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Get online brand building right

Top property websites such as Property24 and Private Property are dynamic digital platforms for reaching your potential clients. But, aside from promoting stock on these portals, engaging with buyers and sellers via Facebook and other social media platforms can also be an effective means of building professional relationships. So how do you get it right? The best social media strategy for estate agents is one that involves knowledge sharing and community building, according to Samantha Wright, digital marketing consultant at The Words Agency. This is opposed to merely posting ads or using hard-sell tactics to reach clients online.

This strategy allows you to build trust, increase engagement and create a professional reputation. Says Wright: “When the time comes to purchase a property, potential clients will be more likely to come to you before somebody else.”

Information sharing

Facebook users aren’t using the platform to search for property. Instead, it’s used to socialise and potentially follow news sites and other sites of interest. For that reason, Marius Honiball, co-director of Uniprop Real Estate, writes articles on trending topics, posting them on Facebook and LinkedIn. If interest rates go up, for instance, he’ll feature something on how it affects monthly bond repayments. Facebook users are much more interested in informative articles instead of pictures of properties that could be 1,000km away, he says.

Not sure what to feature? Well, you know, for instance, that specific questions will come up during the sale process. These may be about transfer fees, occupational rent and levies. How about starting with these common topics? Aside from sharing your own knowledge with followers, you could tap into the expertise of preferred partners such as conveyancers, mortgage originators or community business connections in your network such as Property Professional and Your Neighbourhood.

Doing so also allows for the referral process to kick in. Says Wright: “It’s all about understanding your market. A newspaper ad may be more suitable for a pensioner looking to buy in a retirement village. But a young university leader looking for their first property is more likely to spend time on Facebook and Twitter. You have to be on all these platforms. If they don’t know about you, they can’t do business with you.”

The power of community

Cape Town-based agent Matt Mercer created a Facebook group called Hout Bay Organised (HBO) to create word-of-mouth recommendations for anything from painters to doctors. HBO quickly became the largest information resource in the suburb with almost 16,000 members. Through the group, owners have been reunited with lost pets, money has been raised for good causes in the area and those looking for work have been employed due to referrals – in the process uniting the community. According to Mercer, any social media strategy should focus first on being useful, then on creating an audience to be effective. Says Mercer: “Although the group has never been abused for marketing activities, it has built my brand better than anything else. Direct sales from the group account for 40% of annual sales and listings – and at no marketing cost except for time.”

Anthony Stroebel, head of strategy and innovation for Pam Golding Properties, recently utilised the power of online community in his personal capacity on Facebook to raise funds when at least 15,000 residents of Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay were left homeless after a devastating fire in March.

Money is raised via, which is then distributed via non-governmental organisations such as Thula Thula Hout Bay. Awareness of the campaign was created primarily through Facebook and Instagram, as well as Twitter. “We raised R100,000 in the first 24 hours, then another R200,000 in the next 48 hours,” Stroebel says. After 10 days, that amount increased again to R440,000.

“We are humbled by the response to the campaign and grateful that we were able to play a role in alleviating to a degree this tragic situation,” he says.

To outsource or not?

Time is a valuable resource and having a presence on every social media platform may get a bit much. But the good news is you don’t need to.

According to Wright, Facebook and LinkedIn are the best platforms when it comes to knowledge sharing, particularly for those in the property industry. “You have to go where your potential customers are,” she says. But even if you focus on Facebook, you have to make it part of your daily activities.

While you can teach yourself social media marketing online, it remains time-consuming, so it’s worthwhile considering hiring someone to do it for you. When finding someone to do your digital marketing, you need to ask the right questions. And they need to ask the right questions, too. If they don’t find out about your desired return on investment – or how you want to use Facebook to generate leads – then you should reconsider hiring them. They need to think about your bottom line: how to sell more houses to make you more money.

Concludes Wright, “Social media, in and of itself, is not going to lead to the sale of a house. But what it should do is generate leads for potential customers, whether it’s by building a contact database or having a direct line of communication with community members.”

Be yourself

While it is important to act professionally, it is also important to let your personality shine through. People do business with people they know, like, trust and hear from regularly.

Start a Facebook business page

It’s unprofessional to share your personal family photos when operating in a business capacity. Only post property listings some of the time or people will unfollow your posts – follow the 80/20 rule.

Never post when you’re angry

That also applies to your personal page, not only your business page. Also monitor your page for distasteful posts from others and find solutions in a professional manner where applicable. Remember that politics, religion and sex should be avoided.

Post constantly

You can’t expect to achieve results with ad hoc posts that are poorly thought out. Make sure you are posting, and engaging, every day as well as responding timeously.

Expand your network

To increase engagement, get involved with other conversations about property and redirect people to your page for more information. Or invite friends and colleagues to comment on posts.

Words: Sungula Nkabinde

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