Agents with a weak online presence are facing a bleak future, if a trend identified by an industry report is anything to go by.
The US-based report, conducted by the California Association of Realtors, revealed that the proportion of buyers who look for agents online has nearly doubled in the past decade.
The annual study found that 63 per cent of 792 respondents who used an agent found them online. In 2002, this figure was only 39 per cent. Buyers in the United States often select a real estate agent to assist them with finding a property.
Buyers were also actively using Google to research agents, with 68 per cent of respondents Google-ing their agent before choosing to work with them. This was the highest percentage since the survey started tracking this in 2007.
Another key finding from the survey was respondents’ preferred means of communication. Fifty per cent of the respondents said they preferred to be contacted by agents via email rather than telephone, which only gained 17 per cent of the votes.
Managing director of the Real Estate Tribe Peter Fletcher said the research highlighted the fact real estate agents needed to focus strongly on digital marketing to remain relevant in the constantly evolving property market.
“Agents aren’t necessarily communicating with people in the form in which they want to be spoken to,” he told Real Estate Business. “The research indicated people want to be spoken to by text and email or social media, but agents’ default is to do it by telephone.
“The trick for agents is to gradually move the relationship away from text and emails to voice and face-to-face, but at a speed that is appropriate to each prospect. I think if they do that, they become better communicators."
Mr Fletcher advised agents to ask their client how they preferred to be contacted.
“It’s just a respectful way to market themselves. When agents get an email enquiry, rather than getting straight on the phone, respond in the form the enquiry came to them and allow the relationship to grow from there," he said.
A common mistake by agents using social media marketing was bombarding their audience with their latest listings, Mr Fletcher said.
“That’s just saying all I am is a real estate agent. I have no other facets of my personality. People want to get to know other people they can like and trust,” he continued.
The key was to use social media to build relationships.
“Real estate marketing best practice is building relationships and the thicker, the deeper the relationship, the more likely the agent would be called in to do an appraisal or called back to properties they’ve sold previously. All that means they operate higher on the loyalty ladder, where the competition is less," Mr Fletcher said.
Mr Fletcher added that with more people looking for agents online, they needed to ensure they had a robust professional web presence that communicated their expertise.
“Very often, the only web presence agents have is a Facebook profile that’s locked down and a poorly populated page on their company website," he said.
“They should be having their own blog, a well built out LinkedIn profile that’s active and regularly maintained, a solid Facebook profile that conveys a professional message, and possibly even a Google Plus page.
“If they put all those together, when people Google their names, they find information about the agent that makes them more disposed to want to do business with them.”