Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a three-part series highlighting strategies for real estate professionals to manage their social media presence. This segment focuses on real estate brokerage strategies for using social media most effectively.
Part 1: "6 steps to ‘friending’ social media," featured advice from social media experts on how real estate professionals can tap into the business potential of social networking without feeling overwhelmed, and Part 3 will explore how brokerages and experts analyze and measure social media success.
For some real estate professionals considering social media marketing, the task can be bewildering and overwhelming. Real estate brokerages across the country handle the job in different ways: some have a designated employee who handles all social media marketing for agents, some let agents do it all themselves, and others range in between.
The GoodLife Team, a boutique real estate brokerage in Austin, Texas, takes the former approach. The brokerage has 12 agents and 3 full-time staff led by Krisstina Wise, its broker-owner and founder.
Wise oversees the GoodLife Team’s image on social media and most of the day-to-day maintenance of accounts. The brokerage uses Facebook and Twitter primarily, but also LinkedIn and Foursquare, among others.
"Simply as a result of being with the GoodLife Team our agents significantly reduce their sense of overwhelm because we do most of the work for them. As one example, our agents do not have their own Facebook business page. We leverage the GoodLife Team business page as a community page for us all to have a voice," Wise said.
GoodLife Team agents don’t have their own websites, either.
"It is our purpose at the GoodLife Team to create the online presence for our agents so that they do not have to. This significantly reduces their time on social media and allows them to focus their time and energy on their customers; offering the value to take care of their customers, so their customers refer them more business," Wise said.
Wise is not alone. Alexis Eldorrado, managing broker at boutique Chicago real estate firm Eldorrado Chicago Real Estate LLC, has a similar viewpoint about social media management.
"Real estate is a service business. With so much turmoil in these historical times … there is much more to doing business besides social media. Clients need to be thoroughly educated, with intensive in-depth analysis for pricing in terms of buying, selling, or even renting. Agents need to be more hands-on in the field and must be willing to have enough energy and enthusiasm to work with the same client for months on end," she said.
Eldorrado has an employee who handles social media marketing for the brokerage’s three agents. The agents appreciate the "edge" the brokerage’s social media presence gives them without the associated time-consuming "grunt work" on top of their other responsibilities, she said.
The idea that social media is something apart from an agent’s day-to-day responsibilities is not one that everyone adheres to, however.
"A fully-actualized agent understands that social networking isn’t a ‘have to.’ It’s as normal as turning to your colleagues during the day and telling a joke or sharing information," said Brian Copeland, a licensed broker and technology trainer at Village Real Estate in Nashville, Tenn.
"Social media is not the end-all, be-all. It’s just another tool. Let’s stop elevating it to Messiah-esque status."
Copeland teaches the brokerage’s more than 100 agents that social media is akin to a more familiar communication tool: the telephone.
"We don’t put our phones in drawers or turn them off during the day. Social media should be no different. A quick touch every hour or so creates a nice omnipresent brand among your peers, friends and clients. I don’t think about ‘managing’ it. It’s like breathing," Copeland said
"Our biggest complaints are always, ‘I wish there were more of me,’ and ‘I wish I had more time.’ Social media can be the cloning process when used correctly and can give you that extra time you’ve been search for in your day," he added.
To help agents use social media effectively for business purposes, some brokerages have hired social media directors who are in charge of training agents and keeping the brokerage’s social presence current.
In general, social media directors stay up-to-date with new developments in social media, such as new products or changes to privacy controls, in order to educate a brokerage’s agents. Not surprisingly, they also tend to belong to bigger brokerages.
Southern California-based Century 21 Award has more than 1,000 agents and a full-time director of social media, hired last year.
The director trains the agents "on everything from where and what to post to how and why," said Jason Lopez, the brokerage’s director of interactive business development.
"(Social media) can be a time suck, so we train to that. ‘Be consistent, but schedule your activities so you can fit it in with everything else,’ " Lopez said.
Not every agent is eager to use online social networks in their business.
"Our approach is to first get to the agents who ‘get it’ and create an opportunity to have some success, and then share that success with everyone," Lopez said.
"We want them to understand that a relationship that encompasses business can start anywhere — on Facebook or at the grocery store. The trick is to be aware and ready when the time comes," he added.
At Century 21 Award, limiting the brokerage’s legal liability on social media is also a concern, including abiding by all Fair Housing laws, properly identifying agents as Realtors, displaying license numbers, and making sure any sources that agents cite are credible.
Part of the challenge is to make sure "the message our agents are projecting reflects the values of the company. We want them to educate but also to be aware that they need to be professional, ethical, and knowledgeable about the topics and posts they share," Lopez said.
Agents should stick to "local market info and data, community events, ‘war’ stories, success stories, short-sale issues, general education on buying or selling in today’s market," Lopez added.
Copeland advises agents to check every statement they make through a "life filter."
"Does it build community? Does it shed positivity on your brand? Does it attract or repel?" he said.
"I have very candid talks with my staff about professional statements during the work day. For example, one agent’s assistant during business hours wrote on Facebook, ‘I can’t stand being surrounded by all these stupid people.’ What a poor reflection on the agent," Copeland said.
Most social media experts advocate that agents let some of their personal self shine through while social networking — to a certain extent.
"There is an element of removing the veil, showing the ‘real you,’ but be careful if that real you is playing online games, getting drunk or doing other activities that put you in less desirable light,"said Janie Coffey, owner of Papillon Real Estate in Coral Gables, Fla.
"You can let your true self show through — this actually endears you more to your clients — but keeping a mindful eye is very important."
Managing client perception is also important.
"It can work both ways. If they see you playing Farmville when they are waiting for a call back" you might give clients the impression you’re wasting time, said social media consultant Mike Mueller.
"But online networks can also be used to communicate your successes, as in: ‘Handing over the keys to a wonderful first-time buyer in Sunny Acres. Congrats, Susie and Tom!’ " Mueller said.
For agents who want to divide their purely social and business personas, social networks generally offer the ability to set up separate accounts for each — personal and business pages on Facebook, for example.
On personal pages, where most people are connected to friends and co-workers, the vast majority of content should focus on the agent’s life outside of work, experts say.
Kristin Maynard, social media editor for Avery-Hess Realtors in the Washington, D.C., area, advocates an 80-20 split: 80 percent of posts should be about an agent’s personal life and 20 percent should be about business — if only to remind others that the agent works in the industry.
On business pages, she encourages agents to post items people would find useful — articles, decorating tips, homebuying tips, etc. Agents should avoid being perceived as too pushy, no matter what type of page they have, she said.
Another thing to consider is the rules of each social network. Facebook’s terms of service, for example, prohibit posting listings on personal pages — a rule some agents unknowingly violate.
For this reason, agents should only post listings on their business pages in order to avoid the likely small, but still real risk that their content will be deleted, said Derek Overbey, senior director of marketing and social media at Roost.