Operating as a predominantly in-person business based on face-to-face transactions, Realtors have undergone seismic shifts in how business is conducted during the pandemic. Though COVID-19 catapulted Realtors into having to rely solely on digital means to communicate with their networks, the truth is, this change has been happening since the dawn of social media. The difference is that those Realtors who were slow to adopt these tools are faced with no choice and many are running to catch up. Realtors in 2021 must understand that they need to have a digital brand presence that requires a thoughtful strategy, and they will have a leg up if they hire help.

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At its core, marketing hasn’t changed in thousands of years. If you have a business or service you want to promote, you need to find a place where people are congregating and project your message there where (hopefully) someone will hear you and be convinced that your service is right for them. What has changed over time is the medium. Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, to name the big players, all have large communities that Realtors would benefit from spending some time in to spread their message. This message is, “you can trust me with your real estate transaction.” How you get that message heard is through developing a strong brand.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a brand is a public image, reputation or identity conceived of as something to be marketed or promoted. For Realtors, that brand is you.

Pre-social media, a Realtor needed to have a few pieces of marketing material for a brand: a logo, some printed materials and the rest they would be able to portray through in-person communication. How they spoke on the phone, how they conducted themselves in an initial consult, how they dressed, their personality, all supported their brand identity and their positioning.

Social media provided the opportunity to publicly portray this brand identity for all to see. Early adopters have most likely had a much easier time since the pandemic started. Those who did not use social media over the past few years most likely had a much harder time over the pandemic as they faced a much steeper learning curve.

What would you say if a prospect told you they didn’t need a Realtor to list their house because “the market is so strong right now”? You would undoubtedly feel that there would be a missed opportunity for that prospect. Their lack of skills and expertise would result in a house sale but also could leave thousands of dollars on the table. There is no way that the DIY approach to real estate sales can be compared to one of a seasoned Realtor.

The same goes for Realtors that attempt to do all their digital branding and advertising alone. It can be done, but is it the most optimal way? What opportunities are being missed? Those who have decided to hire skilled digital marketers will sprint ahead while those who have not will struggle to keep up.

The speed at which Facebook/Instagram has evolved over the past five years can make one’s head spin and there are no signs of it slowing down. This evolution has added many great features (Reels, Lives, Stories, Guides) but it has also made it a more complex platform to navigate. Add on top of that Facebook Business Manager and its advertising rules and it’s no wonder many Realtors feel a little overwhelmed. Although it may seem impossible to just start diving in now or at least taking it more seriously, it is not impossible and the catch up can be quick with the adherence to a few guidelines.

1. Be honest with yourself

If design isn’t your area of expertise and you are more of a numbers person, hire someone who can help you with designing your brand appearance for social media. Branded templates and stories are now par for the course for any business posting on social and it’s best not to DIY something as important as your first impression if you know it’s not your strong suit. On the flip side, if you do have a good understanding of the look you are going for and how you want to be seen on social media but your attempts at launching a Facebook ad have resulted in it being rejected by Facebook, then it’s best to pursue the areas that naturally interest you and hire someone with proven skills in Facebook advertising.

Another good question to ask yourself is whether social media is something you want to learn more about and get involved with. The vast majority of us use it, but do you want to train to get better at it? And will you commit yourself to learn about it every month (because that’s how often things change)? If that’s something that you see yourself enjoying, there’s a world of helpful tutorials, podcasts and social media courses that will whip you into shape within a matter of weeks if you are committed. If that’s not the case, hiring a professional agency or a freelancer is probably going to save you a lot of stress and get you in a much better place.

2. Understand your brand positioning

A brand can create and stand for loyalty, trust and/or luxury, depending on how the brand is marketed, advertised and promoted. Defining your brand is like a journey of self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the following questions to help determine your position:

  • What are the benefits and features of your services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of you?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with you?

What you post on social media needs to support your brand position which will, in turn, create the trust that will convince someone that they need your help with their real estate transaction.

3. Develop a brand strategy

This may sound complicated but it’s not with the right planning process in place. Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating your messages.

For example:

  • How many times do you want to post on social media weekly?
  • Where will you be posting (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or all of the above)?
  • To whom? First-time buyers, young families, people downsizing or a bit of everything?
  • What will you post? Testimonials, listings, real estate news, statistic, tips?

Creating a place where you can collect and organize this information such as a social media planning tool is highly recommended. There are many online tools such as Hootsuite, Buffer, Zoho, Planoly and Sprout Social that will help you organize, plan and post. Design tools such as Canva can support the creation of branded materials and are generally user friendly.

4. Advertising is a must

If you have managed to create a great-looking brand and you are consistently posting but you are still struggling to see any sort of meaningful interaction on your page, it may be because there is an important piece missing: ads. All social media platforms are businesses and they want you to pay to play. They do that by suppressing content from business pages (they say it’s so that their users aren’t spammed) but will help you show your content if you pay for it.

Don’t let this discourage you. The great thing about social media ads is that they come with much better data than any advertising of the past.

