Interviewer: I have with me Andrew Jenkins, Founder and Principal of Volterra Consulting, who is focused on emerging technology. Andrew was formerly head of social media for RBC, one of the country’s largest banks. Andrew, welcome.
Andrew: Thank you.
Interviewer: Andrew, off the top, I wanted to ask you about some of the advantages of using social media for real estate.
Andrew: Well, given the, I’ll call it the different sources that people are being inundated with in terms of information, and people’s attention span is getting shorter, they’re looking for more engaging content. I mean, that’s what’s resonating with them and real estate is well aligned with that, or the content related to real estate is conducive to those changing circumstances.
People want to see pictures of not only the house that they’re considering, but the interiors and so on. They want to see themselves in that space but as well, they want to be well informed about mortgage rates and equity and debt ratios and those sorts of things and that’s not always the sexy part of it, but still fundamental information that they need to know.
If, as a realtor, I can engage them with some visual content about listings, the local neighborhood where the listing might be situated, but then also give them informative information to make their buying decision easier. Make them feel more comfortable with it, and that’s all stuff that can happen in social, then you’ve done them a good service.
Interviewer: Now buying a home is arguably one of the most important purchases in a person’s life, and most people don’t really buy a home on a whim, so what are some of the strategies agents can take to engage potential clients, long-term?
Andrew: I think if you take a look at it from a, I’ll call it a storytelling or a story arc point of view, if someone’s been in real estate long enough to know what’s the typical time they first engage a potential homeowner, I mean, is it six months before they buy a home? Is it weeks? Some people are several years away from buying a house but right now, I’ll call it, they’re at the aspirational phase but you want to be, I’ll call it, on their radar and people buy from who they know and like and people like someone who knows them. If a realtor can take a potential buyer under their wing, keep them informed, whether it’s through email, through social media content, through social engagement through their decision making journey, if they use those methods, combined, I should say, to stay in touch, stay relevant, and keep their potential buyer informed, they’re going to differentiate themselves from their competitor.
The reason I wanted to bring up email, I know we’ve been talking about social media, but almost everyone has an email address. Not everyone is on Facebook, not everyone is on Twitter but you want to be considering your strategy to be a strategy that incorporates a number of methods, a number of channels, and a number of, I’ll call them, social media platforms. Email should be a foundational piece because almost everyone has an email address and it’s one of the most cost effective ways of reaching people.
Interviewer: Now you did talk a little bit about the different platforms and email as a traditional content delivery platform, but is it really a balancing act between some of these new ways of communication and the older, traditional ways?
Andrew: Well I think you hit the nail on the head there. It’s an all new channel is a word that’s being used of late that, I don’t own Facebook, I don’t own Twitter as a realtor as a business but I do own my website, and I do own my email distribution list. I want to use any efforts that I have in social to drive people back to my website to respond to some sort of call to action. To disseminate information from my blog. Ideally, from a call to action standpoint, for them to sign up for my email list, whether it’s about listings, my monthly tips about real estate, whatever it might be. Whatever reason I’m giving people to sign up for my email list so that I can stay in touch with them on a regular basis.
When it comes to choosing which channels in social, you really have to understand what are the, who are the potential buyers that you’re going after, and where do they tend to congregate? Each of the platforms serves different purposes. Pinterest is a great platform for visual content, static images and it’s great for conversion for e-commerce. Now, there’s probably a few organizations that are doing well from a real estate point of view on Pinterest. It tends to be, as a membership, women over the age of 40, so if that happens to be the target demographic you’re going after, Pinterest may be suitable.
Facebook used to skew younger, well now it’s skewing older as people, the baby boomers and so on are using Facebook to reconnect with people from high school and so on because Facebook now exists and makes that possible where they couldn’t before. Young people are moving to Twitter and to Tumblr and things like that, but most realtors are not going after the 18-year-old who’s not in the financial position to be buying a home so they probably may not think that Tumblr or Snapchat or Vine is going to be needed in their strategy.
Again, they’re all different tools and platforms. You have to have a certain degree of familiarity about them, and decide for yourself whether or not the target audience you’re going after happens to be there because if they’re not, you don’t want to waste any time. Social media can be demanding of your time, so you want to make sure that you’re operating in the few channels that you need to be in.
Interviewer: And that raises a really interesting question, which I’ve heard from a lot of people is, how can agents efficiently use social media without spending a ton of their valuable time going from different platform to different platform and trying to figure out what type of content and how they need to engage their followers?
