As predicted, since our first guide for estate agents back in 2017, social media platforms and usage have continued to evolve. For the foreseeable future, social media remains vital to real estate businesses establishing a market presence. Whether dealing with sales, lettings, residential or commercial properties, social media plays a key role. Over the course of 2020, with national lockdowns from the Covid-19 pandemic keeping people indoors, Ireland saw an extra 242,000 people using the internet, with 76.4 percent of the nation now claiming to use social media sites [source: Dataportal.com, January 2021]. Frankly, with such enormous reach, if your business is not engaging with social media, you are missing an easy, affordable, and measurable way to interact 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. Therefore in 2021, we have pared back the guide to its essentials.
If your firm wants or needs a more comprehensive, bespoke strategy, please contact the PropertyDistict.ie team on firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation.
Firstly, it’s important to establish key business development and marketing objectives. These two things should go hand-in-hand, with social media supporting both sales and marketing functions. The objectives of a business dictate which social media platforms you should use 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 (B2C). For the PRS and commercial sector, there should be a focus on business-to-business (B2B) engagement in order to secure continued work combined with a polished B2C to deliver 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, something we will explore further on.
For B2B, LinkedIn has evolved positively for businesses over the past two years and is now the most important platform. Its organic reach and quantity of impressions – for both profiles and company pages – are truly staggering. However, it seems reasonable to assume that this will reduce over time (as we saw with Facebook), and advertising will remain the most viable 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
Defining your objectives is simply understanding why your firm is engaging with social media and, realistically, what social media can do. Specifically, is your immediate priority increasing or maintaining local brand awareness, or do you have a stock of homes you need to sell 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 the 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 a good reason. Social media without good content is unlikely to yield good results or engagement levels. In turn, this can be demoralising for team members trying to run social media accounts. In fact, many of the businesses that Property District works with came to us after months of tweeting into the ether or wasting money on poorly-targeted Facebook advertising. We are all too busy to spend time on something that fails to make a positive business impact.
Good content is tailored directly for a target audience and is published on the appropriate platform. While this does involve an element of trial and error, demographic data from social media platforms and homebuyer information (including mortgage applicants or holders) can be used to determine a likely target audience and where they are spending their time online.
What is Content?
While content comes in all manner of forms nowadays, it can be broadly categorised as follows:
- Written articles or posts. 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, including graphics, and the increasingly popular infographic, a single, well-designed image containing easy-to-digest information.
- Video: This ranges from expensive, professionally produced, corporate-style scripted videos to simple 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 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 video consumers today are quite willing to sacrifice production values for the immediacy of live streaming. In this sense, 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 videos 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, rest assured that you do not have to create every article, video, or graphic yourself; curation is your friend.
In general, it’s best to start with the 80/20 rule when it comes to online content. This is where 80% of your content is curated content that is likely to interest your online audience. The other 20% is unique content created by your business.
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 can slip back to 60/40. However, I never recommend exceeding 50/50*.
*Pro-tip: to get around the 50/50 rule, talk about other brands and have other brands talk about you. To achieve this, you can showcase project partners and give testimonials to suppliers of your estate agency. For example, talk about the local developers and contractors delivering new homes and property in your local area.
As of 2021, based on 2020 reported figures, Irish adults favour the following social media platforms in order of market penetration:
- Facebook 60%
- Instagram 60%
- Twitter 45%
Each of these saw a 3-5% increase in Irish user accounts in 2020, cementing their relevance to social media marketing for the foreseeable future.
Interestingly, since the last report, the amount of Irish Tiktok users has skyrocketed, with just under 31% of Irish internet users now owning an account; the platform no longer simply targets younger demographics. Following these are Snapchat and Pinterest with smaller engagement with the Irish audience, with the latter seeing a decrease in Irish user interest.
For B2B social media engagement, LinkedIn is still king, with 35% of Irish citizens having accounts.
[source Ipsos MRBI, 2020]
Despite its decreasing popularity among young people, Facebook is still the undisputed leader of social media platforms, with an average of 75-80% of adults in Ireland logging on regularly. With this number expected to still rise over the next few years, 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 target audiences with specific posts. Fortunately, the targeting is accurate and effective.
