Social media is always tricky - but it’s even more challenging for the real estate business.
It's hard to shift properties (which come at a high price) on social media because they aren't impulsive purchases. It's unlikely for people to view a handful of tweets and bang down a hefty deposit, right?
And if this wasn't making things hard enough, COVID-19 created even more challenges.
But, all of this doesn't make real estate social media marketing impossible.
It's quite the opposite.
In this guide, I'll share with you:
- Answers to most burning questions.
- Information to help you make data-driven decisions.
- Actionable tips on creating a robust social media presence.
The effects of COVID-19 on the real estate industry
Contrary to expectations, the U.S. housing market didn't crash. Instead, it roared in the past couple of years. Historically low-interest rates, high demand and low inventory did help a lot. But there was another controllable ingredient.
The vast possibilities of social media channels.
Because of newly introduced public health guidelines, real estate agents were forced to change how they do business. Showing new properties in person has become impossible, and this opened the doors to an entirely new era of real estate social media marketing.
"What COVID-19 did is accelerate a process of change in advertising and marketing within real estate that's already been in play for a long time." Elaine Hung, chief marketing officer with Sotheby's International Realty Canada.
The digitalisation of real estate marketing began before the pandemic. In a 2019 study, Real Estate in a Digital Age, the National Association of REALTORS® Research Group found 98% of older millennials and 89% of boomers use websites as an information source during their home search. Diving into data even further, this report reveals that 62% of all home buyers were using a mobile website or app as part of their search!
At the end of the day, COVID-19 prompted real estate agents to drop the shy way of exploring possibilities of social media channels and become well versed in social media management. While the pre-pandemic approach to building a social media presence was a compelling brand awareness tactic, during the COVID-19, it has become an ultimatum.
Even though many things have changed, buying a property remained one of the major purchases of a lifetime. Because of this fact, it doesn't come as a surprise that an average home buyer prefers to see their future home in person. So, how exactly did real estate agents manage to do all of their business online?1. Real estate agents have been using social media, online pictures and virtual tours to market their properties even before the pandemic started. Even though they weren't aware, this helped them prepare the grounds for this colossal business transformation. This fact only underlines the importance of building a consistent social media presence. You never know what the future brings!
2. Widespread remote work and low available housing inventory were huge success factors. Because of the pandemic restrictions, the demand for homes with gardens quickly escalated. This resulted in the housing market being so competitive that many buyers barely got a chance to arrange an online tour through their real estate agent, let alone visit the house in person. In the end, this bidding war prompted both potential buyers and real estate agents to rely on digital platforms much more than in previous years.
While the overall success of the real estate industry does seem like a perfect mixture of luck and resilience, we managed to uncover some actionable tactics to help you sky-rocket your social media marketing efforts.
But first, let's cover some basics.
Why should a real estate agent use social media?
First up, let's have a quick chat about why real estate should use social media in a pandemic or post-pandemic period.
There are several successful marketing techniques to choose from. Why should social media be at the forefront of your mind when managing your digital marketing strategy?
Well, according to the 2021 Real Estate in a Digital Age report, 97% of all home buyers used the Internet in their home search, and 51% of them found the home they purchased on the Internet. That's right - people are heading to the online world, rather than traditional real estate offices or referrals from family and friends, to look for their new home. And while the expertise of real estate agents remains vital to the home buying and selling process, the Internet serves as a tool for all generations of home buyers.
Another exciting piece of data is that 59% of home buyers frequently used mobile or tablet devices to acquire property information. And one can argue that a significant percentage of those buyers were, in fact, millennials. And younger and older millennials make up to 32% of all home buyers, positioning them at the number one spot on the list.
You can't target this massive chunk of people if you're not making your real estate company visible when they are online.
According to Statista’s last report (2018), there were 76.8 million millennials using social media in the U.S. alone, and 43% of them are using it daily. This fact makes social media channels the perfect place to promote your real estate services and properties and catch people who're actively looking to purchase a new property.
Other than numbers, social media channels allow real estate agents to connect with the audience more personally. And in today's culture, this has become priceless! But, we'll talk about that in a minute right after we cover the most critical factor for launching a successful social media marketing strategy.
The importance of setting goals for your campaigns
Now that you are convinced social media is an essential part of your real estate marketing let's see how to approach it or optimise it.
The secret to a successful social media strategy is setting measurable goals.
Goals, also known as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), help your real estate company know what you're working towards on social media. Whether you're using the platforms to:
- Increase website traffic
- Raise your follower count
- Improve engagement rates
- Generate more contact form submissions
- Produce more property enquiries or sales
Working backwards from the goal you're working towards gives you a better chance at creating a digital marketing plan that will reach it.
Other than these standard key metrics, return on investment (ROI) for real estate agents' marketing efforts has become one of the most important goals. According to previously mentioned Elaine Hung, key metrics a real estate agent should consider:
- The cost per thousand impressions
- The cost per click or interaction
- The cost per lead (if possible)
"It's easier to measure those outcomes online and in digital than traditional channels such as print to help areal estate agent or company make some challenging decisions. This is a time where marketing needs to be an investment that generates a measurable return." Elaine Hung, chief marketing officer with Sotheby's International Realty Canada.
