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Service vs. Social Media: The Ongoing Transformation in the Real Estate Industry

Written by James Huang on Monday, 30 April 2012 7:00 pm

As technology continues to influence the real estate industry, reconfiguring the way residential and commercial brokers market themselves and their services, we should not overlook an essential principle: service. The value of bringing clients together - the benefits of enjoying longstanding contacts with buyers and sellers, and landlord and tenants - far exceeds the virtual reality of social media and other ephemera. None of which is to dismiss the importance of using new tools to facilitate deals and communicate with colleagues and clients. But when we rely too heavily on one resource - when we mistake impersonal advertisements and mass mailings for face-to-face meetings - we risk undermining our credibility and making our profession, which depends on word of mouth and client testimonials, into just another exchangeable commodity. My recommendation is, instead, a return to basics -- a way for residential and commercial brokers to move beyond Facebook or Twitter into the real world, where friends are more than a number to be tabulated and weighed against someone else's online profile or marketing literature.

Commercial and residential brokers who understand this fact - that success depends on your visibility and competence, with clients at your side - have more repeat business and more reach within your areas of expertise. For example: I encourage my partners to embrace social media, but to become the prisoner of technology. Meaning: we use social media as a way to reiterate our emphasis on service, while also showcasing new properties and announcing recently finalized transactions. But we do not use social media (including email) as a substitute for touring a building, reviewing files or offering candid advice to clients. Alas, too many individuals - within and far beyond the real estate industry - do not heed this advice, and thus they become the equivalent of avatars of themselves: people who spend too much time online, and forsake their careers and networking opportunities in the process.

This last point deserves repeating, because the real estate industry thrives on the personal relationships between brokers and their clients. It would be foolish to ignore this fact, while chasing the latest fad for the elusive goal of "visibility." From my experience, true visibility - and respect within the real estate industry - comes from providing services clients need and want, including: finding the right property for the right individual, getting suitably attractive financial agreements, earning the trust of building owners and operators, and acting as a source of intelligence for prospective buyers and sellers.

In contrast, excessive reliance of social media - constant email updates and video postings - results in nothing more than white noise -- background material that never wins the attention of the very people you seek to contact. All of which raises another question, What should brokers do to change this situation? Simply stated, brokers need to invest in themselves; they need to be forces of action - and leadership - in the areas they service. That means their presence, within a specified zone of business, is frequent and (frequently) effective.

By embracing these suggestions, real estate professionals can once again be forces for positive change. Clients need these services; and we should welcome the chance to provide such wisdom and counsel. Remember: technology is a tool, not a replacement for common sense and old fashioned networking. Bearing these facts in mind, we have every reason to prosper.

James Huang is the Principal and Founder of BRC Advisors, Inc . BRC Advisors is a full service commercial real estate company, headquartered in downtown Los Angeles with additional offices throughout Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. BRC Advisors combines a wealth of brokerage and advisory experience within a strategically aligned network of programs. With its dedication to training and innovation, BRC Advisors is competitive in all market conditions and changing circumstances.
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