Twitter is a fast source of property news, so it is a great way to keep informed and get some industry reaction to the latest news and developments. It is also the single best way to engage with members of the media and market commentators directly. Using the platform in this way allows you to give timely market insights and reactions to industry policy changes. If you are looking to get noticed by media professionals or news outlets, Twitter 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 massive advantage in finding relevant content. Use 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 an excellent way to share your daily routine with followers and share some behind-the-scenes office work too!
LinkedIn is the go-to platform for professionals, so your entire team is advised to create an account demonstrating professionalism and expertise. LinkedIn has company pages that, once established, are great for building a business brand. The best way to build a company page is to post content to it and then share it from there. 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, encouraging them to share a bit about their daily working lives online too. This method of engagement creates a community within your business and shows 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 most impactful social media platform for B2B communications, affording many opportunities for brand building. A LinkedIn Company Page with 2,500 followers, for example, can generate upwards of 85,000 impressions per month. As well as this, company pages generate leads, nurture relationships, produce sales, help with after-sales, and, importantly, allow the sharing of thought leadership. The organic, unpaid reach of both profiles and company pages is truly staggering. However, like Facebook, it seems reasonable to assume that this will reduce over time, 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 a platform primarily for teenagers rather than our prospective clients and property consumers in general. It would be naive, however, to think this will not change in the future. So, while Snapchat may not be of much relevance at the moment, as the younger demographic grows older, it’s likely that property businesses will need to embrace it. Get yourself used to the whole Snapchat scene by sharing behind-the-scenes videos or 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 can be used as a way for potential buyers to see a property before viewing it in person. 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.
TikTok’s popularity has rocketed over the last couple of years with no end to the platform’s growth in sight. The platform’s primary use is as a way to share short videos, often with popular music over the top aimed at a younger demographic. TikTok is currently still largely underused by the real estate industry, making it an easy way to tap into a new and upcoming demographic that will be buying soon enough. TikTok also allows users to connect their Instagram page which can be accessed via your profile page’s “play” button. This allows you to direct traffic between your platforms, increasing brand awareness. Due to the casual nature of the platform, behind-the-scenes content will perform best. As well as this, try chopping up a video of property highlights with a trending song over the top.
Clubhouse is a brand new type of social network based on voice. The platform is essentially talk radio that anyone can get involved in, potentially with thousands of listeners. People are free to jump in and out of rooms as they wish, each full of people talking, exploring different conversations. When you first enter a room, you are just listening. There is already a real estate presence on Clubhouse with dozens of clubs on the app, some with thousands of members. The platform has those already engaged in conversation give permission to others to speak, meaning when it’s your turn you have a tonne of eager listeners taking in your every word. Alternatively, you can create your own room – a real estate Q&A room, for example – and build a following through sound advice. Though it’s still early days for Clubhouse, getting in early is always advised.
Similar to Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces is a place where people can come together to have live conversations. The main advantage Spaces has is that it is fully integrated into your Twitter account, meaning you can build on your pre-existing follower base. Whereas Clubhouse is more focussed on “clubs”, Spaces is a lot more open allowing people to talk freely. The platform is therefore useful as a way to engage with your existing followership and drop in on relevant conversations with your own experiences and advice.
CHANGING CONSUMER TRENDS
The ‘on demand’ expectations of the current generation is undoubtedly 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, differences in media usage are becoming stark. Defined as those born after 1998, Gen Z millennials spend a lot of their time online. In fact, a recent study found they spend 74% of their free time online. Capturing the attention of this audience can be easy with the right social media content, tone, and delivery. A lifetime of accessing information quickly and efficiently means you don’t have long to capture Gen Z’s attention. 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 expectations people now have. The property consumers you will be dealing with now and in the future want it all now, and they don’t consider waiting as 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, viewing and bidding at times that suit them, there is a need for estate agents to deliver relevant services. Best practice dictates that contemporary agents offer:
- 360 videos
- Virtual viewings
- Online bidding facilities
- Online document signing facility
- CRM logins for clients
Property consumers today value their time above all else and simply do not tolerate wasting it. The covid-19 restrictions have accelerated the adoption of a whole range of proptech and the industry must be encouraged to maintain this progress and not slid back into analog habits!
