With social media affecting the way that we talk, think and do business these days, property professionals are looking to include this powerful tool in their marketing strategies. But how do you turn the theory into a reality that will have an impact on your business?
The key to social media is to understand that this way of interacting is fast becoming a part of daily life. Social media is not a novelty or a gimmick – it’s an extension of how and why people interact with each other. When you’re planning your digital strategy this is the most important point of departure. Social media tactics need to be integrated into a broader marketing strategy, rather than treated as a separate element. Get this right and you’re on your way to success.
1. Start at the beginning
Your business must have a quality website in place that is user friendly and offers comprehensive property listings as well as other useful local information (see point 2 below). If you don’t have a good website, you need to start here, long before you start ‘tweeting’ or creating Facebook pages. It’s also crucial to make sure that your website is able to integrate with social media channels.
2. Value-added content matters – a lot
Information is what people are after, but it’s a big mistake to think that they’re just looking for available properties and prices. Property transactions are complicated and if your brand or company becomes known as a reliable source of news, opinions and tips on subjects like taxation and tax incentives, law, property maintenance, trends and so forth, you will take up an important position in consumers’ minds.
The provision of such value-added content is an important tool, one that can really nurture your relationships. And in the property business, relationships can often be the bottom line.
3. Think regional and relevant
Most people only buy or sell a house once every seven to ten years and practical property discussions are of limited interest in the intervening years. When people are ready to talk property, however, you must be the one they turn to, which means you need an active relationship in place. This is why historically estate agents have always been very active community members and in the world of social media the same rules apply.
Take a look at the miamism website, for example. It’s a property website with everything you’d expect, but if you look carefully you’ll also find the owner’s popular Mojito cocktail reviews. By posting these video reviews (which are very popular in Miami, a Mojito-mad city) the agent is taking up an active, high profile position in her community – with obvious long-term relationship and awareness benefits.
But you don’t have to spend the next few months wracking your brain for a Mojito review equivalent. An active presence within community linkage websites (visit www.cultureclub.co.za for a good Johannesburg example, or www.meetup.com for an international example) will do wonders. Consider it the digital equivalent of joining the local golf club.
4. Grow the farm – authentically
As in the real-world property business, the notion of ‘growing the farm’ (maintaining an active community presence) across online and social media channels is very important. Be aware, however, that authenticity is key. You would never go to a dinner party and start dishing out your business card on arrival, and the online hard sell is equally foolish. If you love golf, go golfing online. If you love knitting, go knitting. But be very careful of blatant self-promotion to achieve coverage. Online or offline, when you’re faking it people can tell – and that’s no good for business at all.
5. Target your niche
New social networks and platforms are emerging every day. The art of digital property marketing is making sure that your profile is prominent in channels that are meaningful to you, your business and your region. If you are operating at the high end of the market, a LlinkedIn profile will serve you very well. Conversely, if you are working within a small rural area, it’s a great idea to keep up a strong profile on the property comment boards of your online newspaper.
Developing and maintaining a quality presence within geographically relevant channels is what you should be aiming for, rather than mass coverage across the entire Internet.