NEW YORK — Michael McClure, CEO for Professional One Real Estate in Plymouth, Mich., said he has transitioned from a "Twitter hater" and a "Facebook hater" to something else: "a social marketing addict."
McClure, who participated in a "Social Media Marketing Wake-Up Call" panel Wednesday at the Real Estate Connect conference, said, "I just genuinely enjoy (social media).
"It has created more opportunities for my company and my business than all of the traditional methods and means that I had been using before that," he added. "Without social media giving me a voice and an opportunity to connect with people, I just wouldn’t have all those opportunities I do."
In the past year and a half, McClure said he tweeted about 30,000 times.
And he has been impressed at how real relationships can be built via social media. When he met some acquaintances in person who he had previously only known via social media, "the realness of social media hit home for me," McClure said.
"Instead of getting a handshake, I got a hug. It just creates legitimate relationships."
Social media is useful for the "humanization of a brand," he said.
And because social media posts by individuals can reflect on a real estate brand, it’s important for brokerages and franchise companies to establish some guidelines for social media participation, said McClure and other panelists.
He said he has read posts from "agents who say things that — if I was that agent’s broker — I would fire (them) on the spot. I think you have to articulate a policy, then you have to disseminate a policy to the organization."
Agents need to be mindful of client confidentiality when they’re participating in social media, he also said.
And it’s hard to take back something you say on the Internet.
"Even though you may delete something, it’s out there and you said it," said Matthew Shadbolt, director of Internet marketing for The Corcoran Group.
Another panelist, Marnie Blanco, vice president of e-business for global real estate franchisor Re/Max International, said her company is too massive to "police all of our agents, but we find that our agents will police themselves."
And the company does have a policy and recommends best practices in social media participation.
"The conversation … you have with your agents — (they) need to be reminded, ‘Your name is your brand as an agent.’ "
Shadbolt said brokers need to be especially watchful for agent posts that run afoul of fair housing laws, offering the example of an agent who suggests that a particular housing unit is "perfect for a single student at NYU."
"There are actually some legal ramifications for distributing that sort of stuff," he said.
Another concern: Is social media just a time sink for some agents?
"You could be that agent who has 10,000 Twitter followers but no sales. We’re seeing much more of that. It’s actually kind of worrying because people are hemorrhaging their time in the wrong place," Shadbolt said.
And though there is "an astronomical kind of momentum" behind social media platforms, with massive audiences, a company’s social media posts can be a waste of resources if they don’t come from a business perspective, Shadbolt said.
Even so, it’s difficult to measure the monetary value of a company’s social media participation.
"It doesn’t mean anything in terms of dollars. It means a lot in terms of relationship and brand reach, which we believe there’s a really great value to," Shadbolt said.
He also said that Facebook "fan" pages are wrongheaded for most agents and better suit brokerages and real estate companies.
And having a consistent social media voice is important, he also said. "It’s a DNA issue and you’ve got to find the right person."