Australian real estate agents are falling behind when it comes to social media. With almost 12 million Facebook users throughout the country, the opportunity for brands to engage with customers is enormous, yet often poorly understood and executed.
First National Real Estate chief executive, Ray Ellis believes too many Australian agents regard Facebook and Twitter as the equivalent of free newspaper advertising, while some major network’s are too focused on the promotion of their own social pages instead of those of their franchisees or members.
“While traditional methods of prospecting for listings will always play an important role in lead generation, social media offers real estate agents further opportunities to attract local customers, share expertise, entertain, and to humanise their business. Unfortunately, too many agents overlook the importance of engagement and many do little more than advertise their listings” said Mr Ellis.
“That means they have a deficient strategy to acquire local customers who aren’t looking to buy a house right now, but will be in the near future. They’re effectively ignoring a huge opportunity to channel people towards their brand by widening their horizons and talking about something more than just a basic sales and leasing monologue”.
Real estate is local and while brands play an important role in boosting consumer awareness, the profile and reputation of local agents in their community is integral to their success. First National Real Estate therefore began publishing Facebook and Twitter content on behalf its members in June last year.
“First National’s ethos is to provide a respected national brand that underpins growth for members’ businesses and that is what we do. Positioning our members as local experts generates business leads, so we do everything possible to build their profile at local level. By publishing the bulk of social content on their behalf, and having our members boost that with locally focused content, our agents are consistently interacting with more and more new customers, generating more business and goodwill in the process” said Mr Ellis.
First National Real Estate’s digital strategy – FN Social Express – has proved a runaway success. During its first six months of operation, the cooperative network has helped 127 participating offices reach over 1.5 million new customers, over 65 per cent of which are women.
“We’ve long known women are the decision makers in real estate so we orientate our content proportionately. Our metrics confirm that while First National’s Facebook fan base is comprised of 65 per cent women and 34 per cent men, women are doing more of the sharing, commenting and talking about our brand – 76 per cent versus just 23 per cent of men” said Mr Ellis.
The rollout of the network’s service should see over 400 offices connected across Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific by the end of 2014.
“First National was amongst the first Australian real estate brands to embrace social media but the launch of our FN Social Express service signalled that the network is committed to social media as an integral element of continued market share growth,” said Mr Ellis.
“There’s no doubting the strategy’s success. FN Social Express has increased our members’ local community fans by 37 per cent, their page engagements by 52 per cent, their local impressions by 32 per cent and their community reach by a massive 76 per cent.”
First National is the first company in the Southern Hemisphere to deploy the publishing technology that provides the capacity to draw together Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a global positioning platform to optimise its member’s content marketing nationally.
The content being published to each agency’s digital assets is themed around market expertise, home and lifestyle, architecture, tips and acquisition of customers. First National’s agents contribute local content via the system and Instagram, localising the service to assure suitability across all markets.
“We’re helping our members reach out to people so when they come to market, they already have a relationship with our members and know who to call first” said Mr Ellis.