It’s all about what you share in today’s social networks.
(TheNicheReport) -- When historians look back at the early days of social media, Facebook will certainly emerge as one of the early success stories. By making it possible for people to share through an online interface the kinds of information they might have shared only in person, Zuckerberg and his team created a new paradigm for interaction and fulfilled one of the earliest promises of the Internet. The results speak for themselves. With over half a billion users worldwide, the Facebook phenomenon impacts all of us – and our businesses.
While Facebook is a very powerful tool because it provides access to such potentially huge networks of willing connections, the real power only reveals itself when the right information is shared across these network connections.
I’m sure that by now, early in 2012, every real estate agent on the planet has a personal Facebook page and probably one for the company as well, if the brokerage doesn’t already maintain it. These social media properties are filled up with family, friends, business associates, past customers – anyone who could possibly refer a new buyer or seller to the agent. The vast majority of these Facebook connections will not make that referral. Why? Because there is nothing on these pages that makes them want to do it.
A real estate agent, like a banker, lawyer or accountant, is an advisor. The value of the service may culminate in the sale of real estate, but it’s all the little things that led to that transaction that really separate the winning agents from the also-rans. For most buyers and sellers, the real value an agent brings is in the information she shares. If people don’t have very good reason to believe that the information an agent will bring to the table will benefit their family, friends and neighbors, that are unlikely to make the referral.
Fortunately, a savvy agent can use Facebook to illustrate the kinds of information they bring to the real estate sales transaction, and then promote the page to grow a network that can then be tapped for new leads and listings. This may seem intuitive, but a quick survey of real estate-related sites around the web will indicate that there is still great opportunity for agents to differentiate themselves here.
What people really want to know
A good real estate agent has heard every possible question a home buyer or seller can ask. The best agents have heard them so often that they can practically answer them in their sleep. When the answers flow that readily, it can be easy to assume that the information is of low value, but that is hardly the case. The information that many agents take for granted is exactly what home buyers need to move forward and home sellers need to position their properties for a quick sale.
A good Facebook page will make it clear to a prospect that the agent is a bona fide expert in the local market. It will make it obvious that the agent knows the source of the kinds of information both buyers and sellers need to come together for mutually beneficial transactions. This includes information about the economic conditions, both locally and nationally; the various local communities and their amenities; and the real estate transaction and the agent.
It’s critical that agents not forget that final element. In the end, a seller will not list with an agent he does not believe can get the home sold. Providing sufficient background information on yourself is a critical component. We’ll talk about this in some detail as there are different views as to how much personal information the agent should share on Facebook.
Sellers typically want to know how much their home is worth, how quickly they can sell it and specifics of the transaction. Buyers want to find a home that matches their dreams, fits their budget and is situated in the perfect neighborhood. More often than not, buyers are also interested in financing.
Knowing this, we could just post our typical answers to the questions we get and then respond to specifics when the prospect gets in touch. Unfortunately, if we do that, they won’t get in touch. The longer those generic answers stay on the page, the older they get and the less likely they are to convert a visitor into a hot prospect.
So if we’re not supposed to answer the questions, what are we supposed to do? The point of the Facebook page isn’t to provide all the information you would to someone you are working with. The point is to demonstrate that you can provide all of that information.
Instead of telling visitors to your page everything you know about a certain community, post one thing you know about it. Maybe a local township passed a new ordinance. Maybe a town in your area is having a carnival or block party. You share bits of information through frequent posts that mark you as an insider.
This requires the agent to stop thinking of a Facebook page as a brochure for their business, and start thinking of it as an online newspaper for prospects and past customers. This is a huge distinction that, once understood, explains why the vast majority of real estate Facebook pages are lifeless equivalents of abandoned Roadside America tourist traps left behind when the new Information Superhighway went through.
The information that makes you trustworthy
Getting this kind of information is pretty easy for most agents. They read the local papers, belong to local civic organizations, go to church and have kids in the schools. It’s easy to share bits of information that make their local area look like the kind of place where people would want to live. But that’s not the only kind of information Facebook visitors are looking for.
The most important information you will ever share with anyone you do business with is the reason you are the only agent they want to engage. People do business with people. It’s a rule we must never forget. But why should they do business with you?
There probably isn’t a single answer to that (unless you’ve personally sold so much real estate that properties fly to the closing table when they see you coming). There are probably a lot of little reasons that you are the right agent. Some of these will ring true for a core group of buyers and sellers and these are the people who will seek you out.
So what types of information give us the many little reasons that people want to do business with you? This is where we get into the debate about how much of your Facebook page should be personal. Some of this must be worked out with your broker, as many companies are now beginning to adopt social media standards that they expect to be followed by all agents working in the company. If you are not bound by such standards, consider this:
People believe you are competent when they know that you know your business. But for many people, competence is merely table stakes. In fact, the state of California argues that choosing the right real estate agent is a matter of personal protection, offering all kinds of advice about how to know if you can trust an agent. And that’s really what it comes down to: trust.
What should you know about someone before you can trust them? It’s no longer about what the agents know, it’s about what they do. You can talk about successful transactions. People understand what that means and what it could mean to them, but they have no frame of reference for all the work you do that leads up to that result. That leaves you talking about things you do on your own time. This is where it gets personal.
For my money, I want to know what a person does when they’re not at work. It tells me something about them and might give me an additional frame of reference to determine whether I think they’re trustworthy. Those that value their privacy highly disagree with me, for obvious reasons. I think if you’re going to get people to trust you, you’re going to have to give them more information about who you are. Actually, it’s even better if you get someone else to do it for you.
Getting people you know to tell their success stories on your Facebook page is one of the very best ways to demonstrate that you are a trustworthy agent with a high level of competence.
Whether you do it yourself or get someone else to share their stories about you, it’s imperative that you use your Facebook page to open the door to connections with visitors by demonstrating you are trustworthy.
Becoming the place customers search first
Once you have begun providing the information your prospects are looking for in a manner that makes your page seem more like an online publication than a static brochure, and you have built in enough content to prove you are competent and trustworthy, the only thing that remains is promoting the site. It cannot help you if no one visits it.
Posting frequently using important keywords is the best way to make sure that your page gets found. I recommend that you post at least once a week, but three to five times is better. Short posts that direct your prospects to the information they are looking for is perfect.
There are many ways to fully leverage a good Facebook page, but they all involve sharing the right information with the visitors you attract. That’s the real power of Facebook.
About the Author:
Rick Grant is a freelance writer and editor with over 15 years of experience writing about real estate and home finance industries. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @nyrickgrant.