Remember: When setting goals for your real estate marketing campaigns, always map them to your company-wide goals. There's not much point in aiming to generate more engagement if you need to boost the number of property enquiries you're receiving.
8 Tips to crack the real estate marketing code on social media
Now we've got a solid understanding of why social media should play a massive role in your real estate campaigns and clear goals you're working towards, use these eight tips to make your social strategy a success:
1. Optimise your profile
The first thing you’ll need to do is make sure your profile is filled in properly.
Sounds obvious, right? But you’d be surprised at how many real estate companies overlook this aspect of their social media accounts—especially if they’ve recently moved office or changed their phone number.
For each platform you’re using, add your:
- Contact details
- Profile photo
- Website URL
That way, if your audience is looking for a way to get in touch, enquire or learn more about your business, the information is there to do so.
We all love convenience.
Fancy taking this tactic a step further? Dive into the details of your real estate business and use the Story section on the Facebook Page to build those meaningful personal connections. Like this example from Best Chicago Properties:
You could also optimise the Services section on your Page, which allows your Facebook followers to view the exact services you offer before getting in touch.
And, because this extra detail allows a potential client to understand what you offer fully, it boosts the chances that each enquiry you receive is genuine. That'll help you save time filtering unqualified leads.
(Although it doesn't necessarily fall within the realms of social media, the same applies to your Google My Business listing!)
2. Use real estate video marketing to showcase properties
97% of marketers say video has helped increase user understanding of their product or service, 76% say it’s increased sales, and 76% experienced more support queries after using video in their strategy.
If that's not an excuse to use real estate videos in your social media campaigns, I don't know what is.
But while you might already know how to record, upload and promote video content on social media, you'll need to adapt and test new video formats if you want to make your content a success.
For example, you could create:
- A series of Instagram Stories to show the interior of a property they're selling (remember, these expire after 24 hours unless pinned to an Instagram profile ).
- A Facebook Live video at one of their open house events (this format works exceptionally well in social media online communities).
- A Snapchat Story which encourages its followers to take part in a property Q&A.
- A YouTube video that explains the step-by-step process of buying a house.
- A 360 post to give their audience a full, 360-view of the property.
- A series of Tik-Tok videos that promote the benefits of being a real estate agent, premium listings, behind the scenes, etc. Remember that you can repurpose TikTok videos as Instagram Reels.
While you can use short-form videos to promote behind the scenes, get closer to your audience or tease them, you can use YouTube to show them more details. Just take a look at this property tour by luxury real estate developers, The Hudson. They've uploaded their tour to YouTube, allowing them to build a community on the second largest search engine in the world while also promoting their development:
(Warning: While this YouTube promotion technique can work, be wary that many social media algorithms favour native content. Try a combination of external and native video to see if this affects your reach.)
Real estate expert, Zac McHardy, also used this live video tactic to promote his company—this time, in the form of a Q&A:
3. Don't be shy - show off that social proof
Did you know that 62% of online home buyers said they're likely to contact an agent if they have excellent reviews?
Social media has put power in the hands of consumers by giving them a platform to voice their views about your real estate business. As Sendible's Founder and CEO said in Gower Crowd's Real Estate Podcast:
"With social media you now have access to the truth - what's really going on, with all the facts. You have access to reviews; you're hearing from people who are talking about other brands."
You can use this to your advantage if you’re struggling to generate enquiries through your current marketing strategy by letting reviews, testimonials and words from happy customers take pride of place on your profiles. You can:
- Retweet them to the company’s Twitter profile
- Share customers’ video testimonials to their Instagram Stories
- Fill the “Review” tab on their Facebook Page with glowing 5-star ratings
If collecting reviews from real estate customers sounds like a tough job to crack, don’t panic.
You could offer an incentive, such as a discount on the following property or free valuations, to encourage previous customers to share their experience on social media, but remember that their review doesn't have to relate to your company, staff, or service directly.
With homes being such a personal purchase, why not share your customer's success story-and how you helped them to find their dream home?
Take a look at this Instagram post by Brad Keyes Real Estate. Although his customer's testimonial doesn't mention how great Brad is as a realtor, it still gives the wow factor and potential customers a reason to enquire:
Jade Mills uses this tactic, too - this time in her Instagram bio:
I know what you’re thinking: “Elise, there aren’t any reviews here.” Hear me out.
Although Jade doesn’t focus on reviews in her Instagram bio, she’s using the same endorsement tactic by mentioning the publications she’s been featured in through her bio.
Tying her name with big, well-known brands makes her real estate company more credible.
Think about it: You’re more likely to purchase a big-ticket item (like a new home) from someone who’s been featured on the Today Show and ABC, rather than a real estate company nobody’s heard of, right?
4. Share content for local people
People viewing your properties are likely to be in the same area. If not, they're likely to be looking into the area before committing to moving there.
