A Commercial Real Estate Professional’s Guide to Social Media Marketing. Part 1: Social Media Platforms 101
By Sarah Malcolm, COO of The Content Funnel
Our CRE guide to social media marketing is a four-part series designed to help real estate agents and brokers launch their social media efforts on the right foot. The right social media strategies push traffic to your website, build brand recognition, provide ways to interact with customers, and generate more leads.
Start listing all the social media networks. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tumblr. We can think of at least 15 more off the top of our heads. Point: there’s a lot of social networks available.
Commercial real estate agents and brokers know social media is a big chunk of the content marketing pie, but the number of networks makes starting overwhelming. Which networks do buyers and sellers use? Which networks should you use? What features matter? Should you focus on organic traffic or pay for advertising?
Part 1: Picking the Right Social Media Networks
It's easy to start creating an account on all platforms, but a strategic content marketing plan on how your agency will use social media over time increases your business growth and revenue.
The right social media network aligns with your content style and is home to your target audience. Why run a Snapchat account if you hate the disappearing video strategy, or if only 5 percent of its users fit your typical client profile?
We have briefly summarized the major social media networks commonly used to distribute real estate content. Narrow down the options first, then spend more time diving deeper into their features and best practices.
Feature summary: Facebook is the number one real-time social media networking website based on the number of subscribers. Recent figures placed daily active users around 2.27 billion people.
Facebook users “like” other people, causes, businesses, or groups and follow their updates on a real-time news feed. Users add extended text posts, share website links, upload pictures, create photo carousels, and publish prerecorded or live videos. Friends and family leave comments on posts.
A Facebook business page separates personal accounts from business accounts. Unique features include customer reviews, customizable CTA buttons, and ways to promote offers and events. Facebook business advertising includes targeted campaigns and boosted posts.
The Facebook Messenger app is a chatting platform. For real estate, it’s becoming a popular way to provide customer service.
Restrictions: Facebook reviews all ads before approving their posting. When programming targeted ads, Facebook changed its text-to-image restriction ratio in 2016; instead it prioritizes ads with minimal text. It offers a tool to check your text overlay.
How to use: Start by setting up a Facebook Business page. Facebook optimizes video posts in news feeds. Emerging data shows Facebook users are three times more likely to watch a live video than a prerecorded upload. No video? Posts with images receive 2.3 times more engagement than text-only posts.
In short, opt to lead Facebook content with an engaging video or image. Real estate professionals should investigate using Facebook Live. Create a budget for paid promotion and advertising to reach the target audience.
Audience demographics: Facebook is the most used social media network across gender, age, education, and location demographics. In the United States, as of January 2018, 42% of subscribers were 18-34 and 33% are 35-54. Facebook is used by 56% of baby boomers. Users typically access Facebook through mobile devices. According to Pew Research, 71% of American adults using the internet are on Facebook.
Drawbacks: Personal Facebook news feeds emphasize content from friends and family. Marketing business content now requires more effort to gain organic followers. If you plan on using Facebook, include paid and targeted marketing strategies to promote content.
Advantages: Facebook’s power for the real estate agent lies in its expansive user base, targeted advertising capabilities that increase marketing returns, and real-time marketing potential. One study found 47% of Facebook pages don’t publish video; doing this can give your social marketing a competitive edge. Users watch 100 million hours of video on the network every day.
Feature summary: LinkedIn is a professional networking platform ideal for finding business opportunities, employees, and professional networking. Emphasis is on leveraging your professional experience contacts. Sections include education, work experience, publications, volunteerism and more. A LinkedIn brokerage business page profiles a company’s mission, team members, and background while helping increase its search engine placement. Businesses can advertise to job seekers and publish relevant content.
Restrictions: LinkedIn for Business offers a free account, but to access more features a premium subscription is required.
How to use: For personal accounts, think of LinkedIn as your online resume. Create an account that highlights your best attributes. Use LinkedIn to reconnect with old contacts and keep track of others’ careers. The newer “connections of” filter expands your existing network.
LinkedIn Groups offers professional real estate networking groups to join and contribute insights. Joining or creating a LinkedIn real estate group provides valuable industry insights and generates professional connections. See five groups real estate professionals should join on the platform.
A LinkedIn business page is excellent for recognizing a brokerage’s contributions their field, awards won, and important news. You’ll gain insights into website demographics and be allowed to create tailored content.
The best performing content on LinkedIn is in the 1,000-3,000 word range. These include ebooks, white papers, case studies and other professional documents. LinkedIn supports videos and images. For the latest on its content marketing updates, read this.
