COVID-19 has changed the business landscape in the United States in recent months. Offices are closed, gatherings prohibited, and more than 300 million Americans are confined to their homes in over 40 states. As a result, most business has gone digital, and companies are finding creative ways to continue their operations.
The real estate industry, which relies heavily on interpersonal connections, is now having to shift marketing and outreach strategies to online platforms. Of course, social media already plays an important role in most real estate agents’ marketing plans. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Real Estate in a Digital Age report, Realtors rank social media as the best source for generating high-quality leads, with 80% of respondents already using social media in some form.
But now, the importance of these networks to agents is undeniable. In their more recent surveys, NAR found 32% of members are able to continue business while still respecting social distancing regulations, even while the majority have stopped open houses and have turned instead to virtual tours and showings.
Keeping transactions on track is vital, but so is keeping your client pipeline full. Through social media platforms, agents can expand their reach and better target prospective customers and current clients. They can build their brand, increase their recognition, and expand their network within the industry by connecting with peers.
The situation caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak has changed the real estate landscape, forcing agents to adapt their lead generating methods as well. As part of that adaptation, agents should take the time to build a strong social media lead pipeline.
Step 1: Build an audience
The first step in building a social media pipeline is to identify your target audience. Studies show that millennials are now the largest age group of homebuyers, but target demographics will vary depending on location and your chosen niche, if any.
With a target audience in mind, the next step is to research the online habits and interests that will guide your marketing strategy. Agents can also use feedback, questions and concerns from existing clients as prompts for social media posts.
The most popular social platforms used by agents are Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. When crafting posts, make sure to create content that is tailored to each platform. For example, LinkedIn is a network focused on professional content, where people prefer long-form articles and informative pieces. When using Instagram, on the other hand, short video clips, high-quality images, and statistics that grab the audience’s attention are more appropriate.
To expand social media reach, spend some time learning how to create content that aligns with different platforms. For example, Facebook wants to keep people interested in using Facebook, so the algorithm uses past engagement to determine what it shows on the home page. Making a Facebook group creates a sense of community and intimacy that can help generate genuine conversation and engagement. This, in turn, boosts the value of posts. As an added bonus, members often get notifications about their groups, helping direct their attention to new content.
On Instagram, relationships are also favored, so agents should post regularly to provide more opportunities for engagement and actively engage in others’ posts by commenting, liking and direct messaging. Another helpful tip is to repurpose popular content that has already done well with the algorithm because it saves time.
Remember that digital doesn’t replace personal
In addition to substituting for physical interactions, prioritizing personalized interactions has many benefits. The algorithms of many social media platforms favor person-to-person discussions over company-to-person interactions, in order to push companies to use paid social media advertising to reach their audience.
People want to work with someone knowledgeable and likable, and sharing a mix of personal and professional information gives followers a sense of the agent’s knowledge while also making them seem relatable. By actively networking with other agents and industry experts, you can increase your exposure and establish your name in the community.
One of the best ways to keep potential clients engaged is with video content. Many agents are already giving virtual property tours for clients. Posting those virtual tours on social media is a great way to create eye-catching content for social media from the work you’re already doing. You can record the virtual tour and then edit and post clips across your social media channels.
Alternatively, agents can livestream a walkthrough, promoting the tour ahead of time to boost interest. Creating video testimonials from current and past customers is another way to generate content from the video conversations you are already having with clients. Posting conversations with clients — as long as they give you permission, of course — will help clarify the process agents are following in these rapidly changing times.
Step 2: Turn followers and viewers into leads
After engaging potential customers with interesting content, the next step is to turn them into leads. Demonstrating expertise is an important part of generating a lead pipeline. Sharing content such as guides, webinars and top tips that establish industry expertise can encourage clients to contact you or check out online listings, which can turn clients into leads.
To increase conversions, agents should regularly update their website, using A/B testing to determine the language, images and calls-to-action that work best. Tracking social media leads is a crucial part of a successful social media marketing strategy. To know where to invest focus and time, agents need to know which social media platforms and content are generating the most leads. Using a social media-enabled CRM is a great way to gain insights into what is working and what isn’t, and hone social media marketing efforts. Social CRMs can also save agents time by automating tasks like scheduling and publishing social media posts so they can focus more on engaging with their audience.
Whether building a social media lead pipeline from scratch or improving on an existing social media presence, these tips will help agents enhance their strategy. In the time of COVID-19, an active social media lead pipeline can help mitigate the damaging effects of social distancing on the real estate industry.
The good news is that the industry is already shifting into the digital realm, with social media becoming more and more important for generating business. Taking the time to build an established social media presence and a robust lead pipeline now will help agents position themselves for future success.
Adrian Fisher is the founder and CEO of PropertySimple, a real estate technology software that helps agents build their personal brand and marketing their business online.