As a real estate agent, you’re always juggling. You work with buyers and sellers, but you’re also tracking your finances, marketing yourself and your business, and-- oh ya-- there’s your family and friends.
Life is busy.
You’re hearing more and more about the professional possibilities of social media, how networks like Facebook and Twitter amplify the power of word-of-mouth advertising, but how do you take full advantage of those possibilities?
Or, more appropriately, when?
Are your social media profiles so important that you should keep them in-house, under a watchful eye? Or are they so strategic that you should hand them over to an expert?
We polled expert real estate agents and brokers to get their opinions.
Why You Should Definitely NOT Outsource
Marketing is the life of any industry, and social media is a powerful marketing outlet when done right.
Consider the power of social media marketing:
68% of consumers use social media sites to read product reviews.
81%) of consumers use social media to get advice from friends and family before purchasing products.
85% of consumers expect businesses to be active on social media.
Networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are perfect marketing outlets for real estate professionals. You can easily share listings and information with large, trust-based networks, and you can build relationships to take advantage of the power of word-of-mouth advertising.
We decided that social media needs to be a critical component of our company. With the recent trends in consumer behavior, specifically tons of information gathering and zero moment of truth, it is important to create as many opportunities to engage with the consumer as possible.
It’s More Efficient
Trang does not outsource social media based on past experience. He didn’t feel it was worth the investment:
We decided against outsourcing social media. We've done it multiple times in the past, and each time it was an incredible waste of resources. We had to pay more for expertise, yet we still needed to spend our time managing them. It is a lot more cost effective to hire a person in house that we can train. We hired an individual whose sole responsibility is to blog, manage our Facebook page, our Twitter, and our Pinterest account.
- Steve Trang (@SteveTrang), Stunning Homes Realty
Your social media accounts are not something you can completely hand off anyway. Even if you do work with an outside service, you’ll still need to check up on your networks regularly, so it might be cheaper to keep it in-house. Some numbers to consider:
Hourly Rates. Most full-service marketing consultants charge between $75 and $150 per hour.
Individual Network Fees. A full set-up and managing services on any one social network - including account creation, design, networking, posting, etc. - can run from $1000 to $9000 per month, depending on the network and your brand’s needs.
Complete Strategy Fees. A complete social media strategy that spans several networks can cost you anywhere from $3000 to $20,000 per month.
Those are some big numbers. When you’re comparing those estimates to how much it would cost to hire a dedicated social media marketer, think about some of these things in addition to pay rates and salaries:
Training. There is always more to learn, so even if you hire someone with good social media experience, be prepared to allow him time to keep learning.
It Ensures Your Unique Voice
Success in social media often requires having a truly unique voice. Share content that is uniquely you, and that will inspire more sharing from your network and fans.
@Staples. The office supply company has 268,000+ Twitter followers, and in addition to product promotion, they tweet things like, “The day you decide to eat better will be the day someone brings in cake/cookies/deliciousness. #OfficeLife”
Angela Batchelor’s Pinterest. Angela Batchelor is a realtor with over 1100 followers on Pinterest. Her “boards” cover real estate, architecture, and interior design, and all things Wilmington, North Carolina.
Share events happening in your community, humor based on your industry, or personalized content from your audience.
Since myself and my company rely so heavily on word of mouth, we make it a point to put much of our effort into social media marketing. I would rather outsource the traditional door to door knocking and on-foot flyer-passing, it's outdated and not as effective. I prefer a dedicated team who knows the inside and out of how my company is run.
Many real estate professionals are now driving traffic to their networks and websites by establishing themselves as local community experts and go-to resources for this type of information. This is much harder for an external agency to do.
It Creates True Connections
One advantage to keeping your social media marketing in-house is to form personal connections that can translate into valuable customers.
I participate in a weekly tweet chat that provides a platform for kitchen and bath industry experts to discuss current trends. When I attended the 2014 Kitchen and Industry Bath Show I was able to meet everyone in person and leverage the established relationships to create video content. As a follow-up, a few of the companies participated in a recent Google Hangout I hosted.
Networking is beneficial in any industry, but it’s necessary in real estate. The possibility to make new connections through social media is a good reason to consider keeping it in-house and doing it yourself.
Getting Started With DIY Social Media
Looking to hire, or dedicate an existing team member to this task? Here are some things to consider:
Set clear goals. What do you want from social media? Customer retention? An increase in referrals? New customers? Define them and measure progress.
Look for someone with great customer service skills. Arguing with upset customers on social media is never allowed! Hire someone who has the skills to know when to escalate an issue to you on social media and when to unfriend/follow a troll or rabble rouser.
Select a self-starter. You want someone in this role who can work independently and consistently. Social media is not a 9-to-5 job. It happens all day everyday so you need someone who is creative and organized. This is not always an easy combination to find.
A sense of humor and good design aesthetics can’t hurt either. Part of keeping social media in-house is to demonstrate your brand’s unique personality, so let it show.
