Cracking Social Media, Part 1: A Real Estate Professional’s Guide to Social Media Platforms

Blog Post by Sarah Malcolm, Chief Digital Strategist at The News Funnel

Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn, Twitter or Email

Start listing the number of social media networks. Facebook. Twitter. Periscope. Vine. Snapchat. Pinterest. Plus at least 15 more we can name off the top of our heads. Statista estimates by 2018, 2.67 billion people will be active on social media across the globe. Real estate agents and brokers know social media is a big chunk of the content marketing pie, but the number of networks makes starting overwhelming. Which networks do buyers and sellers use? Which networks should you use? What features matter? Should you focus on organic traffic or pay for advertising?

This blog is part of series designed to help real estate agents and brokers get started using social media on the right foot. The right social media strategies benefit your business pushing traffic to your website, building brand recognition, providing ways to interact with customers, and generate more leads.

Picking the Right Social Media Networks

It's easy to start creating an account on all platforms, but a strategic plan on how your agency will adapt social media to your content marketing efforts will pay over time in business growth and revenue. The right social media network aligns with how you market, services your audience, and you enjoy using. There's no use setting up a Snapchat account if you hate the disappearing video strategy or if only 5% of its users fit your typical client profile.

To help real estate agents and brokers begin, we have briefly summarized the major social media networks commonly used to distribute real estate content. Narrow down the potential options before spending more time diving deeper into their features and best practices.


Facebook

Feature summary: Facebook is the number one real-time social media networking website based on the number of subscribers. Recent figures placed daily active users around 1.5 billion people. Facebook allows users to “like” other people, causes, businesses, or groups and follow their updates on a real-time news feed. Subscribers type extended posts, add website links, upload pictures, create photo carousels, and share pre-recorded or live videos. Friends and family leave comments on posts. The Facebook Messenger app is a chatting platform becoming a popular way to provide customer service. A Facebook business page separates personal accounts from business accounts. It includes space for followers to leave reviews, a CTA button to connect, and ways to promote offers and events. Facebook business advertising includes targeted campaigns and boosted posts.

Restrictions: Facebook reviews all ads before approving their posting. When programming targeted ads, Facebook changed its text-to-image restriction ratio in 2016; instead it prioritizes ads with minimal text.

How to use: Start by setting up a Facebook Business page. Facebook believes social media networking’s future is video and optimizes video posts in news feeds. Emerging data shows Facebook users are three times more likely to watch a live video than a pre-recorded upload. No video? Posts with images receive 2.3 times more engagement than text-only posts. In short, opt to lead Facebook content with an engaging video or image. Real estate professionals should investigate using Facebook Live.

Audience demographics: Facebook is the most used social media network across gender, age, education, and location demographics. About 87% of subscribers are 18-29 and 73% are 30-40. Facebook is used by 56% of baby boomers. Users typically access Facebook through mobile devices. According to Pew Research, 71% of American adults using the internet are on Facebook.

Drawbacks: Personal Facebook news feeds emphasize content from friends and family. Marketing business content now requires more effort to gain organic followers. If you plan on using Facebook, include paid and targeted marketing strategies to promote your account content.

Advantages: Facebook’s power for the real estate agent lies in its expansive user base, targeted advertising capabilities that increase marketing returns, and real-time marketing potential.


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LinkedIn

Feature summary: LinkedIn is a professional networking platform ideal for finding business opportunities, employees, and professional networking. Emphasis is on leveraging your professional experience contacts. Sections include education, work experience, publications, volunteerism and more. A LinkedIn brokerage business page profiles a company’s mission, team members, and background while helping increase its search engine placement. Businesses can advertise to job seekers and publish relevant content.

Restrictions: LinkedIn for Business offers a free account, but to access more features a premium subscription is required. Currently, only pre-selected industry influencers can upload short videos to their LinkedIn accounts.

How to use: For personal accounts, think of LinkedIn as your online resume. Create an account that highlights your best attributes. Use LinkedIn to reconnect with old contacts and keep track of others’ careers. LinkedIn Groups offers professional real estate networking groups to join and contribute insights. A LinkedIn business page is excellent for recognizing a brokerage’s contributions their field, awards won, and important news. Joining or creating a LinkedIn real estate group provides valuable industry insights and generates professional connections.

Audience demographics: Half of LinkedIn’s 350-plus million subscribers are college graduates. Of all social users, the majority are in the 30-49 range, followed closely by 50-64 year-olds. The average subscriber’s income skews higher, with 44% of users earning $75,000 or more.