While at Property District we advise agents to prioritise a frictionless user experience, it is essential to see how these services boost business development also. Homeowners and prospective vendors love to hear how an agency can offer a range of on and off-line viewing options. Furthermore, this focus on consumer care needs to be well established across your social media strategy. In showing an understanding of people’s issues today, you can build a 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 proceeding with your social media strategy, have a long, hard think about what you are trying to say and to whom. While this is not easy, successful social media engagement depends on it. After establishing what you want to say and to whom, it’s time to decide what platforms are helpful to your business. While this may seem a matter of opinion, it is, instead, a matter of analytics. To be precise, you simply need to identify your target audience and follow them to their preferred platform.
With social media platform(s) identified, it’s important to roll out your social media strategy through a manageable system. Scheduling tools, such as Hootsuite and Buffer, allow you to queue up content ahead of time so that it does not become a time-sink. 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 undertaken effectively.
CONNECT THE BRAND
A key factor in a successful social media strategy is to concentrate on your brand first. In much the same way your website is an extension of your office and display window, your social media presence is an extension of your website. These should be considered opportunities for your business to control its own narrative, showing the world what sets you apart from the competition.
It’s vital for agents to maintain a consistent brand in terms of look, tone, and content “feel.” 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 and Instagram for you to measure your social media performance. While the use of these tools is, indeed, time-consuming, the insights they provide are invaluable. And with Twitter allowing users to see Tweets’ engagement activity and views, almost all major platforms now provide the necessary analytics to understand demographic engagement. At the very least, you’ll know how many people clicked on a link or took a look at your profile.
Before we start creating your social media plan, there’s one thing we need to cover first: Estate Agency Goals and Aspirations.
Such goals allow you to measure achievements and understand the need to invest in social media in the future. By tracking Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), your real estate company knows what it’s working towards on social media. Whether you’re using the platforms to:
- Increase website traffic
- Get more followers
- Improve engagement rates
- Generate more contact form submissions
- Produce more property enquiries or sales
Investment in SEO (search engine optimisation) and a great Google AdWord strategy is still critical, however, for the purpose of this article, we will focus on social media advertising only
Unfortunately, in 2021, simply posting to your Facebook business page no longer means you’re reaching the majority of your followers. Business page posts are notorious for having low audience reach, with posts routinely reaching an average of 5% or less of a page’s total “like” count. Part of this is by design, encouraging businesses to cough up the bucks and advertise with the platform. But as Facebook continues to grow, the sheer amount of material in a user’s feed also becomes a factor.
A typical Facebook user can “like” up to 5,000 pages, be in up to 6,000 groups and have up to 5,000 friends. With a person’s feed only able to show so much and Facebook realizing people prefer updates from their personal communities, groups and personal-profile updates are likely getting the lion’s share of visibility.
It’s impossible to become an expert across all platforms simultaneously. Instead, the best approach is to secure your business name handle 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 from a profile), Twitter, LinkedIn company page, Instagram, and possibly Pinterest, TikTok, and Snapchat. Setting these up can take considerable time but is necessary for a successful social media strategy. Overhauling existing pages involves asking some tough questions. 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 used effectively.
Don’t forget that nearly all online activity could be undertaken on social media in just a few years. 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 of other users and competitors to get a sense of what is well received. To this end, 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, in turn, 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 20% business promotion and property listings. Continue this until you have fully gauged the tone and priorities of your audience.
Showcase your local area; this shows that you genuinely care for your immediate community and allows you to build trust, credibility, and expertise.
Add value to your audience; a sure-fire way to engage with an audience is to educate, inform and entertain. 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 business.
Help is at hand, though. It is recommended that when outsourcing social media engagement, estate agents ought to use a media company familiar with the industry. That is, 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 extremely hardworking, dynamic, and always creative www.PropertyDistrict.ie team who not only understand the property industry but are experts in using social media to enhance a brand!
Social media is a marketing tool designed to help you run your business effectively. If you find it a burden or too challenging, professional advice is invaluable. 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
Social media to amplify engagement and funnel new business
Finally, on a related note, an essential part of marketing in 2021 is to resource and leverage search engine optimisation, or SEO. By practicing effective SEO techniques through methods, such as keyword research, your content, social media reach, and website traffic will become turbocharged, making your communications strategy far more productive.
For any assistance with your social media plans, contact www.PropertyDistrict.ie.