Barb Anderson, principal and president of Anderson Marketing Solutions, is here this month to share some thoughts on social media trends in the real estate industry. Barb’s experience spans over 20 years and encompasses marketing for real estate development, resort/destination real estate and new home product marketing. Before launching her own marketing company, Barb’s work included stints with industry leaders such as Vail Resorts Development Company, Laing Village LLC, and Village Homes.

 

 

Barb Anderson

 

1. There is so much chatter these days in the public relations and marketing worlds  about the importance of creating buzz. How does this apply to the real estate industry and what sorts of trends are you seeing in terms of the applicability of social media as an attraction generation tool?

Over the past several years, PR and marketing has gone through a dramatic change in terms of engaging and communicating with individuals  through social media. This medium allows both large and small businesses the opportunity to reach out to a larger audience as well as create brand awareness and consumer loyalty through an online community. With over 500 million Facebook users, you can see how social media has impacted our world.

Social media is essentially a new medium (it technically was launched only a few years ago), so the jury is still out on how it applies to specific industries such as real estate. These online platforms seem to work well with residential real estate for home builders and resale brokers, primarily because of the relationship aspect between friends and family. However, I think that we have yet to discover the long-term benefits of using social media in economic development and urban renewal projects across this country. We all saw the enormous impact that social media had on the presidential election in 2008; I think that same discipline could engage city planners, businesses and constituents to work together for the greater good of residential and commercial environments.

2. In what ways are residential and commercial markets adapting these tools so that they’re relevant to industry objectives?

Clearly the residential market has an upper hand when it comes to social media because it deals with the relationship between people, more so than commercial. The days of big advertising budgets are long gone, so marketers are looking for ways to get their message to their target audience with a limited budget. The residential market has embraced this new media and shifted their perception of how people communicate through online community. This includes leveraging PR sites such as PRWeb to deliver the message to a greater audience through Search Engine Optimization. Facebook seems to be the best platform for residential real estate because of the relationship component, which allows people to join easily or refer others. There is also targeted advertising and online coupons/promotions available that can be customized to attract “like-mined” friends and potential customers to the site, through relevant content that can be easily shared. Other sites such as Twitter, YouTube, Stumble Upon and Digg are also good resources for residential real estate, and in many cases, all of these network sites can be automated to send relevant messaging from one to another to create a greater following.

Nevertheless, while commercial markets may be a little behind their residential counterparts in terms of its social media adoption, they tend to use more B2B platforms to deliver their message. For example, LinkedIn is a logical vehicle for commercial brokers, developers, and economic and urban renewal groups to engage in discussions and promote real estate opportunities. However, if there is a retail/business component to the commercial offering, then using a location-based social network such as Foursquare and Gowalla would be the way to go. These sites offer the ability to track followers via mobile downloads, as they travel from business to business and post online. This application is a great way to offer cross-promotional opportunities with various retail vendors and anchor stores.

3. But how relevant is a social media platform such as Facebook in terms of hitting the right target demographic for a successful residential marketing campaign.

Even though there are a number of social networks, Facebook is the most prominent (sort of the big Gorilla of social media). The reason it’s so successful, is because the applications within Facebook allow marketers to engage the target market through Facebook ads or promotional coupons. The magic here is in the way Facebook targets “like-minded” individuals of the family and friends that are already fans of the page (thus targeting more of the same demographic). In addition, Facebook now has the ability to gauge the profiles of others and determine the correct demographic through analytics that are built into the site and can track the interaction of specific groups through various metrics. Marketing campaigns of the past were never able to offer this type of tracking mechanism to determine the success of a campaign. This is why the analytics built-into Facebook are a refreshing tool for marketers.

4. Can you briefly speak to the importance of strategic marketing plans as a launching point for social media initiatives?

Like traditional campaigns, which incorporate print advertising, direct mail and collaterals, a strategy must be established in order to determine the audience, when to launch a campaign, as well as the message and frequency of that message. Social Media and online PR strategic planning is no different. Objectives must be set to incorporate the same initiatives as a traditional campaign. In fact, it’s probably more important with social media, because these platforms are viral and based on real-time messaging that may require a quick response. All this suggests the importance of having a plan in place before launching a campaign.

5. So how does, say, a new resort residential community development, go about setting metrics to assess the effectiveness of a social media campaign?

Most resorts include specific programming that enhances the experience and those are the metrics that you can track with social media. For example, if you have a residential resort project in a ski town, your metrics could track social media promotions such as lift ticket or ski equipment discounts that are only posted on Facebook or Twitter, or shared (re-tweeted) on these sites.  This approach seems more exclusive to participants, making them more likely to refer other potential Fans or followers which can also be tracked. Additionally, if your website is set up with analytics, it is also tracking the sources from these referral network sites or promotional codes, information that may be valuable for potential sales.

6. Is there any indication that real estate niche markets such as hotel properties are jumping into the fray as well in terms of “Facebooking” and “Tweeting.”

The hotel industry is starting to jump in, but it’s primarily those hotels associated with tourism or other recreation. For example, casino’s associated with hotels have definitely embraced social media and recognize the benefits of having a huge following, because they are constantly promoting discounts and packages to get people back in the door. Some branded hotels (i.e. Hyatt, Marriott) are using it for customer retention – a points earned system to keep consumers happy and loyal to the brand.

7. With these technologies changing all the time, what are some ways for a busy property owner or developer to keep abreast of the evolving social media landscape in real estate?

It’s definitely a lot to keep with– I would suggest following “Fan” pages that are relevant to either the real estate  industry (i.e. ULI, NAIOP, and Builder) or communities (i.e. Local Chambers, City municipalities). I would also suggest subscribing to various RSS feeds that forward industry related updates from various blogs and publications as a way of staying informed.

8. What three suggestions can you offer to real estate professionals as they move towards greater adoption of social media tools in their outreach efforts?

First and foremost, stop denying the viability of social media and the impact it has in the real estate industry. This is not a faze, but the reality of how people are and will continue to communicate in the future. Take advantage of the momentum and cost effectiveness of social media to reach your audience. Look at competitor’s sites to see how they’re utilizing their social media efforts. Secondly, take on a little at a time. The potential of social media can be overwhelming, so plan how you’re going to engage and build community – and do it consistently! If you’re an absentee responder or blogger, people will know it and leave. If you’re having trouble keeping up, hire a professional to help with your daily posts and content. Speaking of content, my last suggestion is to make it relevant. Nobody cares what you’re doing, but they do care about how it impacts them. Keep it real, but relatable.

 

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