Is the internet helping to keep real estate agents honest?
For homeowners looking for a real estate agent to sell (or rent) their property, it’s traditionally been about visibility. The agent with the most signboards, ads in the local paper, the greatest street presence, so to speak, always got the most listings. But just as it did for other business models, the internet is disrupting the real estate industry’s decades-long way of doing business.
Lead generation and comparison websites, like OpenAgent and Local Agent Finder, promise to deliver leads to agents, while also promising to cut through agent spin to help homeowners to find the agent who is truly best suited to sell their property. They promise all that, and to retain their neutrality in the process, even though they don’t charge homeowners a fee for their service.
How lead generation sites work
OpenAgent is the darling of real estate lead generation sites. It’s raised $12 million in venture capital since it launched in 2013. In the last 12 months, it’s also doubled in size, and in that time, matched more than 10,000 homeowners to sales agents; in the next 12 months it hopes to double its revenue. The way OpenAgent operates is pretty simple, and not much different to other sites of its kind. OpenAgent collects information about real estate agents and their sales records by scraping it from other sources, such as Domain and realestate.com.au, while also encouraging homeowners to write reviews about their experiences with a particular agent on their site, which it vets before publishing online.
Agents don’t get to submit their profiles to OpenAgent, nor is their inclusion on the site optional. If they’re a licensed real estate agent, with listings on a property portal, such as realestate.com.au or Domain, they’re automatically listed on the OpenAgent website. When a homeowner registers their details with OpenAgent, they’re able to peruse the recent listings, sales and reviews of all the agents in their area. OpenAgent then follows up by calling each homeowner to get a clearer picture of their property and the kind of agent they’re looking for. Following this, OpenAgent then provides the homeowner with a shortlist of agents to choose from.
OpenAgent doesn’t disclose a homeowner’s details to an agent unless they’re instructed to do so, at which point they contact with the agent on the homeowner’s behalf. If OpenAgent does introduce a homeowner to a real estate, who is ultimately appointed to sell the property, they’ll stay in touch with the owner throughout the process, to ensure the agent is being held accountable; they’ll even help the owner negotiate a better rate of commission. Once the property is sold, OpenAgent then takes a 20 percent fee from the agent’s agreed commission.
What this means for agents and homeowners
Success as a real estate agent today, in an era of lead generation and comparison websites, requires honesty and transparency. Agents can no longer cloak the sales process in mystery or exaggerate their sales history, because, whether a homeowner does their own independent research or uses a comparison site like OpenAgent to do the legwork for them, they’ll find out which agents are truthful and reputable, and which ones aren’t.
With so much information freely available on the internet, whether it’s about an individual agent and their track record or about the local market itself, homeowners now spend less time researching an agent’s credentials and more time weighing up whether they like and trust prospective agents. One of the first things a homeowner will do, once they’ve received a shortlist from OpenAgent or even a recommendation from a friend or relative, is look them up online.
Agents with an extensive web presence, and who are able to show people that they understand the market, that they’re open and honest about their previous track record, and that they’re friendly and approachable are more likely to win a new listing, than those agent who still operate under the old model of smoke and mirrors.
To learn more about the real estate sales process, including how to manage inspections, offers and following up with buyers, download our free educational guide. Alternatively, for more real estate news, insights and analysis, subscribe to our blog.
Don’t be the loud-talker at the social media dinner table
Think about the last time you engaged someone to perform a professional service for you. Perhaps you were looking for a plumber, an accountant or, say, a digital marketing agency. How did you find them? In the case of the latter, I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that you probably did a search online and came across us that way. This is how the vast majority of people search for professional services these days and, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s how you’ll get your next listing, providing you’re technology savvy.
By technology savvy, I don’t just mean that you know how to use an iPhone or iPad. You’re not even technology savvy if you also know how to use a smart watch. To be technology savvy, you need to be shrewd in the way you use technology, and when it comes to finding and winning new listings, this means you’re using technology to market yourself and grow your online profile in ways other agents in your local area aren’t.
