Realtors unfamiliar with social media are often overwhelmed by the array of choices and opportunities in the social media space. The most common objection I hear is "How will I have the time to do all of this?" I tell Realtors don't do it all. No doubt about it, social media is a time suck. And, it is too new a medium to say that it should replace your off-line business generating activities. Realtors should keep in mind that there are clients who will never embrace social media as a way to interact with an agent. However, the pool of people who are adopting social media sites as a way to interact with others is noteworthy. And, if you:
- are interested in reaching a growing segment of people
- see social media as a brand building channel
- believe (like I do) that social media is changing how we interact with each others and how we do business
then participating in social media as a part of your real estate business plan is something to look at. So, the question for these agents in this camp is, where do I start? And, on what social networks should I focus my time?
Let's first take a step back: Before social media came along, Realtors had (and still have) a lot of options for building their business. For example:
- Some are geographic farmers, spending their marketing dollars and time on repetitive post card campaigns to their farm.
- Others work open houses and work to convert those who walk through into clients.
- Many sign up for floor time, sit at the up desk, and take incoming calls.
- Some are social or sphere of influence farmers and gain business by joining a country club or the PTA or their alumni association.
- Others focus on cold calling and/or door knocking in order to generate leads, buyers, and listings.
- Some agents write articles for the local newspaper that showcase their expertise.
- There are agents who focus exclusively on listings. Others work primarily with buyers. And still others deal just in relocation business.
The point is there are numerous strategies for a Realtor to grow a business, and although a Realtor is happy to take a lead from any of those sources, most Realtors focus on one or two strategies for building their business. Realtors focus their strategy on what reaches the audience they want to work with in a way that suits their own business style and goals. Some ways simply work better for some agents than others.
So, when I'm coaching agents who are looking to start in social media, I ask them to tell me what is the primary source of their business TODAY? I ask them, where did the greatest percentage of your deals come from in the last year? What do you focus on off line in order to drive business to you? Realtors should be already asking themselves this question in order to decide how they are going to spend their time and dollars.
Social media simply expands the array of marketing and business development channels from which Realtors can choose to brand themselves. And each of those channels has their own nuances, demographics, and success strategies. All social media sites are not the same and can be as different a strategy as postcard farming is to working open houses. Some may work well for you…others may not. And just because one is successful for your colleague, doesn't mean it plays to your strengths and the target audience you want to reach. And, just like off-line business building, you don't have to do them all to succeed. So, why not take this same strategy into your social media efforts?
Now back to the question of what social networks should Realtors participate in: I say, be selective. Focus your time on the sites that are most parallel to how you succeed in your business off-line, and forget the rest. I suggest the following framework:
Geographic Farmer, Listing Agent, or Lifestyle Niche
If you are a geographic farmer, listing agent, or focus on a niche market (for example seniors or college communities), your main focus in social media is best spent on blogging. It is the quickest way to establish geographic expertise, and attract a crowd that has an interest in a specific area or a niche. Blogging does come with many pro's and con's however, and isn't for every Realtor. Are you a natural, or good, writer? Are you prepared to frequently update your blog? These are important questions to consider before deciding if blogging is the best focus of your time. However, the benefits of blogging can be significant for a real estate business and lead to quality lead generation over time. When I was selling real estate, I saw blogging generate quality leads for my business and there is a growing list of real estate practitioners who can attest to the power of blogging as a business driver for them.
Sphere of Influence (Social) Farming
In contrast to the agent whose primary business focus is geographic farming or listings, if your primary business driver is who you know (you are a sphere of influence or social farmer), then you should absolutely be focusing on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. The main point of these sites is to put you in contact with people you already have a connection with from all facets of life. These social media sites make it easy to connect with people who you went to school with, who you worked with, who you are/were in organizations with, etc. In a business often driven by who you know, if your social network is your major business driver, start engaging them on LinkedIn and Facebook.
Cold Calls, Door Knocking or Agent Referrals
If you have success with cold calling, door knocking, or your business development strategy is to have a network of agents around the country who refer you business, I suggest that your social media experience should start with Twitter. Unlike Facebook where it is perceived as "creepy" to connect with people you don't know, it is culturally acceptable to connect with total strangers on Twitter and it is a rich ground for meeting new people. There are also lots of agents around the nation who are on Twitter, interacting with each other, and asking for referrals in other parts of the country (I know, I've done it. And, my tweet put me in touch with a qualified agent who is showing property to my client next month).
Buyers Agent or Relocation Specialist
If you work primarily with buyers or deal extensively in relocation business, I suggest that there is benefit to be gained from many of the social media vehicles and social media is an area you would dedicate more of your time than, for example, an agent who primarily handles listings. There is potential power in not only articulating your expertise in a blog, but also networking through Twitter, and interacting with people who can sing your praises on Facebook. To get started, pick the social networks that feel most comfortable to you, and start interacting.
In Conclusion, A Word of Caution
Just because I suggest these are the social media places to focus doesn't not meant that they will immediately create leads for you. It will take time and regular, effective participation in the vehicle of your choosing is paramount to achieving success. In addition, you need to understand the etiquette of each social media space in order to succeed there. The rules of branding and engaging on line are different from the rules off line (promoting listings via postcards is very accepted, for example, but will not gain you ground on Twitter, Facebook, or blogging). This post is meant to merely point the Realtor in the direction of what social media site to begin with for the greatest degree of success and efficient use of their time as they begin to explore the addition of social media to their business strategy.