Building your brand with social media

While search engine optimization, or SEO, isn’t a new concept, many businesses still don’t know how to achieve it. And in the real estate business, social media — and the ability to rank high on Google searches — is increasingly becoming a competitive differentiator.

Social media is a tool, but it’s not a panacea. “You’re dealing with people’s homes, there’s big money involved — it’s probably the biggest purchase they’re making in their life,” said John Carson, founder of Herb Communications, who consults with businesses on social media strategy.

Real estate is a personable business and involves meeting potential clients face-to-face. “Real estate and mortgage industry professionals can use social media as a tool to build awareness,” he said. “You’re not going to close a deal over a tweet.”

Pinterest, for example, is highly visual, so real estate agents can post photos of homes they’re trying to sell, which potential buyers can then pin to their own boards. But agents should also consider more innovative ways to use social media.

Before people look at houses, they look at neighbourhoods, said Carson. You can pin photos of the neighbourhood — parks, schools, shops and restaurants — to give potential buyers the bigger picture. It’s not just about the hardwood floors; it’s about the school their kids are going to attend.

On Facebook, you could join an established group, such as the Real Estate Agent Directory. But these days, it’s all about being “hyper-localized,” so consider creating your own group about a hyper-localized area and provide information about the neighbourhood.

On Twitter, you can tweet about an open house; if someone “favourites” that tweet you know they’re likely a potential buyer and you can follow up with a private message to take it a step further, said Carson.

But to boost your SEO, you need your own website and domain name. Your website should explain who you are, your experience, how many houses you’ve sold — sprinkled with some good keywords. On Facebook and other social media sites, link back to that website, since it’s your key to rising up the Google rankings.

Using the right keywords is important to SEO. But “Google loves sites that are active and refreshed,” said Carson. If you want to write blogs, make sure those are updated on a regular basis or you’ll drop down in Google rankings.

But you don’t need to write a post every day, he said. Try to post something a few times a week to keep it fresh. This doesn’t have to be a listing; you could provide tips on how to stage a room, or stats on which neighbourhoods are hot these days. You could also link to relevant articles.

And make it mobile. “People are driving around looking at houses — they’re on mobile phones, they’re looking at Google Maps, so make sure your website is optimized for mobile,” said Carson. “That will give you good rankings.”

Ultimately, though, social media is just a tool. “You’re the person who’s going to make that sell, not the social media platform,” he said. “If you’re ethical, your reputation will precede you. They will look for you, not your Twitter account.”

Show them they can