Why You Should Definitely Outsource
Do you think that Tumblr is a setting on the dryer or that Instagram is a postcard company? If you don’t have the knowledge or time for social media marketing, you might consider outsourcing.
When it comes to marketing, activities should be outsourced if there are not enough resources to adequately manage the activities in-house or if the available skill sets won’t produce a high-quality product.
- Lauren Hogan (@HomeAdvisor), HomeAdvisor
Like any marketing outlet, managing your social networks requires resources. If you don’t have the time or the in-house resources to keep up with learning the platform updates, creating and managing content, and managing your online reputation, then outsourcing your social media marketing makes sense.
Frees Up Your Time
A good social media strategy takes time, and free time is not something that a lot of realtors have.
With Millennial homebuyers joining the market, it's very important to make sure your social media feeds are kept updated. It is easy for someone to write and schedule tweets, Facebook posts and blog posts that show an agent is an expert in the local real estate market, but at the same time, successful real estate agents are very busy. You don't want to look like you're on your feeds all the time. Outsourcing this to someone else so the agent can concentrate on necessary marketing is a Do.
Successful agents are busy, and many can benefit from handing off social media to concentrate on other aspects of marketing their business. Hiring an expert can help your social media look professional and consistent.
Keeps Your Focus on Revenue
Social media marketing is effective, but it doesn’t usually generate immediate sales. Some real estate professionals choose to keep their focus closer to the revenue stream.
Outsource social media? Absolutely! As a broker, I constantly remind agents to engage in activities that generate income. Although social media brings in sales, it is not an immediate revenue builder, and it takes consistency to bring about results. Hiring someone to handle your social media frees up time to handle money-making tasks.
If you need to focus on other things, it’s okay to let a professional take care of your social media networks.
Some Tips for Outsourcing
It’s not enough to hire an agency or freelancer and then assume you are done. You need to understand your goals on social media and monitor performance.
Before my real estate career, I worked for a national restaurant chain. Regardless of the position, everyone had to work in the restaurant. Each year thereafter, all employees, from the corporate office to management, had to work at least one day a year in the restaurant. My point is you need to know what social media management entails. Once you spend a few hours managing social media, you can appreciate the effort required - by someone else!
- Bridgette Freeman (@BFreeSpeaks), B Free Consulting
Spend an afternoon on a few social media sites to help you get a feel for what works and what doesn’t, what others are doing, and what you can reasonably expect from an outside agency.
Here are some tips to help you get started with the social media experts you choose to work with:
Create a Calendar. Put together a calendar of industry and regional events for them to feature, engage with and plan around.
Provide Content. Give them unique, personal content to share, like photos, stories, client endorsements, and fun facts.
Set Goals. Have clear goals for your social media marketing. Discuss them up-front so you and your team can agree on ambitious but reasonable expectations.
Ask for Updates. Social media is dynamic and your content must be also. Make sure your team features more of what is popular and dumps what is not. Ask for regular reports on their progress. Simple tools like Hootsuite can provide them with the necessary analytics.
You can use a service like Elance, or research and interview a virtual assistant to find a freelancer who can work on your social media project.
In the end you will need to weigh factors like the cost vs. the level of high-touch service that can be provided by a consultant in order to make a decision as to whether or not to outsource your social media marketing.
How to Decide: A Pop Quiz
What does it all mean? Here are a few questions to help you determine what’s right for you:
On a scale of 1 to 5, how comfortable are you with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? (Where 1 is “Not At All” and 5 is “Right At Home”)
On a scale of 1 to 5, how much free time to do you have each week? (Where 1 is “None, are you kidding?” and 5 is “Sometimes I lose whole days on YouTube.”)
On a scale of 1 to 5, how much free time do your employees have each week? (Where 1 is “I work them like dogs,” and 5 is “I sometimes wonder why I pay them.”)
On a scale of 1 to 5, how much personality do you have? (Where 1 is “I’m just like most realtors I know,” and 5 is “My friends sometimes think I have dissociative identity disorder.”)
On a scale of 1 to 5, how much spending money do you have? (Where 1 is “My last name is Sulentic,” and 5 is “What is ‘spending money?’”)
Now add your five numbers!
5 to 15 Points: Outsource - If you scored from five to 15 points, you probably don’t have what it takes to rock your social media networks the way you want to. Hire a pro.
16 to 25 Points: In-House - If you scored 16 points or more, you can mostly likely handle holding the reigns yourself and keep your social marketing close to home.
What to Do? Up to You
Whether you decide to keep social media marketing in house or outsource it, social media marketing needs to be a part of your real estate business marketing plan. It is an intrinsic component of marketing communications, lead generation, and client retention.
Invest in strategy, development and maintenance of your social media marketing endeavors and watch it help your business grow.
Your Turn: Should you outsource your social media or keep it in house? What do you think?