Tuesday 28 March 2017

The right moves: Real estate and social media

Social media is no longer a choice for business
Social media is no longer a choice for business

Paul McNeive

Social media in business is no longer a choice, the decision is what platform to use and more importantly, how to use it properly. Whether you are an estate agent, architect, engineer or surveyor, social media allows you to communicate with your market like never before.

Together with Noel Davidson of QED Training, an expert in social media, I reviewed a number of firms social media activity and with a few exceptions, it's clear that the industry is slow to exploit the options available.

Ireland has the youngest population in Europe and those people are living their lives through smart phones and tablets. Facebook has 2.4m active personal accounts in Ireland, over half of the population. An interesting trend is that there has been most growth in the over 60 age group in the last three months

Twitter use has surged in Ireland in the last 12 months and one in four people now have an account. LinkedIn is the third most popular platform in Ireland with over 880,000 active accounts, dedicated to business and indexed by Google's search engine, which increases your ranking in online searches. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world and is a great way for businesses to showcase their services.

Pininterest is gaining traction here, especially among the design community, where it's used to share ideas. Google + has similar functionality to Facebook but categorises your contacts. It can optimise your Google results.

According to Noel Davidson, firms must decide who their audience is and how and where do they engage with property related information. Then start engaging on those channels, asking questions, responding to queries and driving clients and purchasers to your website or point of purchase. All of this activity drives your brand awareness and forges a link with your clients and potential clients

Mr. Davidson adds that the most common mistake being made in the property sector is to engage in "one way" communications, that don't encourage engagement. The biggest mistake he says is "Sell, Sell, Sell" where the firm is simply posting brochures of properties for sale or blatantly advertising its services. He advises that the secret to social media is more in the "social" than in the "media." Firms should post great stories, listen attentively, be authentic and "likeable."

Surprisingly, some of the major estate agents have no social media presence at all and several of the big firms have posted nothing on their sites for over six months. The SherryFitzgerald Group are probably the best of the estate agents. In Noel Davidson's view some of the national franchises are "competing with themselves" where provincial offices have individual social media sites. In some cases the "parent brand" has good social media activity but that is being undermined by franchisees using sites to advertise properties and there are also variations in branding.

Architectural and engineering firms don't fare much better and overall the industry is a step behind the major law and accountancy firms. It's interesting to see how some of those latter firms ramp up their activity directed at students around graduation time. With the property sector complaining of difficulties attracting graduates, those firms that engage early with students on social media will do best at recruitment time.

Noel Davidson suggests that the best postings are in the style of "Top 10 tips to maximise investors returns", "Why you need an architect" or "BER made simple" which encourage the audiences to engage with the story. He stresses every posting should be complemented with a photo or video. "A picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth a thousand pictures."

Property firms ignore social media at their peril and every firm should have training and a social media policy in place.

A possible sign that the recession is over is the resumption of the "Kerry Invitational Golf Classic" and I was delighted to partake in the three days of challenging golf last weekend. The Classic has been organised by Billy O'Sullivan of McNally Handy and Partners for many years but fell victim to the recession. This year, a rejuvenated field played at Killarney and another at Waterville, although the strong contingent from the property sector were pipped to the title by top racehorse trainer Tom Taafe.

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