I was recently invited to speak at an event in Portugal attended by representatives from the property industry across the Algarve region of the country. The hot topic of the day was social media and how estate agents, rental companies and property developers could use the various networks to generate interest in their properties and ultimately drive sales and rental income.
While nearly everyone who attended the event claimed to be “on” social media, very few were actually using it to its full (or anywhere near its full) potential. Most simply had a Facebook account where they listed properties. Some attendees were on Twitter but did little to build engagement, and while there was a smattering of interest in Instagram and Pinterest, few could see a business case for building an audience via these channels.
It has to be said that there was a degree of skepticism in the room about the value of social media. This was despite the fact that the event would not have taken place if it were not for a series of social engagements via LinkedIn earlier in the year. In this respect, I could argue that social media marketing works so well, the people it actively engages might not even realize they are being marketed to. In an age where people increasingly hate the hard sell, this is not a bad thing.
One of the main problems my delegates had with social media was their belief that very few people in Portugal (certainly within their target market) were actually using social media. As most of the people in the room were targeting foreign property investors, particularly from the UK (second only to the U.S. in terms of Twitter users), this objection didn’t hold much weight. They were also surprised to learn that social media was actively consumed by much older age groups than they initially considered. Twitter can boast that it has more users over the age of 35 than under this age group.
Side Note: More than one delegate told me that when clients were looking for accommodations while visiting Portugal to view potential properties, their number one priority was Wi-Fi. This alone should inform them of the value of technology to their client base.
Selecting Your Network
Part of the problem the delegates had was knowing which social network would work best for their business. Should they focus on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or Pinterest? With so many different social networks to choose from, it’s easy to understand why so many business owners feel a little overwhelmed.
I’m a firm believer in not spreading yourself too thinly (particularly when resources are limited). Therefore, it is better to focus on the individual social networks that stand the best opportunity of delivering success rather than attempting to please everyone. The best place to start is the social networks that your clients and your potential clients actually use.
But what if you don’t know which social networks your clients are on? Well, have you actually asked them?
You wouldn’t think twice about asking for a client’s telephone number or email address, so why not ask if they are on Twitter or Facebook?
Tip: You might love Twitter but if the majority of your clients prefer Instagram, I know where I would focus my attention.
Building an Audience
The next step is to start building an audience. This can be done by a combination of the following methods:
- Start publishing relevant, engaging content. This will be all the more powerful if you link to a website or blog where you can track user engagement and capture contact details.
- Start following the kind of people you want to follow you back. Target people who follow your competitors, ask questions relevant to your industry or simply share the same interests as your existing clients. Never be tempted to buy followers. The numerous companies offering to deliver thousands of new followers to your social media accounts will deliver (at best) little in the way of targeting or (more realistically) thousands of fake accounts and spambots.
- Start engaging in conversations and pointing people toward useful information. Try not to sell. Instead, you should be looking to build trust and demonstrate how useful your businesses is to potential clients.
Being Mobile and Efficient
Most social networks have been optimized for the mobile environment. This means you don’t have to sit in front of a computer to add content or engage with your audience. For an estate agent who spends most of his or her time traveling between property viewings, this represents a great opportunity to maximize marketing output without significantly adding to the workload. Dead time between viewings or other natural breaks in the working day presents the perfect opportunity to dive in and out of your social media feeds. It’s all about working smarter, not harder. You can be successful on social media without adding extra hours to your working day.
The Truth About Social Media
Social media can deliver real results to your business if you are willing to put the work in. Simply being “on” social media is not a strategy. It’s a bit like saying you have a telesales operation just because your sales team has access to phones. Simply turning up won’t yield results.
Focus on creating and sharing useful content and engaging the community of people interested in your product or service, and you won’t go far wrong. It’s called “social” media for a reason, so get out there, be likable and find new friends.