Can Realtors use Snapchat for business?

Snapchat is hugely popular among Millennials, and I’m increasingly getting questions from agents asking if this is a good social media platform for their real estate business. If you are a Millennial yourself and have lots of Millennial contacts, then it’s a great platform to promote yourself and your properties.

According to Statistica.com, Snapchat users are mostly young — 23% are age 13-17 and 37% are 18-24 — and while there are exceptions to every rule, this age group typically is not looking to buy or sell a home. 26% are 25-34, the higher end of which is certainly heavy with first-time homebuyers (the median age is 31). However, you still have to understand that 86% of the folks on Snapchat are 34 or younger. 23-age-13-17-37-age-18-2426-age-25-34median-first-time-home-buyer-age-31

That being said, if you’re an agent in your late-20s to early/mid-30s, you’re on Snapchat and you have lots of friends in that age range who are on Snapchat, it’s a great opportunity to connect with them. Real estate is inherently visual, and there are so many cool things you can do with videos and photography to snazz  up property photography and highlight key selling points. It’s also a great way to showcase the lifestyle of the area you serve.

There is, however, one big downside — snaps disappear once they’re viewed. But again, if you’re a devoted Snapchat user with lots of friends on the platform, you can still use it to market your business if you are willing to post in volume.  If you can get in the habit of posting multiple photos and videos daily, being creative about the things you post, and connecting with friends who are looking to buy or sell a home, Snapchat might work for your business.

If, however, you are not in this age range, don’t have tons of contacts in this age range and are just afraid of missing out on the next big thing, I would pass on Snapchat. It’s not the kind of platform where you can easily connect with people you don’t know. And the majority of buyers aren’t using it.

Pokemon Go for Realtors: Gotta Catch ‘Em All!

Opportunities to grab attention can come from the strangest places. I have three kids, 16, 12 and 10, so when the Pokémon Go app went live, I knew within hours. No preteen boy (or teenage girl) could resist it, and mine certainly didn’t. They spent that first weekend wandering the neighborhood, glued to smart phones, chasing down Rattata and IMG_0764Pidgey, and asking to walk 5K so they could earn more Pokeballs. I knew this was big when my 10-year-old son begged me to take them to the mall — a place he loathed as much as math class.

So what does this have to do with real estate? Well, being the intrepid PR person that I am, I started thinking about how this could translate into an opportunity for Realtors. If a Charmander can appear on my bed and a Caterpie on my hearth, then they can appear in other homes… and during open houses.

Monday morning I got my PR team on it and they began looking for agents who were willing to incorporate the Pokémon Go rage into their open houses. Some were skeptical, or maybe they’d just been living in a hole and hadn’t heard about the game, but others saw the opportunity and jumped right in. Offices started posting pictures of Pokémon in front of their signs on Facebook, agents were Instagramming pictures of Pokémon at their listings, and our Baltimore Fells Point office invited people to “Pokestop on in.”13606850_1007922929327320_3748758208741885936_n

One of our top agents, who is extremely marketing savvy and a great guy, even got into it. Roger Pettingell, Coldwell Banker’s #1 agent in Florida, promoted a Pokémon-friendly open house and our PR team landed him on the front page of the Sarasota Herald Tribune (in addition to probably showing his two sons that he’s the coolest dad in history). To ensure the little monsters (Pokémon, not his kids) would be there, he dropped Pokémon lures at the house.

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Even ritzy Bird Key in Sarasota as Pokemon. Photo: Roger Pettingell

We weren’t the only ones who had the idea, and within hours, the news media started running the stories about how local businesses were having fun with the Pokémon Go craze, including Inman (subscription required), Candy’s Dirt and Curbed.

 

If you’re just now learning about Pokémon Go, here are some quick tips on how you can leverage the craze.

  1. Download the app on your smartphone and ask a kid or teenager (or just about anyone) to show you how it works.
  2. Visit your listings, look at your For Sale signs and well known places in your community to find Pokémon. Take pictures of where you’re seeing them, and post on social media.
  3. If you have a particularly family-friendly listing, look and see if it has any Pokémon. If it doesn’t, you can purchase a lure to attract some. Then promote a kid-friendly Pokémon open house (with your seller’s permission, of course).