Drawbacks: Leveraging the platform to gain business introductions takes work and patience. This is not a real-time platform that people use every single day. Connections might not respond for weeks or months. The initial time setting up a LinkedIn account can be significant. 

Advantages: LinkedIn Groups are excellent for networking and personal growth. Make connections to industry influencers and grow professional reputations. Clients visit LinkedIn to research a real estate agents’ successful track record. Link blogs and accounts to your LinkedIn profile for additional content distribution power.


Twitter

Feature summary: Twitter is a real-time live news feed delivering a nonstop constant information stream. People search for and organize posts with hashtags. Users post photos, share links, upload pre-recorded videos, and go live. Businesses use Twitter Ads to promote content. The Twitter Lists feature curates followers based on common interests.

Restrictions:  Twitter is most famous for its 140 character restriction. Tagging other account holders and including content links no longer count towards the 140-character limit. Every account can follow up to 5,000 users, but after that Twitter applies an unpublished ratio of followers-to-following to limit accounts followed.

How to use: Use Twitter to find relevant content, interact with industry influencers, and track trends. Leave short comments about issues that matter to your brokerage. Gain Twitter followers with regular engaging and insightful content. Tweets with images and video receive more engagement than text-only tweets. Network with new people through Twitter chats, Twitter lists, and searching relevant hashtags.

Audience demographics: Under a quarter of internet-using men and women are active on Twitter, or 19% of the total adult population. Its audience skews younger, with 37% of users aged 18-29 and 25% aged 30-49. Over 30% of Twitter subscribers have graduated college.

Drawbacks: Debates are raging about Twitter's ability to maintain relevance. New and active subscribers have been on the decline. A recent algorithm change to the news feed first presents tweets a user may have missed from the individuals they engage with the most. Even though you can upload videos and photos, it’s still a text-based platform. Since content vanishes quickly down the news feed, frequent updates are a must to stay fresh and relevant.

Advantages: Twitter is easy to use, simple to start, and responsive. The character limit forces messages to stick to the nitty-gritty to get the essentials published. Twitter is a great tool to self-promote or promote other brands. Conversation is fast-paced and instantaneous. A topic can go trending within minutes and vanish from the news feeds just as fast. Users are more inclined to provide feedback on Twitter.


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Instagram

Feature summary: Instagram is a mobile-driven photo sharing social network now owned by Facebook. Subscribers can apply filters to their photos and add hashtags to make the photos more searchable. The Instagram web profile page can sync to an account’s websites. Users comment and like photos. Instagram Stories is for ephemeral content. Instagram users can now shop directly inside the app from company posts. Advertising is available with photo, carousel, and video posts.

Restrictions: You cannot upload photos or videos from a desktop. Some features are available only to advertisers.

How to use: Instagram’s visual appeal is a natural for boosting real estate marketing. Focus on attractive, eye-catching images. Research appropriate hashtags to help photos be discovered by the right audience. While it’s tempting for real estate agents to just promote listings, find ways to go further in Instagram marketing by incorporating brokerage team events and area amenities.

Audience demographics: Instagram’s primary audience by far is the 18-29 age range, attracting 53% of online users in this bracket. In comparison, just 25% of online adults aged 30-49 use Instagram. In total, a quarter of online adults are active on the platform.

Drawbacks: Again, photos upload primarily from mobile devices or through special desktop apps. Instagram’s bio leaves no room for a website link to drive customers back. Videos are limited to sixty seconds in length.

Advantages: Instagram makes it simple to share photos across other platforms like Twitter and Facebook, increasing the chances for viral sharing. Discovering content and users is easy with hashtags. Photos can be location tagged. Content marketers are excited about the potential of Instagram shopping and Instagram Stories.


YouTube

Feature summary: A top social sharing network, YouTube is a video hosting platform with a global reach. Users can create playlists to organize content inside their account. Playlists can be created content from multiple accounts. Optimize videos for advertising and embedding on websites elsewhere. Purchase advertising to play before other videos.

Restrictions: YouTube monitors content for copyright violations. Ensure your content is original or has the appropriate permissions. To live stream, Google must verify your account channel first.

How to use: Real estate professionals can record videos from anywhere and upload onto a YouTube account. Set your sharing settings for private or public; optimize video by tags and in the description. Share videos on other social networks or grab an embed code to add video to your website. YouTube is excellent for curating how-to lists and special series.

