We are living in the era of the social network -absolutely no one disputes that- but not everyone knows how to properly use their social network to grow their following and promote their business. This is especially tricky for real estate agents, who struggle to find an edge that is sexy, engaging, or unique.
The good news is, it is actually possible to establish a solid online fan base as an agent (no, really!), but the strategy I’m going to suggest might seem a bit counterintuitive at first glance. So, here we go: real estate agents need to shift the “lens” of their social presence away from themselves and their properties and toward their city and the culture and lifestyle it offers.
Here are the four fundamentals my agency uses to build successful social media followings for our real estate agent clients:
#1 Stop Focusing on Yourself and Your Listings
This is a scary thought, I know. As a real estate agent, your personal identity is your brand, and your listings are your product. I realize I sound a bit daft when I tell you to stop focusing on the bread and butter of your business, but I swear the advice is sound! Let’s think about it from a market share and audience perspective.
If you look at your local population, meaning the people who currently live in your city or intend to move there, you have a relatively large but fixed group of people. But, your local population isn’t the same as your ideal audience, which is actually much smaller. These are the people who are in your area (or planning to relocate there), who are actively interested in buying or selling a home in, oh, the next six months, who can afford to do so, and don’t already have a real estate agent they are committed to (like a close friend or family member). So when you look at your ideal local audience, it’s suddenly pretty small compared to your local population!
What this means is that at any given time, your pool of potential active leads is much smaller than the number of local people that you could be accessing on social media, BUT you still want to attract as many followers from your local market as you can, regardless of whether they are ready to buy/sell in the next six months, or if they can currently afford it.
Why would I want to attract these types of followers? Because these are metrics that change over time, and you’re in it for the long haul, right? But if your social media accounts are only focused on you (the brand) and your listings (the product), people who aren’t ready or can’t afford to buy or sell soon have absolutely ZERO interest in following your page. So instead of having a potential social media pool at the top of the funnel, you’ve cut it down so you’re only talk to people at the bottom.
And if you’re thinking, don’t I want to focus on the people at the bottom of the funnel, who are closest to buying? The answer is yes...and no. Marketing efforts are all about working your potential leads down through the buying (or “intent”) funnel, and different types of marketing are meant to speak to different stages of intent. As a general rule, you want to spend the most marketing dollars at the bottom of the funnel, where the leads have the best odds of converting into a favorable ROI. The flip side of that coin then is that your free marketing platforms, like social media, should focus on brand awareness, hitting as many people as possible, regardless of intent.
In short, social media is the wrong place to speak to a limited audience. You have access to huge volumes of people in your local market on social media - speak to them all here, then employ complementary paid marketing strategies designed to speak to a more “qualified” audience closer to the bottom of the funnel.
#2 Define a Niche in Your Local Market
I’m gonna stress this one right from the start - the niche you define should NOT be directly related to real estate! It should, however, be directly related to your market, as in, the city you live and sell in. A good way to think about what your niche could be is to think about the neighborhood highlights you show clients. Because in addition to buying a home, people are buying a neighborhood and an experience, and therefore you are selling not just a home, but also a neighborhood and an experience. See how that works? This is what your social media should focus on.
Let’s look at a specific example. Scottsdale, Arizona is known for a few things: golf, sunshine, spring training, and a vibrant bar scene. This is Scottsdale’s culture and the experience that people expect when they live there, and depending on which of those things they are most interested in, will frequently determine which neighborhoods they gravitate towards within the city.
Knowing this, real estate agents who want to accumulate a large following of people interested in the Scottsdale lifestyle and experience should focus on these things. A good niche for a Scottsdale real estate agent would be to focus on the active lifestyle of the area, focusing on golf, hiking, and swimming, for example. Let’s talk about how to determine your niche.
I’m a huge advocate of putting pen to paper and writing some ideas out, and this is a perfect time to do so. Ask yourself questions like these:
You get the idea! Use your answers to come up with something that people would be interested in seeing pictures and articles about, and make that your niche on social media.
#3 Showcase What Your City Has to Offer
Once you’ve determined your niche, it becomes easier to plan out your social media posts, because you have a subject matter that is both more focused than before, but also with a wider breadth of content options. If you’ve ever watched Sex and the City or not (I never have - no really, I swear!), you know that the show is notorious for featuring a “fifth character” outside of the four main women - New York City itself. You want to take this approach to your city on your social media. Personify your city, making it a character that people enjoy following in all its splendor and quirks!
Some easy ways to do that are to feature restaurants, bars, specific neighborhoods, festivals, sporting events, colleges, great employers, y más y más y más….
Take advantage of trending hashtags for different days of the week, as they pertain to your city. Doing a #FridayFeature of a local date spot every week is a great way to show off your nightlife. Featuring a different local taco joint for #TacoTuesday is a delicious way to highlight the culinary scene in your area (especially in the Southwest where tacos are life, #tacosarelife). Promote local events like music, beer, and art festivals, even though they have nothing to do with your business. You’re selling how amazing it is to live in [_____your city here____], and people will follow that message.
