Real estate brokers and agents attending the Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco last week learned about new tools and best practices for creating and sustaining relationships using smartphones and tablets, social media and video.
Because 23 percent of the traffic to real estate-related websites comes from mobile devices, it’s important to design websites to be compatible, said Brian Boero, partner at real estate marketing and design consulting firm 1000watt.
A smartphone’s screen is smaller than a computer’s, so a mobile site has to be pared down, Boero said. It should include the most important aspects of the business in a simple, top-down layout. "Simplify, highlight your most critical information," he said, pointing the audience to Google’s mobile website explanatory site, howtogomo.com.
Users don’t want to have distinct experiences on their different devices — "They want a single user experience," said Curt Beardsley, vice president of marketing at Realtor.com, during a breakout session on mobile at the Connect conference.
Beardsley said Realtor.com developed its Top Producer Web app on HTML5, which creates a mobile app-like experience, without the consumer having to download and install an app. The Web app is optimized to display information in a consistent design across a variety of platforms.
As mobile rises, so does social media, where users can produce content from anywhere at almost anytime. This can be a daunting challenge for real estate agents and brokers who use social media to maintain relationships and establish a brand. It’s important to have a strategy, speakers at Connect said, to build a social media editorial calendar, because consistency (and quality) drive interaction and impact.
"In social media, the key is engagement," said Amy Kelman, vice president of marketing at the social media consulting firm Hearsay Social, during a breakout session on brand management at Connect. "You don’t want to be a tree falling in the forest," she said.
One of the ways to not fall unheard is to follow the 80-20 rule, said C.C. Holland, vice president of digital media and content at Pacific Union International, who joined Kelman as a panelist during the brand management breakout session at Connect. Make 80 percent of your social media posts about local knowledge, you, and your passions, she said — where the best place to get a massage is, the best dog park, the best place to hike. Make the other 20 percent more focused on your business.
Social media "is your drip marketing campaign," Holland said.
Users need to find a way for those drips to stand out in the flood of social media, said Matthew Shadbolt, the director of interactive product and marketing at the Corcoran Group in New York City. "It’s about stopping power in the news feed," he said. It’s about having fun and connecting with your followers on a daily basis.
Bottom line, said Inman News social media director Katie Lance, social media success requires an authentic, passionate and consistent voice.
"Instagram was yesterday, video is tomorrow," said Eric Bryn, vice president of digital innovation for real estate firm Baird & Warner, at a video-focused breakout session at Connect. Speakers at the session emphasized that videos should be short — two minutes long at the max — and have good lighting. If done well, video can take a real estate professional’s business to the next level.
"Video’s a game-changer," said Rick Teed, a San Francisco-based real estate agent and developer. Teed says he and his business partner Butch Haze get leads from their videos, which they produce as a hyperlocal, mini news source: what’s happening with a road construction project near the Golden Gate Bridge, a profile of a local allergist.
Raziel Ungar, a real estate agent in Burlingame, Calif., who has a professional videographer on his staff and does local, documentary-style videos in his market, said he’s seen an enormous spike in his website’s search engine traffic from his videos.
"I’ve believed that the entire purpose of the Internet is connecting," said Caterina Fake, founder of photo-sharing site Flickr, from the Connect main stage. Fake’s new company, Findery, takes advantage of the mobile, geolocated world by providing the "ability to find and leave notes about places in places." The tool, not yet launched, allows users, via a social media app, to imbue geography with history and meaning.
"Maps tell a story," said Sebastian Delmont, co-founder and chief technology officer of map development company StreetEasy, during a breakout session at Connect. Users will have access to simpler, more up-to-date and more customizable maps in the near future, he said.
Despite all the technology talk, real estate’s still a relationship business, emphasized many of the speakers at Connect. However, as technology changes, accelerates and plays a larger role in all our lives, many said, it’s important to develop the technology skills and knowledge to be a leader in real estate’s future.