We live in a digital age. Since 1999, the internet and digital technology have not only changed the way we live, communicate, buy and sell, but they have also shaped the very future of how we will do business. Here’s how you can equip yourself with the knowledge needed to survive and make sales in a digital world.

“The internet is changing all the time,” Internet World Stats stated. “Two things, in our opinion, have marked its evolution recently: the social web and mobile technology. These two innovations have changed the way people use the internet. In the social web people have found a new way to communicate. Since its creation in 2004, Facebook has grown into a worldwide network of over 1 000-million subscribers. Mobile technology, on the other hand, has made possible a much greater reach of the internet, increasing the number of internet users everywhere.”

With a low initial investment, anyone can own a web page to promote their business and communicate quickly and directly with a wider range of consumers. JP Farinha, CEO of Property24, said: “Over the last five years we have seen consistent growth in the number of buyers searching for property online. In August 2014 Property24.com emerged as the 24th biggest website in South Africa (according to SimilarWeb.com), and the ninth largest website when considering locally owned online businesses only. What this tells us is, firstly, that buyers searching patterns are relying more heavily on technology; secondly, it indicates that with online technology, making information about property and the market more accessible. It is stimulating interest in an increasingly large property audience. Based on the Mobility 2014 research study conducted by World Wide Worx, 2013 saw a tipping point in the use of mobile apps, with 51% of urban cellphone users making use of these tools. Our data supports the findings of this study regarding growth of mobile-property search as well as the use of apps.

“This increased accessibility will continue to have a positive effect on the property market. We expect to see the biggest shift in 2015 being attributed to mobile technology, as it fundamentally changes the way that consumers think about looking for property. A mental shift occurred when house-hunting moved from being restricted to certain newspapers to being possible any time consumers are at their desks or laptops. We believe that we will start to see mass consumer realisation that they are able to engage in property searching in any spare moment via mobile devices.”

 

So what is the difference between mobile and computer?

In 2015 mobile devices will dominate the way people communicate, search and connect with businesses. People are constantly on the go and this is where mobile technology and smartphones have started to capture the broader market of consumers and businesses.

In South Africa, mobile penetration is sitting at 128% – 97% of South Africans own a smartphone, with 81.6% of them using their smartphones to access the web. Facebook, instant messaging and other forms of social media dominate their usage patterns.

Most business websites were not designed to fit a mobile-phone display, and consumers are too busy to take the time to zoom in or out of a web page in order to reach the relevant information. Instead, they will find a site that fits the device they are using.

Bruce Swain, Leapfrog Property Group MD, said: “You’ve got to advertise where clients are searching, and these days that is increasingly via mobile phone; so if you’re to stay relevant, you’ve got to be accessible on a cellphone.” Many property companies have already recognised this and have mobile sites and are active on social media. Some even have blogs. Those are the three keys to making sure you are relevant in today’s digital age.

Is it just enough to have a mobi site though? An effective mobi site needs to load quickly, be conservative in the amount of data it requires, must be easy to navigate and should be uncluttered.

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX said: “While the traditional real estate marketing methods are still very much alive in today’s market, the addition of social media and how it can be used to influence and interact with consumers has shifted agents. Estate agents are utilising online property search portals and social media as a key component to their property marketing strategy. This is largely because consumer behaviour has changed considerably over the last two decades, with 90% of property buyers first searching the internet before using any other form of media to look for a home, as it is both instantaneous and convenient. Buyers are able to access an endless amount of information without having to leave the comfort of their homes. More than half of the users on Facebook are of home-buying age, and with approximately 500-million users, it is a massive network of potential consumers who can change, shape and influence the market. The social media phenomenon is here to stay, and consumers have the power to make themselves heard.”

 

The Four Top Digital Tools

It is no longer business as usual for the property industry. In today’s digital world you must have a two-pronged approach to marketing. You need to have a strong digital strategy that uses social media, websites and mobi sites, in addition to the traditional real estate marketing methods. At the end of the day people will always prefer to deal with people when it comes to buying a property, but how they decide which one to buy or which company to use will be determined by you digital strategy.

 

Nicolene Hamaty of Century 21 recommends four top digital tools to complement your social media strategy:

 

Hootsuite

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A social media management system that can be used across multiple platforms, such as including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Hootsuite allows you to manage your entire social media platform from one dashboard and to schedule your post for a time and date of your choosing. By using Hootsuite you can effectively run your social media by taking an hour a week to schedule your post and information to go off at certain times of the day and on a certain date.

 

Feedly

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A news aggregator app for web browsers and mobile devices. It compiles news feeds from your favourite websites according to topic. So if you want information on real estate, all you need to do is select it as an area of interest and Feedly will have articles and websites waiting for you when you fire up the app. You can share the content from right inside Feedly as well. “This is one of my go to apps,” Hamaty says.

 

Videolicious

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A great app for making professional-looking videos of your new listings. You start by selecting the clips and dragging them into the order you want them to flow in; next, you narrate your personal message about the property while tapping on the clip you want to marry to the voice recording; you then select background music, free and fully licenced, from the Videolicious library. It takes just a few seconds to automatically trim, mix and layer your clips and photos into an impressive video. Finally, you upload your video to Youtube and share it on your social media platforms.

 

Dropbox

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Useful for keeping documents and information on hand. It stores your files on the cloud (think of the cloud as a memory stick you can access from any computer with an internet connection). As a real estate professional you can benefit a great deal from having your files at your fingertips no matter where you are. All you need to do is download the Dropbox app for your smartphone, create an account and place all your documents in your personal Dropbox folder. Imagine having all your information about a client, listing or area at your fingertips.

 

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Words: Angelique Redmond