With the proliferation of social media, and the seemingly urgent need by companies to have a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter, business owners - and real estate brokers, both residential and commercial - tend to overlook the most important requirement for this medium: having an actual message to convey, something substantive, insightful, perhaps even opinionated, which resonates with readers.
In other words, have a voice before you raise your (cyber) voice online. Avoid the self-congratulatory blather that most companies abuse, and give people information of genuine value. Take a stand - be bold, but not reckless - and build a reputation for credibility, worthwhile analysis and news.
I write these words from experience, personally and professionally, where, in my role as an Associate Director for BRC Advisors, I understand how social media can be a timely resource - an immediate means of communication - to opine about financial trends, important transactions, industry developments and economic forecasts.
Notice, too, that these points of emphasis all are newsworthy; each topic is a matter of real-time discussion, in which experts can debate, discuss or dissect relevant content. Those factors - the creation of a culture of conversation - define the very words social media.
Purposefully absent from that dialogue is braggadocio or self-promotion, which is best left to the world of advertising (and even there, the most effective form of advertising is both creative and repetitive: it reinforces a message established, first, by news and a company's actions). So, if these observations are straightforward and easy-to-replicate, why is the vast majority of social media - particularly within the real estate industry - an exercise in futility and self-indulgence?
The answer to that question is threefold. One, there is a natural fascination with fame - nearly everyone wants to bask in the limelight, with recognition from the public at large - which, while understandable and thus excusable, is not necessarily a smart marketing strategy.
Two, companies can easily become diverted by numbers and not facts, meaning: in their pursuit of Facebook fans (and the corresponding "Likes" for an official business page) and Twitter followers, many brands will hire digital agencies to increase these figures, despite the fact that many of these suddenly active "supporters" do not even exist. The accounts are almost always false, thereby creating an echo chamber for more irrelevant, feel-good content.
And third, most companies do not want to have a voice -- which negates the whole purpose of using social media. For a voice signifies a position, which means a business has an informed opinion about topics of great interest. But that action has a price - there is no company, no matter how beloved (including Apple), without its critics and detractors - and the cost of registering an opinion is to be different. And therein lies a universal rule about human nature and corporate behavior: while there is purported safety in numbers, that philosophy comes at the expense of personality. A company subsumes its identity - it, ironically, chooses anonymity while it craves recognition - and dilutes the power of social media.
My recommendation to real estate professionals is, therefore, simple: Be entrepreneurial, in your words and deeds, which, with time and patience, will yield substantial dividends. Does this proposal involve hard work? Yes. But building a great brand - and there is no exception to this rule - is the result of having a great product or service, coupled with equally great marketing. And what, at bottom, is marketing? It is communication, customized to each respective medium (print, radio, TV and online), with a valid message.
Translation: create news!
In beginning this column, in the reference to the perceived urgency by real estate companies to use social media, I would like to remind readers that news itself can be urgent - the Federal Reserve may end its policy of quantitative easing, or a major urban redevelopment project may falter, or two major commercial realty firms may merge - but having a corporate Facebook or Twitter page, without news or the desire to cultivate and correspond with fans, is many things, but urgent is not one of them.
And yet, every company - if it examines its history and reviews its accomplishments - has news it can share and a niche it can enjoy. The duty is to express that information with style - be clear and have conviction, or be a contrarian with supreme confidence - but say something -- and say it well!
From there, readers will come, followers will arrive and comments will ensue. Social media will aid that process. Our mission is to make the vision a reality.