That’s why you should focus on sharing content that local people would be interested in, such as:
- Local events and news
- Information on local property price changes
46% of Americans use social media as a news source, so contributing to the local social world—whether you’re sharing events or news coverage—is a fantastic way to get your foot in the door.
No pun intended.
And yes, organising and participating in events has become rather tricky during COVID-19, but this doesn't mean it's impossible. It just requires some thinking outside the box.
Showing support for the local community has become extremely important during the pandemic.
For example, Sotheby's International Realty Canada's Calgary team hosted a physically distanced community cleanup day in multiple neighbourhoods, where everyone followed strict safety and distancing protocols.
Using this outdoor and safe tactic to attract the attention of local people is a fantastic way for smaller real estate companies to get a leg-up on their competition, too.
Since larger real estate companies are likely to sell in various locations (like California and New York), it's tough for them to post local content without isolating a segment of their audience. What's interesting for the New York followers won't be for the California fans.
5. Participate in local online communities
Facebook Groups, in particular, are great for connecting brands with local people since it's the biggest social media platform in the world.
Think they're not for you?
Over 1 billion people use at least one Facebook Group - meaning there's bound to be many of your ideal customers using one, too.
Local neighbourhoods use Facebook Groups to swap information and stay in touch. That makes it the perfect place to start chatting to your potential customers and build your reputation in the area.
Find these by searching "LOCATION + neighbourhood" in Facebook search and hitting the Groups tab.
Here's one I found for Melton Mowbray:
You can also get involved in Groups that are specifically for property listing sharing, like Real Estate of New York:
Are you planning on using Facebook Groups to generate more buzz around your real estate company? I’ve got one warning: Don’t oversell.
Coming across as too promotional—and only sharing links to property listings you’ve got on your website—will be off-putting, especially if the aim of the group isn’t to sell.
Instead, answer questions, help people who’re struggling and offer free advice. That way, you’re building your personal brand, reputation, and the chances of someone visiting your website when they’re ready to enquire.
6. Start pinning photos to popular Pinterest boards
Buying a new property is a huge investment, and often brings change.
That’s why you should start using Pinterest—a platform where 47% of users are likely to experience a major life event in the next six months.
Plus, Pinterest is a visual platform. People can’t buy a home without viewing it first, right?
To start your real estate marketing strategy on Pinterest, begin by Pinning photos from the properties you’ve got for sale, and adding the listing as the source URL. You could also pin photos from your blog content to these boards.
Here’s an example of how Rightmove does this:
At Properties also use Pinterest to market their real estate brand, as we can see from these photos pinned from their site:
But, gaining traction on Pinterest is tough—especially when you don’t have the time to Pin content to your profile multiple times per day. Enter: Group boards.
A collective board allows other profiles to contribute, these group boards tend to have a high follower count (due to the abundance of content being pinned every day). It’s your aim to join and share your content to these boards.
Here are a few to get you started:
- Pinterest Real Estate Group Board
- Real Estate | Mortgage | Social Media
- Real Estate Group Board
- Real Estate & Mortgage Corner
- Real Estate Tips & News
7. Sprinkle hashtags throughout your content
Have you ever thought about using hashtags in your real estate marketing campaigns?
Considering they have the potential to improve brand awareness (especially when found in hashtag search), it’s a small tweak you can make to the content you’re already posting and see great results.
Start to introduce these links by including a combination of:
- Branded hashtags: Designed to be used by your real estate company and followers—e.g. #RightMoveTips
- Generic hashtags: Used by anyone with a shared interest—e.g. #JustListed
Why? Because branded hashtags build your own following, whereas generic hashtags allow you to reach people who might not otherwise see your content.
Pacific Union uses generic hashtags in their Instagram comment to build a following and dominate the hashtag search feed:
Here's a quick list of real estate hashtags you can use to get started:
- #JustListed - 4.4m
- #DreamHome - 10.9m
- #PropertyWatch - 4.6k
- #HomeSweetHome - 58.3m
- #ForSale - 30.3m
- #JustSold - 1.3m
- #HomeInspiration - 6.3m
- #NoPlaceLikeHome - 1.3m
- #HouseHunting - 7.1m
8. Schedule content in advance
Your time is valuable, so you don't waste it.
Every spare hour you spend on creating social media posts could be better used on meeting potential buyers and sellers. The trick is scheduling your content in advance.
You’re able to save time (and effort) by spending a few hours on a Monday morning planning your real estate content, rather than 45 minutes per day—or whenever you think, “I haven’t posted in a while”.
Scheduling social content in advance means you’re better prepared and aren’t rushing to keep your account active.
It's a win-win for everyone involved when you know the goals you're working to and have time to plan the content that'll help you reach them strategically.
Final thoughts on using social media for real estate marketing
Are you inspired to start using or optimising social media to generate more enquiries for your real estate company?
Remember to make sure each strategy you use helps you work toward your goals and focuses on providing value to your target audience. Don't be afraid to experiment with different tactics and social media platforms. You can't be sure where your audience will find you.
As a soon-to-be home buyer, I can't wait to see your content crop up in my search!