As real estate agents try to solve their marketing problems by using direct mail, paying for Internet Leads, going door to door, too few real estate agents are looking at how connecting with their community (or communities) can help position themselves as an area expert and/or trusted advisor. Engagement of a community can be one of the most powerful tools that real estate agents have in an era of real-time, distributed, syndicated, hyper-local and hyper-social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Linkedin [to name a few]. Hello, my name is Stephen Garner, I spent 10 years in the title industry helping real estate professionals – real estate agents and loan officers – grow their business.
Community engagement in real estate can produce an amazing response. Take real estate out of the mix for a moment and look at businesses like Angie’s List, started by a single mom and built into a company with over 1.5 million members in over 100 cities who happily pay yearly fees in excess of $50 million. Another example [one you hopefully use in your real estate marketing] is Craigslist. Craigslist is a perfect example of community. Started by Craig Newmark as a personal project, it has quickly become one of the biggest and most powerful websites online, with income exceeding $100 million.
Here is the thing about community. It needs to be about the C-O-M-M-U-N-I-T-Y. Would Angie’s List be what it is today of she only talked about “Angie?” Would Craigslist be what it is if “Craig” only talked about how awesome Craig is? I’m guessing not. In fact, I think both sites would have gone down in flames – immediately. Community based marketing means you need to make the community the focus, the benefit to the community needs to take precedent – over YOU. This would be a good time to reflect on your past marketing messages. Is your real estate marketing about you?
We have seen examples of community in our news media – here in Phoenix. NBC affiliate KPNX Channel 12 spent millions of dollars on not only redesigning their newsroom but moving it entirely to 2nd street and Van Buren so it was not only open, but was engaging to the community. Pedestrians walking by can look right into the newsroom and possibly end up on TV. Every news cast features a reporter “on the street” if you will asking questions and getting answers – from the community. Sound familiar? It should, “The Today Show” has been using this model for some time. Media is tearing down the walls for consumers – for the community – so we can listen and see the voices that were once locked behind it.
The bottom line with community based marketing is this: businesses, yes, even real estate agents need to find a way to engage their communities — in ways that involve more than just posting (ME) updates on their facebook and twitter channels. Ask questions! Offer value. Offer assistance. Share your expertise. Talk about things that are relevant to the community – not just your pocketbook. Most consumers don’t care about your new listing [priced well below the comps in the area], what do they care about? Matters that effect them – their families. The housing market. “Short sale help”. “Is it a good time to buy a home?” “Should you rent or buy?” With 80% of our local market being distressed properties there is a good chance a well written COMMUNITY article will be shared with others.
So the next time you are ready to launch another “beat the bank” or “great family home” or “I sell more homes than anybody” update on Facebook, Twitter or your WordPress Real Estate Website [if you have one] ask yourself “self…will this update bring me closer to my community or push them further away?”