My article for The Negotiator magazine about how Estate Agents can effectively use social media was published last week. I can’t link to it as they don’t post to their web site, so here is the article for anyone who didn’t read it in the magazine.
Facebook and Twitter have superseded email and telephone usage and are increasingly being used as platforms on which to transact business, but how can agents get started?
Social media websites are creating lots of new opportunities for agent, but only those investing in a focussed strategy stand a chance of generating more business and monetising their efforts.
If you haven’t already done so, getting started is easy. You first need to consider how your online marketing strategy will compliment your offline activity so there are no unnecessary areas of overlap. You then need to decide on which platforms you will engage. Facebook may or may not be the right place for you to conduct business, so rather than jumping in with both feet, you need to identify what you will achieve, and more importantly, where you think your target audience is already active. You can develop the most impressive social media campaign, but it will be wasted if your target audience isn’t privy to it. Further, in terms of social networking sites, ask yourself how many members of the public – your prospective clients – really want to be fans or friends of estate agents
A blog is an easy way to start interacting with prospective clients. It simply requires you to identify the most suitable person in your firm to which to attribute the piece and then decide on the subject matter. Moreover, it requires you to identify a unique angle that will help shape the personality that you are trying to create for your business. Which unique selling points best represents you and has the potential to engage prospective clients? It it your unrivalled market knowledge and experience, your cutting edge technology or your service standards? Or perhaps it’s your art collection or your charity work that sets you apart. Once you’ve identified this key strength, you need to decide how to make it the focus of your blogs.
As for social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, you need to create a profile and then link it to your firm’s website, ensuring you advertise it on the homepage, your business cards and the property press.
The next step is to connect with people you already know, which on Twitter means you start following people while on Facebook you simply add peers as friends.
The next and most important step is engagement. To network effectively, both online and offline, you need to show your face, bring out your personality and get involved in conversations. You should then follow people with whom you would like to engage, whether that means local residents or industry peers and service providers. Twitter enables you to search for people by location, so you can begin to engage with people in your catchment area. You can then start viewing their comments and conversations to get a feel for the type of activities in which they are interested and in which you can get involved. Applications such as tweetdeck are useful in helping you monitor conversation trends that you may be able to exploit to generate business. Only by getting involved in conversations can you ever hope to build relationships with your target audience and build their trust in you.
Social networking allows you to boost your brand awareness, which will help increase the chances of you becoming recommended as a trusted firm to a wider network of people. To maximise the chance of this ensure you don’t just broadcast information, but vary your contributions to demonstrate your credibility and show some personality. Business transactions are based on people getting to know you and growing to like you. Transacting business will then become easier once you have achieved this. Don’t forget, social networking does not require a hard sell. The process takes time, but by persevering you will be able to progress through the social media jungle to the point at which you are followed and recommended.
Of course, none of this is new. Abraham Lincoln wrote: “if you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his true friend.” So in order to build your brand online, you need to use traditional methods or relationship building with web technology to facilitate. And there is no end of choice of new platforms from which to choose to gain exposure in your market place and create attention-grabbing content to differentiate yourselves from your competitors.