There’s no doubt that online video is finally becoming a mainstream activity for real estate professionals.

One of the things I noticed at this year’s Real Estate Connect conference in New York City was that discussions around video weren’t about whether or not to start using video but about how to actually make and distribute video. It’s a given that producing video is now a part of the real estate professional

There’s no doubt that online video is finally becoming a mainstream activity for real estate professionals.

One of the things I noticed at this year’s Real Estate Connect conference in New York City was that discussions around video weren’t about whether or not to start using video but about how to actually make and distribute video. It’s a given that producing video is now a part of the real estate professional’s work.

There are a few things that have all come together to make this possible.

First, the availability of relatively inexpensive video cameras with a reasonable quality level. Even mobile phones are capable of producing decent video these days.

Second, the widespread use of video-focused websites and services such as YouTube and Netflix and the real estate-focused services such as WellcomeMat. The internet can finally handle the distribution of video reasonably well.

Third, people are actually using these Web-based video websites and coming to accept video as a normal part of the online experience.

Aside from the technical aspects of producing video — finding a videographer, planning video shoots, worrying about lighting, and so on — you might want to think a bit about why you’re making video.

Who is going to be watching the video and why do you want them to see it? What do you hope will happen during or after the person watches the video?

Let’s look at three different strategic uses of video for real estate and the different requirements that result. There are, of course, many other strategic uses of video, but these three should help you get started.

Real estate video to highlight community lifestyle

If you want to show people what it’s like to live in your market, video can be a useful tool. In the same way that photos and text can be used to describe and show your area, video can amp it up by showing motion and action.

The audience for this kind of video is most likely going to be people who don’t know much about your community — probably relocation or people who have only recently arrived in your area.

So make sure the content of your community lifestyle video reflects the needs of those who don’t know anything about the area.

Here’s one example of a brokerage company that is using community-focused videos: http://www.houlihanlawrence.com/HLTV.aspx?videoid=C868CD8934. These videos are very direct in showing what it’s like to live in the community by taking a documentary approach — following actual people through their lives in the community.

Here’s a different example of a brokerage’s community lifestyle video: http://www.youtube.com/user/CBHBRealty#p/u/0/nEmzmvAJvZQ. This video is more broad in approach, showing a general overview of the landscape, institutions and property types of the area.

For an edge-case example, another brokerage embedded a city-focused Qwiki presentation on their site after reading last week’s column about Qwiki (see: "3 things about Qwiki and real estate"). Obviously, this one walks the line as to whether it’s a video or slideshow, since Qwiki is pretty new. But strategically, it has the same focus as the previous two examples: let visitors know about the community.

None of these videos focus on selling a specific property or promoting a specific real estate practice. They’re all focused on helping the viewer understand a little bit more about what life is like in their respective communities.

You can tie this kind of video into business goals in two ways. One is whether or not the video attracts new visitors to your site — increasing the exposure of your website and real estate practice.

There will likely be the initial bump as anyone who is featured in the video tells their friends about it. The thing to really look at is long-term, after the initial bump in traffic fades.

Another way to tie community video into your business goals is to place the video in proximity to lead-generation tools that are focused on relocation services or other things your practice does to help people who are new to an area.

Someone who already knows your city well is unlikely to place as high a value on your community video as someone who is not familiar with your city. So focus your efforts on the relocation tools and list signups.

Specific property video for sellers

If you’re helping someone market a property for sale, then shooting video is the next logical step after photographing the property. There are lots of examples of this sort of video. Obviously, you’ll have to weigh the cost of shooting the video vs. the revenue generated by selling the property and let that help you determine the quality or depth of the video.

The same rules for photography apply to videography. Just as their are horror stories of bad multiple listing service photos, videos can also be painful to watch if the quality is poor. The fact that it’s video doesn’t mean it’s going to be better. If you’re honestly trying to market the house then you’ll want your video to reflect what’s going to be nice about living in it.

The goal in a property video is much more direct than the goal in a community video. Unless the property is especially stunning and/or your cinematography is fantastic and unique, it’s unlikely that this sort of video is going to be a traffic generator for your site.

However, the video should help you market the house to individuals and to other agents representing buyers — you’re making life a little easier for them.

Track the performance of your specific property video for sellers by noting how long each video is watched, how many of the videos get played at all, and by inquiries on the property itself.

Specific property video for buyers

If you’re helping customers look for a house to buy, chances are good that you spend a fair amount of time looking at houses, sometimes on your own. If the seller didn’t make a video available (or if the video doesn’t accurately address any special requirements your customers have), consider shooting a quick video of the property for your clients.

In this case, the quality level of video is most likely less important than the speed of producing the video.

While the community video can take months to produce, and the specific property video for sellers might take a week or more, the specific property video for buyers might take you the time of walking through the house with your iPhone plus the time in the driveway to upload the video for your client’s review.

As always, managing the relationship between time and quality is an important thing for your brand. But in some cases the timeliness is more important than the video quality. Specific property video for buyers is the most likely case for this.

The goal of this kind of video is primarily to show your customers the things about the house that you know are important to them. Since they’re your customers you’ll know whatever these things are from having spoken with them, and you can make some customized video highlighting their needs.

The best way to track performance of this sort of video is that you will want to see a downward trend in driving around with customers to see houses they don’t like. You and your customers should be happier to be driving around less — and seeing only those houses that meet their specific needs.

Use video when and how it helps your customers

These three ways to use video are not, by any means, an exhaustive list of strategic uses for video in real estate. But thinking about the customer you’re serving — a seller, a buyer, or an individual who is relocating or considering whether to relocate to a new area — can help you work on the kind of video that’s right for your real estate practice.

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