Also, if you haven’t heard of the craze by now, then you seriously need to get out more. It’s been all over the news and social media, and you literally can’t go anywhere public without seeing people playing the game. You can easily spot them — smart phone up close, excited look on their face, swirling around in circles viewing the world through their camera. It’s actually pretty fun. Gotta catch ’em all!

Think before you accept that strange friend request

Real estate agents using Facebook for business may be tempted to accept any and all friend requests — after all, the more contacts the better, right? Wrong. Facebook has become a favorite tool of scammers preying on those who will accept any friend request, so make sure it’s a real person that you know.

Scammers start by setting up a fake Facebook account and sending friend requests. Here are just a few of the ways these fake accounts are being used: Beware

  • Cyber bulling — Attacking the reputations of companies or people they don’t like
  • Sending spam
  • Posing as a real person on to solicit your friends for money or personal information
  • Bypassing your “friends only” security setting to obtain personal information

Before accepting a friend request — even of someone you know or who you have friends in common with — look at the person’s Facebook page and watch for these red flags.

New Account — If it is a new account with only one or two photos, no cover photo and no or very limited information in the About section, do not accept it. These red flags are quite common on fake accounts.  Yes, it’s possible a real friend is just late to the Facebook game and has just opened an account, but most people will add in some personal details and make a few posts right away.

A Few Common Friends — Don’t assume that an account is real just because you share friends in common. There’s a good chance that your Facebook friends weren’t as diligent as you and have already accepted a request from this fake account.

Already Friends — If you receive a friend request from someone you are already friends with on Facebook, ask the person on their original page if they’ve opened a second page before accepting. Creating fake duplicate pages of real people is a common scam.

Distant Lands — If you receive a request from someone in another town or country that you have no relationship with, that’s an obvious sign.

Make sure that you use social media with common sense. If you don’t know the person or have never heard of them, don’t accept their friend request. Facebook should be used to connect with people you know or have at least met or have some connection with, not random strangers who look friendly and post a nice picture. Doing otherwise could make you the victim of a scam.

How to create a Facebook business page

One of the most common questions I’m asked when talking about social media for Realtors is: How do I set up a Facebook business page? If you already have a personal page, are comfortable using Facebook and are committed to using Facebook to build your business, then a business page is definitely recommended.

How to create a Facebook business pageCreating a business page is fairly simple, just click here to start the process on Facebook. Choose Local Business or Place, then choose Real Estate from the drop down menu and add in your contact information. I recommend using your branch office’s mailing address and your cell number.

Then just follow the prompts. For the web address, it’s best to choose your name or team name so it’s easy to remember and easy to find. For example, mine is facebook.com/jenniferathertonmcguire.  If your name is taken, try including a middle initial, middle name or maiden name. If you are setting up a page for a team, use the team name.

As with your personal Facebook page, it’s very important that you fill the About section out completely. The more information you provide, the easier it will be for people to find you. It’s all searchable, so use key words like “Atlanta Realtor”, “Atlanta real estate agent” and “Atlanta homes for sale”.

If you are still debating whether you need to create a business page or if your personal Facebook page is sufficient, Facebook makes a great case for using a business page. For real estate agents, see my post on the topic. To me, it’s a no-brainer — you need a business page.

However, if you aren’t committed to using Facebook to develop relationships, and you’re only doing this because someone told you to in a training class, hold off and think this through. Social media is only beneficial if you are active on it. Having an incomplete and outdated social media page is like putting a hand-written For Sale sign in a yard, which you would never do, right? I recommend only starting a page if you’re serious. It doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment, but you do need to make a commitment.

And if you’re not on Facebook at all yet, you are definitely late to the party, but it’s not too late. Visit Facebook.com and it will walk you through the steps to get started. Then take some time to fill out the profile as completely as possible, making sure to provide your email address, cell phone number and website. Add a picture of yourself for the Profile Picture and add another for the Cover Photo, and start connecting with the people you know. Once you are comfortable with how Facebook works and have connected with your sphere, then it’s time to open a business page.