Technology savvy agents start with content marketing
To be technology savvy, you must build your profile online. Many people erroneously believe that building your profile online means creating a website, getting a Facebook account, and then that’s it. What they overlook is that a website needs stuff on it; that is, text, images, videos — in order to make it a website. That stuff is called content, and content is the same stuff that you post on Facebook that your friends like, share and comment on. Content marketing, then, is the publishing of stuff on your website, social media platforms, and elsewhere that you contacts will like, share and comment on, but which also markets you and your services.
The technology savvy part comes in when you determine precisely the kind of content you need to publishing in order to achieve your conversion goals. A conversion goal can be anything that results in the user taking a specific action — whether it’s signing up to receive a newsletter, downloading a market report, contacting you for a property appraisal.
If you have your own, personal Facebook account, think about the kind of content you publish there on a regular basis. It’s typically content that means something to you — typically, you either empathise with the message or you don’t — and that you know will also resonate with your friends and family and greater social network. This is how you need to approach the content you publish in a professional capacity. There is literally no exception to this rule. You must always publish content that is relevant to you and your customers (your vendors and buyers).
Publish original content across multiple platforms
Emphasis here on the word ‘original’. Don’t make the mistake of retweet or republishing content created by other people on your social media platforms. All this does is send all your hard earned traffic to an online behemoth, like realestate.com.au or smh.com.au or the like. Let them get their own traffic. Instead, you should create your own original content, by writing and publishing one or two blog posts a week or uploading a video blog or both. This way, when you push it out through social media and your friends and followers share it among their own social networks, you’re sending that traffic back to your website, not someone else’s.
If you’re going to use social media and, although I caution you to select your social media platforms wisely, I strongly advise you do use social media, you need to ensure you’re using it correctly, otherwise you needed bother. I’ll go into this in more detail some other time in a separate blog post, but the general rule of social media is to be social.
Think of it as a dinner party. You’re sitting around a dinner table with a few friends, acquaintances, and a few other people you’ve never met before. Everyone is chatting and getting along merrily, until some loud-talker enters the equation. All he’s interested in doing is talking about himself. He doesn’t engage with others when they try to engage with him. Instead, he constantly pushes his own agenda, on myriad irrelevant topics, often talking over others as they try to speak. Eventually, everyone gets up and moves somewhere else, leaving loud talker on his own.
Don’t be antisocial on social media
That’s the dinner party equivalent to someone on Twitter or Facebook publishing the same irrelevant tweets or posts over and over and over, without stopping to see if anyone actually cares or finds the content relevant. It’s the Facebook user that never responds to comments left on their page, or makes an effort to connect with others on Facebook. It’s the Twitter user, who doesn’t retweet or like tweets by their followers, because they’re too busy pushing out spammy tweets about their business.
Whatever you do, don’t be that guy; don’t be the loud-talker at the dinner party everybody runs away and hides from. Remember that social media’s primary reason for existence is as a way for people to communicate and keep in touch with each other — to be social. Use social media and your content to start conversations with people, and then make an active effort to keep those conversations going.
Master all that, and you’re well on your way to being the technology savvy real estate agent who gets the most listings. If you’re looking to build your online presence to gain new listings, get in touch with our team to discuss the ways you can begin building your online brand. Alternatively, to learn more about digital technologies that help real estate agents build an online presence, subscribe to our blog.
Be selective when choosing your ‘brand building’ social media
In a recent blog post, I talked about how the erosion of newspaper advertising is also eroding an agent’s ability to leverage current listings to get new ones, due to the way property portals like realestate.com.au and Domain serve listings to buyers algorithmically, and the way people, generally, use the internet to find a professional service. If I haven’t already made it abundantly clear, your next listing is coming from the internet, but only so long as the vendor has determined that you’re a major player in your local area. This means, you need to start building your online real estate agent profile.
Currently, most agents rely on their shopfronts, signboards, DL cards, and the word-of-mouth referrals from previous listings, but what would happen if none of those options were viable anymore? This isn’t that much of a stretch. Shopfronts and all forms of traditional marketing are on their way out, while word-of-mouth referrals are increasingly being replaced with likes on a Facebook post, a retweet on Twitter, or a blog post shared on LinkedIn.
