- By Carol Tallon, CEO of Property District
[A longer, more in-depth version of this article including topics like Social selling and Sales & Marketing online is available at: https://propertydistrict.ie/estate-agents-guide-to-social-media-2019/ ]
As predicted, social media has changed quite a bit since we published our first guide for estate agents back in 2017. One constant (for now) is that social media is a necessary marketing tool for every real estate business that needs to establish a market presence, whether dealing with sales and/or lettings, residential and/or commercial property. 65% of all internet users in Ireland use/visit social networking sites [source: Statistica.com, January 2020]. Frankly, if your business is not engaging with social media, you are likely missing an easy, affordable and measurable way to engage with your target audience.
Over the years, this guide has increased from 2,500 words to nearly 6,000 – I understand that this is simply too much information to make it actionable for most smaller estate or letting agencies that do not have dedicated PR, marketing and new media resources. So for 2020, we are paring back to the essentials – with an edge. If your firm wants or needs a more comprehensive, bespoke strategy please contact the PropertyDistict.ie team on email@example.com for a consultation.
Firstly, it is important to set and understand the key business development and marketing objectives for the business. These two things should go hand-in-hand, social media merely supports both of these sales and marketing functions. The objectives set will dictate the appropriate social media platforms and how they are used in terms of tone, content and frequency.
For most residential estate and letting agencies, the focus will be on business to consumer, or B2C. For the PRS sector and for commercial, there must be a good business to business, or B2B, focus in order to secure work/properties combined with a polished B2C in order to deliver an effective service.
For B2C in Ireland, Facebook continues to dominate – to paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumours of Facebook’s death have been greatly exaggerated! This is not an opinion, it is a fact based on current user demographics. We will explore this further below.
For B2B, LinkedIn has evolved positively for businesses over the past two years and is now the most important platform. It’s organic reach (impressions) for both profiles and company pages is truly staggering right now, however, it seems reasonable to assume that this will reduce over time – as we saw with Facebook – and advertising will be the only way to reach your entire audience. The lesson here for SMEs is to capitalise on the opportunity before it becomes cost-prohibitive. More on this below.
Defining Your Objective
It is important to understand why your firm is engaging with social media and, realistically, what social media can do. Specifically, is your immediate priority to increase and/or maintain brand awareness locally or do you have a stock of homes you need to sell and/or rent out quickly?
Are you looking to strengthen your residential sales pipeline by educating and building trust with local homeowners, or do you need to demonstrate to property developers that you have the capacity to act as sole selling agent on the biggest new development of the decade?
These are all likely objectives of the agency, however, you cannot hit so many targets at once and throwing proverbial mud against the wall in the hopes that some will stick is a sure-fire way to lose time, money and possibly even reputation online.
One word: Prioritise.
Content truly is king – a cliche is a cliche for good reason. Social media without good content is unlikely to yield good results or engagement levels, which can be demoralising for any team member trying to run social media accounts. In fact, many of the property businesses that Property District works with came to us after a few months of tweeting into the ether or having wasted money on poorly-targeted Facebook advertising. We are all too busy to spend time on something that fails to make a positive impact on the business.
Content needs to be tailored to the right audience or target audience and to the right platform. While there is an element of trial and error here, based on social media platforms’ user demographic data and on homebuyer data (including mortgage applicants/holders), we can determine who your target audience likely is and where they are spending time online.
What is Content?
Content can be broadly categorised as follows:
- Written articles or posts and these can be long form (1,500 words+) or short form (anything from a tweet containing 140 characters to a news item or blog post of approximately 50/600 hundred words).
- Images, graphics or the increasingly popular infographic – which is a single,well-designed image containing a series of connected information.
- Video: This ranges from expensive corporate-style scripted and professionally produced videos, Instagram stories, right through to live streaming property viewings. For most estate agents, a good start is to turn property listing photographs into a dynamic video (30-90 seconds in total) and upload that directly as a ‘native’ video directly onto the individual social media platforms (rather than linking from YouTube). Always include a link to the full property listing on YOUR website, not a portal, to increase traffic to your agency website. Please note that consumers of video today are willing to sacrifice production quality for the immediacy of live streaming, substance has overtaken form and, as content creators, we love that! 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.]
- Audio: This might include podcasts, radio interviews, recorded testimonials from happy clients or perhaps the audio of a presentation made at a local networking event or mortgage information evening.