Before posting properties on social media, follow this one tip

If there’s one thing Realtors love to do on social media, it’s show off their property for sale. And why not? It’s a free and easy way to spread the word about your exciting new listing. But this can get old really fast and make people tune out — or worse, unlike your page — if that’s all you do. Even when you do post a property for sale, there’s a boring way to do it, and an interesting way that will keep your followers engaged. Here’s the #1 tip for writing a property post that will get attention.

The self-serving words and all capped letters take away from this gorgeous photo.

The self-serving words and all capped letters take away from this gorgeous photo.

Choose a standout feature to highlight or focus on the lifestyle the property offers, rather than just saying, “Hey, look at my new property.” In the example to the left, the picture is absolutely stunning — what a pool! — but the words in the post look like a cheap advertisement. Don’t use all capital letters (the equivalent of screaming at your readers), don’t use so many stars, and definitely do use actual sentences. What works for the MLS does not work for social media and will come across more like an ad for a used car lot.

The example to the right does a better job by showing what it would be like to own this property. The experience is much more interesting to a potential buyer than a laundry list of facts. What horse owner wouldn’t love the idea of being able to ride all year long?

This post hints at what it might be like to live here, which is more effective.

This post hints at what it might be like to live here, which is more effective.

Focus on the lifestyle the property provides, or a specific aspect of the property like how fun it would be to cook with the kids in the gourmet chef’s kitchen, rather than just screaming: “I WANT TO SELL THIS TO YOU!” The first example is very self-serving and all about you and what you want, which is a turn off. The second example is all about your readers and what’s in it for them, which is always going to be more interesting.

 

I recommend following Coldwell Banker on Pinterest to see some good examples of pinterest2this type of post. In this example to the left, you can just picture having a backyard BBQ with kids running around in the back yard. You want potential buyers to be able to  picture themselves living in this home, and this type of social media posts immediately puts that image in their mind. And it’s much more interesting than the example with the gorgeous pool!

 

How to be interesting on social media

Who would you rather chat with at a cocktail party — the guy who has an interesting comment on just about any topic, or the lady who drones on and on about one thing? One mistake I see real estate agents frequently make on social media is posting only one type of content. Even $30 million luxury beach homes will get old eventually if that’s all you ever post. Like they say, variety is the spice of life, so mix it up and follow the 30-60-10 rule of social media:

30% Owned — This is the original content you create, such as photos, videos, links to your blog, and yes, your property for sale.

60% Shared — Share links to social media content that someone else created, for example, linking to a blog post you found interesting, to a video your brokerage shared, or retweeting a news item from the local paper. The key to successfully sharing content is to add your perspective. Never just RT or share it on your page — you should always add a comment offering some insight on why you find it interesting, relevant or entertaining.

10% Call to Action — This is where you ask for the business and offer your services. Ask questions like: Do you know anyone planning to sell a home? Are you looking for a vacation property? Are you curious what your house is worth?  Do you know anyone who is relocating? This is where you ask for referrals, invite followers to an open house, and offer your services. Make sure to include a compelling photo or video with it.

Follow this simple rule, and followers will be interested in your posts instead of getting bored and tuning out.

9 social media mistakes to avoid

Social media can provide an excellent opportunity for real estate agents to expand your sphere of influence, demonstrate your expertise and make a name for yourself, but making mistakes can derail your efforts. To get the most out of social media, avoid these 10 common pitfalls that many Realtors succumb to:

  1. “Friend” My Business – You don’t want a prospect to have to send you a friend request to see your Facebook page, do you? By using your personal page as a professional page, you also subject them to your privacy settings, your thoughts on last night’s reality TV and silly cat videos. Instead, create a business page that focuses on building your business and not your personal life, then invite your friends, clients and prospects to like it.
  2. Have You Seen My New Listing? – Or this new listing? Or this one? Pages quickly get boring if all you do is post about listings. Do incorporate listings into your posts, but make sure that’s only part of your overall content and not your only content.
  3. Let’s Talk Politics – No, let’s don’t. Agents who discuss – or worse, rant – about a politician, party or political decision not only risk alienating a large percentage of prospects, but they also look unprofessional. If you’re using your page for business, leave the politics out. The same goes for any topic that is controversial or polarizing. I know it’s hard not to jump in and offer your two cents during an election year, but it’s best to resist the urge.
  4. Negativity Town – Never post anything negative or critical against your brokerage or a competitor. It looks unprofessional and will not win you any friends.
  5. Old Page Better than No Page – Actually, that’s not true. Having an old profile that hasn’t been updated or posted to in months or even years sends the message that you are out of touch, or worse, out of business. It’s best to take it down and start again (click here for directions), then make sure to post at least 3-4 times a week. Use a free tool like Hootsuite to schedule posts in advance, so you can keep fresh content coming without spending a lot of time.
  6. Mr. Roboto – Social media is all about engaging with real humans, so be
    Automating posts from another social media profile, vendor or the MLS will make you look like a robot. And that's not good. (Photo Credit: Kopf odor Zahl/Flickr)

