LAS VEGAS — “In the old days, it used to be that we were the controllers of the interrupt,” said Matthew Ferrara on stage in a session at One21, Century 21’s conference.

  • "The ultimate strategy is not to go viral but to become so important to someone, that they look forward to seeing your next post," Matthew Ferrara said.
  • Posting nothing but news items and listings is usually a mistake.
  • You can do this by "opening the kimono" to give your audience an idea of what's happening in your own life.
  • Inspirational posts are more likely to be shared; use your own quotes for extra marketing power.
  • Listen your way into a sale by paying attention to what's happening in your sphere and reaching out at appropriate times (retirement and so on).

LAS VEGAS — “In the old days, it used to be that we were the controllers of the interrupt,” said Matthew Ferrara on stage in a session at One21, Century 21’s conference.

“We could make a sign, a TV ad, a radio ad, even a postcard in the mailbox, and we could interrupt their brains.”

Matthew Ferrara

Matthew Ferrara

Oh, how things have changed. How does a real estate agent build relationships in what Ferrara calls a “selfie-centered social media world”?

In summary: Take it back to the grassroots, personal connections.

“People are going to be much more absorbed in themselves,” he noted — including agents.

“One of the most important things I’d like to encourage you to do is to try to forget the urge to go viral,” said Ferrara.

“I’m a bit of a contrarian in this space, but some people think they need to have a smashing traffic flow through their Facebook. I actually don’t believe that’s effective or good for your brand.

“The ultimate strategy is not to go viral but to become so important to someone, that they look forward to seeing your next post.”

How do buyers and sellers find their agents — and what’s changed?

While Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and umpteen technology platforms create an internet whirlwind, and experts the world over divulge the magic bullet lead funnel, consider turning your focus the relationships you’ve formed in real life as a fresh starting point.

“This is where you’re going to find your business,” said Ferrara, pointing to data from the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR’s) Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers that indicated most clients find their real estate agent through a referral — a friend, another agent or a relative — or use the same agent that they used in their last transaction. He noted that how clients find agents hasn’t changed substantially since NAR began collecting this data.

“No matter what we invent, it’s still your sphere of influence that drives your business,” noted Ferrara.

However, one thing about buyers and sellers has changed since 2001: When asked, homeowners indicate that they plan to stay in their homes longer than they used to.

“All the way through 2008, people told us they planned to stay in their homes for six years,” noted Ferrara. “So our strategy was, sell them in 4th grade and move them in 10th grade. We had these rapid life cycles that would allow us to stretch the relationship management out over a few years instead of a decade.”

Add four years to that six and you’ve got the new estimate.

“The vast majority of people surveyed last year, and the year before and the year before, say they plan to stay in their homes for about 10 years,” Ferrara noted. “Even if that 10 is off by 20 percent, that’s eight years and not six.”

So what does that mean for your marketing?

“We can’t just keep sending them interest rate information for 10 years. And we certainly can’t send them 10 years of telling them that now is the best time to buy,” he said.

Protect your sphere

Moreover, the “friendships” and followers we make online are infinitely fleeting and fragile. Keep that in mind when you’re interacting on the web and making selections about what to post.

Also, think about what you sacrifice when you make a rash decision to remove someone from your internet social circle.

“As quickly as we make digital friends, we mute them, or we unfollow them, or we unfriend them as well,” noted Ferrara.

He asked if anyone in the room had unfriended someone on Facebook recently.

“What made you unfriend them? It might have just been one post. Just even one post too far that makes it happen.

“And you can’t afford to do that, because you’re not mere mortals. You wake up every day unemployed, and you have to keep that employment rolling through relationships.

“Avoid the temptation to try to be a sensation, and do something different.”

News is a snooze

Reposting news items might seem like an easy way to populate your social media feeds — but it’s a misguided one, opined Ferrara. You’re not ever going to be the No. 1 source of that information for your sphere.

“The news is a snooze,” he said. “If all I’m getting from your news feed is stuff I can find on the Wall Street Journal or New York Times, I’ve already seen it.”

“Remember the old stagecoach rules: What do you not talk about in a stagecoach? Sex, politics, religion.

