Social Media: 50 Top Tips for Estate Agents by Christopher Walkey.
Social media is an important topic within marketing these days and usually one that intrigues many businesses as to how to use the likes of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, to name just a few, to help them build their brand awareness and ideally extra customers and sales.
The good news is that it isn’t rocket science to master social media and get the desired results you are searching for, the bad news is that everyone else is trying to do the same so you need to be individual and constantly in front of your competitors if you are going to attract the target audiences that are likely to engage with your business.
Over the last two years I have established a strong foothold in the world of social media in estate agency to include being the chosen social media expert for the likes of PropertyDrum and The Negotiator magazines as well as a speaker at seminars and judge at awards and this all down to how I use social media and the opportunities it has created for me. To get inspiration to build your brand awareness on social media, take note that even myself had to start with 0 followers and 0 likes to my name yet I have now managed to build a following of over 100,000 that each and every day brings me new opportunities and new clients in both business sectors I am very knowledgeable on to those which I know nothing about.
Thanks to social media and the name and reputation I have built for Marketme.co.uk, we now work with numerous businesses across the UK to include many Estate Agents, working with them on their social media and the results they are looking to achieve. Being close to estate agents and knowing the many questions they ask, I thought it a great idea to share with you many of the questions and the top tips we advise them so here are my 50 Top Tips for estate agency social media (in no particular order!):
- Do I need to go on one of these social media courses to become successful? I will not discredit any social media course, but what I would say is that social media is not complicated and the biggest thing you need to have in order to succeed is committing time to it. If I am honest, simply visit Google or the likes of YouTube and you’ll have 1,000’s of well presented and information blogs and videos on how to start with social media and the basics you need to know to get things underway – You do not need to pay for these and you can read/watch them from the comfort of your own office or home.
- How much time do I need to put to social media each week? As much time as possible! The more time you invest then the more results you are likely to achieve especially if you understand the basics of how social media works and the way you need to act to engage with your target audience.
- Am I too late to be starting with social media? Absolutely not! I really believe that even though the likes of Youtube and Facebook have been around for around about 10 years, things are only just beginning. Do not judge social media by the amount of followers your competitors have as you can easily catch up if you contribute better content and come at things from a different angle.
- Make sure your accounts are correctly branded, consistently branded and in line with the theme / character of your agency.
- Do not buy fake followers. I see that some estate agencies have done just that and it is so obvious that they have and as people using social media become more savvy that you can buy fake / spam followers, if they see them on your account then it will tell them you are fake and that you are lying so are you really trustworthy?
- Share blogs that are hosted on your website as people are always searching for and attracted to topics which are of interest to them. Think carefully about what you write and try and pick topics which are relevant to your target audience or themes which are of value to the local community.
- Experiment with different social media platforms to find the one that best suits you and gives you the best results. There is no ‘best social media platform’ for estate agents and I see agencies succeeding with Facebook as much as they succeed with Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.
- A usual recommendation from me, but try and stay clear of talking about and discussing religion, politics and football. There is nothing wrong with these topics at all, but you do stand to ignite problems if you bring them up on social media for usually, no matter what opinion you have on them, you are likely to offend someone and the ‘someone’ might just have been your next new client.
- Should I pay to advertise on social media or promote my Tweets etc? There are many ways you can advertise and place your brand or website on the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook – I would say at the very least to experiment with them though limit spending to maximum of £100 and then study the results you have achieved. Unless you have a large budget to spend on this, I would say you are best to invest that money in outsourcing your social media to an agency who will work to build your numbers and exposure naturally.
- What time of the day is best to post on social media? This is really down to when your target audience is most responsive and you may have to experiment to find out the time slots you need to concentrate on. Studies have told us that the best time to Tweet is between 1-3pm, Facebook posts 3pm on Wednesdays and LinkedIn is Tuesday’s to Thursday’s, but in all honesty you will find that for estate agency you may very well receive better engagement lunch times and evening times, over the weekends of when the weekly ‘property show’ on television is being aired.
