By Carol Tallon, CEO of Property District & Emma Hayes, CEO Hear Me Roar Media
As predicted, social media has changed quite a bit since since we published the 2018 guide for Estate Agents. We were aware of some of these changes coming down the track but there have been a few surprises too! By and large, these changes have been positive, however, they clearly reflect changing consumer wants and expectations, particularly in the context of privacy and personalisation. This has made social media somewhat more complicated and time-consuming for organisations but better for the consumer, which must be welcomed. As more estate and managing agents become social media savvy, users are responding well to this type of brand interaction. And let’s not forget, property is and will remain about people so a recognisable and trusted brand is still vital.
The changing consumer trends
The ‘on demand’ expectations of the current generation is certainly a huge focus for businesses. There is no escaping the fact that people are generally more demanding than ever before. As Millennials advance their careers, and Generation Z starts theirs, it is becoming more obvious that they are completely different to their predecessors. Gen Z, defined as those born after 1998, spend a lot of time online. In fact, a recent study found they spend 74% of their free time online. Capturing their attention is easy but only with the right social media content, tone and delivery.
Precision Dialogue reported that 60% of Gen Z folks are more likely than average consumers to hang up if their call isn’t answered in under 45 seconds. This illustrates the ‘on demand’ nature and behaviour of people today. The property consumers you will be dealing with now and in the future want it all now and they don’t consider waiting an option.
So how does this work for an estate agent? Well, for one we know that 24-hour online bidding has become commonplace in the market, as have virtual reality property tours. At a time when consumers are battling to buy homes and view/bid at times that suit them, there is a need for estate agents to solve that problem. Best practice dictates that contemporary agents offer 360 videos, an online bidding facility, online document signing facility and CRM logins for clients. Property consumers today prioritise their time and simply do not tolerate wasting it. While at Property District we advise agents to think always about the frictionless user experience, it is important to see how this boosts business development also. Home owners and prospective vendors love to hear how your agency can offer a range of on and off-line viewers options. Furthermore, this focus on consumer (not necessarily ‘customer’) care needs to be represented and evident across your social media strategy. Show your awareness and understanding of people’s issues today to build genuine rapport.
As mentioned last year, outbound selling relies too heavily on outdated tactics, like telling customers what they need instead of listening to what they tell you. This is partly because prospect sellers and buyers are turning to websites, social media, their own networks and other research channels before reaching out to an estate or letting agency. They are finding out about your business before they pick up the phone so imagine every part of your social media and personal pages as a brand CV and a selling point. Most firms still have a physical office [not all, for the online agents reading – you need to be much better at this whole new media strategy than your traditional competitors!]. Online, your website is your virtual office. Social media platforms are great, and effective but remember, they need to be linking back to your website for maximum brand impact. Are your website pages and social media profiles strong? Do they authentically reflect your agency brand? Can people navigate around them easily instead of getting lost and leaving because the window was too big and their patience was too short?
Instead of the more obvious ‘call to actions’ on social media posts, businesses need to be more considerate of their audiences needs. This means paying attention to the demographic and understanding who your target market is. It means not only posting regular updates but being responsive to your followers needs by answering their queries and focusing on their behaviours online. An estate agent needs to truly understand to whom they are selling their services and how to prioritise resources allocated..
Social selling has always been huge and estate agents need to build relationships but also, it is vital to nurture them in order to retain an audience’s positive attention. How can an estate agent maximise their sales or rentals when the people have gotten a good service but have no need to continue the relationship? Well, it is simple really – by sharing relevant local content to homeowners, buyers, sellers and tenants through blog posts and email campaigns (which, incidentally have increased in effectiveness since GDPR legislative changes last year). It means an estate agent continues the relationship and offers them value through content whether written, infographic or of course, video which has hugely grown in popularity amongst consumers.
Sales and Marketing
Estate agents in the Irish market have always enjoyed a wide and varied role with sales and marketing at its core. While the tools of the trade have certainly changed over the past two decades, marketing is still vital. We know that online sales portals are strong in demonstrating properties online and how marketing is easier with them but a strong website to support the online portal is important too, something an increasing number of estate agents seem to be forgetting. As higher-value, second-hand homes face a struggle to attract viewers, marketing is something every estate agent must be paying attention to. They need to think outside the box and be more creative in terms of the content they share online and work to find solutions to less viewers. Listing properties on websites is simply not enough anymore as buyers and sellers are looking for the agent with local knowledge, the one they can trust and the person they feel will work hard for them. Demonstrating this isn’t as hard as you may think, in fact, it is easy enough with the right strategy. Show your brand’s strengths, create hype around your business and show how your business is completely different to competitors in your area, for example, by contributing to local and national media or embracing the latest technology tools and proptech for your sector. Let people get to know you, your agency and your staff as well as your overall ethos and beliefs in the business. Be different and be authentic.
