YOUTUBE IS much more than just a collection of cute cat videos and hilarious clips of people falling over; it is also a highly effective business tool that, if used correctly, can bolster a business’ branding and reach.
And to top it all off, it’s a free service that achieves over four billion views each day.
While using YouTube as a platform to post property videos is not new, having a dedicated YouTube channel to promote an agent, business and property is different, says Simon Oldham, a social media consultant.
“Video is really in its infancy in Australia and the real estate industry is very tentative when it comes to new social media,” Mr Oldham says, “but there is so much room for growth. Just in the last 12 months I have seen more and more agents asking about YouTube.”
In 2006, YouTube was bought out by Google. When this happened there was a change in how search results were displayed. Video was given preference over images, putting relevant YouTube videos at the top of the pile. Not only were billions now visiting the site directly, they were linking in using the biggest search engine in the world, creating opportunities for savvy businesses to profit from a free social media platform.
According to Todd Breen of Home Property Management, a specialist property management business based in Palm Beach, Florida, agents must begin to think outside the box when it comes to marketing themselves using social media.
In the past, real estate professionals have been merely ‘advertisers’, he argues. They would write three-line classified ads in the newspaper and then spend a lot of ‘face time’ with prospective clients.
“People had more time to shop, and needed to actually drive and personally walk through properties to know if they wanted them. Agents couldn’t be reached on the phone unless they were at their desk,” he recalls.
Mr Breen is well placed to comment on the use of YouTube as he has been using video in property management for a long time himself.
Real estate professionals are currently ‘publishers’, he says. With the advent of the internet and Google, however, home shoppers now expect to see five to 10 photos of a property and read far more than three short lines of text describing it.
They now look at far more properties online and far fewer in person.
“Savvy publishers realise this, and make sure their online product looks superior to that of their competition,” Mr Breen says. “Home shoppers also expect us to be reachable via mobile, text, Twitter, Facebook and the like.”
Therefore the next step for agents, according to the video pioneer, is to shift from ‘publisher’ to ‘broadcaster’.
YouTube and Facebook are changing the way the public interacts with agents. Mr Breen predicts that time-strapped shoppers will turn to real estate agents who know how to further automate the home shopping process by creating very thorough video tours, enabling prospects to shop online and using powerful mobile computing devices.
“In the near future,” he says, “instead of relying on ‘verbal referrals’, those agents who become socially reviewed and validated, and who become ‘virtually credible’, will reap scores of new business through what I term ‘social referrals’.
“Agents who aren’t socially validated and who don’t use broadcast media will lose both relevancy and market share.”
As of March 2012, Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber’s film clip for his hit song Baby is the most viewed video ever on YouTube, with 712,600,789 hits. An impressive feat and a marketer’s dream, but according to Mr Oldham, the smaller and more targeted your audience, the better.
“Of course, you could potentially reach thousands, if not millions of people, but it pays off more to be very direct with your audience,” he says.
“A real estate agent wants to become the leader of their suburb, to be seen as an authority in that area,” he explains, “[but] there is also something called ‘lost views’ – that’s when you have a non-targeted audience. You want people that are in buying mode in your area to be looking at your channel.
“My best advice is when you are a building your site, have a goal. Ask yourself, ‘Who am I trying to target?’, and focus on them by doing market updates or local news.”
Once you have accomplished that, it is time to get creative with your videos, according to Ant Manton, principal of Ray White Ant Manton Property in Tasmania.
Since launching his YouTube Channel, ‘Ant Manton Property’, in July 2011, Mr Manton has had almost 9,000 video views.
“The goal of my videos is to give my audience the best value, great information and make them want to keep coming back,” he says.
Scrolling through Mr Manton’s YouTube channel you won’t find endless images of property after property; instead you’ll find various still images of him in interesting places doing interesting things.
“I’ll do anything to make people laugh,” he says. “The property videos are designed to show a potential buyer how that property is a home, and why it should be their home.”
Every property Mr Manton lists gets the same treatment, with a minute to one and a half minute video. This includes a piece to camera at the start of the video followed by a voiceover and a tour of the home and surrounding areas.
“I always try to make the introduction as interesting as possible,” he says. “I might be jumping on the trampoline if the backyard is great for kids, or diving into the surf if the house is near the beach. I find the most unique selling point of the home and sell that in an interesting way,” he adds.
To ensure the audience of potential buyers gets the most out of his YouTube channel, Mr Manton not only uploads regular home listings but also feature videos that include a real estate humour section, training tutorials and a weekly ‘Property Patrol’ shot from his car while driving around his local area.
“All those extra features just add to the experience and it doesn’t have to take a whole lot of time,” he says. “I do the Property Patrol with my iPhone and upload it straight away.”
According to Mr Oldham, a YouTube channel in isolation will not generate revenue for your business, but with the right amount of social media marketing you will see benefits.
“I think it has a positive effect on your branding,” he says. “With a YouTube channel the agent can show how they are the ‘authority voice’ in that area. A channel promotes the company, the agent and the location, and from that there will be return to your website.
“The advantage to linking means an agent can direct traffic from their YouTube channel to their Facebook page, or Twitter account and website,” he adds.
Having a YouTube channel is also about recognition of the agent, says Raine & Horne South Australia CEO, Kevin Magee.
“Buyers are much more comfortable approaching an agent on the street or at an open house after seeing them on videos,” he says. “There is that familiarity, they recognise you and they have a great opening to a conversation.”
Mr Magee is behind a social media push that has seen Raine & Horne SA produce a YouTube Channel, ‘rhSouthAustralia’ and a monthly “How’s the Market” video that reaches thousands of people every month.