Social media vs. email for connecting with real estate clients

Know when you should be using which in your client communication

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Social media has changed the face of marketing. Indeed, it has changed the way we communicate about everything. Remember when you used to send (or forward) a big group email just to share a joke or story that came (via email) from a friend? Social media has virtually eliminated those group emails and enabled us to share content with the click of a button. More importantly, perhaps, social media allows us to scroll past those stories with a quick glance and move on if the message doesn’t catch our attention.

Email, however, has remained the primary channel for more substantial and professional communication. Clients might learn about brands on social media, but they’ll execute business with those brands via email.

So which method of communication is best for connecting with clients?

The case for email

In real estate, email is essential for sharing transactional information and documentation. But how many emails do you get that are personal? How many are for work? How many are advertising?

Email will probably always remain relevant for professional communication. I expect to find work email in my inbox every day and maybe the occasional personal correspondence. What I wish I didn’t find in my inbox is advertising. When I receive an unsolicited email, I immediately unsubscribe before I get another one.

Last year, I found myself putting my database on a drip email campaign. I added myself to the distribution list so I could see what my clients were getting from me. What I found was a big fat snore. I got tired of getting emails from me. I was boring myself to death. Then I realized that everyone in my office was probably using the same (company provided) campaign. What could be less impressive and engaging than a generic template email about cleaning out your gutters? Getting the same email from the two or three Realtors you know!

My 15-year-old daughter thinks email is “so old-fashioned.” She says the only thing she uses email for is signing up for social media accounts. All communication with her friends happens through text message and social media. These are the millennials, our future homebuyers and sellers. They are dictating the direction in which communication is going.

The verdict? Email may keep you top of mind for your clients (whether they open it or not), but it might not be the most useful avenue for marketing. Exceptions could be subscription services to which consumers can opt in, or relevant local information that is timely and valuable to the consumer. Your clients will, however, prefer to conduct business-related discussions via email.

I realize that email isn’t going anywhere, but it’s certainly not breaking any new ground either.

What about social media?

About three years ago, I had a Facebook friend who wrote a big public post about how she was leaving Facebook because she felt that it had destroyed real communication. She invited everyone to call, email or stop by if they wanted to get in touch. Needless to say, she was back online about a month later. She reminded me of my parents about 15 years earlier when they were deciding whether or not they “needed” email. Why couldn’t they just call their family and friends, after all?

How many of us watch the news on television or read the paper anymore? If you are like me, you follow your favorite brands, news sources and personalities on social media. We get our information in bits and pieces throughout the day, whenever we have a chance. With the exception of work correspondence, most of our information is gathered, shared and discussed on social media.

The beauty of social media is its accessibility. It’s quick, it’s current and it’s whatever you want it to be. Information comes at us in a constant stream from the time we wake up until the time we go to bed. We get so much new information every day that sometimes it just feels like white noise.

Consumers are just like us, and they want control of their information. They want to get it whenever, wherever and however they want. They want to scroll through their news feed while they are standing in line at Starbucks or waiting at a red light. We have, at best, a few seconds to get their attention. A marketing message needs to be quick and relevant. It had better be able to catch their eye on the way down the page, and they had better be able to find it when they need it. If not, they’re scrolling right past it.

Today, I talked to a good friend who is not on Facebook because one person told her it was like being in high school again. That may be true some days, but I told her the story about my parents getting email. She said, “No one even uses email anymore except for work.” I said, “Yeah, you’re right. Because we all use Facebook!”

The verdict? If you want to make an initial personal connection with clients, social media is where you’ll have to do it.

Mary Borth is a licensed real estate broker whose first love is marketing. She lives in Bloomington, Illinois.

Email Mary Borth.