Social media; a tentative paddle

First off, I make no claim to be a social media guru and, I’m not trying to sell you a social media estate agency (or related business) consultancy package – though I do offer a training and consultancy service. So why should you read an article on social media by a toe-paddler? Perhaps because I seem to be getting some rather good results and, I have no axe to grind? Why not tell me when you’ve finished reading whether it was a waste of your time in the comments section below?

As a business owner, you will either know that social media exists or, be reading this drumming your fingers waiting for the bailiffs’ to arrive; you are THAT out of touch with the market. But what is all the fuss about? Do I need to get involved with all that B2B and B2C chatting or, can I just ignore it?

Like the internet when it first broke into estate agency, ignore it at your peril. At that time, there were agents who embraced the internet early on and developed highly engaging and impressive websites; there were those, who thought all you had to do was say you have a web presence because no customer was ever going to actually look at a website anyway…were they? Or, like many agents, you could just ignore it. The internet was just going to be a passing fad.

We now know that those days are long gone along with the agents who railed against the brave new world of the information superhighway. But now, we have a new phenomenon to deal with: Social media!

Like the late eighties and early nineties, it is a tough time for agents. Focus on core strengths and business is the mantra. “Why waste time and effort on a kids plaything (Facebook) or a celebrity wannabe toy (Twitter)?” And this is where my blog really starts.

I’m what marketers call an ‘early-adopter’, when it comes to technology. My family has a phrase of their own which is not so business-like; I’m known as ‘gadget-boy’. What this means, though, is that I am often one of the first to see and appreciate what a new piece of technology can do for me, my family or, in the case of my business; my customers.

When Facebook and Twitter came on the scene, I immediately appreciated just how great the potential would be for PDQ and my customers. For me, good estate agency is all about good communication. Facebook and Twitter, I realised, allowed me to do that much, much more effectively and, with a vastly increased audience. I am a firm believer that the more you do to help your customers, the more business heads your way. It therefore stood to reason, in my mind, that helping an almost limitless number of people via Twitter and Facebook could only be a good thing for my business.

I started to engage on social media just over a year ago (just before I was mobilised to go to Afghanistan with the Army). Not surprisingly, my early flourish in social media, took a back to almost non-existent seat whilst my pre-deployment training took place.

Having been deployed to Afghan, I was swiftly sent back early with an injury (non-combat). Home-bound and frustrated I could not be with my mates in Afghan’ yet unable to return to my civilian job; I looked around for something positive to do with my time. Facebook and Twitter proved to be the answer. When I returned from Afghan, PDQ’s Facebook page was receiving around 1,000 post views a month. Within a month, that figure had snowballed to over 6,000 post views*.

However, by the middle of August, whilst our post view numbers were still increasing, I realised that our new ‘likes’ on Facebook and average monthly users had flattened out; we weren’t losing anyone but, we weren’t gaining any more either.

At first, I thought there may be seasonal factors at play but, as time moved on, I realised that we had probably reached saturation point with the way we were working. We needed to change.

Facebook’s internal analytics must also have realised this as they cunningly sent me a free invitation to try £30.00 worth of free advertising. Which I duly did…

I set up two adverts. One targeted at people who had never seen our site before and had no relationship with it (shared with a friend or otherwise) and, the other, targeted at the friends of our page who had not yet visited our page.

We set a daily budget of £5.00 for click-through’s (who says you need a big budget?) and waited. I say waited; we carried on doing our daily posts on topics we thought and hoped our customers would like as well as adding some new features from time to time.

The adverts certainly worked! The number of ‘likes’ we have received has leapt up by around 140%, with the number of monthly regular users increasing by a very healthy 45%. Analysing the results a little more closely, I can see that the majority of the new traffic can be put down to our advert whilst the majority of the regular users, is more closely related to the content we put on the site.

Conclusions?

  • I am very glad my competitors haven’t cottoned on to this as yet as we are now gaining hard, bankable business from social media (Twitter and Facebook).
  • Facebook advertising works and can be done very cheaply indeed.
  • Social media provides a massive ROI if done well

UPDATE: In June of 2012, our latest months post views are now standing in excess of 30,000 and still growing. The number of page ‘fans’ has increased by over 800% and, perhaps, most important of all, the number of people ‘talking about’ our page and, therefore, my business on Facebook is increased by over  1,500%! Facebook adverts, too, have proved successful, with one carefully targeted lettings advert alone creating over 300 click-through’s in a matter of days. Is it a co-incidence that our market share of the local sales and rental property market has also dramatically increased recently? Possibly, but I suspect that engaging with the public on a personal level and providing useful/ topical property related content has played a major part.

UPDATE: September 2012. Tipping point has now been reached!