- Give your social media the maximum exposure as possible and remember to share the platforms you are on via your website (clearly displayed where your website visitors can quickly follow/like you), on your business cards, for sale signs and even window displays. I recommend you look at the likes of Logotag social media window stickers which allows your window shoppers to easily connect and follow you on social media.
- Do not just use social media to display your latest property listings as sales / marketing should take up no more than 20% of what you post on social media as you may lose followers and likes for appearing to be too sales orientated and your posts and updates might look like ‘spam’ on people’s timelines.
- Photos on social media are a great way to attract people to your updates. It is proven that posts with photos get better click throughs and shares compared to basic text posts or those with links. It is an old statement, but still very true today that ‘a picture can paint a thousand words’ and this is very much the case when using them on social media.
- Do not forget that Youtube is a social media channel and in fact the 2nd biggest search engine on the internet behind Google (though Google in fact own Youtube now so you could say they are joint 1st). Videos are a great way to engage an audience online so think about using audio tours and property videos as often as possible and share the links to these videos on Youtube across other social media channels to increase views.
- Should you run your own social media in house or should you outsource this work? This is a big question and one which really must be answered by you, the estate agent, though I can offer a few words of advice. No one is better placed to share what your estate agency is all about than yourself and your members of staff as you are there in the day to day working environment and you’ve first hand news and updates that you can share as soon as they happen, ie house has sold or new listings has come on to the market, or you’ve raised £500 for the local charity and here are the photos. Think about outsourcing social media for estate agents if you haven’t the time to dedicate to social media or really can not grasp how to use it and how to communicate your brand across the platforms.
- It should cost you between £200 – £500 per month to outsource your social media management to an external marketing company. When choosing the company to manage your social media, make sure to check what their social media is like and study the quality of their work and frequency of posts as this will no doubt give you a true idea of the standard of work they will produce for you… You wouldn’t trust a mechanic on your car who drives around in an old banger and neither should you trust a so called social media expert who has purchased fake followers or their last social media update was last month…
- How many posts should I do per day? The amount of updates you should do on social media daily is really down to the following you have built and the content you are sharing. If I am honest, and I speak as a person who helps to run social media accounts across many business sectors, estate agency can be seen as a pretty boring subject and especially if we are talking about social media and estate agency. There isn’t much exciting that happens in the world of property compared to say a company selling Wine or classic cars etc. As an estate agency with an average presence on social media I would recommend between 5-7 updates a day and ideally if you can, a couple of posts over the weekend.
- Use social media management softwares to help you with social media. There are varied free social media management softwares such as Hootsuite which you can easily manage the social media accounts you run on. They also allow you to schedule updates so as I recommend to many estate agents, think about choosing one to manage your accounts with an dedicate say 1 hour per week where you can simply schedule all your posts in for the week ahead saving you time and the need to update your accounts thoughout the week (I still recommend you keep an eye on your accounts frequently to deal with enquiries and comments coming in).
- How do I deal with negative comments and feedback on social media? This is not a disaster if this happens and the beauty of social media is that you can quickly turn a negative in to a positive! Deal with that complaint as soon as you can and keep the conversation going on social media so other onlookers and see you are active to a complaint and you take care and consideration about dealing with it promptly and to the clients satisfaction. Once the complaint has been remedied then update the person on social media, ie ‘We are really sorry this occurred and we have put into place procedures so that it doesn’t occur again and for your inconvenience we have also sent you £50 M&S vouchers” or similar. This will totally take away the negative in onlookers eyes and they’ll remember the positives of your quick action and reaction.
- Train all your staff in to using social media in your office. There is nothing wrong (so long as you, the estate agent, owns your own social media accounts) that each member of your staff as access during the day to say your Twitter account and the freedom to post. People like to deal with real life people on social media and by sharing positive and relevant updates shared by members of your team on social media then you are reaching out to more people and in fact also the networks that follows each member of you staff. You can also look to create accounts for each members of your staff under your agency’s branding so to give your brand a wider audience online.
