The truth about testimonials
In nearly every guide to selecting a real estate agent, homeowners are instructed to look at, not just an agent’s sales history, but also how satisfied the buyers and sellers who dealt with that agent in the past were. Most agents will include a few testimonials on their websites and in the shop windows of their offices, but those are mostly subjective, because they’ve been cherry picked from a stack of other similarly glowing reviews. People are more aware of this now, so they’re more sceptical about relying on testimonials supplied to them from the agent.
Enter two real estate agent ranking and review sites: RateMyAgent and RealSatisfied. Both services provide a platform for buyers and sellers to leave honest reviews, so that future vendors can use this feedback to make their decision about appointing an agent to represent them in the sale of their home. They also provide detailed statistics about each region throughout Australia, including the top agencies by market share, the number of recent sales in the region, and the number of active agents and agencies operating in the area.
Ratings sites offer tools for agents, too
For agents, a platform like RateMyAgent, which was developed in Australia, and is now in beta mode in the United States, where it plans to launch a US version of it’s service in September, provides a range of tools, such as the ability to broadcast reviews on the RateMyAgent website to your social media accounts, create listing reports that contain detailed statistics about recent sales history for prospective vendors and clients, connect RateMyAgent to your website and include a live feed of client reviews, and more.
Of course, there’s also LinkedIn, which allows agents to include much of the same information in their profile, and also has the capacity to handle recommendations from people they’ve worked with in the past. But LinkedIn is a tool that’s mostly used by recruiters to find staff, and is likewise used by individuals who are looking for work. While there’s certainly no harm in an agent creating their own LinkedIn profile and using it to connect with other professionals, it’s unlikely to help them generate new leads and get more listings.
Consider your online presence carefully
The internet is practically teeming with social media platforms and other tools to help businesses develop their online presence, but just because there’s a platform, like LinkedIn or Pinterest or RateMyAgent or something similar out there, it doesn’t mean you have to be using it to have success online. Remember that the more social media accounts and other platforms you’re active on, the more time you will need to spend keeping them up-to-date, even if many of them fail to deliver any new leads.
With this in mind, develop your online presence strategically by selecting the platforms and channels that are most relevant to you, your business or industry, and your clients, and only creating a profile on the ones that will help you to achieve your goals. Before investing time in a particular platform, look at its performance metrics and consider whether they’re aligned with your own business goals. If they’re not, then there may be other options that are more worthy of your time.
If you’re looking to kick start your online presence, using social media or a platform such as RateMyAgent, contact our team to discuss which options are best suited to you and your business goals. Alternatively, to learn more about digital technologies that help real estate agents build an online presence, subscribe to our blog.
There are online tools to help
In a previous blog post, we talked about the new era in real estate that allows homeowners to compare real estate in their local area with just the click of a few buttons, using lead generation and comparison sites. As easy and efficient as a lead generation site like OpenAgent may be, and although they’re structured in a fashion to help maintain their independence so they can provide objective information to homeowners, they are a business, after all — and one that seeks to double their revenue in the next 12 months.
This means they have a vested interest in converting each user who comes to their site and hands over their contact details, by matching them up with a real estate agent. For some homeowners, who are either time poor or new to the real estate sales process, using an intermediary like OpenAgent will make the process a whole lot easier. For everyone else, however, they may prefer to do the legwork themselves, so they can be doubly sure they’re appointing the right agent to sell their home.
All agents have to be licensed
Although most real estate agents will disclose their license number on their website, business cards, or by hanging their certificate of registration somewhere in their office, like Bill Tsounias a real estate agent for McGrath in Sydney does, it’s always a good idea to verify that information yourself. In NSW, for example, the Service NSW website includes a portal where you can check a real estate agent’s license.
In addition to seeing that the agent is licensed, it will also list any conditions associated with the license — i.e., whether they may exercise the functions of an auctioneer — any compliance issues, such as disciplinary actions or prosecutions against the agent. It will also list any associated parties, and whether a manager or receiver has ever been appointed before, which provide key details on the financial health of the license holder. There are similar registers in all other states and territories.
First impressions still count
But for all the research you can do into an agent’s license and recent sales history, one of the most important things you can do is to have a conversation with them, be it over the phone or in person. Their manner and temperament, and the way they explain key issues to you should help you decide which agent you feel most comfortable with selling your home. These first impressions still count, even in the digital age.
