As the word "recession" proliferates across the media, companies inevitably look to cut spending to stay competitive. However, in their hurry to get financially lean and mean, brands must not forget the importance of having a strong and dynamic online presence beyond a few pay-per-click text ads. One of the best (and cheapest) ways for real estate companies of all types, from the individual Realtor to commercial property management firms, to meaningfully engage with potential and current customers is through online video. With the ubiquitous nature of Internet video, the real estate industry has been slowly moving to the Web to meet the demand of a rising audience. According to recent research from comScore, 75 percent of Internet users watched online video in November 2007.

Online video has many different incarnations — from user-generated content on YouTube to commercials plucked from the television airwaves. However, marketing on the Internet calls for a new approach to video — the development of very customized, engaging content that is authentic and relevant to the topics that the user has been searching for. No scripts or actors or clunky amateur videos, but real people telling stories about subjects they are passionate about.

Marketers can use this form of video to convey interesting stories about their brand, where the story IS the ad. Realtors, brokers and MLS organizations for example, can differentiate themselves and their listings in a tight market by giving prospective renters and buyers an inside perspective into properties that are more engaging than still photos. When audiences view video that is interesting and relevant to them that doesn’t smell of shameless promotion, they have a much richer experience. In turn, they are also provided with value-added content that can ultimately help shape their buying decision — demonstrating an important correlation between the ad and a call to action. In addition, customer engagement with the Realtor is far more valuable, as it builds trust and credibility with a personality and a business.

One of the greatest attributes of the Internet is its inherently social nature. With traditional television ads, there is very little social interaction or measurable engagement. With online video, you can easily optimize for social networks, blogs and widgets, and also take advantage of the ability for people to share and comment on the videos or otherwise spread them virally. Social media technologies enable you to dramatically stretch your advertising budget, as you’re empowering your audience to help spread your message and your brand to their friends and networks. And thanks to the cost efficiency of online video, you can also choose to create several versions of videos that appeal to a wide range of demographics.

Indeed, with advances in technology, this new type of online video — one that serves as the content, rather than the interruption of the content — is much more affordable than traditional video production, not to mention television advertising. Today, many professional online video shoots can be done with a one-person crew in one day yet maintain the unmistakable polish of television quality. Gone are the days of elaborate productions and catering trucks. In their place is this new era of video, one that holds up in the face of the most bearish markets and one that enables marketers to engage with their audiences in new ways to create authentic, powerful connections between consumers and their brands.

Morgan Brown is Director of Marketing for TurnHere, Inc., an online video solutions platform based in Emeryville, Calif. He can be reached at Brown will speak during a "Using Video the Right Way" panel next week at the Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco. Inman News founder and publisher Brad Inman is also CEO and founder of TurnHere — Inman News and TurnHere are separate companies.


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