- Should I create my Twitter account as myself (estate agency owner) or as my Estate Agency name? Both is fine, though I would recommend that you create the account username in your estate agency name and run the account as yourself with maybe a profile image of you – This gives you a brand presence on social media, but a person to person presence for your updates and shares.
- Who should I follow on social media? It is best to start following (especially on Twitter) local businesses to you and from there, study the following of those local businesses who’ll most probably have people from your community following them. As long as you are sharing quality and local content on social media, it is very likely that those who you follow will in turn follow you back.
- Make sure you clients know you are on social media. Remember to invite them to join you when you send out emails or newsletters or even when they pop in to your estate agency. Some agencies ask not only for people telephone numbers and addresses on their new client forms, but also their social media ID’s.
- Build your own database of photos and videos for social media. When you are out and about, remember to think social media by capturing images and videos that you could later share on social media. Do not be shy about uploading photos and videos to your social media accounts on events you have attended (especially local ones) or to use images for testimonials and positive news such as putting up ‘sold signs’ or during key exchanges.
- Remember to use your header images and profile images wisely. Definately make sure you are consistent across all the platforms you use and they reflect the style or your agency branding, but think about changes them from time to time to suits seasonal themes and promotions. Nothing stops you from changing sya your Twitter header image to a fun and spooky one for halloween or a festive one during the Christmas period. If you are running a promotion or competition then you can change header images to reflect this and increase exposure for it. If you have large audiences on social media then your header images and profile images become an important part of your marketing power within social media and these can help to increase awareness of your followers to specific promotions you are running throughout the year.
- Think through what usernames you will choose on social media. Nine times out of ten these days, the name you will want to have will be already taken up, so try an grab one that is either your agency name or one that describes your business, location or service. If you are Smith and Son Estate Agency in Blackpool (fictional I hope!) and SmithandSon has gone, then think about BlackpoolProperty or EAinBlackpool or something similar.
- Study what your competitors are doing, especially those who’ve been using for you longer than you have or appear to be getting better results. Look at the estate agents local to you and spend time to see what posts / updates they are sharing, who they are speaking to and the quality of their followers and likes. Nothing is stopping you from following the audiences that follow them and they’ll likely follow you back as they’ll no doubt be interested in local property.
- Hashtags could really have their own 50 top tips, but please at least study hashtags on social media and how they are being used. Generally, a hashtag is added to a social media post to increase the chances of it being found, a simply# infront of a keyword will increase it’s exposure, ie ‘New #property for sale in #Blackpool, offers over £200,000′.
- There are many hashtag hours on social media which are dedicated to varied interests and communities. They usually take place at set times every week and people use the said hashtag in all their updates so as to be part of that active community sharing post updates. Examples include #PropHour, #ColchesterHour, #MotorHour etc. Research what hashtags are being used in both your industry and local community. Remember that hashtags are also used for recent and trending topics and hashtags are used across different social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and more.
- Look to create a hashtag of your own that is ideally local themed or of interest to your local community. It is likely that you town hour, ie ‘#BlackpoolHour’ has already been created and well underway, but nothing stops you from thinking outside the box and creating say ‘#ShareBlackpoolPhotos’ and get people to share old images of Blackpool or #BuyLocalBlackpool and get other local businesses who use social media to talk about the products and services they offer.
- Groups on social media and fan pages are big opportunities to build a target audience. Think about creating a group say on Facebook or a dedicated Fan Page on a topic locally themed. By creating a group / fan page or even a board on Pinterest, you are creating a themed community which people can join and if the subject of the group is relevant to your business, ie ‘Architecture in Blackpool’ or ‘Are house prices too expensive in Blackpool?’ then you can use that group to help steer extra traffic to your own agency website or at least build your reputation locally. Some groups that estate agencies have which I have worked for are quite sizable, sometimes 10,000+ and they are locally themed to help build brand awareness for their estate agency. I recently recommended that one agency create a group for their town on facebook called ‘Buy, Sell and Swap’ and they now have a group of several thousand and they have their estate agency name on the header image at the creator and sponsor of the group which gets many posts and updates from the local community every day.