It’s company policy for McGrath agents to list their license number on their website so it makes it a lot easier for buyers and sellers to verify whether an agent is licensed to handle a particular real estate transaction. It also shows that McGrath is committed to honesty and transparency, an important ingredient in the success of any real estate agent today, and like McGrath, Bill Tsounias is just as committed to being a genuine and reputable real estate agent.
He’s come onboard with Virion to create his own professional website, where he can showcase his current listings, share information about his recent sales, and provide tips and advice to homebuyers and owners about the real estate market and what to expect when buying or selling a home. We have other agents on board who keep clients and vendors up to speed with information and listings using Facebook and other social media.
To begin building your online brand, contact our team to discuss which digital marketing options will suit you and your digital marketing goals. Alternatively, to learn more about digital technologies that help real estate agents build an online presence, subscribe to our blog.
What ‘data’ makes Facebook so valuable?
As the most successful and most widely-used social media platform in the world, Facebook has amassed a lot of data over its 12 years of existence. That data is what makes Facebook so valuable, but it’s also what guides its business decisions. Facebook knows what emerging trends will be the next big thing, before you could even conceivably call them emerging trends. It’s how they knew to acquire Instagram; to introduce online advertising; expand into news publishing, by developing its Instant Articles service. Facebook is also a major platform for businesses, because of its emphasis on building communities, with whom you can share and discuss information that’s important to you. And all that data Facebook has under its belt, makes it easy to target people not already a part of your community.
Indeed, Facebook is also a major focus of nearly every real estate agent we speak to when we’re discussing their digital marketing strategy. Every agent wants to be on Facebook, and given that it’s more popular than… well, to borrow a phrase from John Lennon, Jesus, it makes a lot of sense to be using Facebook as part of your content marketing strategy. But there are a lot of real estate services using Facebook in ways that have the potential to disrupt the real estate model even further than it already has been.
Using Facebook as a directory for real estate agents
All that data Facebook has under its belt, in addition to the sheer volume of people who use Facebook on a daily – if not, multiple times per day — basis, has made it a very useful platform for real estate businesses to create online directory resources that connect buyers and vendors with real estate agents. The American-based HomeASAP service is the number-one real estate agent directory on Facebook, with over 457,000 members in its directory. As a directory that also connects buyers with real estate listings, it has the power to change the way people look for and buy real estate.
Although real estate agent directories aren’t new — there are plenty similar services, like followit, Local Agent Finder, Agent Select, etc — HomeASAP is unique because it’s directory is hosted entirely on Facebook. Only buyers, vendors and agents with a Facebook account can access the directory, further evidence that Facebook has, itself, become a search engine in its own right. And because the service is hosted on Facebook, you’re able to capture more data than if a person were to anonymously visit your a website.
Could Facebook topple the Big Two property portals?
Facebook allows agents to monitor who’s visiting their page, and it also provides them with a casual way of engaging with potential buyers and sellers who may not be ready to speak on the phone yet. This isn’t possible on a property portal — whether it’s an app or website. Sure, you can track them by inserting a line of code into your website, but they’re still anonymous until they give your their contact information. With Facebook, you know who’s visited your Facebook page, and you can make contact with them by making a friend request. Because Facebook also makes it easy to share and disseminate information right from the platform itself, it has the potential to topple the property portals, which currently provides agents with little promotional or marketing opportunities, and likewise provides only very rudimentary statistics about who has viewed their listings.
Considering that, second only to Google, Facebook is the world’s most used website and is responsible for generating a quarter of all web traffic, it certainly has the potential to become a powerful player in real estate. If Facebook isn’t already a part of your content marketing strategy, you’re missing out on valuable lead generation opportunities, not to mention potential buyers who may be looking for their next home.
Success on Facebook begins with a successful strategy
Facebook is the ultimate social media platform, and even though it’s an effective platform to build your online profile and market your services to potential buyers and sellers, your success is still entirely dependent on whether you’re using Facebook in the spirit in which it is intended — a social network to connect with people and share information that matters to you, with the emphasis being on the word ‘social’.
To be social means to have a free flow of information that people will engage with, comment on and share within their own, wider social network. If you want to keep people engaging with the information you share with them, you need to create a strategy that starts a conversation and encourages others to continue that conversation.
To use Facebook to begin building your online brand, contact our team to discuss which digital marketing options will suit you and your digital marketing goals. Alternatively, to learn more about digital technologies that help real estate agents build an online presence, subscribe to our blog.
