(Photograph: Roland Maier) (photo: Roland Maier)
(Photograph: Roland Maier)
07.07.2013, 12:48

The social "Wall of Fame": networking fad or business necessity?

Real Estate, White Papers & Briefings

FM Magazine invited rising California real estate star, Jay O'Brien, to shed light on how Facebook and Twitter can be used as sales tools.

I recently had the pleasure of attending a seminar that presented surprisingly eye-opening material; albeit when viewed in a way that cannot possibly have been intended by its creators. As you might expect, the great occasion began in a hotel lobby packed with coffee machines and unclaimed name badges - the sheer number of which suggested foresightfulness on the part of the organisers in predicting demand would peak some 20 minutes into the event (as an occupational group, real estate agents have never been renowned for their punctuality).

When proceedings finally got underway, an elderly gentleman who was keen to impart his knowledge to an audience of eager listeners, greeted us energetically. It was surprisingly refreshing. He launched his speech by declaring that he had operated as an estate agent from an Orange County beach location for 38 years and had always avoided Real Estate Owned (REO) accounts.

Despite wondering whether his aversion to REOs (the name given to the class of non-performing asset that is owned by lenders who have reposessed a property but failed to secure a buyer even at auction) might have anything even remotely to do with the fact REO properties are invariably unsellable, I let him continue uninterrupted. And I knew I had made the right decision when the room lit up with vicarious ambition following further tales of Ferraris in driveways and sackfulls of commission payments on tables.

Indeed, the positive mood continued to resonate around the room as our speaker reminded us that success can be achieved only through hard work. "Knock on doors, make more phone calls, always ensure face-to-face contact", he preached; before lamenting society's obsession with computers, smartphones, and inviting any member of the  audience to recount the last time a computer had "bought" a property from them or a smartphone "referred" a client.

Again, I let him continue uninterrupted, safe in the knowledge that the FM Magazine website was to provide me with a global platform for responding to his criticism of technology.

Real estate marketing in the 21st century

Jay O'Brien Twitter Feed
In 2012, approximately 43 per cent of my business came from digital referrals transmitted in binary 1s and 0s, rather than via any of the traditional modes of communication that are implied by the rhetorical questions of our elder.

Whilst it is always important to cater for people who prefer conventional communication channels, in an era when social networkers are evolving rapidly into the next generation of property buyers, there can only be increasing numbers of people who will rely exclusively on the web for information about professional real estate agents (one needs to look no further than popular property search services provided by companies like Yelp, Angie’s List, Gumtree and Craigslist).

Twitter realtor postingsIndeed, today, it is becoming increasingly uncommon for anyone to purchased anything (let alone a property) from door canvassers.

Moreover, if we assume most individuals select estate agents purely on the basis of personal recommendations, where can be more convenient to find these than social networking sites and online property chat boards?

And once real estate professionals accept these arguments, it can only hold true that it is wise to evaluate the various channels which will allow them to create a presence online, instead of continuing to use antiquated methods of communication.

With limited resources and restrictions on their time, today's estate agents must focus on working efficiently. Sole proprietors, in particular, must continuously determine whether their input in time yields the desired results. And common sense  requires that they should compare returns on their investment in time as a result of physically knocking on the doors of prospective clients, against those that are achieved through using social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin to generate new business.

The screenshot shows 82 people had indicated they "liked" a recent post within hours of its first appearing and that 30 people had engaged actively with me (as the poster) by adding their own comments. Additionally, it confirms three Facebook users had even re-broadcast (or "shared") the original post with their own followers and therefore attests to the ease with which social networks can be used to spread commercial messages to wider audiences.

The post also suggests there might be three issues to consider when leveraging social media for business: subtlety, consistency and transparency.

Social media: Getting the balance right

Have you ever considered the impact on an estate agent's credibility of over-using social media platforms? Although the tactic is intended to generate immediate calls to action, it is rarely effective.

Channels such as Facebook have made it easy for us to apply the language of real-world relations to our online  camaraderie. This includes nouns like "friend", "follower" and "connection". It is questionable, however, whether such epithets describe accurately the true nature of the relationship between an estate agent and the client he has recently exchanged social networking account details with. Indeed, it might even be argued their usage encourages professional complacency, masks the absence of proper engagement, and serves as a deterrent to putting in the effort that is required to engage genuinely with clients.

Traditional, transactional-based real estate agency models might even be said to be diametrically opposed to the relationship-based models that modern internet marketing requires.

The National Association of REALTORS® (realtor is the term we use for estate agents in the United States), published an article in May 2013 stating that 72.6 per cent of salespeople who utilised social media in 2012 out-performed those who did not.

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