Andrew: If they’re using just a few selective tools, like Hootsuite, for example, or Feedly for RSS feeds to source content from other places. Taking advantage of many of the productivity apps available for a smartphone, and they will have to do a bit of heavy lifting up-front, there’s no free lunch but once they do a bit of heavy lifting up-front and get things organized, and what I call, get a system of content curation, where they’re getting content from complementary sources that are non competitive.
They’re creating their own content through, perhaps images of the listings and write-ups and so on and they’re putting all that together, and then they’re organized in the way they distribute it, then that’s going to make it more manageable on ideally a few minutes a day basis, but they have to do a bit of work up-front. The investment is worth it, because then it makes it manageable.
Interviewer: Great, and earlier we were talking about some years go when you actually sold cars for a number of years and that was over 20 years ago. I don’t want to date you too much, but what primarily are the differences in the way that cars were sold back then and how that relates to some of the challenges which agents might be facing today?
Andrew: Well, you’re having a much more informed consumer. When I was selling cars, we held all the cards. We knew how much we paid for the car, we knew how much margin we were striving to maintain, we knew lease rates, we knew the, we refer to it as the FNI office, or the finance manager, so when we would come and quote a payment to a potential customer, it might include insurance and a few other things.
Well now, the consumer is so informed about your product, how it’s sold, how much you paid for it, they will do some lease or payment calculations online and they’ll get pre-approved online. They’ll do the same thing with your competitors so they come in pretty much from the standpoint of, “I know how much you paid. Here’s how much over cost I will pay you and I know this will be my payment. Here’s my credit card to put a deposit on the car, and I’d like to pick it up Tuesday and I know you have the car in stock.”
I taught a course to 20 plus students visiting Canada from China. They were marketing executives, and they wanted to learn about social media in North America, specific to the automotive industry. One of my students showed me the WeChat app, which is one of the most, if not the most popular social network and social apps in China. Inside of this WeChat chat app on her smartphone, she could look up the inventory of a local car dealer, looking for the specific car that she was interested in, find out if they had it in inventory, and book a test drive in that particular car, all within the app.
When you think about the power, or I’ll call it the empowerment, that the consumer now has because of technology, and more importantly, the information made available to them through that technology, this is where things have changed for anyone in sales. In this case, we’re talking real estate. You’ve got to respect the fact that your buyer is much more informed, and you’ll differentiate yourself from your competition by being the one who’s informative. Whether it’s if you want to invest in your own app, I wouldn’t necessarily advise that, but taking advantage of some of the apps and the social platforms that are out there and using them as the access point to your potential buyer.
Interviewer: Perfect and I’ll link up some of the apps you mentioned in the notes below this interview. The final question that is, you know, what is the number one thing agents need to keep in mind about using these social platforms?
Andrew: That they’re all predicated on content. The number one burden, whether you’re in real estate or in any sort of sales or marketing when it comes to social media, the number one burden you will face is content.
If you’re going to tweet once a day when Twitter sees, I forgot how many hundreds of millions of unique users in a given month, it’s probably not worth it. Facebook is becoming increasingly difficult for your content to be seen because of the algorithm and the changes they’ve made for your content to be seen organically. You’ll probably have to support it with advertising but you cannot ignore the 1.5 billion people on Facebook. It’s the largest single platform by population. It still comes back to you’ve got to have content, and you’ve got to make the necessary effort to get that content in front of the people you want it in front of, consistently and in a certain amount of volume and frequency so that you get seen above or in relation to the other content.
For instance, I’m a bit of an anomaly, but I have content going out. I’m tweeting probably 30 times a day through my system that I’ve created. I’m posting twice a day on Facebook, and it took a while to get that organized, but now it’s working and my audience continues to grow on a consistent basis so if you’re not prepared to make those kinds of commitments, you’re not going to see the results that you want.
Interviewer: Perfect, and Andrew, again, we’ll link up some of those sources that people could check out for helping them build a system, but if someone does want to get in touch with you to find out more about your system and learning about content and social channels, how can they get a hold of you?
Andrew: I’m @ajenkins on Twitter. If they happen to be on Twitter and for simplicity, my company is Volterra, but the simplest email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interviewer: Perfect, Andrew. Well, thanks so much. I’m sure that everyone listening really appreciates your wisdom and your insight on using these channels and I think in a future interview, we’ll talk more about the content aspect of it but for now, let’s leave it there. Thanks again and take care and we’ll talk to you soon.
Andrew: Thank you. My pleasure.
In this interview we talked about a several tools and applications that can help in Using Social Media for Real Estate Marketing:
If there are others you use, please let us know!