NEW YORK — When it comes to real estate marketing, strategy trumps technology, according to speakers at Agent Reboot on Tuesday.
Real estate agents are often eager to adopt the latest technologies without thinking about who they intend to target with those technologies, said Chris Smith, Inman News’ chief evangelist and a host of the one-day Agent Reboot, which is the first this year in a planned series across the country.
"We’re not going to start with technology anymore … we’re starting with people. Who are the people you want to market to? Who is your audience?" Smith said.
While agents get a significant share of their business from past clients and referrals, a focus on superficial numbers can make such important prospects fall by the wayside, he added.
"I don’t want 5,000 frivolous ‘friends’ who don’t mean anything," Smith said.
A plan of action is particularly important on Facebook, which has more than 800 million active users worldwide.
"Without a strategy you are just throwing something against the wall and seeing if it sticks," said Katie Lance, Inman News’ social media director and the co-host of Agent Reboot.
Her solution? A content grid featuring four categories: local real estate, national real estate, local and community, and personal interests. Local real estate information, for instance, could include a story about a past client, local market statistics, or features of a particular neighborhood.
Lance advised agents to take a few hours and photograph their favorite neighborhood, because photos tend to rank higher in Facebook news feeds.
"Find photos of things (that say) why you love to live where you do. If you take 30 photos, right there you have 30 days’ worth of content," she said.
Other content ideas include articles comparing home prices, news about the economy, articles from real estate associations and real estate news sources, stories about local schools, and posts featuring favorite local amenities like parks and coffee shops.
One problem with trying to use Facebook for business is that most people are inundated with online content all the time, said Jimmy Mackin, a Facebook trainer and founder of The MLS App. Amid "news feed blindness," real estate professionals should focus on really engaging with people so that they stand out, Mackin said.
"When you interact with (consumers), they’re a million times more likely to get your status update because of (Facebook’s) algorithm, but they’re also more likely to pause" to read that update when it shows up in their news feed, Mackin said.
He advised agents to create a Facebook list of prospects and add relevant friends to the list. Facebook also has auto-generated "smart lists" that could be useful by, for example, grouping together everyone in an agent’s network who lives around Boston into a "Boston area" list.
When the agent clicks on the list, he or she then sees status updates for only those people. From there, the agent should interact with them through "little, thoughtful gestures," such as sharing an article about a person’s interest or hobby — not necessarily related to real estate, Mackin said.
"You can make more friends in two months by being interested in other people than in two years by trying to get people interested in you," he said.
Facebook ads should also be targeted to specific groups of people, Smith said.
Because Facebook charges per ad click, "be very specific with who you target," he said. The network’s ad tool allows users to create their own ads and narrow down their audience by age group, ZIP code, gender and interests.
"Don’t write the ad until you know who you’re targeting," Smith said.
And a tip to avoid the per-click fee: Put the words "Call me" and a phone number in the ad, he said.
Twitter can be a great way for agents to expand their sphere of influence, but it must be done thoughtfully, Lance said.
- Use search.twitter.com‘s advanced search to find people in your local area tweeting about real estate. Follow them. "To have people follow you, you need to follow people," Lance said.
- Tweet often. An application like HootSuite can help you schedule tweets over the course of the day "so you don’t have to spend all day on Twitter," she said.
- Be generous. Retweet others’ relevant content. Acknowledge what others say. Thank those who retweet your content. "I’m a big fan of no tweet left behind," Lance said.
- Pay attention. HootSuite has analytics that show you which days your content got the most clicks, allowing you to focus in on the content that is most popular with your followers and tweet more of that kind of content, Lance said.
Social media as CRM (customer relationship management)
Glenn Sanford, founder and CEO of eXp Realty, said he thought of Facebook and Twitter as customer relationship management tools.
"You want to make sure they know you’re in business because you want them to think of you, but you also want to do other fun things and have people think of you because you’re interesting. You can reach and have people be touched by information they want to be touched by," he said.
Agents should also avoid doing things they wouldn’t do in real life, such as blatantly push listings, said Steve Pacinelli, national director for Top Producer Systems, owned by Realtor.com operator Move Inc.