Audience demographics: While YouTube remains popular with millennials, overall Youtube use is high across all demographics. More than 200 million unique visitors watch YouTube videos every month. Men slightly outrank women, but not by much. Data from comScore shows 81% of Internet users accessed YouTube in 2014.

Drawbacks: The most popular videos on YouTube are about gaming, health and beauty, and pets. While advertising is available, YouTube is not designed as a “selling” platform.

Advantages: It’s easy to share and embed YouTube videos in websites, other social media networks, and some email marketing platforms. There are no video size or length limits, although shorter videos tend to perform better. Videos appear on YouTube and Google’s search engines, increasing SEO. The video sharing website is free.


Google+

Feature summary: Google+ is tied to a subscriber’s Google account. Share photos and links or publish original content. Contacts are organized into circles that the user generates. These circles can be labeled anything the subscriber wants: family, friends, hobbies, professional networking and more. Google+ Communities links to others with similar interests, boosting networking opportunities.

Restrictions: You must set up a Google My Business account first to create a Google+ page.

How to use: By linking content to a Google+ profile, the publisher earns authorship credit. The more authority established, the more likely the author’s picture will appear in search engine results and factor well in search engine placement.

Audience demographics: Google Plus is most popular with people in the technology industry. More men use Google+ more than women, nearly 3 to 1.

Drawbacks: Google+ is not as popular or visited as frequently as other social media networks. It is not a real-time social media network.

Advantages: Brokerages with a Google+ account also appear on Google Maps, boosting chances of ranking well in local search results. Any content published on a Google+ page becomes indexed in Google search results. The resulting long-term SEO value ranks high. Anyone who does business with you or your brokerage can leave a business review.


Pinterest

Feature summary: The world's fastest growing social network is a shopping a platform that allows subscribers to create virtual cork boards. Users select content from around the web to pin on their created boards. This curated content collection can be shared with others or kept private. Pinterest is the world's fastest-growing online social shopping platform.

Restrictions: There are limits to the number of boards, pins, likes, and follows, but to reach them you need to be a prolific Pinterest user.

How to use: Excellent images are key to Pinterest success. When you find content you like, see if it has a “pin” button. If so, click the button and add to the appropriate board. Add notes and comments about the pin. Generate boards grouping similar content to promote your website. Follow other boards and like pins.

Audience demographics: Women drive 85% of Pinterest’s traffic, and of all online women, 42% use the social network. Age statistics skew younger, with 34% adults 18-29 years on the platform. As a popular shopping platform, its subscribers have more disposable income with 64% of adult subscribers earning $50,000 or more.  

Drawbacks: Remember Pinterest is an image-driven platform. Attractive photography or graphics are a must to have Pins rank highly.

Advantages: Every pin links back to the content source, driving traffic and search engine ranking. Referral traffic from Pinterest is quickly growing and it outranks Twitter and YouTube referrals.


Snapchat

Feature summary: Snapchat changed social media marketing with the advent of ephemeral content or disappearing stories. The short videos exist for short time before vanishing, sometimes forever. The unique stickers and lenses add to the fun of posting photos and videos. Send video messages back and forth as you would a text chat. The Stories feature collates a daily collection of photos and videos from their lives. Snapchat does have a save option now. Advertising is available on the Snapchat platform.

Restrictions: It is a video platform. Users can add text overlays and special crazy filters. Snapchat is primarily a mobile app not directly available for desktops.

How to use: Download Snapchat onto your phone. Shoot video from your mobile device and decide if you want to add text or filters and publish. Get creative with the campaigns you use and play into the audience’s fear of missing out. Offer promo codes, behind-the-scenes looks, and exclusive VIP access.

Audience demographics: Snapchat’s primary subscriber ages under 25. Just over 29% of users are greater than age 25. However, as of 2016, over half of Snapchat’s new subscribers were over 25. Women represent over 70% of Snapchat users. As to be expected with the age demographics, typical subscribers are in the lower income brackets.

Drawbacks: Snapchat works best with limited time content, like exclusive offers or events.

Advantages: Its users watch 8 billion videos per day. Snapchat emphasizes personal stories and highlights brand values. Videos don’t need a polished appearance to succeed and starting on the platform is easy. Real estate professionals have room to explore how Snapchat can work with their business.


If none of these social platforms speak to your real estate brokerage, explore additional networks like Tumblr, Periscope, Vine. Otherwise, start social media marketing by designating one or two platforms as your primary content marketing focus. Let other platforms serve a secondary role. Once you know the social media networks your real estate business will use, start planning for content.

-Statistical information for this article came from SproutSocial insights.