- Google ranks you on social media activities too. It is true that Google does swap and change how it ranks you on it’s search engine, but what is very evident and apparent with how they show results, it is important that you use social media to better a better placement on searches. If you are into GooglePlus then you will sometimes see your posts appear on first page for relevant searches, especially target ones and local searches. If you write a blog post say on property prices in Coventry, then if you search the next day for ‘property prices in Coventry’ you’ll most likely find your blog that you shared on your GooglePlus account on the first page.
- Study social media reports for your agency, especially if you use a paid for social media management software then you’ll likely have the option to download a report. These reports will not only tell you the results you have achieved, ie new followers and how many reTweets etc, but you’ll also be able to study the location of your social media following, the ages and also gender which gives you a better understanding of who is following you and the type of content you should be looking to share to engage them better.
- Think about running competitions on social media as these attract interest. The likes of Kindle or iPad giveaways always work well, but remember to try and keep entrants as local as possible. Set a competition such as a question about your estate agency, ie when it was formed or what was the name or the original founder (this gets traffic to your website) and then get people to answer the questions by ‘liking your Facebook page’ or ‘Following you on Twitter’. Make sure you add terms and conditions such as the winner needs to come and pick up their prize from your estate agency and you will take a photo which you will share out across social media (his avoids people partaking from across the UK and who are most likely never to engage with your agency ever again).
- Though earlier I recommend that content should be current, you can also run a successful social media campaign by sharing old news and content too. I have seen successfully run social media accounts that share simply old news and photos / videos such as sharing old photos of property in their region, old local news and facts such as famous people who lived in the area or what damage occurred during the past wars. By sharing content from the past, especially if you dedicate an account to this, then you are likely to build a localised audience who will most probably share content with you as many people hold old photos in their albums at home. If you run such an account, then think about creating a hashtag for it, such a #CardiffRemembered or #NorwichInPhotos etc
- Be social on social media. Show you support your local community and look to share other people’s updates as this will get you noticed and sometimes gain you a new follower also. Comment on other people’s posts too as this will also get you noticed and your account will be on show to other people following the thread.
- Use social media to create live events. Estate Agents generally do this for charity events, but nothing stops you from organising the likes of wine and cheese tasting events or local food tasting. If you have a group full of local people then advertise your event to them and you’ll likely get a good response, especially if you involve promoting another local business / food produce.
- You’ll make mistakes on social media, do not be afraid to acknowledge them! Predictive text and simply human error can mean that at times, you do not post on to social media what you were meant to. They’ll be the “We’re pleased to announce the opening of our new branch in the high street” that accidently goes out as “We’re pleased to announce the opening of our nude branch in the high street”. People on social media know that everyone isn’t perfect so an immediate response when these mistakes have been highlighted always helps, especially by light humoured responses like “It’s Monday morning after all” or “I think I need another cup of coffee”!
- As a note of caution when using social media, treat links that you receive in messages from any connections on social media, to include your close friends and family as you would links in e-mail messages. I am not saying you should not open any links, but accounts become frequently hacked so look out for links which do not quite seem right such as ‘LOL, did you see this photo of you” or “Get 1,000’s of new followers on Twitter, click here to grab your free 500″.
- Remember that your competitors eyes are on you too when you use social media so be conservative with the content you share. Ideally, do not share the likes of ‘Great to just a call from 47 Green Lane who want us to go over and value their property on Friday’ – I know it’s a bit obvious and extreme, but you get the idea…
- Remember to share content that is your own more than re-used content and especially re-used content that isn’t hosted on your own estate agency website. Lots of times I have seen companies complaining to other companies that they are using their content and sometimes it’s copyright content. Photos are another problem when you are using someone elses rather than your own – This has occurred to me on a few occassions and I have had to ask for them to be removed as they have been used to promote someone elses business!
