Social media: growing real-estate business digitally

Doing social media strategically

7 August 2019

With social media use growing in prominence and importance, how should real-estate companies take the opportunities it presents to support business growth?

Innovation and technological advances have been influencing the way we communicate and do business for centuries, from letters to telephones, faxes and emails, and now social media. But the big question for many real-estate companies remains: how do we develop a successful social media strategy?

Before we consider this question, let’s have a closer look at the digital landscape to see why it’s worth using social media.

  • The number of internet users worldwide has grown by more than 17% between 2016 and 2018 alone, from 3.4bn to 4bn.
  • Active social media users have grown in number by more than 38%, from 2.3bn to 3.2bn in the same period.
  • The number of active mobile social media users has risen by more than 50%, from nearly 2bn to almost 3bn over those 2 years.
  • The average time someone spends using the internet on any device is 5 hours and 34 minutes a day.
  • The average time they spend daily using social media on any device is an hour and 39 minutes.
  • Social media penetration in the UK was at 64% of the population in 2017 and is continuing to grow.
  • Some 92% of real-estate professionals are now using social media, but only 26% are engaging in meaningful conversations that improve their results.

There are numerous other statistics demonstrating just how powerful social media is, and the impact it can have on any business sector, including real estate. But it’s not a question of whether you should use social media, rather how well you do so. Having said that, business owners, directors and  senior decision-makers are still confused about what should be done to benefit from social media use.

Before you engage in any social media activity to support your business growth, you need to develop a successful strategy. There are a few key areas any business needs to consider.

The first is to establish the main business purpose for using social media. Even though it’s no longer new – in fact, it’s more than 20 years since the launch of SixDegrees, generally considered the first social media platform – many organisations are still sceptical as to how social media can benefit their business. A lot of companies and individuals are using it because they believe everyone else is, or they think it is a way forward. With such a vague approach, businesses will only waste time on social media. But it is not a waste of time if used the right way. The question is, what is the right way?

Many organisations are still sceptical as to how social media can benefit their business.

First, establishing your main business purpose for using social media is essential. Is your goal new business development, increasing brand awareness, lead generation, improving your business’s culture, or perhaps recruiting and retaining talent? At this stage, it is crucial to define your main purpose clearly and focus on it. It must support the core direction of your business.

Second, having established the main purpose for using social media, it is important to set relevant objectives. It’s imperative that they are SMART – that is, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. SMART objectives can help you to plan your activities with a clear sense of direction that gives you the greatest chance of maximising your return on investment.

For example, if your main purpose for using social media is business expansion, then the objective could be to gain a number of new clients in the next 12 months. If the goal is to increase brand awareness, then your objectives could be to humanise your business by encouraging members of staff to be active on social media, developing their personal brand and consequently your business brand, to increase content engagement by an agreed percentage over a set period. It will never be possible to take every opportunity that social media offers, so narrowing your focus and setting SMART objectives is critical to developing a strategy that will successfully support business growth.

Third, when it comes to identifying a target audience, think beyond your existing and prospective clients. It is vital to consider suppliers, membership organisations, associations, trade shows and other companies with which you collaborate or have relationships, or those that may benefit your business. Once you have a list of organisations that fits your main business purpose, you need a more detailed understanding of who to approach there. That means researching individuals’ job titles, roles, responsibilities and decision-making powers, for instance.

Equally important at this stage is to look very closely at your existing client base and search for common characteristics. Find out their reasons for buying from you and carry out an internal analysis to determine which customers bring in the most business. Look into the mechanics of acquiring such a client – how easy or difficult was it, how long was the sale cycle, how much time did you spend on it, what was your conversion rate? All of these factors will help you decide which type of prospective client you should focus on in future.

The fourth consideration is online research. Despite easy access to vast amounts of data and information on the internet, online research is still undervalued. That said, forward-thinking and savvy real-estate companies have started investing time and resources in research before making vital business decisions. This supports strategic planning and therefore plays a crucial part in developing a social media strategy that will ensure the best chance of achieving business goals.

Forward-thinking and savvy real-estate companies have started investing time and resources in research before making vital business decisions.

When it comes to choosing the appropriate social media platforms, it is important to assess which are the most popular among your target audience, according to your online research. Many organisations consider using various platforms as part of their strategy; however, real-estate companies must narrow their focus and decide on a select few that will work best for their businesses.

Let’s put everything into the perspective by looking at a case study. Kinney Green is an independent firm of chartered surveyors and property consultants. It specialises in providing professional, commercial and management advice to both occupiers and owners across central London. The company has been using social media since 2011, mainly to increase brand awareness and create an image as up-to-date, well-informed advisers.

The challenge was to start achieving tangible results by using social media and supporting business objectives. The company therefore took the following steps.

  • Its business strategy was translated into social media strategy by focusing on the 2 primary goals: new business development and creating internal brand advocates.
  • Using online research findings, an informed decision was made to focus new business development on 2 sectors only, while LinkedIn and Twitter were identified as the 2 social media platforms most relevant to Kinney Green’s target audience.
  • SMART objectives were set for bringing new clients on board, taking into consideration historic conversion rate and research findings.
  • A small number of staff were selected to participate in a structured social media process, to enable them to engage strategically in social media activity in pursuit of the business’s goals.

Four new clients were won in the first 6 months as a direct result of strategic social media activity. Over the same period, the number of enquiries received by the company increased by more than 12%, and its social media reach grew by more than 500%.

This goes to show the value of a successful strategy.

Jowita Penkala is managing director of Uniqua Brand

Further information