Audience demographics: As of December 2018, LinkedIn had 590 million subscribers and 260 active monthly users. Of its users, the majority are in the 30-49 range, followed closely by 50-64 year-olds. The average subscriber’s income skews higher, with 44% of users earning $75,000 or more.
Drawbacks: Leveraging the platform to gain business introductions takes work and patience. This is not a real-time platform that people use every single day. Connections might not respond for weeks or months.
Advantages: LinkedIn Groups are excellent for networking and personal growth. Make connections to industry influencers and grow professional reputations. Clients visit LinkedIn to research a real estate agents’ successful track record. Link blogs and accounts to your LinkedIn profile for additional content distribution power.
Want more? See 4 Winning Strategies for Real Estate Agents on LinkedIn.
Feature summary: Twitter is a real-time live news feed delivering a nonstop constant information stream. People search for and organize posts with hashtags. Users post photos, share links, upload prerecorded videos, and go live. Businesses use Twitter Ads to promote content. The Twitter Lists feature curates followers based on common interests.
Restrictions: Twitter now has a 280 character restriction. Tagging other account holders and including content links does not count towards the 140-character limit. Every account can follow up to 5,000 users, but after that Twitter applies an unpublished ratio of followers-to-following to limit accounts followed.
How to use: Use Twitter to find relevant content, interact with industry influencers, and track trends. Leave short comments about issues that matter to your brokerage. Gain Twitter followers with regular engaging and insightful content. Tweets with images and video receive more engagement than text-only tweets. Network with new people through Twitter chats, Twitter lists, and searching relevant hashtags.
Twitter reported ad engagement was on the rise, meaning opportunities exist for a better return on investment. The post per engagement was on the decline at the same time as the report.
Some hashtags for CRE include: #cre, #cretech, #commercialrealestate, #proptech, #cremarketing, #womeninCRE, #CREWomen, #tenantrep
Audience demographics: Under a quarter of internet-using men and women are active on Twitter, or 19% of the total adult population. Its audience skews younger, with 37% of users aged 18-29 and 25% aged 30-49. Over 30% of Twitter subscribers have graduated college. In Q3 of 2018, Twitter had 326 million monthly active users.
Drawbacks: Debates continue about Twitter's ability to maintain relevance. New and active subscribers have been on the decline. Even though you can upload videos and photos, it’s still a text-based platform. Since content vanishes quickly down the news feed; frequent updates are a must to stay fresh and relevant.
Advantages: Twitter is easy to use, simple to start, and responsive. The character limit forces messages to stick to the nitty-gritty to get the essentials published. Twitter is a great tool to self-promote or promote other brands. Conversation is fast-paced and instantaneous. A topic can go trending within minutes and vanish from the news feeds just as fast. Users are more inclined to provide feedback on Twitter.
Interested in using Twitter? Read the Best Practices for Twitter Results.
Feature summary: Instagram is a mobile-driven photo and video sharing social network now owned by Facebook. Subscribers apply filters to their photos and add hashtags to make the photos more searchable. Users comment and like photos.
Instagram Stories is for ephemeral content, but videos can be saved as Highlights. Business features include enabling Instagram users to shop directly inside the app. Advertising is available with photo, carousel, and video posts.
Restrictions: You cannot upload photos or videos from a desktop. Only advertisers have access to some features. Business profiles can add links to posts, but not the average user.
How to use: Instagram’s visual appeal is a natural for boosting real estate marketing. Focus on attractive, eye-catching images. Research appropriate hashtags to help photos be discovered by the right audience.
While it’s tempting for real estate agents to just promote listings, find ways to go further in Instagram marketing by incorporating brokerage team events and area amenities. Turn Highlights into an advice real for tenants, landlords, and other industry professionals.
Add hashtags and location sharing to make content discoverable. Some hashtags for CRE include: #cre, #cretech, #commercialrealestate, #proptech, #cremarketing, #womeninCRE
Audience demographics: The platform has seen phenomenal growth. One billion people use Instagram every month, with 500 million on it every day. Instagram’s primary audience is under age 35, with 71 percent of its users in this age range. Gender distribution is nearly equal.
Drawbacks: Again, photos upload primarily from mobile devices or through special desktop apps. Instagram user without business accounts do not allow web links except in the bio. Videos are limited to 60 seconds in length, but Stories are limited to 15 seconds.
Advantages: Instagram makes it simple to share photos across other platforms like Twitter and Facebook, increasing the chances for viral sharing. Discovering content and users is easy with hashtags. Photos can be location tagged. Instagram Stories is a unique way to engage the CRE audience. Learn 6 Best Practices for Instagram B2B marketing.
Feature summary: A top social sharing network, YouTube is a video hosting platform with a global reach. Users create playlists to organize content inside their account. Playlists can include curated content from multiple accounts. YouTube supports 360-degree videos and live streaming.