You can now create your own beautiful business apps
Now that property marketing has mostly moved online to property portals like realestate.com.au and Domain, a real estate agent’s ability to leverage their current listings to get new ones has been significantly eroded. This is a trend is set to continue as the real estate model becomes further disrupted by technologies that shift buyer behaviour from searching for properties, to waiting for a notification about one that matches their requirements. These days, if an agent is to build brand awareness from which they can generate new listings, they need to spend time building their profile online, and the best way to do that is to use content marketing.
Content marketing involves creating and publishing original and engaging content online. The content you create can be anything, from educational videos to informative blog posts to downloadable guides. But if you want to get really original and really, really engaging, you could even create your own app that you can use to push all sorts of content and notifications directly out to vendors and buyers alike.
Applications are the future of online marketing
Apps are where the future of online marketing is going, as more and more people use devices — like smartphones, tablets and even smart watches — rather than desktop computers and laptops to access information online. Applications also improve the user experience, while providing the developer with valuable information not usually available when a person simply browses a mobile version of a website.
Developing your own custom app is now increasingly simple, just as creating your own website is, thanks to WordPress and other such content management systems. An app development system like Flok, for example, allows you to easily create your own app — and a beautiful one, at that — and then promote it using social media, email and SMS marketing, with a built-in analytics dashboard to measure its success. Apps work best for businesses with repeat customers, so try to create your app with the goal of encouraging people to use it regularly.
It’s time to build lasting relationships
For too long, a lot of real estate agents have neglected to build lasting relationships with their buyers and sellers, seeing the sale and purchase of a property as a one-off transaction that’s not likely to come around again anytime in the near future. This was all well and good when people turned to newspapers, shopfront windows, and signboards to find out about a local agent in their local area, but this isn’t how the real estate model works anymore.
Agents need to prioritise building lasting relationships online, long before a homeowner has even considered selling their property, so that when they eventually do decide to take this step, there is only one agent they have in mind — you! If you produce content that covers both sides of the real estate process — buying and selling — then you’ll be able to capture the passive buyers that the market has lost since the decline of newspaper advertising.
Increase awareness of your brand by building relationships with other local businesses
If you haven’t already, reach out to local businesses in your area and build a reciprocal marketing relationship with them. With a service like Flok, you could sponsor a loyalty card for your local cafe by using the loyalty card app to give regular customers of your local cafe a free coffee. Use your branding on the loyalty card app and promote it, both in the cafe, on social media, and through your other marketing.
The best part about using an app, rather than a traditional paper loyalty card, is that for as long as the app is installed on a person’s phone, you can send them push notifications. You can also use it to collect email addresses, so you can continue marketing to them. Since everybody loves coffee, the uptake would be relatively swift and it would be used regularly, providing that you don’t use it to spam users with irrelevant marketing messages.
Success online begins with a successful strategy
Before you can begin using an app to sponsor your local cafe’s loyalty card, you need to create a strategy for capturing user data, determining their interests (i.e., buying, selling, renting), and being able to use content marketing that will cater to those interests.
To begin building your online brand, contact our team to discuss which digital marketing options will suit you and your digital marketing goals. Alternatively, to learn more about digital technologies that help real estate agents build an online presence, subscribe to our blog.
How’s an agent to build a brand online these days?
Before the rise of online property portals, detractors of newspaper display advertising long echoed the same refrain: It’s expensive! It’s hard to measure! It’s expensive again! But in its heyday, a newspaper’s real estate section served two very important functions: It guaranteed properties advertised within its pages maximum exposure to active buyers, and it also helped establish the brand of leading real estate groups. But as online property advertising continues to erode the need for newspaper ads, it’s also taking with it the capacity to which an agent can leverage his current listings to win more business.
Property portals may be relatively inexpensive and they may also make it easy to measure how many people have viewed a property, but property portals still can’t replicate the impact of opening the real estate section of your local paper, and thumbing through page after page after page of an agent’s listings. And they’re unlikely to ever offer something even remotely close to the print experience — or at least, the Big Two portals aren’t anyway, given they’re owned by newspaper companies, which have a vested interest in keeping their print assets alive for as long as they can.
The internet has disrupted the entire real estate model
But even if newspapers were to close up their print real estate products tomorrow and turn their portals into a quasi digital magazine, replete with beautiful layouts of property advertisements interspersed with real estate editorial, as opposed to serving listings algorithmically, as they do now, it’ll do little to help agents build their brand online.
The internet has fundamentally changed the way people make any kind of decision. In the days of old, if you were buying a TV, you’d go down to your local electronics retailer and have a chat with the sales person; maybe you’d even go to a couple of retailers and get as much information as you could, before making a purchasing decision. Today, that’s no longer the case. The minute a buyer walks in the door of a retailer, they’ve made up their mind. There’s little the salesperson can tell them about that TV that the buyer doesn’t already know.
