Footwasher Media has been looking into the arena of real estate marketing and communication for the past couple of years and has come up with a few interesting observations.
First and foremost is the reality that most realtors are far behind the curve adopting modern, digital communication. Websites are purchased as standard, so there is little differentiation between them. Metrics are employed but rarely studied. Social media is used sporadically and superficially. A very small percentage are breaking the mold and using digital tools with great success, but around 90 percent are far behind.
That last statistic tracks fairly well with the Content Marketing Institute’s numbers on general adoption of digital marketing and communication across all industries as of 4 years ago. At that time you could look at any industry and the numbers were the same as realtors today. However, current numbers put adoption of modern best practices for all industries at around 35 percent, so the real estate industry is falling far behind.
To a degree that is understandable. Most realtors are private business people who associate with real estate companies (e.g. ReMax, Century 21) that provide the independents with office space and a certain level of generic marketing services, allowing the realtors to focus on their business, but even the largest companies are behind the national curve.
Surprisingly enough, when you go outside of tech-heavy centers like Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and New York, realtors get a bit more savvy and adventurous with technology. We have found realtors making seven-figure incomes in low-population areas of Montana using the most cutting-edge online tools and video to promote their business while realtors in the hottest markets of the San Francisco Bay Area struggling to make ends meet but dismissing the advantages of digital media altogether.
Granted these markets are nothing alike, and struggles boil down to more than just the use of social media. The real estate market in Montana is not nearly as active and complicated as it is in San Mateo County where a two-bedroom bungalow goes for the same price as a 400-acre ranch with a five-bedroom home outside of Bozeman. And while you would be hard pressed to find a dozen successful realtors in that area of Montana, San Mateo County boasts hundreds of realtors fighting tooth and nail to make a living.
Keeping all that in mind it seems counter productive to dismiss tools that could give you a competitive advantage over everyone else. We met with one realtor that adopted blogging and advanced website metrics in San Carlos, California several years ago. Today he essentially owns the entire San Carlos market, which is filled with some of the most expensive homes on the San Francisco Peninsula. He is grudgingly acknowledged by other realtors as the most successful business they know, and yet they still refuse to adopt his practices.
There are reasons for that, none of them good.
In our discussion with realtors over the past two years the fears and misconceptions expressed by even the most tech-savvy include:
- Social media is for kids
- It's a fad
- Real estate is local
- It can’t help me/I don’t have the time
- I don’t understand it
Lets break those down:
It’s for kids: The biggest audience on Facebook in the US are people over the age of 30. Most people, according to any reputable real estate company, begin to start thinking about buying a home in their 30s. Given it's the prime demographic for realtors, wouldn’t it make sense to have an active presence on it? Now, in truth, every realtor we’ve talked to does have some sort of presence on Facebook but they all say they don’t use it to promote their business but to demonstrate their knowledge of the community. That’s a good reason to do it but it ignores the potential to find highly targeted and motivated customers.
It’s a fad: Um, OK. Social media companies are among the strongest drivers of the American stock market for about five years now. Congressional hearings are being called to discuss their impact on national security, privacy, and the economy. We are pretty sure they aren’t going anywhere soon.
Real estate is local: Absolutely and social media and web search, including Facebook, NextDoor, Twitter, etc. have been proven to be the quickest way to reach local audiences and people looking at moving into certain regions.
It can’t help me/I don’t have the time: We lumped these two together because the second is the more honest version of the first. Yes, setting up and learning how to use the tools available take a considerable amount of time away from doing everything the way you have always done it. Change takes effort, but as the example of the San Carlos realtor demonstrates, once done it is virtually self-sustaining and highly profitable.
I don’t understand it: Ding! That’s the most honest response of all of them. Most of us live in an understanding of how media worked in the 20th century and thing it still works that way today. That’s wrong and it’s also why most people get confused about social media.
In the 20th century, people had only three television networks, a couple newspapers, and a handful of radio stations to get information and for advertisers to promote business. Today, there are hundreds of television networks and a dwindling number of newspapers and radio stations. The technology exists, allowing customers and clients to ignore all the outward bound marketing messaging a business produces and look only for what they want.
In social media, however, their search and content consumption is analyzed by algorithms and information is pushed to them, which can allow realtors to deliver information about their services to a highly targeted and motivated audience. All that needs doing is to take the time to understand how it works and set it up. It could take a few weeks of concerted effort to do that, but after that, it pretty much runs itself.
This last point is the primary purpose of Footwasher Media: helping our clients understand and implement the tools that make it possible.