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Article defines social media for the B2C real estate sector and identifies effective social media tools that can be used to communicate effectively to create awareness and generate leads

Article defines social media for the B2C real estate sector and identifies effective social media tools that can be used to communicate effectively to create awareness and generate leads

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  • 1. Social Media in B2C Real Estate Term Paper Shakil AlamMB 8507 Special Topics : Real Estate Development and Urban Planning Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University 18 April 2011
  • 2. Table of ContentsExecutive Summary 1Social Media Defined 3General confusion about Social Media 3Types of Real Estate Social Media 4Types of Real Estate Social Media Users 12Real Estate Social Media Strategy 14Conclusion 16
  • 3. Executive SummaryThe third Industrial revolution which invited the internet age completely changed the waypeople do business today. Businesses are looking for new niches through the internet which areno more possible to reach using traditional media. While some sectors have verged on internetmarketing right away, some have decided to wait for a better time. Real estate sector is such anindustry where the adoption rate of internet technologies is relatively low compared to otherindustries. However, the recent success of various sectors using online social media has causedsome entities in the real estate sector to reconsider the implications of social media. With agrowing number of client base looking for information online, real estate agents and companiesare trying to figure out the most effective means of engaging customers through online socialmedia. This paper defines social media and explores the various social media tools that can beused in real estate B2C sector and provides the reader with a rich knowledge base on whatsocial media has to offer in the real estate industry. The paper will provide the reader with aframework to classify the real estate social media channels available and also classify the typesof real estate social media target consumers which can be used to better strategise a real estatesocial media marketing and awareness campaign. The overall purpose of this paper is to providethe real estate companies and agents in the B2C sector of the real estate industry withguidelines and tools to engage in social media marketing strategy.The paper attempts to tailor the classification the types of social media channels available forthe real estate industry and provides the reader with information on the latest social mediatools available for each category. The paper goes on to provide the reader with a classificationof the types of users based on their actions on different social media platforms and how the realestate companies and agents can strategize to engage each group of user. Finally, the paper introducesthe reader to the Groundswell Profile Tool which can be used to profile the dominant types of socialmedia users to set a social media marketing and engagement strategy. 1
  • 4. The third Industrial revolution which invited the internet age completely changed the waypeople do business today. Businesses are looking for new niches through the internet which arenot possible to reach using traditional media. While some sectors have verged on internetmarketing right away, some have decided to wait for a better time. Real estate sector is such anindustry where the adoption rate of internet technologies is relatively low compared to otherindustries. However, the recent success of various sectors using online social media has causedsome entities in the real estate sector to reconsider the implications of social media. With agrowing number of client base looking for information online, real estate agents and companiesare trying to figure out the most effective means of engaging customers through online socialmedia.This paper defines social media and explores the various social media tools that can be used inreal estate B2C sector and provide will the reader with a rich knowledge base on what socialmedia has to offer in the real estate industry. The paper will provide the reader with aframework to classify the real estate social media channel available and also classify the typesof real estate social media target consumer users which can be used to better strategise a realestate social media marketing campaign. from a The overall purpose of this paper is to providethe real estate companies and agents in the B2C sector of the real estate industry withguidelines and tools to engage in social media marketing strategy. 2
  • 5. Social Media definedIn a rapidly changing digital world where new online communication channels are developedevery day, an average user often finds it difficult to draw a fine line between the social mediatools and other internet tools. In order to get a clear understanding of this paper, it is importantfor the reader to clearly understand the types, classifications and boundaries of social mediaand social media users.According to Ron Jones, President/CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing, social media essentiallyis a category of online media where people are talking, participating, sharing, networking, andbookmarking online(SearchEngineWatch.com). Most social media services encouragediscussion, feedback, voting, comments, and sharing of information from all interested parties.He also defined social media as an enabler of two way communication in the digital worldwhich is very contrary to the traditional marketing world.General confusion about Social MediaPeople often confuse social media with internet marketing. It is important to understand thedistiction between social media and internet marketing. Search engine optimization (SEO),google adwords, google adsense, e- commerce newsletters, banner ads, emails, onlinemagazines, company website and social media together can be termed as internet marketingmedia. Therefore, social media is only a part of internet marketing. However, social media 3