The same can be said for most homeowners. If they’re really motivated to sell, they’ve been researching the market for a while. By the time they contact an agent (or a couple of agents), they already have a fairly good idea of how much their home is worth, when they want to sell it, and how they want to sell it. They just want to know if you’re the right fit for their already predetermined plan. But we should back up a bit.
Where’s your next listing coming from?
Imagine a world without newspapers, without real estate shopfronts, without signboards and DL cards, because this is increasingly the world we are soon to be living in. As more industries move away from traditional marketing channels, more pressure will be put on the real estate industry to follow suit. A real estate agent sitting in front of a vendor, who also happens to be the CEO of a top blue chip company, is going to have a mighty hard time selling them on the merits of newspaper ads, signboards, and DL cards.
Not that such a scenario is ever likely to happen. A vendor like that would never call the old school agent stuck in 1995. He won’t even know that the agent exists, because without a robust online presence, the agent might as well pack up shop and call it a day. Just think for a moment about that way you look for any professional service, whether it’s a plumber, an accountant, a digital marketing agency.
I’m not even going to bother explaining the process to you, because the mere fact you’re reading this blog post is proof positive enough. We’re a digital marketing agency that specialises in developing online brands, through a combination of online advertising and content marketing. If you’re looking to take your agent marketing into the digital age, then look no further. To kick start your online presence contact our team. Alternatively, to learn more about digital technologies that help real estate agents build an online presence, subscribe to our blog.
Could Facebook topple realestate.com.au?
I was recently speaking with a real estate agent about the different ways of advertising both their properties for sale AND their own services as a real estate agent and they couldn’t stop talking about Facebook!
The agent mentioned Facebook over a dozen times and talked about getting a Facebook page to promote themselves locally. In all of this, what stood out the most about this conversation was that we were talking about the future of online property marketing – and this person didn’t mention the major property portals once!
What’s so special about Facebook for real estate?
This individual had just attended a marketing conference and spoken with others about the demographic and geo-targeting capabilities of the social media giant – about how by using Facebook, the agent could target ONLY people living in the suburb. To top it off they thought that if they jumped in now they could own the suburb, so to speak!
Facebook advertising is the service that we ended up talking about and we went on to reflect on what we’d do after we attracted all of those locals to our website or Facebook page. Was it Likes we were after? Shares? Were we getting people to do anything in particular once they got to our Facebook page? When you drill down even further you have to understand the value of one of these actions and match it to your own goals.
Without focus, Facebook advertising could flop
We decided that the focus for the real estate agent’s Facebook advertising campaign would be to reach existing clients, people who the agent had done business with, or at least met, at an open home sometime in the past, and share with them some information and selling tips.
There are several types of Facebook advertising campaigns you can run and the analytics information you get from each will be different. Therefore our campaign was focussed on not only reaching existing contacts, but sharing information about how the local property market is performing (by providing a market report), as well as some solid tips and advice for selling property. The reason we created blogs, featuring genuinely helpful, relevant advice, is because we didn’t want to turn our Facebook audience away from our own website. Furthermore, the information is useful and reveals more about who we are and our helpful selling style.
Facebook ads keep you front of mind
In the end, our real estate agent’s Facebook ads campaign was aimed at getting his image in front of existing clients using a custom audience and sharing useful information that they could share with their friends and colleagues looking to sell their homes. It was partly to offset, as well as test and measure, the performance of their DL mailing card campaign that they sent regularly in the past.
We view Facebook and social media advertising as part of a bigger picture in your digital strategy to build brand awareness. Most importantly, however, it should bring potential customers into your sphere of influence and encourage them to recommend you based on the quality content that you create.
Read more about how we manage the Facebook advertising campaigns for real estate agents for no extra charge as part of our digital strategy.
Social Media builds communities, but that can be hard
Everybody wants to be on social media because there is a fear of missing out, just like in many alleged stock market and property market bubbles that are going on in Australia (and China).
Every coach, adviser, website designer and online marketing expert is spruiking the benefits of getting onto social media to be discovered, but like most things you can’t just be there, you have to participate, otherwise you’re not really being social. In fact if you’re not putting in the right amount of effort, you might be seen as anti-social by sending people away from your Facebook page.
Do you want to be social or do you just want to shout?
