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