The goal is to get people on board, following you so they learn more about what there is to do in their city (or their future city). This way, when you do want to drop the occasional listing promotion piece or open house event, you have a large and engaged audience to share it with, free of charge.
#4 Use a Variety of Media to Engage Your Audience
The best advice I can give on how to sell your city and your niche is to be multidimensional. And the easiest way to be multidimensional is to be multimedia across multiple platforms. I hope you picked up on the theme of that sentence, which was unambiguously “multi.” Let’s look at why.
First, people are different. Some people prefer Facebook, while others prefer Myspace - just kidding! But seriously, while many people have both Facebook and Instagram, many also prefer one over the other and devote greater screentime to just one. And beyond that, different media styles speak more profoundly to different people.
In general, when all other things are equal, video receives better engagement than a photo alone, and ads offering downloadable content (like a guide or ebook) do better than ads with a just a photo. Photos do significantly better than posts or ads that are text only, and text only posts aren’t even possible on sites like Instagram and Pinterest. On the other hand, text posts are the bread and butter of platforms like Twitter and Reddit. The point I’m making is, your content needs to speak to a wide variety of people across multiple platforms, and needs to be appropriate for each platform in order to cast the widest net online.
In summary, shift the focus from self promotion to lifestyle promotion, and showcase your city like the sexy lady she is. Gain followers by highlighting local hotspots, events, and cultural attractions, then sprinkle listings, open houses, and client testimonials throughout, sparingly. And if you don’t have the time or resources to devote to properly executing this plan, consider a content marketing firm that can take it off your plate.
Kelsey is the owner of KMac Consulting and specializes in content marketing for real estate agents. Learn more about social media, video content and ads, and written content offerings like articles, blogs, and ebooks at getkmaccontent.com
Facebook ads are an important part of a well-rounded marketing campaign for countless of businesses, and with good reason. Currently, there are more than 2 billion unique monthly users on Facebook, and over 60 million business active on the site. SproutSocial reports that one third of Facebook users engage with businesses and brands regularly, and over 5 million comments are left on business pages every year. If these numbers seem astronomical, it’s because they are! With so many people using the site, the potential for businesses to encounter and engage and interact with past, current, and future clients is tremendous.
But when small business owners (and even marketing noobs!) attempt to engage these users with paid ad campaigns, they tend to miss the mark. In fact, a huge number of business owners say they don’t feel that their Facebook ads have been effective - as many as 62% of them, according to a study done by the DIY website company Weebly. And for real estate agents and mortgage brokers, there are even more obstacles and regulations that come into play, leaving many people feeling like Facebook ads aren’t even worth it - which is a shame, because they really are worth it. Don’t let these stats or your own past experiences discourage you from tapping into the world’s largest network. Most Facebook ad #fails boil down to a few common, easy-to-avoid mistakes that can absolutely murder a campaign’s effectiveness.
Here are our top 5 surprisingly easy ways real estate agents (and just about everyone else, too) can improve their facebook ad performance and reduce their cost per lead:
#1 Just Say "No" (To Boosted Posts)
This is the number one mistake I see people make, and I’ll cop to having made it myself a time or two when I was first starting out. The reason this is one of the most common mistakes is because it’s the action that Facebook tells you to take. You know what I mean - you get a notification that a post is performing well, and if you boost it for $30 you can reach 3,700 people (for example). $20 or $30 doesn’t feel like much money, and it’s seems like you could reach a lot of people, so why not, right?
There are a few good reasons why not, as it were. First, a post that is performing well might not be because your content and message was on point, it might just be because your friends and family really support your business endeavors, which is great, but not representative of if a post will play well as an ad. Second, users can’t engage with boosted posts outside of likes, comments, and shares. This means the best case scenario on this ad is that you gain followers and get more likes. For real estate agents, the goal at the end of the day is leads, and likes are MUCH harder to convert to contracts than qualified leads are. And if you're hoping that people will comment their email and phone number on your boosted post... they won't.
I don’t want to say there is never a place for boosted posts, because there certainly is. As a part of a well coordinated and long term advertising strategy, boosted posts can play an important part in brand awareness. Typically this involves boosting brand-related posts for a few weeks or months at a high dollar spend with the only goal being to gain likes and followers, which can then be "nurtured" with lead generating posts and ads in the hopes of converting them to leads down the road. This is an effective long term strategy for businesses with a high advertising budget, typically spending more than $1,000 a month in Facebook ad campaigns. If you're interested in running strategic ad campaigns over a series of months, click here to learn more about your options.
#2 Have a Plan for Each Campaign
Ugly graphics and poorly written, irrelevant, or meandering ad copy are the next biggest culprits of ad spend waste. What happens a lot of the time is that these things end up being an afterthought for busy real estate agents. They want to promote an open house or a specific property, and then realize as they’re putting the ad together that they need an image and some text for the post, so they slap together a few property photos and throw a few house emojis into a hastily written paragraph before clicking “launch” and running out the door. Sound familiar?