  • 6. makes a major part of the overall internet marketing strategy. The successes of manybusinesses organizations in recent years have made social media a major online marketing andawareness creation tool.Types of Real Estate Social MediaIt is very important for a for a real estate social media marketing strategist to understand thetypes and classifications of various social media tools out here to efficiently design anawareness and lead generation campaign. Social media in the real estate sector can dividedinto six different types which are described below accompanied by a list of relevant socialmedia sites that can benefit the real estate companies and agents involved. 1. Collaborative projects: These types of social networking sites allow joint and simultaneous creation of content by many end users. Some collaborative social networking sites include wikis1, social bookmarking sites2, social news sites3, Social events site4 and forums and message boards. Wikis are free and can be used for B2B or B2C communications by developers and real estate agents respectively. Sites such as WikiSpaces, TWiki, PBWiki and Welpaint are ideal places to start a wiki. Developers can use wiki for internal communication between1 Websites which allows multiple users to add, remove, and change text based content (Kaplan and Haenlein 62)2 Enables users to bookmark and share favourite websites with an entire community (Evans 18).3 Allows members to submit new stories, articles, blog posts, videos, and photos to the community and rate thecontent (Evans 16).4 Facilitates offline group meetings and events in various localities around the world through an online socialplatform 4
  • 7. project teams and can also open it up to public for comments and feedbacks. A realestate agent can use the wiki to create a personalized network of colleagues for internalcommunications and can also create wikis to communicate with current and potentialclients.Social bookmarking sites can provide tremendous boost to the site ranking of a realestate company. Participation in various bookmarking sites such as Delicious, Magnoliaand Diigo will allow the real estate company or agent to increase site traffic which couldpotentially generate leads. However, it is important for the real estate company oragent to carefully tag their the bookmarked sites since most users search websites usingthe tag feature due to occasional overload of bookmarked sites in the community orsubcategory.Social News sits such as Digg, Rediit, NewVine, Kirtsy and BallHaype are greatcommunities to post latest news on the real estate market tends. Users who find theinformation useful have the option to rate and vote for the post which will in turnincrease the ranking of the news with better chances of the news appearing on the frontpage of the site. This will increase the credibility of the real estate company or agent.Social event sites such as Eventful, Meetup and Yahoo!’s Upcomming are greatcommunities to schedule public events such as upcoming information sessions andseminars among business clients and general consumers. However, Upcomming 5
  • 8. provides the added feature of integrating pictures from photo sharing sites to create awareness and entice potential clients to attend the events. Needless to say forums and message boards have been around since the inception of internet and have been heavily used by real estate industry. This medium of social media is still an effective channel for consumer engagement and raising awareness. 2. Blogs and microblogs: While blogs are special types of websites that usually display date-stamped entries in reverse chronological order (Kaplan and Haenlein 63), microblogs such as twitter are abbreviated blogs consisting of short messages (Evan 19). Blogs have always been a useful tool for generating site traffic. By regularly updating the contents in a blog and ensuring appropriate key words are used in the blog, real estate companies and agents can ensure better chances of the blog to be found through search engine optimization. Quality information and content will lead to regular visitors and loyal followers who can acts as evangelists for the real estate brand promotion. Moreover, quality content will lead to backlinks5 and potentials of greater participation in the social bookmarking sites. By adding a comment box, a real estate blogger can further enhance engagement with the consumers. EBlogger, Wordpress and Typepad are ideal sites for initiating a blog. However, San Francisco based Justin.tv took blogging to a whole new level. This new form of online blogging site allows users to create5 Users and companies sometimes link the blog to other sites when they find the information on the site useful.This enhances SEO and results in higher traffic. 6
