Social media lets you have a two-way conversation with prospects, anywhere in the world. The cross-border realities of today’s real estate market make that more important than ever.
International buyers account for more and more transactions in the United States. For example, Chinese investors buy homes with a median price of $425,000 — more than twice the $213,500 median house price.
Just a little effort to communicate in their language, and via their channels, goes a long way. Gary Gold, executive vice president at Hilton & Hyland, told attendees at the recent Real Estate Connect conference that 90 percent of his clients are international.
“It’s really exciting to market to these people,” he said, “because it’s actually quite easy.”
Gold has had to change the way he works. “I have two little kids, and my wife and they are all in bed by 9 o’clock,” he explained.
“From 9 to 12 I’m available and I correspond with people (overseas). If you can talk to people in real time, you blow away the competition.”
When you use social media to reel in, and then land, overseas prospects, it pays to plan ahead. Follow this six-step process and you will be well on your way to success.
1. Pick your target countries. Pick the obvious countries, either the places that are sending the most buyers to your market, or the ones where you have a cultural or linguistic advantage. If you live in Miami and speak Portuguese, it probably makes sense to target Brazil.
2. Pick your social networks. You might use Facebook to keep up with your friends, but to reach prospects, you have to go to the social networks that they prefer.
In Russia, social network VK has 100 million active users — more than Facebook in that country. In China, QZone has 603 million users, according to China Internet Watch.
3. Set your goals. Some agents are content to use social media as nothing more than another customer service platform. That is, they use it as they would the phone or email, to communicate with prospects with whom they already have some sort of relationship.
Others are more ambitious. They use social media to bring more traffic to their website or to give their brand more exposure, especially in new markets.
Whatever your goals are, having a coordinated, planned approach will make it easier to operate on multiple social networks, and even in multiple languages.
4. Choose your languages. Only about 1 percent of Chinese speak English, and 9 out of 10 Europeans prefer to surf the Web in their native tongue. When deciding which languages to operate in, focus on those used by the largest numbers of your prospects.
5. Decide how many accounts you really need. You might be tempted to set up a Facebook page for every language in which you’d like to work with buyers. That would be a mistake.
You can achieve the same results with just a single page on Facebook using its post-targeting tool. Access it at the bottom of the compose box, just next to the “Post” button.
Let’s say you put up an item in Russian. Use the targeting tool to select Russian speakers, or even residents of individual Russian cities. Other social networks have similar tools.
6. Create a destination on your website for each language. If your goal is to acquire new customers via social media, ultimately you will want them to visit your website.
Post all of your new content for each segment of buyers on your site first. Then link back to it from your social media posts.
Once they are on your website, you will have more opportunities to capture their contact information, show them listings and persuade them to work with you.
Now, you should be able to construct and carry out an international social media marketing strategy. With it, you can win new customers around the world or target a specific segment of new customers in a place far from your local market.
Andrew Taylor is co-CEO of Juwai.com, a real estate portal linking Chinese buyers with property in the U.S., Canada and a total of 54 countries.