“I don’t think people go online to see news; I’m not even convinced they go there to see listings. Nobody wakes up on Facebook to say hey, let’s go peruse the ads,” noted Ferrara.

So what do your followers want?

“They want more of you. They want the real you, the full you, and in many ways, the you that they enjoyed working with the last time.”

Strategy 1: Open the kimono

“Think about how close and personal you are willing to get with your peeps online,” Ferrara suggested.

“Relationships require authenticity; they need you to show up when your hair is in combs and it’s not a perfect day. Research in social media today tells us that people feel uncomfortable with their social media friends whose lives are too perfect.

“Unless you’re really authentic and willing to show the three-piece suit and the tattoo, it’ll be a real challenge to stay connected,” he said.

“A database is a professional collection of people we don’t talk to anymore,” he added.

So Ferrara suggested that agents consider how they kept up with their spheres of influence before social media.

“You’d call and say ‘How are you?’ And then you’d listen and you’d see what’s going on, or you’d tell a story that happened to you,” he said.

“Here’s the simplest thing you could possibly do. Share what’s on your mind about you.”

This will help you generate testimonials (without having to beg for them) — and for every person in your network who shares a post, you’re potentially reaching another 300 users.

“This is what I did yesterday for my Facebook interaction,” Ferrara explained. “I posted a 20-ounce chocolate muffin. When I cut it, it just burst open.”

And the people commenting on Ferrara’s muffin are clients with checkbooks.

“This isn’t just my friends and family I can show a chocolate muffin to; these are people who actually pay me. I don’t have to say ‘I have a new seminar.'”

“You can source leads by just doing your work,” he added. Take a video of an appraisal or an inspection, and post about it.

Ferrara added that agents who are concerned they might “open the kimono too wide” can create specific lists of people to share posts with — from friends to past clients.

You are what your clients want, he said, “and it’s all they can take for 10 years.

“In the meantime, they’ll get the news from your newsletter, inventory updates from your app or website, ancillary material that’s ‘just the facts, just the business, just the data.’ And they’ll read it or not, but mostly they’ll know that over the years, they’re so excited to be connected with you,” he noted.

Strategy 2: Inspire to fire them up

“Social media can be such an effective way to fire up people, and if you fire up people, they’re talking about you, and if other people are talking about you, they’re learning about you,” noted Ferrara.

He reminded attendees of the “ice bucket challenge.” “That challenge literally got millions of people to dump a bucket of ice on their head. Marketing isn’t that hard!”

So how do you inspire? Ferrara suggested starting with quotes.

You might want to avoid the cliches misattributed to famous people.

“Quotes should be your quotes. You may have one or two really important quotes in your life, but don’t go on the quote websites and just copy and paste quotes from dead presidents over and over and over.

“The quote should come from you, and here’s the secret about quotes: it doesn’t even have to make 100 percent sense. We know that the brain will try to make it make sense.”

Use PowerPoint or another app to layer words on top of a photo of yourself — and you’re done!

“You know you’re doing well when people tell you ‘this is exactly what I needed to hear,'” he said.

Strategy 3: Listen your way into sales

“In the same way you know you can’t talk your way into a sale, you sure can listen your way into a sale,” said Ferrara.

He suggested that agents “go on a listening presentation” and spend some time digging into what their sphere is doing. Life events, after all, can be a great indication that someone is getting ready to move.

Look for people who’ve landed a new job or a promotion — or lost a job — or started or ended a relationship; kids graduating and going to college or retirement can also be flags for “I might be looking to sell/buy in the near future.”

“That happens on LinkedIn as well,” Ferrara said. “The only reason I go there is to find out if someone got a promotion, demotion or moved companies.”

Instagram is good for pets or other “new” life experiences, he added. “You want to be one of the first people to say ‘hi.'”

“Sometimes the best social networks are the ones that are not talked about as much but are doing some very interesting, clever work,” he added — calling out Nextdoor as an example, which literally helps you meet your neighbors.

Every morning, Ferrara says, he goes into his Facebook news feed to see what’s new and sprinkles “likes” on his friends — with maybe a comment or two.

“I don’t even know if I like these things, but here’s what I do know: I’m reminding them that they are important to me,” he said.

And when his sphere does need him? They’ll remember him.

Email Amber Taufen

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