Social 'NOTWorking'

Social media is more of a distraction than a business tool for many real estate professionals. Why is that the case?

January 10, 2013

For too many real estate practitioners, social media simply isn’t working as an effective business tool, regardless of whether they believe that it is. Why is that? It’s because social media pulls our emotional triggers. We feel good when a photo we post gets liked on Facebook. We feel good when something we share on Twitter is retweeted. The emotional response is real and often powerful. It is seductive.

Those who sell social media marketing understand this. They’re good at the art of seduction. They are able to create a sense of urgency around every new social network and tool that arrives on the scene, because you’re already seduced by the emotional responses to sharing content via social media.

And real estate pros are particularly susceptible to these emotional triggers. Because we’re in a relationship business, it’s easy to get lured into thinking that any new tool that helps you build relationships is valuable, and any action you take to build relationships is a business action. This is simply not true.

The fear of missing out on the supposedly “latest and greatest” is also a strong behavioral motivator. It is fuel to those who sell social media marketing. The pace of change and the speed of growth in social technology create one opportunity after another, and the possibilities they present are hard to ignore.

Last year, Instagram, a photo-based social network, was acquired by Facebook. That day, I had the following Facebook conversation with an agent:

Agent: I have an Instagram account, but I need to get to work.
Me: Why do you need to get to work?
Agent: I need to get to working on Instagram; I don’t really use it. Yikes!!
Me: Let me be more clear . . . Why do you think you need to get to working on Instagram?
Agent: Because I must be missing out on something???

It’s easy to be lured in by possibilities and completely forget about need. The truth is that social media sites and the tools they spawn work best as support tools for real business actions inside real business strategies. They are not, in and of themselves, strategies. So phrases like “I need a Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest strategy” don’t mean much. You need a business strategy and the tools need to support that.

Here are some truths to keep in mind:

  • The foundations of relationships haven’t changed. They’re the same as they were before social media and the Web were created. Quality relationships will always require time and effort. There is no way to “like” your way to trust.
  • Simplicity works better than complexity.  And simplicity is far more difficult to achieve than complexity. Simple is different than simplistic. Simplistic is superficial. Simple runs deep. It requires you to have an understanding of what people want and deliver it to them in ways that are easy to understand and elegant to experience.
  • People are inundated with information. That means you can provide value by giving them good data and helping them interpret it in meaningful ways—and by doing that with simplicity and authenticity. Ask yourself: Are you informing or intruding? Are you adding value or volume?

As you are exposed to new products and applications, ask yourself: Can I use this idea or tool right now in my business model, or do I need to change or adapt to take advantage of this idea or tool? Answering this question assumes you understand your business model and the strategies that support it. For example, if you also spend a lot of time with home design, Pinterest may be a great site for you. If you don’t, you might want to focus your efforts on another platform.

There is little question that some change is necessary for you to keep up in today’s business environment. But the inspiration for that change should be driven by your business strategy, not by emotional triggers or the lure of the shiny new tool.

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Note: Opinions expressed in “Commentary” do not necessarily reflect the position of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® or REALTOR® Magazine.

Jeff Turner is president and chief operating officer of Zeek Interactive and in Huntington Beach, Calif.