No estate agent should underestimate the significance of social media and its potential to impact your business. The emergence of social media platforms and how quickly they have been embraced into daily life has created an unprecedented opportunity for a business to reach people (consumers) in their personal worlds, without waiting for them to enter yours, so that you can introduce your brand and invite them into your digital property world. The success of your social media strategy might well be measured on how well you use that opportunity to engage with your audience. With the New Year came a review of last year’s statistics, as follows:
- The number of internet users worldwide in 2018 is 4.021 billion, up 7 percent year-on-year
- The number of social media users worldwide in 2018 is 3.196 billion, up 13 percent year-on-year
- The number of mobile phone users in 2018 is 5.135 billion, up 4 percent year-on-year.
[Source: Global Digital Report 2018]
- Ireland has 1.9m Facebook users.
[Source: Social Bakers]
- Instagram now has 1 billion users worldwide.
[Source: The Verge]
- 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
[Source: Bright Local]
- 38% of Irish people listen to podcasts monthly, above the EU average of 27% and the American average of 33%.
[Source: Digital News Report, 2018]
Know your audience
Of the many social media platforms available, not all are necessary or even helpful to every agency. Every business is different so before you decide how to execute your social media, have a long, hard think about what you are trying to say and to whom. It will take a bit of work and effort, but it is worth figuring out this and then considering what platforms are helpful to your business. This is not a matter of opinion but rather a matter of analytics. As a business, you simply need to identify your target audience and follow them to their preferred platform. Facebook is always strong, as is Instagram. Twitter is powerful for having real-time conversations and directly chatting to industry leaders, members of the media and key voices within your sector, as well as potential clients. Having the right branding is key as you need to be consistent throughout with insights, news and local awareness. There is a time to be humourous too and it shows your human side, but this needs to be done with sensitivity. If you are happy to, followers like getting to know their local estate agent by seeing their stories and content. This can be simply done by uploading your elements of daily life, for example, at property viewings or contributing to activities within your community.
The important thing is to create a social media strategy and roll it out through a manageable system using any of the available scheduling tools like (Hootsuite or Buffer) so that it does not become a time-suck. As with any sales and marketing initiative, there must be a reasonable return on resources spent and, as any business owner knows, time is precious. There are lots of ways to schedule posts and if you are able nominate someone in your team who can act as the expert in the area. Ensure someone takes over the job of social media campaigns and work together to ensure it gets done and effectively too.
Connect the brand
The key is to concentrate on your brand first. In much the same way as your website is an extension of your office and display window, your social media presence is an extension of your website. As suggested, agents must maintain a consistent brand (look, tone, content feel) throughout. Quality content is the next important step, and this means written blog posts that are current and relevant, together with images, infographics, video and audio content. Social media without relevant content is a waste of time and money. To provide your audience with social media content that is fun, valuable and helpful will mean implementing a strong strategy and work ethic. You need to be committed to the work at hand too.
Measurement: Understanding the statistics
There are lots of handy tools on Facebook for you to measure your social media performance and again, it is time consuming but worthwhile. Instagram offers insights too and Twitter allows users to look at tweet views and the engagement or views. By the end of it you’ll know how many people clicked on a link or perhaps merely clicked to check out your profile.
Before we start creating your social plan, there’s one thing we need to cover first: Agency Goals and Aspirations. Yes, there is a need for such goals so you can measure achievements and understand the need to invest in social media future. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), help your real estate company know what you’re working towards on social media. Whether you’re using the platforms to:
- Increase website traffic
- Raise your follower count
- Improve engagement rates
- Generate more contact form submissions
- Produce more property enquiries or sales
Do not try to become an expert across all platforms simultaneously, the best approach is to secure your business name handle/username on all popular social media platforms, and then concentrate on two or three platforms to start with. In order of importance, I would suggest a Facebook Page (this is different to a profile), Twitter, LinkedIn company page, Instagram and possibly Pinterest and Snapchat. Setting these up does take time or providing an overhaul on what you have already. Look at your pages and figure out why they aren’t working. Is there any following or engagement? Are you working on them? Did you start the page but put little effort into it? Well, now you need to give it your all and promise to make a change with the pages. There is no point in having them unless they are utilised. Don’t forget in a few years nearly everything could be done on social media so if you are falling behind now you may always be left behind.
Facebook has evolved from the youthful social media platform to a more mature audience. The kids are hitting Snapchat and Instagram leaving Facebook for the more grown up people and this is perfectly ok. There can be no doubt that Facebook Pages as a business platform has truly come of age in recent years. There are now Facebook Pages for 80 million business – this is up from 65 million last year and up 2 million from just five years ago. In theory, Facebook Pages could well replace traditional websites for many small businesses. In fact, several businesses have chosen to use Facebook as their website and sell from it instead of investing in a website, however, we strongly advise against this for reasons of data ownership and platform autonomy.