Thinking about ad copy and graphics as an afterthought is a HUGE mistake. When advertising a specific property or event, the ad needs to be considered as a part of a cohesive plan laid out early on. This might mean that you need to rework your property marketing strategy to include Facebook advertising opportunities right from the start (whether you end up needing them or not). This might seem tedious a first, but it will be worth the effort in the long run.
Photos, videos, and gifs should be clean, professional, eye catching, and relevant to what you’re advertising. Low quality photos will get low quality returns on your ad spend, every single time. Ad copy, or the text that is included in your ad, should be clear, concise, and error free. If your copy text is long, make sure that critical information is seen “above the fold,” or in digital terms, before the “read more” button. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need to capture a reader’s interest in the first two lines.
Canva is a free tool that lets you make professional-quality images and graphics, and is surprisingly easy to use from a computer or cellphone with the app. Grammarly is a free proofreading tool that double checks all your online writing. Use Grammarly to avoid living with the shame of the "you're*" comment on your ad. If you’re designing your own ads, I strongly recommend both.
#3 Employ Tit-for-Tat Psychology
Real estate agents and mortgage brokers have a significant challenge when running Facebook ads - the fact that they offer a highly regulated service, rather than a product. This means that you can’t entice users to engage with your ad by offering a discount coupon, a free item, or any other tangible. What you can offer them is information, advice, or useful and engaging content.
Content marketing is how real estate agents and mortgage brokers engage in “tit-for-tat” psychology. Remember when I said no one was going to comment their contact information on your boosted post? They won't - but they will provide it in order to download or access an article or ebook about a topic they have a vested interest in. Some examples of this content are an eBook on “The Biggest Mistakes 1st Time Homebuyers Make and How to Avoid Them” or an article on downpayment assistance programs in their area.
An added benefit? When this user submits their lead information, not only can you contact them directly, but you also understand their intent. If they downloaded a guide for first time homebuyers, odds are pretty good they’re thinking about buying their first home. Likewise if they’re looking at content about investment properties, downsizing an aging parent, or watching a video about relocating from a specific city to another city, you can bet they are actively interested in these topics. This gives you a solid conversation starter when reaching out, making it easier to convert leads into appointments. In our experience, ads that include content marketing have significantly lower costs per lead than non-content marketing ads, so you'll not only have better odds of conversion, you'll pay less for each lead on average.
#4 Get Your Ads in Front of the Right People
Building a relevant Audience for your ad campaign is every bit as important as the ad content and copy. While it may be tempting to use one audience for every campaign, no matter what, there will be times where that method simply doesn’t make sense. So when do you use your generic audience, and when should you build a custom one?
Brand awareness campaigns are a great time to hit a wide audience that varies little or not at all from ad to ad and campaign to campaign. When running ads using content as a lead magnet, you’ll want to build a custom audience that makes sense for the specific topic of that piece of content. Focus on age, interests, and location as applicable. For example, if you’re running ads that offer a free “Ultimate Checklist for Downsizers,” you’ll want to display these ads to people of “downsizing” age, living in the area you work in, who are interested in real estate. You might also ad interests for things like “grandparents” or “retirement activities.”
On the other hand, if you're looking to attract clients who are relocating from a specific area, you need to build an audience that targets people living in that area (not the area you work in), who have shown an interest in real estate or moving. Building custom audiences requires practice and effort, but promoting your content to the right people is a tremendous factor in your ad's success, and is well worth the time and effort.
#5 Pay Attention to Facebook's Ad Policies
If you’ve ever tried to run a Facebook ad as a real estate agent or mortgage broker, you’ve probably had an ad be “disapproved” at some point in the past. The regulations in these industries are notoriously fickle, and ad copy, photos, and audience inclusions/exclusions can contribute to ad rejections. The Personal Attributes prohibition is by far the most frequently violated, mostly because it’s so easy to accidentally invoke one of the restricted groups or identities. Pay special attention to Facebook’s Advertising Policies when building your ad graphics and copy and when building your audience to save yourself time and heartache down the road.
Add Content Marketing to Your Ad Campaigns
Don't have the time, energy, or technical knowhow to build your own content and ad campaigns? We get it! That's why we offer content marketing programs for real estate agents and mortgage brokers that address the specific issues and obstacles in your industry to engage the right people, at the right price.
KMac was built on the that great online engagement is built on the back of great content, and great content shouldn't be so hard to find. We believe that selling the same generic content to hundreds of business owners across the country not only does a disservice to those businesses, but it also sullies the name of quality content marketing. That's why we create custom content for every client, every time. You're not "one of a hundred" and your content shouldn't be either.
Check out a few samples of our videos, blogs, and eBooks to learn more about what we do. If you’d like to get started with content marketing, or just have a few more questions, please feel free to contact us.