary persona type, and a secondary. Their pain points and interests will be quite different. Each group will require its own content.

You may find it helpful to locate a stock image that represents each persona and place it in front of you as you write posts and engage online. Writing the persona's profile: the actual embodiment of the person, with a name, real needs — putting a face to them — makes it a lot easier to engage with your reader. Writing to a vague "anyone" is a lot more challenging.

I recommend against targeting a dozen different buyer/seller personas, casting a wide net. Your content focus would be so diluted, there's little chance you'd connect with anyone.

Where do they spend their time online? The social media channels you decide to focus on will be determined largely by the client persona(s) you've defined.

If your "ideal clients" are retirees buying condos in White Rock, you're unlikely to find these people on LinkedIn. They're more likely to be chatting with their grandchildren on Facebook. And when they mention on their wall that grandma and grandpa are going to try and find a nice apartment with a view of the beach, that's a conversation you want to pick up on.

On the other hand, if you list and show upscale condos in Kitsilano and English Bay, the movers and shakers that buy and sell these units will quite likely have a strong presence on LinkedIn.

c. What kind of content will reach your audience persona(s)?

You will only know the kind of content your audience will respond to, when your objectives are crystal clear, you've pinpointed who your ideal client is and you've invested considerable effort into fine-tuning your content so it addresses their pain point and genuinely helps them.

2. Increase your exposure

Many social media gurus believe it takes at least 7 exposures before most people will even consider following you. So how can you tactfully get yourself "in their face" 7 times?

a. Take advantage of notifications. Notifications are the little notices that pop up when you have your social media web pages or app open, or a management software solution like HootSuite or Sprout Social. With some social media channels, another notification will later arrive by email.

Your username and image are visible for a few seconds. That's an exposure. In real estate, you are the brand. This is basic branding; your name and face are momentarily displayed in front of their face.

Every time you "Like" someone's page, "+1" a post, leave a comment, mention the author or share their content, they get a notification.

b. Mention them. When one of your leads posts something valuable, mention it, placing the "@" (Twitter) or "+" (Google+) before their username.

This is a great way to engage. Curiosity will drive most people to check out mentions. They want to know what others are saying about them. That's another exposure.

It's very important, when mentioning people and content, that you add value to the conversation. "Hey +JohnDoe" does not, whereas "Thanks +JohnDoe for sharing that video. We all need a reminder, from time to time, not to take ourselves so seriously." is meaningful and will be appreciated.

c. Share their content. It's a lot of work to be out there, day after day, creating content. When people share our stuff, we feel valued, and it fuels our ego a bit. When you share people's content it's a great way to stand out from the crowd.

If they're a business person, or professional, you'll help them build followers and gain more exposure.

d. Join discussions. Participating actively in discussions about things you love is a great way to get attention from prospective clients. If the people you're trying to engage with run a group, adding value to their group with your input will not escape their notice.

If you're a golfer, and your prospective buyer is a golfer, joining a golf group he's in, and actively participating in the discussions is a great way to meet him in a casual setting. If she's actively involved in promoting a cause, joining the group she's in, and lending support, is a great icebreaker. People prefer doing business with people they know and like.

e. Give endorsements. LinkedIn provides a wonderful opportunity to stand out and show up in notifications. Make your endorsements helpful. Take a moment to view your prospect's profile, so the endorsement you leave actually increases their relevance for keywords they are targeting, rather than diluting it.

f. Use hashtags with restraint. Hashtags can make your comments, mentions, shares and posts more 'findable'. But overuse can make them almost unreadable. As a general rule, include hashtags you would click on yourself.

3. Post more effectively

a. Write a captivating headline. Your headline should address the key pain points of your persona(s). If you're selling townhomes to young growing families, what are their primary concerns when considering a move to your area? How about schools, recreational facilities, local restaurants, pediatricians, employment opportunities, places to worship, off leash areas to take the dog, etc.

"10 Things You Must Consider When Buying a Townhome in the Tri Cities Area" should earn more clicks than "Townhome Projects in Tri Cities." There's no urgency in the second title.

b. Bold your title. Some platforms, like Google+, allow you to bold the title. In Google+ place an asterisk before and after the title (without spaces). On some platforms, placing your title within HTML bold or strong tags will make it stand out.

c. Include an intriguing photo or video. For the most part, your audience really does only "look at the pictures." We skim the long wall or feed for something that pops out at us. Our eyes come to rest at the photo and then we read the title.

d. Consider using a sub-headline. Obviously, this won't work on Twitter, due to the number of permitted characters, but sub-headlines provide another opportunity to persuade your readers to engage with your post.

e. Fulfill the promise in the body. Fully deliver on the promise made by your headline and photo in the body of your content. Make your content satisfying and compelling.

People respond to your copy for one of three reasons. 1. It addresses a basic need. You offer shelter. 2. It solves a pressing problem. They need to sell or buy a home. Your informative posts demonstrate that you know your stuff, and that you're very likable. 3. It helps them improve their lifestyle. This is where your greatest content opportunity lies, as a real estate professional. While the other agents are trying to sell houses, you're helping people enjoy better lives.

f. Weave in your story. Knowledge, by itself, does not draw people in or drive engagement. People like to hear your personal stories. They want to read about your desires and passions, your experiences, your struggles and triumphs.

If you're a horse enthusiast, and it was a challenge to find just the right property in Hazelmere, your story is going to resonate with other horse owners.

g. Include a specific call to action. Using the previous example, if you've written a great ebook for horse owners, that helps them select the perfect property, this is the place to offer it, with a link to a landing page on your site, where they can download it (and of course join your list).

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, your follower count means nothing. Seriously; who cares if 4,683 other real estate agents have exchanged follows with you. It's all about engagement with prospective buyers and sellers. Shares and mentions are the strongest indicators of engagement.

Do you have an engagement success story to share?

Cole Wiebe, content marketing expert, Vancouver, BCCole Wiebe helps brands and professionals grow their influence and value online; so they can “out content”™ their competition. Cole is a content strategist, content writer, conversion copywriter and online marketing coach.

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