  • 9. personalized television channels within the blog and allows real time imagebroadcasting to other users (Kaplan and Haenlein 63). Real estate companies and agentscan capitalize on this novel innovation by enriching their blogs with real time pictures ofreal estate properties on sale. This will further enhance client engagement and sitetraffic due to high quality contents and higher rate of activity on the site.Microblogs took online blogging to a different level by allowing for real time shortmessage that can be shared with thousands of followers. Twitter is currently the mostpopular and widely known microblogging platform and can be used for engagingconsumers with real time updates and advice on the real estate industry. Moreimportantly, the twitter can be used for listing purposes where the real estate companyor agent can list their offerings to the market. Corcoran Group, the largest real estatefirm in New York City, uses one twitter account to update the community with local andindustry news while uses another twitter account strictly for new listing toaccommodate for the rising demand. One challenge while using twitter is getting themessage across to the right person at the right time. An overwhelming number oftweets are being continuously bombarded on to the main page of the users twitteraccount from various followers which can reduce the effectiveness of communication.Moreover, there are users who are only active during certain time of the day. Educatedguesswork was the way to solve this problem until two outstanding twittercommunication enhancement tools came along. Tweriod is one such tool that canidentify the most active time slots when people on a certain twitter account network 7
  • 10. are online (Lance, Inman News Company). This helps the real estate company or agent to enhance efficiency and result by tweeting during times of high traffic for maximum engagement and awareness. Formulists is another twitter communication enhancement tools that allows the real estate company or agent to filter and network with people based on location, bio keywords, twitter activity and so on (Lance, Inman News Company).3. Content communities: These sites allow users to share media content between users. There is minimal display of personal information on these sites (Kaplan and Haenlein 63). Content communities take the form of text, photo, videos and power point presentation sharing sites. Photos sharing sites such as Flickr and Zooomr allow real time photo sharing options for the users. Flickr alone has more than 1.2 million members as of 2010 who add up to 200,000 images daily (Kim et al. 136). This shows the power and the potentials of creating engagement and awareness in photo sharing sites. Real estate companies can regularly upload and update photos of venues under development or venues for sale onto these photo sharing communities to create engagement and awareness through comment, reviews and ratings. Video sharing is anticipated to be the most powerful tool for real estate social media engagement and awareness. YouTube alone entertains more that 2 billion visitors per 8
  • 11. day with an average person spending about 15 minutes a day (Lance, Inman New Company). Lance (Inman New Company) also argues that video posts have a 50x better chance of ranking on page one of goolge search. ComScore survey in April 2008 reveals more interesting facts on how social media channels are taking over the traditional search engines. A comparative ranking of search engines and social media networks together ranked YouTube second after google and before yahoo in terms of the site where users search for information the most (Evans 18). Corcoran Group, the largest residential real estate firm in New York City, has a vibrant presence on YouTube and Vimeo (Lance, Inman New Company). Keller Williams Realty International, a real estate franchise company, maintains YouTube channels which contains regularly added and updated videos on monthly real estate report, real estate advice and current company news. Currently, the company boasts nearly 400,000 video views, 100,000 channel views and 2,000 subscribers overall (Lance, Inman New Company). The statistics on the number of videos, channels and subscribers is clearly a sign of superior engagement and awareness capabilities of video sharing.4. Social Networking sites: These sites are applications that allow users to connect by creating personal information profiles. MySpace and Facebook are the top social networking sites in North America. Therefore, it is extremely important for real estate companies and agents to engage in these media. Facebook currently also offers the opportunity to engage in the community with 9
  • 12. a business page. Real estate companies and agents can capitalize on this feature topromote themselves with the community and build credibility through a vibrantFacebook presence. Facebook allows various features such as status update, wall post orcomment feature to communicate with the audience which can greatly benefit both realestate companies and agent in term of engagement and awareness. However, it isimportant for the real estate companies and agents to also engage in niche socialnetworking sites such as professional networking sites, social networking sites specificto the real estate industry, social networking sites specific to a certain ethnicity ordemographic and neighbourhood based social networking sites.LinkedIn is one such professional site where real estate companies and agents cannetwork with variety of other profession in various industries. Real estate companiesalso have the privilege to form groups and engage with the professionals who opt in tostay updated from the company (Ford and Lim 49).Architizer, Active Rain and the Flipping pad are some of the real estate specificnetworking sites that allow communication between various professionals within thereal estate industry. For example, Architizer is the largest crowd sourced database ofarchitecture online which contains over 10,000 finished and proposed projects fromfans, owners and architects (Swallow, Mashable 2010). This is an ideal site for realestate developers and architects to find each other. 10
