By Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Before he had a successful real estate career, Steven David Elliot was running bookstores in Florida and North Carolina. These were the early days of social media, he filled downtime surfing Facebook and other sites, connecting with friends, reading articles, “killing the monotony.”
“If you’re playing around with your computer, customers think you’re doing work,” says Elliot, who back then counted 800 people as Facebook friends. “I found it entertaining, an opportunity to do something outside the four walls of a bricks-and-mortar business.”
Fast forward to 2016, and Elliot is now a Raleigh, North Carolina, real estate broker with more than 20,000 people in his “social media sphere,” whom he taps for leads, referrals, and as a guest list for monthly networking events he hosts to help area business people connect.
“I had 650 people at my Christmas party, and they all heard about it through my social media,” Elliot says, explaining how he turned his Facebook passion into a professional tool. Now, he helps other real estate professionals exploit social media through his Rockstar Connect company.
Facebook “is where all the magic happens,” Elliot says. “The payoff is enormous.”
It’s all about social to have a successful real estate career
Millennials, who grew up posting prom pictures on Facebook and modeling new outfits on Instagram, should be happy to know that real estate marketing is migrating from newspaper display ads to a wide range of Internet sites that buyers and sellers access through smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
“Millennials think of social media as an indispensable tool and want nothing more than the apps that make life easier, more productive, and more fun,” says an Urban Land Institute report on emerging trends in real estate. “That’s the trajectory ahead, and real estate companies that can harness the power of social media to manage and market property will gain an enormous advantage over laggards in this area.”
Consider these Spring/2016 stats gathered by Avex Designs, a New York City-based digital agency.
- 52% of home buyers use an iPhone to search for real estate.
- 91% of Realtors use social media to some extent, according to the National Association of Realtor’s 2013–2014 Realtor Technology Survey.
- 55% of real estate agents say they are comfortable using social media networks.
- 80% of home buyers are searching online.
In fact, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) says that even though most buyers start their search on the Internet, 88% use an agent to “bridge the gap” between browsing properties online and actually buying a home.
“Real estate professionals know that their customers are uber-connected and informed,” says The Digital House Hunt: Consumer and Market Trends in Real Estate, a joint study from the NAR and Google.
How to use social media to earn more in real estate
You’d think uploading video house tours to YouTube and posting open house invites on Facebook are the best ways to exploit social media to sell houses.
You’d be wrong. Real estate professionals say less talk about listings is more effective on social media posts.
Elliot writes daily, “uplifting” posts that promote other businesses more frequently than they tout his own. Ultimately, his online community returns the favor and sends referrals his way.
“People refer to people they trust, people who are not takers,” he says. “If you give without expectation, you will be rewarded with great abundance.”
Here are more ways to get the most out of your social media addiction as you embark on a successful real estate career.
To build a network, you must post early and post often. Daily is best, says Joselin Estevez, social media director of X Factor Media. Real estate agents should post helpful information for house hunters, like the latest mortgage rates or housing pricing trends.
It’s better to position yourself as a resource and facilitator, than as a self-promoter who mostly brags about homes sold and dollars earned. When you pitch a home, cast the post as, “Here’s a way to help your neighbor by spreading the word about his great home for sale.” People are more likely to help a fellow homeowner than an agent.
Don’t underestimate free stuff
Run contests and offer gift cards and other perks to social media followers who spread the word about your listings.
Keep it upbeat
Save your rants and complaints for dinner with flesh and blood friends; but when it comes to Facebook posts, keep it positive and professional. Avoid politics and religion. Take down online pictures of college beer pong tournaments. Emphasize family and civic commitment. “Nobody likes a complainer,” in real or virtual life, Elliot says.
Use Instagram in real time
Set up a camera, video an open house, and stream it live on Instagram.
Don’t obsess over your real estate website
Agents can lose hours updating and fine-turning their websites, time better spent developing an online community that becomes a fount of referrals.
Post about many different topics – neighborhood news, national real estate trends, great nearby restaurants – and track which posts your target audience responds to. “The more people who like your posts and comment on them, the more people who will see your posts,” says Mark Ferguson, a real estate agent and author of the InvestFourMore real estate blog.
Respond to responders
When a reader comments on your post, comment back. Social media is all about being social, and if you leave a commenter digitally hanging, he’ll be less likely to engage with your posts in the future.
Meet your followers
Create events like networking meet-and-greets that let you press flesh with friends and followers. Some venues will give you free space if you can promise to fill it with potential paying clients.
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Lisa Kaplan Gordon is a builder of luxury housing and an award-winning writer specializing in home improvement and real estate topics. She lives in McLean, Virginia.