John N. Frank is former managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine.
You Can ‘Go Viral’ on a Local Level
It doesn’t take millions of views to make your videos a sensation. Consider how to lend them the greatest reach in your own community.
August 2, 2016
There’s no hard definition of what makes an online video “viral,” but it’s generally accepted that it must gain at least 5 million views within the first week or two after it’s posted. When’s the last time your videos got that much attention?
By that benchmark, most real estate professionals who produce video as part of their marketing won’t ever reach viral status. After all, you’re producing content for your local community — not for the whole world. So is there such a thing as going viral on a local level? Marketing experts and practitioners who have gained clients and raised their profiles through their videos say such a concept exists. But the number of views your videos garner isn’t the only measure of whether they are successfully circulating online, they say. If your videos spark a conversation among your intended audience — both online and offline — then they’re fulfilling their purpose.
She Had Them at ‘Hello’
One of the most successful real estate videos in recent memory is Century 21 Signature agent Megan Hill Mitchum’s parody video of Adele’s “Hello.” Mitchum was on a committee planning an awards banquet for the Des Moines Area Association of REALTORS®’ annual meeting and was concerned she wouldn’t make it because she was due to give birth. Rather than miss it entirely, she decided to do the video for attendees.
She and her husband collaborated on lyrics about real estate mishaps, and she recorded the song in a studio and worked with a production team to film. The entire project cost about $1,000, thanks to editing services donated by a sponsor of the association, she explains.
The video debuted at the banquet, and afterwards, “someone said, ‘Put it on YouTube,’” Mitchum recalls. “I was blown away by the response.” The video, which has roughly 258,000 views since being posted in January, was featured on real estate news sites — including REALTOR® Magazine — and attendees at the banquet shared it with colleagues.
“It’s really cool to hear from people all over the country,” Mitchum says about the response to her video. Despite the high number of views it’s gotten, “I don’t know if I can attribute any transactions directly to the video,” she adds. Still, she’s heard positive feedback from clients and says the project was well worth the time, money, and effort, adding that it will have a beneficial impact on her business in the long term.
“If you can reach the local community and get enough people to share [your video], then I would consider it a viral video,” says Laura Ure, owner of Boca Raton, Fla.–based real estate marketing firm Keenability. She adds that “enough,” in terms of local exposure, depending on where you live, could mean around 10,000 views.
Look Beyond Views
But more than that, look at whether your video achieves the goals you set for it, explains Vinny La Barbera, founder of California marketing agency imFORZA and contributor to RealEstateMarketingBlog.org. “If you were trying to put your name out there [with a video], did you increase the awareness of your brand?” he says. Your goal could be to use video to gain new clients, make connections with other practitioners outside of your market area to acquire more referrals, or spread awareness of your brand to more home buyers and sellers.
So even if you’ve gotten only 1,000 views for a video but it achieved the goal you wanted it to, you can consider it a success. “If you get everyone in your neighborhood to watch it, you’ve knocked it out of the park,” says David Spark, founder of marketing firm Spark Media Solutions. He offers a checklist for getting more exposure for your videos:
- Have content your community needs and cares about. Ask yourself what topics or questions are most relevant to the people you’re serving right now, and then answer them or interview others in the community who can provide answers.
- Become friends with your local influencers. This could be the owner of a popular store or the person who runs your town’s Facebook group. Profile them in your videos, and pick their brains as to what they love about the community. Then ask them to share your videos.
- Promote your videos to all your local media outlets. Most locales have a Facebook user group or Nextdoor group. Get on them, post your videos to these groups, and be a regular commenter. Also, post to your local Patch.com website.
- Feature your neighbors and other locals in your videos. The more people in your videos, the more they’ll want to show it to their friends. Go after people who have large local networks, ideally local business owners or people who have a large social following. They’ll eagerly promote your videos.
- Follow up. For everyone you met and interviewed, follow up with them when your video is published online. Even if they didn’t make it into the final video edit, thank them for their time and invite them to view the video and give feedback.
Measuring Your Video’s Success
Some real estate videos do spread far beyond a local market. Megan Hill Mitchum, CRS, GREEN, a sales associate with Century 21 Signature in Urbandale, Iowa, has racked up more than 258,000 views and counting for a parody video she shot in January of singer Adele’s smash hit “Hello.” The mock music video — which features Mitchum’s own singing voice — gives the song a real estate slant with lyrics like, “Before I can take down my sign / We’ve gotta get through closing time.”
But for others, video success has come with far fewer views. Alex Wang, e-PRO, an associate broker at Sereno Group in Palo Alto, Calif., tried something different, investing roughly $10,000 to create an animated video conveying who he is as an agent. Since he uploaded the video to YouTube in March, it’s only gotten a little more than 300 views. But that’s not the point, Wang says.
“The video has helped me brand myself,” Wang says. “When [prospects] are interviewing agents, they go to my website, see my video, and are already sold that they want to work with me.”
Wang sees the video as part of his overall long-term marketing strategy. In addition to posting it on YouTube, he puts it on his social media pages, embeds it on his website, and links to it in his email signature.
The entertainment factor is important to attracting viewers to your videos, no matter how big or small an audience you’re aiming for, and getting prospects to remember you when they’re ready to buy or sell, notes Raj Qsar, broker-owner of The Boutique Real Estate Group in Corona Del Mar, Calif. Qsar’s company has about 140 videos on its YouTube channel. The “Our Story“ video, posted back in March 2014, has more than 31,000 views. “Video can help you bring emotion to your story and helps tell your story to the world,” he says.
It’s not just on YouTube or social media where your videos can reach an audience. They can be successful in an offline setting as well. Lee Taylor of Keller Williams Realty in Decatur, Ga., and Lisa Molinari, ABR, of Weichert, REALTORS®, in Morristown, N.J., both created videos for REALTOR® Magazine’s Street Cred section, which shows how real estate professionals are intimately connected to their neighborhoods. Taylor, who has been producing videos since 2007, showed raw footage of his Street Cred video — which features him rapping about his love for his community — at an open house in 2014 when a visitor decided to hire him after watching it, he recounts.
Likewise, Molinari showed her video — which won a Street Cred contest — at an open house and signed a new client the same day. Though Taylor and Molinari’s videos have only garnered about 2,100 and 1,200 views, respectively, since 2014, both say they’ve accomplished great things for their businesses. “I could definitely track listings and sales to that video,” Molinari says. “It’s paid for itself tenfold.”
She boosted her video’s visibility not only by posting on social media but also by having it featured on the website of The Morristown Partnership, a coalition of business owners in Morristown. Her company also used it as an example in one of its marketing training programs, gaining Molinari more connections with Weichert agents in other markets, she says.
So take heart: You don’t millions of views to make it worth all the time and effort it takes to create video. Have one goal in mind for how you want your video to impact your local community, and focus on hitting that goal however you can. For your business, who watches your video is more meaningful than how many are watching it.