  • 13. MiGentre, BlackPlanet and AsianAvenue are some of the ethnicity and demographic specific social network sites that real estate companies and agents can use (Evans 18). HomeElephant is social networking site that segments user by neighbourhoods. The site has built in communication tools that all center around a map of the street of a certain neighbourhood (Lance, Inman News Comany). The idea behind forming this site was to improve the way neighbours know each other and respond to each other’s emergencies. The potential for this type of social networking site is yet unexplored. However, it is obvious that the presence of real estate companies and agents will help in attracting sellers looking to sell their homes and buyers looking to purchase homes in a certain neighbourhood. The site and concept is fairly new. Further improvement of features and functionalities of the site could make this category of social networking site a major social media tool for the real estate companies and agents. Localism and Neighborpeida are two more sites that that allow social networking at a micro level between local merchants and people.5. Classified Advertisement sites: These sites allow the community users to share job postings and buy and sell products. Craigslist, kijiji and eBay are some of the most popular social networking sites where real estate companies and agents can engage to generate leads. However, there are many real estate specific social advertisement sites that are classified by the type of service, type of house and so on. RealTown, Zolve and Zillow are some of the classified social advertisement sites that serve as a meeting place 11
  • 14. for real estate buyers and sellers (King, Realty Rankings).6. Virtual worlds: These are social networking platforms that replicate three dimensional environments where users can appear in the form of personalized avatars and interact with each other as they would in real life ((Kaplan and Haenlein 64). Although social networking sites such as Second Life has take virtual reality to a newer level, the use of avatars is yet to be seen in the real estate world. However, the concept of virtual tour has been used in various sectors or real estate with success. Cindy Clare, CPM and president of Kettler Management, AMO says “We also have touch screen kiosks in our leasing offices to allow residents to ‘virtually’ walk the building and checkout amenities in the surrounding area. (Alter 14)”. Virtual Tour Cafe is one such community that allows real estate companies and agents to provide a virtual tour experience to the clients. Types of real Estate Social Media Users According to Evans (42) there are six distinct groups in social media based on their actions on different social media platforms. It is important for the real estate companies and agents engaging in social media to understand the type of audience being targeted. The categories below explain the types: 1. Creators: These are socially active users who create the content such as blogs, YouTube videos, forums and so on (Evans 43). Real estate companies and agents 12
  • 15. can capitalize on this user pattern by enticing the users to create contents and share through various social media campaigns.2. Critics: As the name suggests, these users stay active in social media by commenting on blogs, writing reviews on products or services and responding to threads and forums (Evans 43). These users can serve as evangelists for the real estate companies and agents by communicating effectively and ensuring quality customer satisfaction.3. Collectors: Collectors engage in social media by finding and sharing things such as bookmarks on social media (Evans 44). These users can dramatically improve the ranking of a real estate company’s’ or agent’s sites by sharing them on various bookmarking sites. Therefore, real estate companies and agents should ensure regular post of updated material in their blogs and sites for the collectors to find them useful.4. Joiners: These users like to stay connected to a certain online community by joining social network sites as Facebook, MySpace and so on (Evans 44). A fan page or group can create enough engagement and awareness in these sites.5. Spectators: These users like to sit back and watch. They engage in social media by reading blogs and occasionally subscribe to RSS feeds (Evans 44). Real estate 13
  • 16. companes need to ensure quality web content to engage this group of social media users. 6. Inactives: These users keep themselves limited to general internet use only and do not participate in social media sites (Evans 45). Real estate companies and agents should focus on their own website, SEO and pay per click advertisement in this case since social media is of little relevance to these users.Real Estate Social Media Strategy (Groundswell profile tool)This tool solves the last bit of social media marketing strategy puzzle for real estate companiesand agents. The Groundswell profile tool6 is a social media profiling tool that uses data fromForrester’s surveys to help users understand where their target demographic lies within the sixtypes of social media users discuss above. Real estate companies and agents have the option toprofile the target consumers by age, gender and country. However, the tool does not specifythe specific social media sites the users use. To get a better understanding on the use of thetool, let us look at the figure and example below.6 http://pathwaypr.com/groundswell-consumer-profile-tool 14
