Thanks to websites such as realtor.com and dozens of television shows focused on buying and selling homes, real estate clients are more savvy than ever. As a result, real estate agents really have to bring their “A” game to attract and impress customers — and this means skilled and creative use of the Internet and a balance of high-tech and high-touch.
Whether you’re an established real estate agent or a beginner, a mix of quality face-to-face interaction and strong online marketing via a dedicated website and social media can help you stand apart from the competition.
You need a solid website
How important is a website for your real estate business?
“100 percent,” says Maryland-based real estate agent Cathy Wantz. Ray Davis, an agent in Harrisburg, Pa., couldn’t agree more:
“You need a website, especially in smaller markets where you rely on name recognition for referrals. It’s an easy way for people to link up with you immediately. People want instant access to information.”
Cathy stresses that you don’t need an elaborate, sophisticated website to be effective. In fact, simple is better. “It’s best to stick to the basics,” she says. What fundamentals should you include on your real estate website?
- Property listings and details
- Information about the geographic area
- Short bios of the real estate team
- Links to relevant resources
“It can be overwhelming if you have too much on your site,” Cathy says. “And if it takes too long to load, people will move on and go somewhere else for information.”
Ray says his “bare bones” website does the job for him, but he recommends a more robust website for newbie real estate agents who will rely on new business and attracting clients. “If I was starting out, I would pull out all the stops,” he says. “No matter what you do, you can always do more. You just need to be realistic about how much money and time you can invest in a website.”
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Connect with customers on social media
Virtually all real estate agents use online resources such as realtor.com and Zillow.com to help cultivate business. “Sites such as realtor.com offer an enhanced service where whenever someone inquires about one of your listings, you automatically receive the lead information,” Ray explains. These are established online tools to help real estate agents succeed.
“Social media helps business because people can look at photos and determine right away if they’re interested. Then they can comment or contact me immediately,” Cathy says.
“I use Facebook mostly to post listings and congratulate new buyers. It enables me to keep in touch with clients and build and maintain relationships,” says Pennsylvania-based real estate agent Kim Leggett. The popular social media platform also gives Kim a place to show her clients a more personal side. She explains:
“In addition to my business posts, people get to see photos and stories about my family — and they get to know me. They see me as a friend and someone they can trust.”
Personal vs. professional on Facebook
However, Kim cautions against too much mingling of professional and personal. “I vocally supported a specific presidential candidate last election, and I got some flack. Now I try to stay neutral and avoid political and news posts. You have to be careful not to alienate anyone.”
That’s a smart policy, Ray agrees: “I never post anything political or religious. I am a little bit of public person, as well as a business owner, and I need to walk a tight line.”
It’s also important to address post comments. “I try to at least ‘like’ all comments,” Ray says. “If people ask for more information, I will include a link or send a private message.” Like everyone on Facebook, real estate agents can expect to see a negative comment now and again. They may want to delete them from the thread, and they should never engage the poster in a public discussion. If they feel that it is necessary, it is best to contact the individual privately.
Facebook advice for new real estate agents
Kim advises new agents to start a Facebook page that includes the following information:
- Details about their background
- Information about what brokers they’re working with
- How to contact them
“Share it with your friends,” she says. “There’s nothing wrong with asking for clients and referrals.” Get more tips on using Facebook for your business here.
Using Twitter and LinkedIn
For real estate agents, using Twitter and LinkedIn can be a great way to stay on top of trends in the industry and to connect with colleagues and real estate thought leaders. “I use Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with people in the industry — such as lenders, home improvement contractors and home inspectors,” Cathy says. “It’s a good way to network and build professional relationships.”
While it’s an important tool, social media can be time consuming. So both Kim and Cathy suggest limiting the amount of time you invest in them. “I allot only so much time to social media every day. I check it first thing in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once again in the evening,” Cathy says.
Be high-tech AND high-touch
Finally, don’t forget that real estate is still a people business. “Don’t get too wrapped up in social media, and don’t assume people don’t want to talk on the phone or meet face-to-face,” Cathy emphasizes. “Give people the option of meeting, and don’t try to resolve problems or conflicts via text or email. Pick up the phone and talk one-on-one.”
While postcards, newspaper ads and direct mailings might be less significant to today’s real estate agents, there is still a role for them. And whatever means you use to market, pictures truly are worth at least a thousands words.
“Invest in a good photographer, and get quality color photos of your properties,” Kim says. “People want lots of photos,” Cathy agrees. “We produce color brochures or CDs with photos that potential buyers can take with them.”
By taking advantage of opportunities such as websites and social media, they can expand their reach and grow their businesses. As Ray says, “It’s all about keeping our name and face out there. The benefits are far-reaching.”