  • The last month has seen an increase of total page views to just under 145,000 (an increase on June’s figures of 115,000)
  • Our weekly ‘reach’ is running at around 45,000
  • Fan numbers have now broken through the 1,000 barrier. (In June we were generating 2- 3 new page likes a day; it is now circa 15 or more) with mobile access being by far the largest source
  • Adverts; we’ve trialed the new sponsored post adverts. Opinion? Not impressed; it can’t be targeted at our core audience. Fail.
  • ‘Talking about us’ As I write, over 340 people are talking about my business according to our FB stat’s
  • Generated business: In the past few weeks, we have received a massive increase in the number of referred property instructions, buyers and tenants directly from FB and Twitter. Banked business to date from social media is now approaching 10% of our income this financial year and growing. Customers are engaging with and recommending us to their network of friends and family
  • Thanks to our Social Media presence, we are able to engage with our customers and a wider audience in a highly cost-effective and personal way that has never been possible before. Our customers benefit from a much greater exposure to a wider market of buyers and tenants who are predominantly focused on property in their specific geographical area. No other agent in our area comes close (our nearest competitor on SM has just over 35 likes and an average of 2 to 3 people talking about them). A great USP! Positive communication, genuine engagement and practical help are key to our success. We’re still learning but the results are very encouraging. Rolling out some new ideas in the course of the next few weeks. Stand by for another update soon, I hope. Regards. Chris

UPDATE: May 2013. Tipping point has now been passed!

  • Our monthly post views now regularly exceed 1.25 Million
  • Our weekly ‘reach’ is running at around 50,000
  • Page ‘like’ numbers have now broken through the 2,500 barrier.
  • Sponsored post adverts. Opinion? previously not impressed but… Facebook has upped it’s game and we now use these regularly as we can now very closely target our local area and core audience.
  • ‘Talking about us’ Varies dramatically but, tends to swing from between 150 to 400 people are talking about my business at any one time.
  • Generated business: Banked business to date from social media is now approaching 35% of our income this financial year and growing. Customers are engaging with and recommending us to their network of friends and family
  • Thanks to our Social Media presence, we are able to engage with our customers and a wider audience in a highly cost-effective and personal way that has never been possible before. Our customers benefit from a much greater exposure to a wider market of buyers and tenants who are predominantly focused on property in their specific geographical area. No other agent in our area comes close – to put this in context, our nearest competitor has just 190 likes 10 people talking abut them – smaller than PDQ by a factor of 10 – a great USP! Positive communication, genuine engagement and practical help are key to our success. We’re still learning but the results are very encouraging. Rolling out some new ideas in the course of the next few weeks. Stand by for another update soon, I hope. Regards. Chris

Good luck!
Chris

Last updated 23.5.13 CW

I welcome feedback so please feel free to leave constructive criticisms or ask questions below. If you could also take a second to rate my blog and pass it on to others who you think may find it interesting that would be great. Thanks.

Chris Wood of PDQ Estates Ltd

PDQ Estate Agents website

About Chris Wood: Chris is an estate agent with over 25 years of property experience. His business, PDQ Estates Ltd is based in Penzance and Helston, West Cornwall. He has worked with all sizes and types of businesses from single office independents to the management team and board of RBS and Tesco. A former President Elect of the NAEA and board member of NFoPP until he resigned in 2009, Chris has always championed the highest professional standards forestate agents in the UK. No stranger to the media, he has appeared on various programs including BBC, News 24, ITV, independent and BBC radio and is a regular contributor to trade journals, local and national Newspapers. Chris is on KloutLinkedIn Ecademy Facebook and Twitter Married to Amanda, they live in Penzance with their children who are slowly flying the nest, along with their three spaniels. In his spare time; Chris likes to keep fit and is a long-standing member of the Territorial Army. In 2010 he mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade.

7 comments

  • I must admit that I was a bit doubtful as to the usefulness of a social website within a business environment but after setting up our Facebook page for our Estate Agency, it has proved to be very useful in keeping in touch with our clients and keeping them informed of our activities. The only thing I would add to your post is that to set up a business page in Facebook and actively manage it, you also need a personal Facebook account. However, if you can wade through their security settings successfully and establish a reasonable level of security, then it is well worth the effort.
    I’d be interested in hearing your views on Google Plus, Chris. I’ve been using it on a personal level since it’s Beta Test stage and, given that it’s so much easier to use than FB and seems to have the user security sorted from the start, it could also prove to be a good marketing tool for Estate Agencies and other companies.
    Thanks for the information. It made me chuckle in places but I read it through to the end. Some very good insights.

  • I think a lot of estate agents are skeptical about facebook, especially (and rightly so) about giving all staff carte blanche to express themselves and represent the company online.

    However it is a marketing channel that cannot be ignored and I’m glad to see you making the distinction between ‘likes’ and bankable business – a metric many business fail to measure.

    A very good article – thanks Chris.

    J.

  • Hi Chris, have read this blog and your tweets in the last few months with great interest and your achievements though twitter and facebook are truly commendable and inspirational! As an independent agent in Hampshire striving to stand out from the crowd I see these channels as a crucial tool to our business – I’ll keep you posted with how we get on!

  • Thanks Jo. I look forward to hearing your results 🙂 Chris

  • Yesterday, while I was at work, my sister stole my apple ipad and tested
    to see if it can survive a forty foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation.
    My apple ipad is now destroyed and she has 83 views.
    I know this is totally off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  • I am really loving the theme/design of your web site.
    Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility issues?
    A handful of my blog readers have complained about my blog not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Firefox.

    Do you have any ideas to help fix this issue?

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