How to Market Homes Using Social Networking Sites
By Edwin Scruggs and Steve Cox
All sales are a numbers game. The more potential customers you reach, the more closings you can achieve.
Computers and the Internet give us incredible new social networking opportunities to pursue sales leads that were unheard of as little as 10 years ago.
Modern sales tools such as social networking sites, video hosting sites and Web blogs can increase your online exposure and credibility — giving you a form of virtual signage that will blow away those competitors who haven’t yet figured out that it’s a whole new century.
Rule Number One: It’s Not the Technology, It’s the People
Don’t let the technology throw you. Concentrate on the people aspects.
From a sales perspective, the most important thing you need to know about the Internet is that it is rapidly becoming a more sociable medium. What started as a sea of interconnected computers to share technical information has grown into the world’s largest social community.
The techno-gurus call this phenomena “Web 2.0” and, as always, where people gather to interact socially, there exists great opportunity for generating sales prospects.
Social networking is certainly not a new technique to anyone involved in any type of sales. Community and professional organizations have generated valuable leads since the dawn of civilization.
Applying essentially the same social techniques that work in face-to-face sales to the Internet allows you to extend your reach to potentially millions of prospective customers with virtually the same amount of effort that it used to take to do a single mailing.
Regardless of your approach (or combination of approaches), the basic objective remains the same — to have the customer make that all important initial contact with you when it is time to buy.
Produce Content People Want
A big key to drawing visitors into any Web marketing strategy is to produce content that people will want to read and share with others.
As a home building or realty professional, you can draw on a wealth of expertise and insight when creating original articles for their Web presence. These can dramatically increase site traffic and, in turn, enhance your credibility as an authority in your profession.
Keep in mind one note of caution before you proceed. The Web strategies you employ can work against you if you use them improperly. If you are not willing to invest the time to produce original, compelling content, then don’t attempt these, or any other, Web marketing strategies.
A poorly designed campaign will not only be an ineffective waste of your efforts, it can actually harm you in the long run.
There is a saying among the technically inclined, “What’s published on the Web stays on the Web” ― and there’s a lot of truth to that adage.
Unlike yesterday’s newspaper, which lasts for a day or two then winds up in the trash, the Internet tends to have a very long memory. For example, most Web users are familiar with the Google search engine and its Web cache features, but there are also other sites, such as Archive.org’s “Way-Back Machine,” that serve as a permanent archive of the Internet.
Can you think of a better reason to put only your best foot forward on the Web at all times?
Choose the Right Tools
There are literally hundreds of effective Web marketing strategies. We will present a brief overview of a few of them. The terminology can be a bit off-putting at first, but a little research will help you learn how to quickly use these tools to your advantage.
Your in-house Webmaster, if you have one, can often be incredibly helpful in identifying some of these opportunities and helping you to wade through the techno-babble.
Social Networking Sites; Ready and Waiting to Be Mined
If you’re not familiar with them, social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook probably conjure up images of teenagers posting pictures and swapping gossip. Indeed, that’s how they started not too many years ago.
But things have changed dramatically since then. Don’t be surprised to learn that a majority of your present customers may already be visiting and posting on these sites.
According to comScore.com, more than half of the visitors to MySpace are now 25 or older. BusinessWeek reports that 41% of the visitors to FaceBook are over 35. There are literally millions of prospective clients out there on those two sites alone, and the numbers keep doubling every few months.
How many of these could be your future customers? That depends on your strategy for reaching them.
Establishing an account on these social networking sites sets up a business presence that allows visitors to preview content you have provided as a sample to entice them to your main Web site. Blog and announcement features on these sites allow you to maintain an active presence that gets you more noticed.
Virtually every business with a commercial domain and Web site could benefit from this approach. Each social networking site on which you establish a presence is like a free full-page ad that runs forever. What a bargain.
Online Ads Still Work, Too
If you wanted to reach these social networking sites through more traditional means, direct advertising on these sites is fairly reasonably priced.
Video Hosting Sites
The video hosting site YouTube is taking the Internet by storm, frequently receiving more page views per day than that other monster, Google. It’s never been easier to upload and share video content with the world.
Putting your video on YouTube will drive viewers to your main Web site — while also helping to improve your site’s ranking in the search engines.
What kind of videos should you post on YouTube? You and your associates can offer home buying tips or neighborhood points of interest. You can offer home tours and neighborhood tours. Simple drive-through videos of area neighborhoods can be especially useful to those looking to relocate.
Your video doesn’t have to be a slick production, either. But if you don’t feel comfortable displaying an in-house production, there are undoubtedly several independent videographers in your area who would produce videos for you at reasonable rates.
YouTube is only one of dozens of sites on the Web that provide video content hosting for free, but its traffic is more than most of the others combined. You can post your videos on those sites as well, but keep in mind that once you upload the video it will run at no cost to you and, for all practical purposes, in perpetuity.
Have you read about a bigger advertising bargain lately?
Always Give Them Something For Free
One thing about the Internet hasn’t changed ― it’s the best way to distribute information that has ever been invented.
Use this to your advantage, and provide informative content to prospective buyers that they will find valuable. This includes information about your community― such as schools and commercial resources ― specific and general buyers’ tips, and insights on the current state of the real estate in your area.
By giving your prospective customers information that is valuable to them, you create a bond that assists your sales efforts before you even talk to them. Plus, by being positioned as a “regional authority” in your profession, many prospective buyers will seek you out simply based upon your perceived credibility.
Do not underestimate the power of this simple, yet effective technique. As with all techniques, the more time you put into it, the more sales leads you will get out of it.
The Pitfalls of Being Pushy
The power of social networking is that it’s social. People quickly form a connection with you, especially if you go about it casually and informatively.
Don’t become overly aggressive in your presentations or it will turn off the very prospects you’re trying to reach. The moment your presentation starts to feel like an unsolicited infomercial pitch, most prospective customers will change the channel.
Don’t Stop There.
In addition to everything we’ve just discussed, there are dozens of other proven methods to help you increase your exposure on the Web.
This article can’t even begin to scratch the surface on the possibilities available to you. Concepts such as podcasting, blogging, social bookmarking and incorporating RSS feeds on your Web site would also be well worth your time to investigate and utilize.
It is vitally important to understand the need to make a commitment and start your Internet campaign with as many of these tools as your resources will allow. After all, that’s exactly what your competitors are doing.
Edwin Scruggs, of Tennessee-based Leader Realty, has been involved in multi-faceted marketing promotions for more than 30 years, including his role as director of sales for several leading builders in the South, taking each company to the top in sales for its region. He is also a professional business coach and consultant with a proven track record in team building and sales training. For more information, e-mail Scruggs, or call him at 901-212-8257.
Steve Cox (http://stevecox.com) is a technology consultant and Web designer for Fortune 500 companies and regional businesses. He is an author and instructor of educational and motivational classes for major corporations, including FedEx. Steve has been an engineer with Compaq Computer Corporation and host of the WMC-AM79 Memphis radio show “Internet Talk.” For more information, e-mail Cox, or call him at 901-458-6977.
This article was originally published in NAHB's Sales + Marketing Ideas magazine.
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