Think of the mail-outs Realtors have commonly relied on; how many of those went straight into the garbage? You will never know. Social advertising is superior because you can see link clicks, opens, engagements, reach and impressions. These all give you valuable insights into how people are perceiving your brand and how you can improve it. This is the area that most Realtors should hire someone to take care of. Advertising requires skill and experience to understand and adjust according to the analytics. If this is something that really interests you, go for it, but take a course or you will be frustrated with the experience and with the lack of help from Facebook.

5. Consistency is key

When it comes to brand building, you can never stop working on it. You can’t take a month off and expect that it won’t have a negative impact. Just like a workout, if you want to see results, you need to stick with it. If you plan on doing live videos, create a plan for a year, not just once or twice. Consistency is what will create brand “stickiness,” the memory that needs to form in order for people to associate your brand with a feeling or impression that lasts in their mind.

6. Rome wasn’t built in a day

Because of the speed at which Facebook happened and the many changes it has gone through in a short amount of time, there is often an impression that results happen quickly over social media. They don’t. Particularly for Realtors. Real estate transactions can sometimes take years to occur. Trust takes years to foster as does loyalty. There is much that needs to go in to nurture relationships that develop over social media. Often, Facebook and Instagram followers need to first be transferred into an email database (through lead generation ads) and then an email marketing plan needs to nurture these leads even further with regular contact.

Think of social media as a bustling marketplace. You can’t just walk up to someone you’ve hardly met and say, “Let me sell your house, I’m the best.” You need to strike up a conversation more than once and invite them for coffee (possibly more than once).

Social media is no different. Your brand needs to be experienced in several ways; softly at first with your regular posts, adding some insightful information (blogs are great for this), introducing yourself (video content works great) and getting them to like you with your personality. Then you ask for their number, which in this day and age is their email.

Realtors today have many great tools and mediums at their disposal to help build their brand and convince a prospect that they are the best option for them. Taking full advantage of these tools does require quite a bit of learning and in many areas, added skills. I may be biased but I do know that the work we put into marketing our Realtors demands that we constantly learn and train ourselves on new features that can be used to market brands online. We put in a lot of time to do this every day and I struggle to see how any Realtor can do this alone. My advice for any Realtor wanting to build or improve their digital brand is to not just learn a bit about the mediums that are available to them but to also hire someone with the expertise in areas that you may fall short. I wouldn’t know how to list a house, that’s what a Realtor is for. When it comes to digital marketing, hire a digital marketer because that’s what they are for.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Part of branding is leaving your mark everywhere you go. Referrals are a strategic method of helping create your brand space in the industry marketplace. Way back when I first posted at REM many years ago I saw it as a remarkable way to continue my already successful marketing position in the industry, having networked for years, even internationally.

    Jim, here you have an example of a missed opportunity to let colleagues know how to find you, the market area that you represent, and since REM also has public readers, perhaps maybe missing another opportunity to connect with someone who is going to pay you money to provide real estate services they need – and it’s all free… REM doesn’t charge agents a nickel; and when you post there’s even an opportunity to add your website url if you have one. And you can add a tag line to your REM sig if your location is not in your URL.

    But without googling you where many people have the same name in all sorts of fields, does it matter? REM has a giant reach, and the world doesn’t evolve around Toronto.

    Develop a brand catch-phrase that’s unique, making you rememberable; use it everywhere, Including in your REM sig file. You can even create a shortcut on your smart phone, a 3-letter click that will type your full sig as needed. That’s handy. I use it in all my recipes files to ID which manuscript is related to each recipe.

    My exclusive REM gourmet cooking column provides a way for me to stay in the circle even so I am no longer active, so I cannot promote my real estate services anymore and I stopped using my corporate Sig ID.

    Even so I retained my corporation limited company name, that eventually will be amended to change it to my gourmet world; full disclosure: every now and then I advise REM readers that I am not paid by REM for my gourmet contributing REM columns, neither am I paid by brand names products I mention; the purpose of which is helpful I was told by many readers initially, as an intro to helping them with pairing. Occasionally I receive a complimentary new product to test, but since I’m not a drinker per se, the product is used in developing original recipes. I even pay my own money to buy the sea salt brand I frequently mention, including border shipping fees. I share product brand names of various sorts but if the actual products are not available in a particular area, the product mention serves as a starting point to shop for something similar.

    Carolyne L 🍁
    https://www.realestatemagazine.ca/category/columnists/recipes/

    • My mononym as a domain name. And corporate ID. Suddenly I was everywhere, but I was nowhere. A one-man (one-woman) band (brand).

      It was an effort to protect my name and to show I could make it on my own. A stand-alone first name only marketing effect that worked incredibly over more than 30 years.

      Advertising rules in 1980 required that agents must use their full name on signage and in newspaper ads. In any sort of promotion or ads, business cards, etc. I always complied.

