More than a billion people fuel the world of social media each year, and not surprisingly, that activity has super-charged the evolution of the way people socialize online.

Just 13 years ago, social media advertisement amounted to a ‘Flyer” on Facebook, which cost a few bucks a day and targeted Facebook Users based on their school email address (there were about 20 schools on Facebook… in total!).

Times have changed.

Businesses can now use live feeds in place of ad copy in ads targeting Users from every walk of life in practically any market on the planet. And they can do it across a variety of social channels, many of which aren’t much older than the cell phone you’re currently using.

Business can also communicate with their “network” more or less free of the usual regulatory constraints (i.e. CASL), which in Canada, has become a pretty big deal.

Sounds amazing, right?

The problem is, social media for business isn’t just a marketing product. It’s a business methodology. Just as social media in your personal life requires that you evolve the way you would traditionally socialize, social media for business fundamentally changes the way you communicate with your clientele. Unlike direct mail, newspaper ads, or even a website, social media needs to be fed constantly with a mix of useful and/or entertaining information (80%) and self-promotion (20%). And that kind of ongoing content generation, time commitment and public transparency isn’t for everyone.

For most Realtors, social media is big ask. They’re busy. And though every Realtor is a researcher by trade, they rarely think to encapsulate that research in the form of short, engaging posts (or “share” someone else’s posts, no matter how compelling). Instead, they’re pre-occupied with serving their clients and selling and buying homes, which is what they’re paid to do.

So where does that leave you?

First off, you need to ask yourself if social media is going to be a part of your marketing mix. Be honest. If it’s not, no problem. You can still run a successful business without it. But if it is, you need to be prepared to manage it in a professional manner… for the rest of your career. Or to have someone manage it for you. Social media is a living thing. Once it grows, it’s almost impossible to stop without damaging your reputation in the process.

Will you be at a disadvantage if you decide not to leverage social media? Yes. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t turn a profit. It just means that you’ll likely be leaving some money—and potential customers—on the table.

If—or when—you’re ready to introduce social media into your workday, here are some guidelines to consider:

1. Don’t commit to social media unless you are comfortable being genuine in a public forum. Some people don’t like the “look at me” aspect of social media and make it about everyone else. Others try to use social media to portray themselves as the person they aspire to be but aren’t. In the world of real estate, both are social media mistakes. Brand building for Real Estate agents is very different than brand building for Heinz Ketchup or Delta Airlines. A real estate agent’s brand is a direct representation of their public persona. In other words, you’re branding YOU! It has to be genuine or it will backfire. Don’t like posting a picture of yourself with a happy client? You’re going to need to get over it. Don’t like offering advice publicly? Ditto. In your social stream, you’re the authority, the entertainment and the focus. It’s your show. So keep it real.

2. Create a Facebook page for your business. It’s straightforward and it’s free. If you have a personal FB page already, it’s even easier (you need to have a Facebook account to have a business page, so if you don’t, set up a personal Facebook page first, or check out our EZ Social Set Up). Lots of people use their personal Facebook page for their business, particularly in real estate where the “business” is often just the person, but it’s an unprofessional tactic. Your business social media activity should be focused on engaging your target customer, not communicating family business to relatives. To set up a business page, just sign in to your Facebook account, go to “Create a Page”, pick a general classification (there aren’t many) and then pick a category. Or click here.

3. Reward, inform, entertain and grow your followers before promoting yourself to them. People aren’t following you to experience your amazing self-promotion. They want to be informed and/or entertained with cool, current, engaging content. So give them what they want. This could be in the form of shared articles you found insightful, posts you’ve written that contain information that’s relevant to your network, compelling images and/or videos, infographics (though that’s a bit ambitious for most), statistics, trends, breaking news, or videos of your listings (if you’re wondering how to do this, check out our EZ Video Listings product). Then you can mix in a shot of you with your clients, a client testimonial, your latest results… or a pat on the back.

4. Think local. When you’re trying to come up with interesting topics, think local: i.e. local schools, businesses, government, news, events, neighbourhood descriptions—or anything else related to your target market that may prove insightful to your target customer group. Most agents have deep working knowledge of their target markets; social media is a great place to share it.

5. Start with Facebook. FB is still the king of social media when it comes to real estate marketing. Ideally, you’d branch out to Instagram, Linkedin, Youtube and Twitter, depending on your target audience, but you want to make sure you’re doing a good job managing FB first.

6. Dare to be you. Further to point #1, the primary differentiator for customers when choosing a real estate agent is the characteristics of the agent himself/herself. Promoting who you are and why you’re different is essential to landing new clients and converting any referrals you happen to get. Remember, local businesses—especially real estate agents and brokers—pull customers from a common pool. In other words, real estate professionals don’t generally create clients (meaning they don’t advertise to convince people that buying a home is a good idea). Instead, they take or pull clients who are considering a buying or hiring decision from other agents during the hiring process. That means that every customer you get you have to take from someone else. Keep that in mind when you’re building out your social streams. These days, you need to continually define who you are; if you don’t, others (past customers, competitors, the media, etc.) will do it for you.

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