There are a couple of really contentious Facebook Groups that I probably shouldn’t waste time on. But then again, I probably shouldn’t waste time watching the Real Housewives of Orange County or New Jersey either, so I’ll just chalk them all up to guilty pleasure and an excess of schadenfreude.
In a couple of recent threads there were almost 400 comments on one of them, generated by a simple question leading to a long and harsh conversation, with secret emails, people bragging about the size of their response, and people blocking each other.
An argument erupted between people that think the best web strategy is working a social strategy (blogging, Facebook, Tweeting etc) and people that favor the use of property search and SEO strategies to generate “leads”. Sadly, each camp oversimplified the business, and as a result, each make long passionate arguments about their point of view without realizing that they and the other party were talking past each other rather than to each other, both trying to make the point that they knew what works to improve your online business.
What doesn’t work to improve your online business is arguing in Facebook groups or making personal attacks. Too often statements made in these groups are made by people that who are armed with an opinion and an attitude, but don’t have a clue. And they get nasty for reasons that are not readily apparent. No one has ever been convinced of anything because you tell them that you’re great and they’re stupid. It may be that Trolls have decided to leave their traditional dwelling places under bridges and move to real estate Facebook groups, but you don’t have to engage them. Small people with small lives derive great pleasure from making themselves seem more important in public. There is no business benefit in helping them. So let’s talk about why people were so divided over the topic.
The divisiveness results, in my opinion, from simplistic thinking. Not simple – which is good, but simplistic. Simplistic, an adjective is defined as;
1 characterized by extreme simplicity; naive
2 oversimplifying complex problems; making unrealistically simple judgments or analyses
The two sides talk about “leads” or “buyers” as if they were commodity both monolithic and acquired by only one right set of activities. That’s naive. The “leads” we talk about are people. Complex and infinitely diverse, people are any thing but monolithic. No matter how hard we wish, there is no one type of buyer and no one simple and easy path to attract them. Because of this diversity, there are lots of different things that work for salespeople who want to connect with consumers through online activities, and therein lies three simple facts;
- There are a variety of strategies that can successfully generate consumer relationships
- Different strategies attract different types of consumers
- The execution of the strategy is far more important than the choice of strategy
There have always been salespeople that relied upon referral business generated by the people they interacted with in their community. They were the joiners, the neighborhood volunteers, the PTA Presidents and the Little League coaches. Through their network of relationships, they generated a great deal of business, mostly through word of mouth marketing or direct relationships. And there have always been salepeople that prospected or advertised to meet people who were at some point in the sales cycle, preferably close to action. Years ago these people placed property ads, canvassed homeowners and tenants, held home buyer & seller seminars, used direct mail or handed out flyers , just listed, and just sold cards. Both of them generated business, and each of them was completely convinced that they were doing the best thjing possible for their business.
Today those two styles of salespeople look for business differently on the web. The agent who prefers to work by referral or with people that they already have a relationship with are the salespeople that build online relationships through blogging, Facebook, and numerous other social activities, so that they are a trusted member of their online communities, and become the trusted source of real estate information when their friends need them. In today’s world these are the evangelists of Seth Godin’s permission marketing, or Hubspot‘s Inbound Marketing. It is a strategy that can be very useful for an established agent with a large sphere of influence, who wants to be sure that they are easily found online by people specifically looking for them.
The second type of agent tends to seek an initial contact through property data, relying on SEO and SEM, and “lead generation” sites that introduce them to consumers with whom they have no relationship other than the property data. They fight the fight to be found among the myriad of property data sites by buying keywords, or trying to ran for less competitive but still valuable Long Tail keywords relevant to their specific markets. Sometimes they are the proponents of buying placement on Zillow, Trulia or Realtor.com or using “lead generation” websites or third party companies. For these people, search, not content is king.
The two schools argue with a great deal of passion and each has lots of people to quote when they want to make a point. The fact is that either strategy can generate substantial amounts of business if they are executed properly. I have friends who generate most of their business through their social connections, and I know a substantial number of people who do little of that and generate most of their sales opportunities through their property web sites, or by paying or premium placement on an aggregator’s site, or possibly by paying a referral or buying leads from another intermediary.
Because of the proliferation of property search sites, and the intense competition for the finite number of consumer eyes, I tend to favor the social strategy for individual agents, since building relationships and connecting with people on line is simple for people who are accustomed to creating relationships in the physical world. The cost is not too great, and the strategy is generally simple and sustainable. That being said, I also think that offering property search as a feature on your social site, or in conjunction with your blog is not a bad thing to do – but the property search is more of an accommodation for the consumer than a draw for their attention.Just like the differing strategies of salespeople in the past, both strategies work and neither program is the “right program” unless its the “right program” for you.
Whatever your web strategy is, the return it brings to you should be how you determine whether or not it needs to be tweaked, modified, or abandoned. Some form of measurement or analytic needs to be applied to any strategy before we decide its right for us. SEO strategies are easy to monitor through Google analytics and the number of inquiries and conversions they generate. Social strategies tend to have be more difficult to analyze except in terms of community size and interaction. If you are blogging and you have lots of visitors to the blog, and your blog is referring business to your business web site, that could be a metric you might use. You can use social scoring tools like Klout, Kred, Peerindex and Onlineidcalculator to determine how easy it is for consumers to find you online.
Whatever you choose, be sure that your core business skills are strong because a great web presence will not compensate for a lack of skill or a poor work ethic – in the final analysis, it will all come down to the value you provide to your clients, and your execution of the job you were hired for. Whatever you choose, I wish you the best of luck in your efforts.