  • 17. Figure 1. Groundswell Profile ToolThe figure above shows the social media classification of Canadian males between the agegroup of 25-34 years. Let us imagine a real estate company targets this sector of consumers forhome sales and is planning a social media marketing strategy to reach the audience. From thedata provided in the figure it can be seen that Spectators ranked highest, while Joiners andCritics ranked second and third respectively. Therefore, the real estate company needs to focuson blogs to engage the Spectators. Coincidentally, blogs also cater to the social media usagepattern of Critics who engage by commenting on blogs. Therefore, it is also important to have acomment option on the blog sites. In order to engage the Joiners, the real estate companyneeds to create fan page and groups on various social media sites.Overall, social media is a fairly new marketing and public relations tool in the real estate sector.Many possibilities and potentials are often difficult to understand due to the complexity ofusing certain social media sites. However, many companies have taken the courage and effort 15
  • 18. to understand the implications of social media use in real estate business and had outstandingresults. Matthew Shadbolt, Director of Internet Marketing at the Corcoran Group, says,“The main thing we’ve seen is that the quality of the referral traffic back into our main websitehas significantly increased. Not only are we seeing more traffic coming in, but visitors coming infrom social media sites are staying longer and looking at more things — something we had alsoseen with search engines but not in such large numbers. We have generated business throughboth Facebook and Twitter, primarily on the rentals side. People engaging with us directly onFacebook in particular has been increasing significantly over the past two months. ( Swallow,Mashable 2010)”The results of implementing social media are clearly evident and should be practiced by all B2Creal estate companies and agent to enhance business. After reading this paper, the readershould have a clear understanding of the social media use in the real estate industry and shouldbe ready to explore social media in real estate at an advanced level. 16
  • 19. BibliographyEvans, Liana. Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Engaging in Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media. Indianapolis, IN: Que, 2010. Print.Kaplan, Andreas M., and Michael Haenlein. "Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media." Business Horizons 53.1 (2010): 59-68. Business Source Elite. EBSCO. Web. 17 Apr. 2011."IREM INTERNATIONAL MEMBERS DISCUSS THE IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN THEIR BUSINESS." Journal of Property Management 75.6 (2010): 56-57. Business Source Elite. EBSCO. Web. 17 Apr. 2011.Rosfelder, Rich. "Surviving Social Media." Commercial Investment Real Estate 30.1 (2011): 22-25. Business Source Elite. EBSCO. Web. 17 Apr. 2011."search me." Journal of Property Management 75.3 (2010): 9. Business Source Elite. EBSCO. Web. 17 Apr. 2011.Alter, Shannon. "OPPORTUNE TIMES." Journal of Property Management 74.4 (2009): 14. Business Source Elite. EBSCO. Web. 17 Apr. 2011.Swallow, Erica. "How Real Estate Pros Are Using Social Media for Real Results." Mashable.com. 28 June 2010. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. <http://mashable.com/2010/06/28/real-estate-social-media/>.Swallow, Erica. "How the Real Estate Industry Is Using Social Media [INFOGRAPHIC]." Mashable.com. 08 Apr. 2011. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <http://mashable.com/2011/04/06/real-estate-social-media- infographic/>.Qualman, Erik. "Embracing Social Media at Prometheus - PRNewswire - Wire - BradentonHerald.com." Bradenton.com. 21 Jan. 2011. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <http://www.bradenton.com/2011/04/15/3117891/embracing-social-media-at- prometheus.html>. 17
  • 20. Brambila, Andrea V. "CAR Social Media Program to Feature Roost Platform | Inman News." Real Estate News for Realtors and Brokers | Inman News. 12 Apr. 2011. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. <http://www.inman.com/news/2011/04/12/car-social-media-program-feature-roost- platform>.Jones, Ron. "Social Media Marketing 101, Part 1 - Search Engine Watch (SEW)." Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Paid Search Advertising (PPC) - Search Engine Watch (SEW). 16 Feb. 2009. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. <http://searchenginewatch.com/3632809>."Empowered." Forrester Research. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <http://www.forrester.com/empowered/tool_consumer.html>.Lence, Katie. Future of Real Estate Marketing. An Inman New Company, 15 Apr. 2011. Web. 16 Apr. 2011. <http://www.futureofrealestatemarketing.com/>."Business Social Media Benchmarking Study | Business.com." Business.com - The Business Search Engine® and Business Directory for Business Information. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. <http://www.business.com/info/business-social-media-benchmark-study>.KIM JINWOO, et al. "Mobile Web 2.0 with Multi-Display Buttons." Communications of the ACM 53.1 (2010): 136-141. Business Source Elite. EBSCO. Web. 18 Apr. 2011.Ford, Caroline O., and Justin Lim. "Are You Linked In?." Journal of Accountancy 211.3 (2011): 48-51. Business Source Elite. EBSCO. Web. 16 Apr. 2011King, Caleb. "Best Social Media Sites for Real Estate Social Networking | Realty Rankings." Real Estate Internet Marketing & Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Web. 16 Apr. 2011. <http://www.realtyrankings.com/best-social-media-sites-for-real-estate-social- networking.htm> 18