If you’re the owner of a Facebook business page and want your page to be successful, actually add value and help build a community, then you’ll need a community manager and that can be a big expense and not practical for small businesses. Larger social media sites who have taken the time to hire a good community manager have mastered the purpose of social sites – they encourage members (call them likers, friends etc) to make comments as part of a group that adds value to the topics you’ve discussed. The best example I can think of is social groups for Mums and social groups for IT nerds (which is becoming most of us these days). When you go to one of these sites you learn some fantastic things you didn’t know and if they are really good (and genuine) you’ll feel like sharing your stories.
So if you still want to get onto social media with a Facebook page you can do things that people like and not have to spend too much time, effort and money, growing a community. You can share useful information and tell people about what YOU are doing that might interest them. Australians are VERY interested in real estate and they want to know what is going on in the market, what their own property is worth etc so you can add value and contribute using social media.
What to shout about!
There’s plenty to shout about if you want to share and be helpful, including:
- Images of houses that are prepared beautifully for sale
- Information about how many people are showing interest in open homes
- Developments in the local area that affect house prices
- Place to visit and have a great coffee, parks that cater well to those with kids
Social media sites like Instagram, Foursquare and Yelp all enable people to share images, videos, information and recommendations that other people are interested in and if you really want to participate in social media you’ll need to get on and connect with businesses you like and recommend and make comments about them.
The saddest thing to happen to social media
The saddest thing that I have seen at some Facebook pages is reposting, particularly if that’s all that happens. If you are a victim of reposting and don’t know it, you’ll notice it when everything you post (or repost) on your timeline just sends your visitors away to other sites. It’s OK to repost from time to time and particularly if you’ve just read something useful, but if someone is managing your Facebook page and they are just sending visitors away they are reducing the value of any other digital marketing you are doing.
There is another way – and it’s to create your own content (or have someone create it for you) and that’s what we do.
Content marketing can bring happiness and success to your social strategy
Content marketing is all the rage these days, but it’s actually been happening for many years under boring names like ‘business blogging’ and the humble ‘news’ section of websites. The great thing about content marketing is that if you do it right, you can link back to other great content you’ve created. Content marketing should be designed to provide useful information that your potential vendors are looking for; that they are searching for, and that they are interested in. If you do a great job then your readers will follow you and possibly even subscribe to your blog, newsletter, education series or whatever it happens to be.
Remember that not all of the people who read your website, blog or social media pages need you right now, but if they like what you write, they’ll want a way of being reminded of you for when they are ready to buy. That’s when they join your list or like your page.
If you just want to shout out on social media then do it using your own great content. That way you’ll be sending readers back to your own website – and not to someone else’s. You’ll then have more analytics to look at.
Facebook is sticky because users stay there
Social media giant Facebook’s visitor stats what are your real estate agent website analytics like?
When a website is described as sticky it just means that visitors to the site stay their longer and click on more things. You probably do it because you find your friends, the things they do and the placed they go to interesting. Google and other systems that measure engagement of websites measure this using bounce rate, page views per visit and the time spent on the site each visit and that is something that we make our clients aware of in our quarterly digital strategy progress report for their website.
When you think about your own site, are their interesting places to visit? Are their stories about the people you work with, about your vendors or even about the buyers that others might find interesting? Some people have said to me that writing about real estate is boring but if you look at how popular ANY article that relates to real estate is in the press you’d soon find lots of things to write about and that is exactly what we do.
Content Marketing includes Words, Pictures and Videos
Content marketing is the buzz word in digital marketing these days but it has been popular for a long time. It’s commonly also referred to as blogging, business blogging or even newsletters (if you want to go back to more traditional terms). Content marketing refers to the writing on your wesbite but also to the images that you use (and how they are optimised for search engines) and the videos you create. The ultimate goal of all this content creation is to produce something that visitors to your real estate agent website want to see. If you tell a compelling story your visitors will come along on your journey.
Instagram is not as popular as Facebook
Instagram website visitor statistics and anlytics
Instagram was bought by Facebook in 2012 but it’s statistics don’t come close to those of it’s parent. Despite this Instagram is a good social media tool for real estate agents who want to appear as tech savvy and increase their content by taking photos and uploading them. Instagram is a tool that enables people to view great images and videos, like and share them and remain connected to people who they like so if you sell some great houses that you think people would like to know about its a good idea to give Instagram a go.
As a digital agency we can advise on all aspects of digital marketing and provide our clients with regular reports that demonstrate the statistics and analytics but focus on the goals and action points. If you’re a real estate agent and interested in 123ezy website for yourself take a look at our pricing but more importantly give us a call and ask us some questions, we’d love to help.