Optimize videos for advertising and embedding on websites elsewhere. Purchase advertising to play before other videos.
Restrictions: YouTube monitors content for copyright violations. Ensure your content is original or has the appropriate permissions. To live stream, Google must verify your account channel first.
How to use: Real estate professionals record videos from anywhere and upload onto a YouTube account. YouTube is excellent for curating how-to lists and special series.
Set your sharing settings for private or public. Optimize video with tags, keywords, and a detailed description. Pay attention to its title. Create content that will keep people watching until the end.
Share videos on other social networks or grab an embed code to add video to your website..
Audience demographics: While YouTube remains popular with millennials, overall YouTube use is high across all demographics. More than 1.9 billion people are active on YouTube every month and 5 billion videos are watched each day. Men slightly outrank women, representing 62 percent of its users. Generation X and Baby Boomers are the fastest growing age groups on YouTube. YouTube reaches 95% of online adults 35+ and 55+.
Drawbacks: The most popular videos on YouTube are about gaming, health and beauty, and pets. While advertising is available, YouTube is not designed as a “selling” platform.
Advantages: It’s easy to share and embed YouTube videos in websites, other social media networks, and some email marketing platforms. There are no video size or length limits, although shorter videos tend to perform better. Videos appear on YouTube and Google’s search engines, increasing SEO. The video sharing website is free.
Feature summary: Pinterest is a shopping a platform allowing subscribers to create virtual cork boards. Users select content from around the web to pin on their created boards. This curated content collection can be shared with others or kept private. Pinterest is the world's fastest-growing online social shopping platform.
Restrictions: There are limits to the number of boards, pins, likes, and follows, but to reach them you need to be a prolific Pinterest user.
How to use: Excellent images are key to Pinterest success. When you find content you like, see if it has a “pin” button. If so, click the button and add to the appropriate board. Add notes and comments about the pin. Generate boards grouping similar content to promote your website. Follow other boards and like pins.
For commercial real estate, create boards around an area, such as the local restaurants in a shopping district or the amenities of a new multifamily development. Or, pin pictures of the properties you’ve worked with. Share infographics as pins.
Audience demographics: As of September 2018, 77.4 Americans use Pinterest each month. Women drive 85% of Pinterest’s traffic, and of all online women, 42% use the social network. However, half of the platform’s new signups were men.
Pew Research found in 2018 34% adults 18-49 years use the platform. As a popular shopping platform, its subscribers have more disposable income with 64% of adult subscribers earning $50,000 or more.
Drawbacks: Remember Pinterest is an image-driven platform. Attractive photography or graphics are a must to have Pins rank highly.
Advantages: Every pin links back to the content source, driving traffic and search engine ranking.
Feature summary: Snapchat changed social media marketing with the advent of ephemeral content or disappearing stories. The short videos exist for short time before vanishing, sometimes forever. The unique stickers and lenses add to the fun of posting photos and videos. Send video messages back and forth as you would a text chat.
The Stories feature collates a daily collection of photos and videos from their lives. Snapchat does have a save option called “Memories.” Advertising is available on the Snapchat platform. Snapchat recently opened its AR features to external developers.
Restrictions: Snapchat is primarily a mobile app not directly available for desktops. Users add text overlays and special crazy filters. Videos must be saved or they will disappear.
How to use: Download Snapchat onto your phone. Shoot video from your mobile device and decide if you want to add text or filters and publish. Get creative with the campaigns you use and play into the audience’s fear of missing out. Offer promo codes, behind-the-scenes looks, and exclusive VIP access.
Audience demographics: Snapchat’s primary subscriber ages under 25. Just over 29% of users are greater than age 25. However, as of 2016, over half of Snapchat’s new subscribers were over 25. Women represent over 70% of Snapchat users. Around 60 percent of internet users 25-34 use Snapchat.
Drawbacks: Snapchat works best with limited time content, like exclusive offers or events. The videos, or “Snaps,” are limited to 1-10 seconds.
Advantages: Its users watch 188 billion videos per day. Snapchat emphasizes personal stories and highlights brand values. Videos don’t need a polished appearance to succeed and starting on the platform is easy. Real estate professionals have room to explore how Snapchat can work with their business.
If none of these social platforms speak to your real estate business, explore additional networks. Otherwise, start social media marketing by designating one or two platforms as your primary content marketing focus. Let other platforms serve a secondary role. Once you know the social media networks your real estate business will use, start planning for content. Find next steps in Parts 2, 3, and 4:
A Guide to Planning Content
A Guide to Managing the Workflow
A Guide to Growing Social Influence
-Statistical information for this article came from SproutSocial insights.