Twitter is a fast source of property news, so it is a great way to keep informed, and to get some industry reaction to latest news and developments. It is also the single best way to directly engage with members of the media and market commentators to give your market insights and reaction to industry policy changes. If you are looking to get noticed by media professionals or news outlets this is the perfect place to hang out. With real time posts and hashtags that allow you to see important posts of people you may not follow, it gives users a huge advantage in seeing content they wouldn’t otherwise see. Use the hashtags yourself and watch your tweets grow in views and engagement.
Instagram Stories is huge now and as predicted last year, it has grown in popularity. It is a simple way to connect with audiences quickly and effectively. While many would dispute Instagram being helpful for real estate, if anything, people love to see beautiful properties. If you have some stylish décor and interiors too you are onto a winner. Insta stories is a good way to share your daily routine with followers and share some behind the scenes office work too!
LinkedIn is a good platform and it is advised that all your team members are on LinkedIn to show their professionalism and expertise. LinkedIn has company pages and though they take time to build an audience, they are a vital tool in demonstrating your brand/business. The best way to build a company page is to post content to it and then share from there. In fact, have team members do the same to amp up engagement. As part of your team meetings, discuss the use of LinkedIn and ask staff to share posts from the company page and encourage them to share a bit about their daily working lives online too. It is creating a community within your business and showing the world your team.
As advisors in the planning, construction and property industries, Snapchat is still something that our teenagers use rather that our prospective clients and property consumers in general, but it would naive to think this will not change in the future. So, while we are not big fans of Snapchat, as so many of the younger demographic are on it, it likely means that – in time – property businesses will need to embrace it. Get yourself used to the whole snapchat scene by again, not unlike, Insta stories sharing some behind the scenes stuff, interesting facts and property videos. A Snapchat story encourages followers to take part in a property Q&A and it builds relationships.
Pinterest is a visual platform. And as we know people can’t buy a home without viewing it first so let them see properties on Pinterest first. Begin by pinning photos from the properties you’ve got for sale and adding the listing as the source URL. You could also pin photos from your blog content to these boards.
YouTube videos have fast becoming replaceable by Facebook Live and Instagram Stories as predicted in last year’s piece. Consumers of video today are willing to sacrifice production quality for the immediacy of live streaming. Facebook stories is exactly like Insta stories and is another cool tool to add to your belt. However, let’s not forget the power of video as a whole. Create your own short videos and upload them to Facebook or LinkedIn for example. As we have progressed throughout the last year, it has become overly obvious that people don’t mind viewing less beautiful content as long as it is interesting. Therefore, essentially everyone can make videos on their phone and share them online without the need for much equipment. [Be sure to talk to the Property District team for help with 360 video and photography, virtual reality and augmented reality!].
Tips and help
Each platform has its own style so before jumping straight in, take some time to read through the posts and interactions of other users (and perhaps even competitors) to get a sense of what is well received. There are a few golden rules that apply to every platform as follows:
- Be consistent; this applies not just to the regularity of posting, but also to the look and feel of your content, which should be an extension of your website and blog (which is an extension of your office and company ethos).
- Allow the personality of your agency and your brand to shine through, in a professional manner. This is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from local competitors.
Respect the 80/20 rule of posting 80% lifestyle content of interest to your target audience and only 20% promotion and/or property listings.
- Showcase your local area; this shows that you genuinely care for your locality and gives you the opportunity to build trust, credibility and expertise.
- Add value to your audience; the aim should be to educate, inform and entertain, this is a sure-fire way to engage. Do not be afraid to give your opinion on topical issues, however, always keep it courteous.
Help is at hand
In an ideal world, estate agents would find time to work social media into their existing business development and marketing initiatives; however, this is not always possible. Smaller agencies; social media is much less about promoting listed properties to potential buyers, and more about building your estate agency brand to convey a sense of trust, credibility and expertise as this is what attracts potential sellers. Estate agencies that use social media only to sell, are likely not doing a great job online and, more importantly, are missing a big opportunity to win further instructions.
Help is at hand though. It is recommended that where social media activity is to be outsourced, estate agents ought to use a media company familiar with the industry, one that takes the time to get to know your brand, your firm’s target market and your position on industry policies. [Obviously I am biased in favour of the fantastically-hardworking, dynamic and always creative www.PropertyDistrict.ie team!]
Social media is a marketing tool designed to help you run your business effectively. If you find it a burden or too challenging outsourcing help is key. Furthermore, once it is done right, it is a good opportunity to tell more people about your business. To conclude, remember (i) brand first, (ii) content second, (iii) social media to amplify engagement and funnel new business, then, most importantly, (iv) measure.
Best of luck getting social media savvy, be sure to tag ‘Property District’ for help sharing content!