    Automating posts from another social media profile, vendor or the MLS will make you look like a robot. And that’s not good.
    (Photo Credit: Kopf odor Zahl/Flickr)

    one. Don’t automate your posts from another social media profile, a vendor or the MLS. You’ll look like a robot, and what’s appropriate for one social media platform may not be appropriate for another.

  7. Privacy, Shmivacy – You would never run a picture of a client or their family in an advertisement without their permission, so don’t do it on social media. Respect their privacy, ask for permission to use their photo and get it in writing before posting.
  8. Hang Your “Open” Sign – Don’t leave the big image at the top of Facebook (called the Cover Photo) and Twitter (Header Photo) blank. That’s like a shopkeeper forgetting to light the “Open” sign in the window. Show followers that you are open for business by choosing an image that represents your niche, community or business.
  9. Borrowing Images – While a quick Internet search may present thousands of entertaining photos to share on social media, that doesn’t mean you have permission to use them. Avoid a costly lawsuit by:
  • Sharing links to websites
  • Using photos from Flickr Creative Commons — they’re free, just make sure to give a photo credit to the owner
  • Purchasing inexpensive images through sites like shutterstock or istockphoto
  • Taking your own photos

If you follow these rules, you’re on your way to an engaging real estate social media profile that will help you accomplish your business goals.

Tips for finding the right audience on social media

Not all social media are equal — they’re actually very different, particularly in who you connect with and how. Because real estate agents don’t have time to build a presence on several social media platforms, it’s important to understand the differences so you can pick the ones that work best for you and what you want to accomplish. I’ll post more on the differences, but one of biggest things that makes each site unique is who you can connect with and how.

facebookUse Facebook to connect with people you know, whether you know them well, knew them several years ago or they’re acquaintances. Friends, family, neighbors, college buddies, friends from high school, clients, and real estate agents or employees at your brokerage are an obvious place to start — people you know, see regularly and already have a relationship. But you can also connect with acquaintances, such as agents, appraisers or mortgage brokers you’ve done business with, and people you’ve met at networking events. But it’s considered intrusive to send a friend request to someone you haven’t met, so it’s not recommended.

twitterTwitter is my favorite social media platform because it’s easy to connect with people you don’t know, but with whom you share a common interest. Follow the same people you would on Facebook who are on Twitter, and then expand your sphere by following people you may not know but would like to build a relationship with, like your local real estate reporter, business owners and even celebrities. I actually know a Florida Realtor who sold a property to Rosie O’Donnell for $5 million, and then turned around and sold that same property for Rosie two years later for $5.3 million, all because she connected with Rosie on Twitter!

pinterestOn Pinterest, it’s less about making connections and more about sharing pretty pictures. But it’s through your gorgeous property photos that you can connect with potential buyers. If you use the right search terms in your posts, such as dream home, family home or beach house, along with the location, you’ll start to attract followers who might be potential buyers. Just make sure every property photo is linked to that property on your website, so they can find it online if they’re interested.

instagram-icon-circle-vector-logo3Instagram is also about pretty photos, but it’s very different from Pinterest. Instagram is used more to show off personal photos that you take, rather than photos you find online or from another source. Use the “Find Facebook Friends” and “Find Contacts” functions in your Instagram settings to connect with people you know. Then follow people you’d like to connect with. Most importantly, use lots of hashtags on Instagram in your posts to attract the people you want to follow you, like #SarasotaHomesforSale, #AtlantaProperties or #beachhomes.