Finally, to ease the pressure of content creation, let me assure you that you do not have to create every article, video etc yourself, curation is your friend. I generally follow the 80/20 rule here to start with – 20% of content shared should be unique, created by your agency, and then 80% is a mix of relevant Irish and international industry news, stories or features that are likely to be of interest to your audience/community. Be mindful of your industry, sector and brand’s keywords when creating all content. Over time, as your agency builds a bank of useful content, this content can be repeated quarterly and the 80/20 ratio slips back to 60/40 – I never recommend exceeding 50/50*.
*Pro tip to get around the 50/50 rule is to talk about other brands and to have other brands talk about you – give testimonials to suppliers of your estate agency and showcase project partners, for example, talk about the local developers and contractors delivering new homes and property in your local area.
In 2020, based on 2019 reported figures, Irish adults favour the following social media platforms (in order): Facebook 75%, Instagram 40%, Twitter 30% and to a much lesser extent, Snapchat, Pinterest and TikTok (the latter is growing at an unprecedented rate amongst teenagers so we will keep an eye on this on – perhaps set up a business profile for future use). For business to business social media engagement, LinkedIn is now the fastest growing platform.
[source: Mintel Trends, Social Media Networking in Ireland 2019]
Despite its obviously decreasing popularity among young people, Facebook is still the undisputed leader of social media platforms with an average of 75% of adults in Ireland logging on regularly. For residential estate agents, no other social media platform came close to matching the potential reach of Facebook across a wide range of demographics. Unfortunately, organic or unpaid reach has diminished significantly in recent years so most businesses will need to pay to promote their business pages and pay to promote particular posts to a target audience. Fortunately, the targeting is amazing so
Twitter is a fast source of property news, so it is a great way to keep informed, and to get some industry reaction to the 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 are 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.
Linkedin Company Page
As mentioned above, LinkedIn has transformed over the past few years and its Company Page feature is now the single more important and impactful social media platform for business to business communications. By ‘communications’, we are referring to general brand building (a LinkedIn Company Page with 2,500 followers can hit impressions of 85,000 per month, which is huge), lead generation, relationship nurturing, sales, after sales and, most powerfully, sharing thought leadership. The organic or unpaid reach for both profiles and company pages is truly staggering right now, however, it seems reasonable to assume that this will reduce over time – as we saw with Facebook – and advertising will be the only way to reach your entire audience. The lesson here for SMEs is to capitalise on the opportunity before it becomes cost-prohibitive.
As advisors in the planning, construction and property industries, Snapchat is still something that our teenagers use rather than our prospective clients and property consumers in general, but it would be 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.
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 always think 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.
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.
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.
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: Estate 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 in the 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
Posting to your Facebook business page in 2020 no longer means reaching the majority of your followers. Business page posts are notorious for low reach, with posts routinely reaching an average of 5 percent or less of a page’s total like count. Part of this design is by design, to encourage you to cough up the bucks and advertise. But as Facebook continues to grow, the sheer amount of material in a user’s feed also becomes a factor; each Facebook user can like up to 5,000 pages, be in up to 6,000 groups and have up to 5,000 friends. The feed can only hold so much, and Facebook realizes people spend more time on the platform when their feed is filled with updates from their personal communities, so it’s likely that groups and personal-profile updates are getting the lion’s share of visibility.
*As people are in Covid-19 lockdown, Facebook Page advertising is ranging from €0.06 to €0.14 per new page follower right now, which is a fraction of the normal Irish cost.
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.
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 until you have fully gauged the tone and priorities of your audience.
- 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, thought leadership is the best type of brand awareness, 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. A key message to smaller agencies is that 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, get help. When it is done right, social media marketing is a great way to tell more people about your business.
So, in conclusion, you just need to remember (i) brand first, (ii) content second, (iii) social media to amplify engagement and funnel new business, then (iv) measure.
Finally, on a related note, make it a 2020 goal to understand, resource and leverage search engine optimisation, or SEO – it will turbo charge your keyword research, content, social media reach and, ultimately, traffic to your website. And it will certainly make your communications strategy far more productive. For any assistance with your social media plans, contact www.PropertyDistrict.ie.
Best of luck getting social media savvy, be sure to tag ‘Property District’ for help sharing content online!
[A longer, more in-depth version of this article including topics like Social selling and Sales & Marketing online is available at: https://propertydistrict.ie/estate-agents-guide-to-social-media-2019/ ]