- It’s good to get in to your mind sooner than later that everything you share and upload to social media is permanent. Comments you make, photos you share, videos you upload and more are open to a worldwide audience immediately. Even if delete your accounts, the content you have shared will still be floating about on the Internet and can easily be taken and used elsewhere. Only share on social media what you are prepared that someone else may take so especially when it comes to family photos and childrens photo beware that on social media they are no longer your private possessions.
- Have Realistic Expectations. Please do not be too impatient. As mentioned before, you need to spend time and energy to get back from social media what you put in, it takes time to create the content, build relationships, and to learn how to get people to like and follow you. When you hear of people or businesses going viral on social media, it is only the highlighted cases you hear. For every person that has amazing success on social media and gained millions of followers, likes or views in just a few hours, there are millions of other accounts they are just growing steadily along in the back ground. Unless you’ve tonnes of money to throw at social media and every minute of the day spare along with the most imaginative mind for content to share, then things will happen progressively and not over night.
- Make sure you are polite and respectful when using social media. Many businesses do not fully understand social media and will straight away start marketing their products and services to include spamming people’s timelines and inboxes. It is bad practise to spam on social media and certain things like commenting in other businesses fan pages and asking people to like your own is frowned upon as is joining groups and simply using comments to attract new audiences to your own account, you’ll find yourself no doubt suspend or blocked within minutes.
- Once you have built yourself a sizeable audience, that being following your account or in one of your groups, start to ask questions to engage people and attract responses. You estate agency may be re-branding and you’re deciding between two colour schemes or two logos, this is the ideal thing to ask your social media audience to share their opinion.
- Try not to post the exact same content to multiple platforms. Leastways do not do this regularly, though spreading these posts out can be fine if the posts are helpful ones such as ‘how to blogs’ or ‘support our charity event’ etc. I would recommend you schedule posts if you wish to repeat posting the same one and do so that they are spread out over the next few months. With management softwares such as Hootsuite, SproutSocial, MarketMeSuite and similar, you can infact schedule posts months and years in advance which allows you to easily spread out repeat posts.
- Be careful that social media doesn’t become too much of a distraction so that procrastination takes place! I must admit that I can spend up to five hours a day on social media or building content to be used on social media and some platforms are highly addictive and before you know it several minutes and sometimes hours can pass before you know it. Youtube for obvious reasons can be highly addictive and make you very unproductive so make sure you discipline yourself and your staff when using social media. I see some estate agents sending 100+ updates a day, usually on Twitter, simply by chatting to friends and other people in the industry on all sorts of topics though mostly on football!
- Remember that celebrities and sports stars are on social media too and believe it or not they can be contacted and are responsive to people contacting them. Mostly via Twitter, you can at least follow well know faces, but if you time it right, you can tweet them and receive responses and this can be invaluable PR opportunities for you if you get the right person for the right reason. I recommend that estate agents research the celebs that were born or live in their areas, connect with them on social media and try and Tweet them a message or two every so often, especially on topics relevant to the local community. I have had contact with many high profile celebs, maybe never in the league of David Beckham or Tom Hanks, but certainly faces that are well know by most and my correspondence has led to some great PR for me to include them contributing content and images to some of my companies online.
- Make sure that all the content you share online, especially on your website, is shareable. If you have blogs and images on your website, make sure your website allows for sharing so that people who enjoy what you share can then inturn share the content to their networks on social media. The likes of Rightmove and Zoopla allow for sharing of all property on their platforms.
- Lastly, I would say you must enjoy social media. Do not see it as a chore and see it more as an opening to a whole new world that if used correctly, can open up many opportunities for both yourself and your business. More and more people are using social media and nearly all our mobile devices have easy access to social media so it is something that isn’t going to go away anytime soon. You do not have to be an expert to use social media and people are quite forgiving knowing that other people on social media are just human and can make mistakes, just embrace any errors you make by being pleasant and funny just as you would in real life. Social media is just like going to your local morning business networking event where you sit and network with other local business people, it’s a place where you can share with others what you do and also make an impression by being that warm and engaging person who owns their own estate agency in town.
I most probably have not covered everything regarding social media, but I hope I have at least covered 50 good quality tips on social media for estate agents to give them a good head start.