Is social media a good platform for a real estate marketing campaign? And how do you launch one? This article answers these questions, and more.
Why use social media?
The marketing strategies of real estate agents have swiftly transformed to meet the demands of today’s digital age. While the answers have changed, one thing that hasn’t changed is the obligatory question: Where are you going to find your next client?
To find out, look to where potential clients congregate. For most communities, the answer is on social media websites. But what’s the best way to harness social media to make connections and turn connections into clients?
First, social media pairs best with your individual agent website. Social media is about staying visible to past clients, but it’s also about directing potential clients to your website. So before even venturing into social media marketing, create or improve your agent website.
To read tips on making or improving your real estate website, see: A website for every agent — how to get started.
Then, explore the various social media platforms and choose the one best suited to your needs.
Facebook is the most-visited social media site on the web, and if you’re a human with an internet connection, chances are good you already use it. This makes it an appealing marketing tool for real estate agents.
Like other social media sites, the focus of Facebook is socializing with connections. Therefore, cold-hearted ads gain little interest on Facebook, and the site even has rules against posting that type of content. Instead, Facebook is best for posting about the warm and fuzzy part of real estate. See below for examples on specific content to post.
Twitter is the faster-paced cousin of Facebook and has the second-highest number of users (about half of what Facebook has). With each post limited to 140 characters, “tweets” tend to be less substantive and more about instant gratification than Facebook or other social media sites.
Research shows Twitter users click most often on posts promoting freebies and contests. Therefore, it’s more natural for a user to interact with an ad on Twitter than on Facebook. But with real estate, freebies and contests are usually reserved for the big players, like Zillow and Redfin, not individual real estate agents.
LinkedIn is about a third the size of Twitter. The main purpose of LinkedIn is to connect with business relations. This is positive data because potential clients on LinkedIn are never looking to read the latest celebrity gossip or see pictures of their friends’ babies, as happens on Facebook and Twitter. However, they aren’t necessarily looking to find their real estate agent on LinkedIn, either.
Most users employ LinkedIn to connect with individuals within their field of business. Therefore, LinkedIn is more helpful to make connections with other individuals in the real estate business, like contractors, builders, appraisers and, of course, other agents and brokers. All the same, these connections can be helpful in gaining referral business.
Instagram is slightly smaller than LinkedIn. Users post pictures and short videos to Instagram and link them to other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. This service is actually owned by Facebook, but unlike Facebook’s wide demographic reach, Instagram is most likely to be used by young adults.
Pinterest is even smaller, at about a third the size of Instagram. However, real estate agents and their clients seem to love it. Its purpose is to share photos with other users, like Instagram, but these photos are designed on “boards.” Like a real-life cork board, you can save “pins” of other people’s pictures. These pins are often recipes, crafts and home décor ideas, and usually link to other websites where you can view the full description of the photo.
Choose one or two of these sites on which to focus your real estate presence, based on your local demographics and your own interests.
What to post
Now that you’ve chosen your platform(s), you need to create your profile(s).
Many agents recommend creating a separate business profile for your chosen social media site, rather than using your personal one (this isn’t a problem for LinkedIn, since your business account is your personal account). However, you may find it easier to have just one account — for instance, you may use Pinterest only for business-related purposes and may not want a separate personal account at all.
Or (the author’s favorite) you can combine both personal and business profiles into one. This can come across as more authentic and endearing to clients, as they can get a glimpse into the “real” you. This promotes trustworthiness and a deeper connection, as long as your content stays appropriate and positive.
After you’ve created your profile, you’re ready to start posting. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- your listings and the listings of other agents in your brokerage;
- professional successes, such as meeting sales goals, receiving an award or even giving shout outs to colleagues you’ve had the pleasure of working with;
- appreciation for clients, like celebrating when your client moves into their new home;
- advertising neighborhood events;
- neighborhood pictures, and if you have a Pinterest account, a neighborhood board;
- decorating, gardening or home improvement tips; and
- light posts about your own (controversy-free) interests to assist your authenticity ratings.
Advertising: worth it?
Finally, you may be wondering — should I invest in social media ads?
Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest all offer the option to promote your content for a cost. The site places your ad into a user’s feed and if they click through to your site, you owe them money (usually less than a dollar per click). You can set a budget so the site removes your ad once you’ve hit your click goal. But do these ads work?
Facebook ads don’t work too well for real estate agents (unless you have a contest or freebie to offer). Twitter and Pinterest work slightly better than Facebook. That being said, since most aspects of social media are free, you’re probably better off spending your money on other aspects of your marketing plan, like Google AdWords, door-to-door marketing or mailings. These methods are all more likely to get you new clients than are social media ads.
How to measure success
So how do you know when your social media use is paying off?
While you’ll never know for sure how much profit you earn per hour spent promoting yourself on social media, there are a couple ways to gain a rough picture.
First, set up a Google Analytics account to track your agent website. Analytics measures a number of exciting things, like what pages people visit, how long they remain on a page and how they entered your website, called the Traffic Source. For example, did they enter through a Google search? Or did they click a page you linked on Facebook?
This information is helpful because now you can tell what types of social media posts work best by promoting clicks. Then, you can focus your social media efforts on those specific types of posts.
For instance, posting a listing to Twitter with pictures will garner more clicks than a listing without photos (a fact which is certain to be proven by a user’s use of Analytics). Therefore, instead of wasting time posting photo-less listings, you’ll know the importance of always including pictures. Using Google Analytics may bring less obvious information about your audience to light, like time of day or day of the week they are most likely to be online.
Second, find out if your social media strategy is succeeding by asking your clients how they found out about your services.
You can do this in person, or include the question on your website’s online contact form. However, past clients won’t tell you they found you on social media — but they may have kept up with your activities through social media, thus making it more likely for them to contact you the next time they need a real estate agent.
Is social media necessary for real estate agents?
Social media is not required to succeed in the real estate business. There are certainly other forms of marketing you can focus on, like direct mail marketing or promoting yourself on Google searches. The difference between other marketing platforms and social media is that social media is, for the most part, free.
Think of social media as a single piece in your rich marketing strategy. Don’t devote your entire time and budget marketing your real estate brand on social media. Instead, divide up your time more appropriately to the results returned, say:
- four hours a month — and zero dollars — posting and interacting with clients on social media;
- two hours a month — and a limited budget — on email marketing;
- three hours a month — and a large chunk of your marketing budget — on direct mail marketing; and
- six-to-eight hours a month — and another significant chunk of your marketing budget — on door-to-door FARMing of the neighborhoods you serve.
Expect to set aside 5-10% of your annual earnings for marketing costs. Set a schedule and a plan for marketing, and constantly evaluate and tweak to get better results.
Agents who use social media: What are your strategies and tips for developing a successful social media strategy? Share your experiences in the comments below!