The Weekend Australian last Saturday had an interesting article titled Facebook shakes up house hunt (subscription may be required).
It described how a couple had bought their dream home after finding it on the Facebook page of a real estate agent. They arranged to inspect it immediately after it appeared on the page and bought it the next day, before the for-sale sign had been put up in the yard.
The journalist writing the article called me for some comments and included this at the end of the piece:
Social-media expert Ross Dawson said Facebook had enormous potential, but many real estate agent’s efforts were “terrible”. “They just don’t understand it. It’s a completely different mentality. They just want to sell,” Mr Dawson said.
This is true, but I think what was more interesting was the rest of what I said to the journalist, which wasn’t quoted in the article.
Social media is a massive opportunity for real estate agents, which remains largely untapped.
Buying houses is an intrinsically social activity.
When you move somewhere, you are moving into a community as much as to a location. You want to know who lives there, and you would like to know if any of your friends is connected into that community. Certainly once you move there you want to connect into local activities and find like-minded people.
Real estate agents are almost always focused on a few suburbs or a small geographical area. They should be connected to the other businesses and retailers in that area, and absolutely should support them as much as possible.
Their business depends on a thriving community. Certainly their social media activities should be significantly focused on connecting to and supporting local businesses.
The starting point for any social media engagement is to give genuine value to the community. Inevitably value comes back.
The approach of using social media simply to sell – which is unfortunately still the norm in real estate, financial advice, and other high-value personal services – will never get very far. In actively seeking to add value to the local community, by supporting businesses, promoting local events, providing people opportunities to meet and connect, and highlighting local issues, real estate agents can bring themselves to the center of the local community.
Real estate should be a relationship business, and unfortunately it often is not. When people are ready to sell their property, they should know immediately who they will ask to help them. That will be someone who is connected into the community, helping and adding value, being visible very likely through their highly local social media engagement.
Even if someone does resort to online searches to find the best local real estate agent, almost inevitably the agent with the strongest social media presence will come up on top.
In short, social media is an enormous opportunity for real estate agents. Hopefully many more than have so far will seize that opportunity to create value for themselves and others.