      Then in 1991 my world changed impactfully. I opened my own boutique brokerage not often heard of at the time. Me, myself, and I. All three of me. Commonly referred to as “we.” As is the captive right of any limited corporation.

      But the process although moving swiftly interjected some mountains to climb. Corporate name had to be registered. HOW to choose a corporate name. What exactly to call my company. Three attempts were quickly rejected as being similarly used in other Ontario locations.

      I had left the company where I had been for many years, but was not immediately affiliated with any company. I was in nowhere land. I hadn’t planned on leaving so had no place in mind to go. And no one to discuss with.

      I had been recruited regularly and could have made contact with several companies. But I loved the RLP strong corporate identity attached to my name. And not in my plans to leave. So registering a corporate name became a must do. Pronto. Because I had no MLS access. Suddenly I belonged to no board.

      The real estate board that controlled MLS access and controlled what commissions must be charged, also had to approve the would-be corporate name, by committee, and check that the phone was being properly identified when answered. Yes. True. In my case: Just answered: Carolyne Realty Corp. Hired a receptionist and instructed no Hello, Good Morning, Good afternoon, evening, etc. Keep it short and sweet expecting all four incoming lines to be busy on the official switchboard. Expectations – key word. But I’m ahead of myself.

      But before I got that far, a unique attempt was squashed as at the time Carol Burnett had a tv program called Carol and Company. Hmmm… I thought: THAT might be an acceptable corporate moniker? So I applied for “Carolyne and Company Realty Corp” in the vein of a local private active company called (owner man’s name (d) … and Associates). The Board where he was involved rejected the Carolyne and Company name as being misleading if I used my selection, indicating to the public that there was more than just me in my would-be new firm; how many agents at start-up, just one. Me.

      I later learned from a RLP friend who sat on that same approving committee that the same man using his board-related authority allegedly had said I should not be allowed to open a real estate company period (as relayed to me by the business associate later on)… question put forth: why not? Answer: the “and Associates” man (d) had allegedly said: there are too many real estate companies already in town and that I would likely last only months anyhow, maybe even only weeks. A waste of everyone’s time. Special meeting had been called at the Board. All this activity seemed to be happening at warp speed, breaking the local business sound barrier. And I couldn’t talk about it at home. I had to prepare a business plan and a mission statement. My banker of twenty some years who was also my past client walked me through my start up. And seemed thrilled to help me get off the ground running.

      Oddly enough when “the Associates” broker had initially registered his private company years before (… and Associates), he had no idea how many if any agents would go to work for him, either. I didn’t plan to hire agents. But no one knew that.

      But the “and Company” was meant to be exactly that: “and company,” having a chartered accountant, a corporate lawyer, admin staff, the appropriate trust account of the day (known as Statutory Trust – public money, such as deposits on APS), a business location lease quickly signed and leaseholds immediately sorted, and such, and a board of advisors. It all fell into place quickly. It must have, back in spring 1991.

      But he was a man. Maybe that entered the equation? A woman in a man-centric business world. A misogynist played attempt I later learned. Women weren’t considered “up to such.” I only had 10 successful sales years behind me in the industry. But I at the time had never given that a thought, as such I would have seen that power display childish. A grown man with a successful business – maybe feeling threatened? (hardly) – by a woman? Just a sales rep? Had only months before at nearly age 50 acquired broker licence. All courses taken back to back in prior year. What a year and still had a phenomenal sales year working each day till midnight and studying for exams.

      Although there were many women-headed owned real estate companies at various boards, they all had incorporated and registered with the Ministry, using their full names, including their surnames. Eg. Mary Brown Real Estate Company. Sole owner or limited company.

      Today a complaint about such as I encountered would have likely found him before the Competition Bureau over such a decision-based remark. How the world has changed.

      Within three weeks of my leaving RLP in February 1991 my first black and white ads ran in local and Toronto March newspapers, bearing my corporate first name only mononym registered corporation ID. Either someone erred in my favour or who knows why Carolyne Realty Corp. got accepted. Although the law firm had registered the actual name wrong and it had to be amended swiftly. I fired him. Off to a good start, I had to take the escalator at University Avenue registration office and register the amendment myself with the help of their clerk. What’s with THAT?

      I got calls. Right away. And letters. Colleagues congratulations, too, from right across the GTA. Noting the unique situation of my signatured mononym logo. I had managed to scale the mountain. I was open for business and never looked back. That’s now 40 years ago this month since I was initially licenced. And 30 years as having named my boutique company using a mononym. Oprah-style. And at a seminar years earlier hosted by the local board, an American fellow owned “Michael Properties,” influenced my decision. I had always found the concept interesting.

      And then in 1997 the Internet became popular in the industry. I was urged by my advisors to “get online.” Highly recommended to do so pronto. An amazing opportunity presented itself. A mononym using only my first name was indeed available as a domain. So I bought it.

      The rest is history. Sort of… it became so much more. And the “brand” played on. And I maintained my 24% market share in my branded trading area.

      Respectfully
      Carolyne L 🍁

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