youtubeYouTube, while technically a social media site, is viewed by most people as just a place to post videos and use the links in other social media. However, if you really love making videos, it presents a great opportunity to build your sphere and influence. Check out what Jessica Riffle Edwards has done on YouTube. With more than 400 videos, she has amassed a following of 3,800+ subscribers and has received almost 1.2 million views. If video is not your passion, then use YouTube as a place to post what videos you do make, and then share a link on your other social media and your website.

linkedinLinkedIn is all about business and is set up for you to connect with people you know or have done business with, like other agents, mortgage brokers and bankers, appraisers, plumbers, landscapers, Chamber of Commerce members, clients, etc. If you want to connect with someone you haven’t met, you can ask for one of your connections who knows that person to introduce you through LinkedIn. For example, if you want to connect with a city council member and one of your clients on LinkedIn knows her, you can ask your client to introduce you through LinkedIn.

googleplusIt doesn’t seem like Google+ ever really took off like Google had hoped, but it does enjoy a dedicated, if somewhat techy audience and you can use it to boost your website’s search engine optimization. You can connect with people much like you do through Facebook. The advantage of Google+ is you can arrange those connections into “circles” (friends, agents, family, etc.) and share posts that are only visible to a specific circle. So you can easily share vacation photos of the kids with your family, and keep more business-appropriate posts for your clients.

So pick the social media platform or platforms that work best for you, then start connecting!

5 Tips for Engaging Social Media Content

You may have heard the phrase “content is king” – that just means that you need to have interesting social media posts to attract followers. Here are seven tips for finding and creating interesting social media content for real estate that potential buyers and sellers will want to view.

Show your followers why your community is a great place to live. Photo: Adrian Snood/Flickr

Show your followers why your community is a great place to live. Photo: Adrian Snood/Flickr

Love Your Community – Show what it’s like to live in the area that you serve. What’s going on today? What is your favorite restaurant, theater, non-profit or event? Does your community have something new that your followers will enjoy, like a new bike trail or shopping area? Show why your community is a great place to live, work and play, and you’ll gain followers.

Water Cooler Test – Post unique properties that pass the water cooler test, meaning people will chat about it and want to share it with their friends and followers. Or, find a way to relate listings to an interesting trend or tip. Just make sure your listings are only part of your posts, not all of your posts, or your followers will get bored.

Offer Answers – Think about the questions you hear most often from buyers and sellers, and then answer them on your social media pages to provide valuable information and tips.

Be Visual – Posts with a compelling picture or video tend to get viewed more often, so avoid posting comments without something visual to go along with it. It’s best to take your own photos and videos, or share videos from YouTube. Don’t borrow images you find on Google Images, though, because you don’t have permission to use them. Instead,  use free photos from Flickr Creative Commons (make sure to give credit) or purchase inexpensive images through sites like shutterstock or istockphoto.

Proofread – Nothing can make u look moor unprofessional then a big glaring typo or freequant misspellings in your soshial media posts. So profread everything twyce befor e youu post. (Nuff said.)

Follow these 5 easy tips, and you’ll be on your way to an interesting social media profile that you can use to build your business and expand your sphere of influence.

 

3 Tips for Streamlining Your Social Media

Social media can be a bit daunting for the busy real estate professional who needs to be out selling homes and prospecting, not sitting inside working on the computer. Here are three easy tips that will help streamline your social media activities — especially for those who are relatively inexperienced in social media — so you can get the most out of this powerful tool without taking up too much time.

  1. There’s an App for That – Download apps for the social media platforms you use and make posting a part of your day, straight from your smart phone. Touring a new listing with a cool pool? Share a photo on Facebook. At a sporting event and your local team just won? Post it on Instagram. Quick, in-the-moment posts take just seconds from your smart phone or tablet, and show you are the local expert and actively working your business.
  2. Use Notifications – Responding quickly to comments that are posted on your page is vital for engaging in conversations and building relationships with prospects. Go into the Settings on your smartphone and enable the Notifications function on each of your social media apps, so you can instantly see any activity on your page. Then when you see someone post a question to your page or private message you, you can respond right away.
  3. Schedule Posts – Use a free tool like Hootsuite, which allows you to manage all of your social media accounts in one place. You can schedule posts and share posts from other social media users, although make sure you are still making in-the-moment updates to supplement the more evergreen scheduled posts.