Building your brand is easy when you understand how to put the internet to work for you.
A Realtor’s brand awareness requires a careful balance of marketing media, as online marketing options continue to provoke strategic planning for all real estate agents. The Internet’s continued evolution has opened doors to many economical and practical customer service options and brand awareness for agents.
Blogging, a form of online journaling, may be a new window to the world of the consumer. Realtors looking to lead the way into what could be the latest online marketing concept to grab the consumer’s attention would be wise to become blog savvy.
Current Internet marketing strategies for Realtors
Most industry experts would argue that it is a necessity in today’s real estate market to have an online presence. In the past, a Web site that promoted company identity would be sufficient, but today Realtors need frequently updated data for consumers and a variety of tools on their homepages to assist buyers and sellers.
“There are several beneficial aspects [to online presence]. However, being able to advertise property all over the world and obtain a large international clientele is at the top of my list,” says Diane Lieberman, a real estate broker with South Beach Investment Realty. “It is much easier to communicate with clients.”
Her company’s online presence (www.sbirealty.com) boasts a showcase of listings with extra photos, virtual tours, mortgage calculators, agent bios, floor plans for properties and interactive maps that show property locations. In addition, clients can create their own personal accounts on her Web site that watch properties they personally chose. This makes it easier for Lieberman to send updated information on properties each client is interested in seeing.
“It is much easier to communicate with clients,” Lieberman says of using the Internet. “Sending an email can be done while you are doing other tasks and is not time consuming; this is much more preferable for the agent and the client.”
With the ease of Internet searches, clients have more control than they have had in the past. Many times, clients have researched the properties they are interested in pursuing online, and contacting an agent is a second priority. The agents are, in turn, finding clients more informed before an initial meeting, making unnecessary touring of properties a hassle of the past.
For Maria Becerra with The Becerra Group, the Internet is the introduction to new clients.
“Through my Web site (www.americandreamhome.net), I am able to strike up a relationship,” she says. “It’s a relationship that you hope will ultimately end in a closing.”
Her Web site attracts viewers from all over world, with one differentiating tool from many other Realtor Web sites: a live Web cam of the Fort Lauderdale Beach.
“My live Web cam is the hook for many customers,” Becerra says, “especially those individuals on the Northeast coast who, while sitting in rainy, cold weather, can get a glimpse of our gorgeous beaches.
“The Internet is wonderful, in that it allows consumers to search for properties while remaining anonymous,” she says. “They can look without having to deal with a salesperson and can look at their own pace. They are in control, which is a great thing for the consumer.” Such capabilities weren’t available when she first entered the industry six years ago.
The future for Internet marketing in the real estate industry
Opportunities for the real estate industry to utilize interactive marketing will continue to evolve at a high pace.
“No longer can we ‘pitch’ to consumers via one-way channels of communication; we have to engage them,” says Richard Nacht, CEO of Blogging Systems, a company that provides real estate professionals with marketing and communications solutions using leading-edge blog technology (www.bloggingsystems.com).
In the history of real estate, there may not be a better lead source or lead generator than from loyal clients who pass along your name. Recent interactive concepts are mimicking those basic word-of-mouth lead generators into online media in what Internet gurus call “blogging.”
Just like word-of-mouth leads, blogging offers consumers a medium through which to communicate openly about their likes and dislikes to any peers who will read what they write. This new forum is also providing unprecedented online marketing opportunities. Blogging, along with social networks (i.e. www.myspace.com and www.youtube.com) is influencing consumers en mass, and in a similar fashion to past customer referral methods. Casual conversations, through friends-of-friends, create marketing opportunities.
With blogs, you engage the consumer by creating forums in which consumers can build emotional relationships with regards to their personal interests. After finding a blog that catches their attention in subject matter, consumers can post comments, add information or add links to their Web sites.
The consumer also views the communication as non-advertising, and as more of a discussion or public forum for honest and direct information. The consumers can search as short or as long as they desire, allowing them to control information intake.
How Realtors can use blogging
“Tools such as blogs can give the agent a distinct advantage, in that blogs allow the Realtor to tell their story, and in a very personal way,” Nacht says. “Not only that, they can use the blog to tell their story over and over again. Someone said a blog is like an ongoing tour with a guide you get to know.”
Nacht and his company are helping Realtors and brokers build blogs customized to their individual communities. Their idealized real estate blogs target a population of around 100,000. The more specific to a city or town, the better for creating a connection with the audience. The goal is to create a town forum with a variety of information that pulls readers into the site and engages them in conversation and information sharing.
Their real estate blog models are built so that the content revolves around the community the agent serves. Consumers surfing the Web for local information may use your blog to find out about a non-profit event or a home ownership meeting that was posted on your site. The information can be as tailored as the agent wants, and updated as frequently as the agent wishes. It is also intended to be as quick as sending an email.
For markets as large as Miami, a blog will help an agent individualize a community inside the large realm of what are considered the Miami borders. It will help to position an agent as a specialist and voice of a specific community, one that can offer a helpful service to the community.
A major advantage to a blog is the Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Nacht explains it, in a nutshell, as a strategy that increases the odds that your blog posting will not only get picked up by the major search engines such as Google and Yahoo!, but also get a high ranking based on the community information you are posting.
These blogs contain information specific to the community the agent serves. Although there is a minimal brand presence, links throughout the blog can lead consumers to the Realtor’s homepage.
“Using a blog, agents can demonstrate their expertise and their knowledge of industry trends, housing values, the local market and the community at large,” Nacht says. “As with all things, there is also great advantage to being the first in the market to do this.”
The Becerra Group
South Beach Investment Realty
Blogging Systems Group