Facebook isn’t the be all and end all in digital marketing
Most of the time, when I speak with agents about how they can build their presence online, they fixate on social media — Facebook, in particular. And I can understand why. Facebook has amassed a tonne of data about its users, basically because people are willing to share every last detail of their lives on it. This makes it especially efficient at targeting particular kinds of people in particular places. But Facebook is just one cog in the digital marketing machine. Here’s what else you should be doing
Personal agent website:
Most agents have a profile on their agency’s website, just as Marshall Rushford did on the hockingstuart website, but an agency website only serves to promote the entire agency, not any one agent. Like many of our clients, Marshall wanted to create his own personal agent website, so that he could showcase his current and previous listings, in addition to his recent successes. A personal agent website can also be used to capture prospect data, while regularly maintaining a blog will help to establish yourself as a credible source of market information.
Create your own content:
Nearly every agent I speak to makes one huge mistake online: they don’t create their own content. Instead, they link out to content created by other people — REA Group, Domain, RP Data, etc. Instead of sending a prospect to their website by linking to some original content they published on their blog, the agent sends them all to REA Group, Domain or RP Data, and down the rabbit hole of Domain or REA Group’s endless supply of content they go. Only link to your own, original content published on your website, and send prospects down the rabbit hole of your endlessly informative content instead.
Be selective with social media advertising:
I’m yet to be convinced on the benefits of advertising on Twitter. To be honest, I’m not even entirely convinced on the benefits of using Twitter in a professional capacity, unless you create an separate strategy for it, in addition to your digital marketing strategy. Twitter still hasn’t found a way to transition from a place of anonymity, parody accounts and internet trolls (see: Tay Tweets), which makes it an inefficient way to spend your marketing budget. FaceBook, on the other hand, is highly efficient, due to the sheer volume of data it’s amassed about its users, which makes it easy to target specific demographics and to measure your results after the fact. Instagram and Pinterest are also great ways to interact with people online, from a purely community-building perspective.
Success online begins with a successful strategy
You can certainly begin building your online presence by kicking a few ideas around online, but if you’re really looking to have success online, then you need to have a strategy backing it up. We’re a digital marketing agency that specialises in developing online brands, through a combination of online advertising, social media marketing and content marketing.
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.
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.
They didn’t call it Mobilegeddon for nothing
It’s been almost 12 months since Google made it official that they were going to prioritise mobile websites built on a responsive methodology for their Google Search results and you can see it in the results themselves – Mobile Friendly (if your reading the search results on your mobile phone that is).
Does it really matter? Absolutely! It matters because more and more searches are performed on a mobile phone or tablet and Google’s constant goal is to provide you with fantastic websites based on the keywords you use for your search. If Google takes you to a website on your mobile that you can hardly read because it’s too small, what will your opinion be of Google?
Mobile and Social
Let’s take that one step further. If you are searching for something from your mobile phone and you click on that website to learn more about what a company does the chances that you’ll want to call the company or get directions to them are higher when you do it from a mobile phone, right? That’s why it is a good idea to have a call now button on your website – so prospective customers can call you right there an then!
The reason we mention it in this post for real estate agent websites is that this makes it important to choose an underlying technology that is strong, reliable and capable but that also has a huge programmer base and the support of thousands of developers and millions of companies that use it – and that technology is WordPress.
This blog post from Google should act as a good indicator of the importance mobile is for their development team and the future of searching for things on the Internet.
What about site builders like Wix?
I was speaking with someone recently who discovered an online website builder that enables anybody to build their own website using a tool called Wix, and after exploring the solution I liked the way it worked and how easy it was to create and modify a website. When I did a bit of research however I discovered that the websites created on this platform are not responsive. Here’s the information I read on the Wix website. Does it mean you can’t build an effective website using Wix? No, but when you use a platform like WordPress that has professional content management features, capabilities for multiple users with different access profiles, thousands of developers and millions of businesses using it (sigh) it’s hard to go past.
Connecting with Social and the future
The social revolution has been and gone and is now part of every day Internet life so getting onto that bandwagon is very important. Even though some of the smartest investors, programs and business people don’t currently make money in social media (like Facebook, Twitter etc) these platforms are worth billions of dollars because they have a massive user base and VERY detailed information about every user. Connecting your content marketing to social media should be the first step in a social media strategy but exploring the advertising possibilities may blow your mind.
The technology leaders are currently exploring the capabilities of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality path so it will be very interesting to see how this applies to the real estate industry.
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