There’s always something to howl about

Boston Globe story on Social Media and Real Estate

With Jeff’s post below still fresh in my mind, I read a story in the  Boston Globe Real Estate section over the weekend that attempted to sort of let buyers and sellers know that brokers and agents are adapting to social media:

Although it’s hard for Bourgeois to quantify just how many sales have come through social media, he believes that anecdotally it’s working.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Anecdotal ROI is worth about as much as having Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny create an account to use your IDX search.

“If everyone is hanging out at the donut shop, that’s where you would go to get business. That’s where people would meet in the old days,’’ said Haley Brooks.

This would be a typical real estate section non-article if it weren’t for Brook’s observation about the donut shop. She is right: Facebook, or a blog via Google, is where people who already know you or about you go to find you these days as opposed to the Lion’s Club,  a little league game or, yes, the donut shop.

This is born out by  NAR’s 2010 Survey of Buyers and Sellers (click on the image to make it big enough to read):

48% of the people who bought in 2010 found their agent via a personal referral. “Internet Web sites” (as opposed to what other kind? Print Web sites?) is a distant 2nd with 10%, and I’m guessing that refers to traditional listing syndication and broker sites, not blogs or Facebook.

Still, 10% is 10%. Clearly, you want to make sure that whatever you are doing on the Web to cement 50% of the leads from referrals works for the 10% who find you by accident or design. The bigger the operation, the more important picking off that 10% becomes, so the broker or the franchise should focus on what it takes to compete for people who are shopping without an agent in mind, and agents should be working to make sure they are the agent that people have in mind no matter what site they happen to use.

As is often the case with these NAR reports, they tease you with generalities but don’t reveal specifics that would actually tell us something. In this case, that whopping 48% begs two questions:

  1. How did buyers contact agents who were referred by a friend, neighbor, or relative?
  2. Did buyers research agents referred by a friend, neighbor or relative before contacting them? If so, how?

As Donald Rumsfeld so succinctly put it, we don’t know what we don’t know, but what I suspect is that the highest and best use of real estate blogs and a social media is to create a good first impression that cements a lead that was originally generated by a referral.

Of course, that is not how the social media carnival barkers sell it. The emphasis is  on using social media to generate *new business*, which is the virtual equivalent of going to the donut shop to randomly hand out business cards to people who have never heard of you, and probably about as effective.

The skills and the amount of hard work it takes to build up a repuation that generates real estate leads haven’t changed in 50 years. The difference is that today’s agents can take advantage of Internet publishing to start putting their best foot forward before they meet a prospective buyer or seller in person. That’s it. WordPress and Facebook are not panaceas or silver bullets, they are tools that, in skilled hands, extend an agent’s ability to sell themselves as opposed to creating it.


4 Comments so far

  1. Lily September 20th, 2011 11:56 pm

    You make some strong arguments in this post; I think that social media is becoming such a pivotal form of communication, that you truly need to be “connected” to be successful in today’s market.

  2. Cheryl Daly September 21st, 2011 3:52 pm

    Great post. I am a newbie to both blogging and to using social media (just launched my fan page today) so any insight is greatly appreciated and helpful.

  3. Robert Worthington September 25th, 2011 11:38 am

    Social media what? Haha. Although I do know other agents who have got business from social media.

  4. Crystal Tost October 14th, 2011 8:28 am

    Thanks for the post, I am wondering how accurate these numbers are. I question this because they stats are that over 85% find their home on the Internet but yet only 10% of people fine their agent n a website, seems a bit off if that many people are looking online for their home. In regards to Social Media, yes there is money to be made, but I find there are are so many agents on Twitter it is hard to prospect for anyone. There is always a serge of new agents getting onto Twitter as my board does these mini SM courses, then they all get online and follow us agents that have been on for awhile. I love SM but think it is more useful to cultivate the relationships you already have.