Selling on Facebook

Facebook is too often treated as a platform for blatant promotion, which may be off-putting to your friends and fans. But that doesn’t mean the site can’t benefit your business.

July 1, 2011

Ever since Facebook went mainstream, there has been debate among real estate professionals about how to effectively—and tastefully—use the platform for prospecting and marketing listings. Some practitioners post a link to every new listing and alert all friends whenever they have a closing; it’s a way to show they’re productive and get the word out about homes on the market.

But others cringe at that method, saying that such blatant promotion is off-putting to friends and fans. One of those people is Mike Incorvaia Jr., broker-associate and social-media instructor with Keller Williams Greater Cleveland Southwest in Strongsville, Ohio. "Posting a listing on Facebook is no different from walking into a social event with your flyer and handing it to people," he says. But that doesn’t mean Facebook can’t benefit your business, he adds. Here are informal rules for making Facebook work for real estate.

  • Show that real estate is a part of you. "Use your Facebook page to let others know you’re in real estate, but don’t push it in their faces," says Lee Miller, an associate with Prudential California Realty in Carson, Calif. Rather than trying to sell a specific property, use photos and posts to "sell yourself as a source of knowledge and wisdom for the area you serve," says Gitta Barth, an associate with Coldwell Banker Investors Realty Inc. of Citrus County, in Inverness, Fla. One way she does this is through links to interesting real estate news stories about local events and store openings in her neighborhood.
  • Find similarities by sharing your passions. Showcase your hobbies, interests, and special areas of expertise to build connections with prospects on Facebook. For example, share your love of your favorite vacation spots by posting photos from your trips there. If potential clients share that same love, you’ll build affinity through those mutual interests. Talk about the places you like to go, the music and books you enjoy, and what activities you do in your spare time. It will broadcast that you’re an authentic person—someone that clients can relate to.
  • Don’t bore your audience. Even if you’re in favor of posting updates on your listings, keep a high standard of quality for content. A simple link doesn’t do much to tell the story of your listing, but you can bring it to life with commentary about its history or features. And watch out for posting listings too often, as you don’t want your posts to become dull to your sphere. Rosemarie Villanova says she posts listings only when she has an open house to announce. "I’ve had great results," says the broker-associate with Vail Realty in Asbury Park, N.J. She’s closed 23 transactions in the past four years with clients and friends who learned about the property through social media. "I don’t flood my page with listings," she says. In addition to open houses, she shares market data and uplifting or humorous posts.
  • Create a business page. National Association of Realtors® Social Media Strategist Todd Carpenter recommends using your personal page to build strong relationships with friends. But if you’re the broker-owner, a local business page can work well for marketing. "I talk shop on my fan page," says Eric Campbell, broker-owner of Campbell Real Estate in Sacramento, Calif. In addition to posting real estate–related links and news stories, his associates post success stories and local market stats. Campbell says that while "friends" might not want to hear promotional posts about your business, "fans" are more open to the concept because they signed on to learn more about your company when they clicked that "Like" button.

There’s no clear-cut right or wrong way to use social media for generating business. In the end, it’s really about giving your friends and fans what they want and showing them what you bring to the table personally and professionally. You know that your approach is working when your audience is engaged and your contacts are asking for your help with real estate.

Katherine Tarbox is a former senior editor with REALTOR® Magazine. Previously, she was editorial director for Washington Life. She is the author of the international bestselling book A Girl’s Life (Dutton, 2000) and has made hundreds of media appearances including The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and CNN.