ANALYSIS -- The social media juggernaut

Social media may have started out as a way to connect with friends but now it is a fully-fledged marketing tool for real estate companies

Social media continues to weave its way into how real estate businesses and properties are promoted.

In the latest example of how effective social media can be, social media expert and home owner, Kurt Opray, used Twitter, Facebook and blogs to generate buyer interest in his house, located in the Melbourne suburb of Northcote.

The successful campaign achieved at least 40 hits to his blog per day, with the traffic more than tripling in size the day before the February 11 auction. The three-bedroom, one-bathroom home had a $920,000 reserve. It sold for $1,055,000.

But according to the selling agent Rob Elsom, director at hockingstuart Northcote, Mr Opray’s social media campaign worked with, not against, his own marketing techniques.

“Nothing will take the place of an agent, with experience, resources and knowledge but to combine it with personal blogs from the home owner is a great idea,” he told Real Estate Business.

Mr Opray regularly updated his blog with images and first-hand accounts of nearby playgrounds and cafes. Photos taken months earlier showed off grapevines at their best in autumn colours and the vendor showed off jasmine plants.

At the same time, Mr Elsom went about his normal duties as a sales agent. “It was an average house on a great sized block with a nice garden, there was a lot of potential for the home,” Mr Elsom said.

News of the Northcote sale came as both Richardson & Wrench and LJ Hooker announced new awareness campaigns that rely heavily on social media.

R&W said its campaign will seek to utilise Facebook’s “lightning fast ability to connect and spread the word” as part of an approach that seeks to get away from “the brand hard sell”.

“While we believe absolutely in the virtues and values of our brand, hard-selling those messages is not necessarily a recipe for a successful social media campaign,” said R&W executive director Andrew Cocks.

“Sometimes you have to step away from those well-rehearsed brand messages to show a lighter side of the whole story and this is what we are doing with [the] ‘Show Us What Sold Feels Like’ [campaign].”

R&W said the 2012 campaign offers a cash incentive for viewers to submit a photo, video, drawing or song showing what ‘sold feels like’. Entrants are taken to the R&W Facebook page to submit entries and view other submissions.

LJ Hooker has followed on from its rebrand last year to launch a new integrated marketing campaign, which includes an increased focus on social media.

The new marketing campaign centres on ‘10 reasons why customers choose LJ Hooker’.John Darrow, LJ Hooker marketing director said. “This campaign is the next initiative in the brand rollout for the company and for the first time fully integrates a strong digital and social media component with print collateral.

Yet social media must have clear strategic goals in order to be successful, according to two of the country’s leading real estate social media trainers.

“The main reason principals fail to see results when using social media tools is because they have not worked out a strategy suited to their business,” Greg Vincent, founder of Sydney-based X Factor Agents said.

Mr Vincent’s comments were in response to a recent Real Estate Business straw poll, which revealed that 63.7 per cent of respondents believe their social media initiatives do not generate revenue for their business. The online survey showed 123 of the 193 respondents did not see a monetary gain from their social media initiates.

“It gives an overwhelmingly clear view that agents are just not getting [social media],” he said.

Peter Fletcher, who conducts a variety of workshops and presentations about marketing with social media, told Real Estate Business that a lot of agents make the mistake of comparing social media with direct marketing.

Direct marketing, done correctly, allows you to garner exact response rates to campaigns. Social media, on the other hand, is more qualitative by nature.

“Social media is all about relationships and building networks,” he said, and these are tough to measure.

But social media is more than a marketing tool and can help principals engage with employees, a senior executive from a Western Australian-based real estate group has said.

John Percudani, managing director of Realmark, said employees want a voice and want to feel that they are contributing. The best way to do that is by utilising social media networks to open up channels of discussion, he said.

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