Home Real Estate Conversation from NARdi Gras: Social Media Course Corrections

Conversation from NARdi Gras: Social Media Course Corrections

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Who dat dey say it's 'bout da engagement?

This topic actually began during a video shoot I did with a couple of really cool real estate social media people, but at the NAR Convention this past weekend, it came up again.  It’s an interesting enough a question that I thought I’d post about it.

The issue is, How would you know if you’re doing it wrong?

Feedback loop is important in virtually every aspect of life, to provide guidance as to what to do.  Touch a hot stove, and you get burned, thereby learning that you shouldn’t touch hot stoves.  Don’t return a client’s phone call, and you get complaints (or lose the client), thereby learning that you should promptly return client phone calls.  Do something well, and you get rewarded; do something poorly, and you get punished. That feedback (whether immediate or delayed) is a vital component of adjusting both plans and actions.

With “standard” marketing, you have metrics or guidelines or rules of thumb or whatever to tell you if you’re doing it wrong.  For example, if the industry average for an open rate on opt-in email marketing is (let’s just say) 5%, and your mailing comes in at 1%, then you know that you did something wrong.  If your site was growing at 10% a month, then you do a redesign, and suddenly, your traffic drops by 5% a month instead, you know that you did something wrong.  So you can make a course correction.

With social media marketing (or social networking or social-anything), what would tell you that you’re “doing it wrong” and allow you to make a course correction?

The Conundrum…

So in conversations about social media as a marketing channel, some of the things I have heard time and again from the experts (and probably even have preached myself from time to time) are things like:

  • Be patient; it takes a while for blogging/Facebook/Twitter/Whatever to bear fruit
  • It’s not a Return on Investment, but a Return on Engagement
  • Social media is about engagement with other people, and branding yourself effectively

And so on.

For example, Maya Paveza (@mayareguru) suggested in conversation with me that it will take anywhere between 9 months to a year before social media marketing efforts will start to make a real difference in business.  Well, that’s a long time to get feedback on your efforts.  What if you’re doing it all wrong?  How will you know?

If it’s about engagement, how will I know if my efforts are working or not working?  Do I look at comments on a blogpost?  If so, getting zero comments = not working?  When?  A week into blogging or a year into blogging?  Is it working if I get three comments?  Ten?

With social networks, am I doing it right or doing it wrong if I have 150 followers on Twitter after six months?  What if it’s 500 follower? 1500?  Can Klout tell me if I’m doing it right or wrong?

If I’m using social media to brand myself as a local expert… how will I know that I’m doing it right and improving my brand identity and brand promise in the marketplace?  Maybe I’m screwing it up and trashing my brand in my local marketplace.  How can I tell?

And critical to all these questions… when can I tell?  If it’s a year before I can get a real sense of right-way or wrong-way… that’s a lot of energy and effort wasted if I’ve been doing it wrong all that time.

The answers thus far from conversations appear to be like Justice Stewart’s definition of obscenity: “I know it when I see it.”  Apparently, you just know when it’s working, and when it’s not.  It’s all sort of subjective, dependent on your particular situation, goals, frequency, consistency, and so on and so forth.

Well, there’s a reason why the Supreme Court no longer uses the “I know it when I see it” when deciding obscenity cases.  It provides no guidance whatsoever to the citizenry.

This isn’t about “ROI”, or arguing that social media is useless or some such pablum.  That debate has, I think, been settled.  This is about course correction, about correcting mistakes, or doing more of what works.  In an engagement-driven, engagement-centric model of social media marketing, how will you know (and when can you start to tell) if you’re doing it right?

Without addressing this conundrum, how does one go about “teaching” social media after all?  If you can’t tell within a reasonable period of time that you’re doing it right or wrong, ain’t that more of a voodoo-that-you-do invoking Baron Samedi at the crossroads than a marketing campaign?

Your thoughts, as always, welcome. 🙂  Since I, as normal, have only questions, no answers.

-rsh

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Rob Hahn
Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

9 COMMENTS

  1. In the old days it was a question of mailing to a farm or a refrigerator magnet? Within a year you could pretty much prove if the effort was successful or not. Things are less simple now.

    Social media is pretty much a new opportunity for us in real estate. It is a huge shift in the way things have been done to how they will be done.

    IMHO I don’t think there is any right or wrong way to go about your strategy unless it is not authentic. Each of us will appeal to a certain segment of the population and that is where you should be concentrating your efforts. The only wrong it to do it half heart-idly without passion or commitment.

    Some like Facebook, others Posterous, Twitter, or blogging. Besides trying to be on platforms that have critical mass, I think each one of us has to decide what fits our personality best. It is just another tool in the toolbox of exposing your business to prospective clients.

    Like Maya I believe social media is a process and not an event. Start today and work for results both soon and for the future. Critical mass comes when you build authority in your market place, which comes from daily toiling in the fields of social media. One year will lend some results, two years, better, and so forth. The bigger the pond that you are in, the longer it will likely take to harvest your efforts.

    Too much effort is giving into what is right and wrong. The real mistake is to do nothing while those of us leave the distance between today and tomorrow an impossible gap to close – start today or suffer tomorrow.

    Start with can you be found easily on Google?

    Talk is cheap, action is what effects changes.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jeffrey. We often have the best conversations on this blog… Let me pick up on something you mentioned, though:

      IMHO I don’t think there is any right or wrong way to go about your strategy unless it is not authentic. Each of us will appeal to a certain segment of the population and that is where you should be concentrating your efforts. The only wrong it to do it half heart-idly without passion or commitment.

      If marketing were driven/judged on the basis of motivation, there would be no need for marketers. 🙂 But more importantly, motivation is not feedback. You can do all the wrong things, hurt your brand, screw your business, waste time and money and energy, but with great intentions. I feel like you need feedback, both positive and negative, to tell you what you’re doing that works and what you’re doing that doesn’t work.

      I’m not talking about the specific tools, or doing vs. not doing. I’m asking about Doing, but how do you get feedback to know if what you’re Doing is done well or done poorly.

      • Rob, Certainly I agree that you should run your business and social media practices on some proven business experiences. Having feedback is important, but so many people are afraid to make mistakes and thereby do nothing in social media. My point is if you are a successful real estate agent, one would assume you have some social skills and intuition on appropriate and non-appropriate behavior. Social media really only amplifies those abilities, IE if you are a jerk, more people will know you are a jerk. If you are being genuine and truly want to help people that will also shine through.

        Having the ability to be authentic vs. hiring some slick social media professional gets people to know you well before they get in your car. If that were so easy why is ‘big box” corporate real estate so afraid of social media?

        I guess the feedback that I am looking for in my efforts is the ability to attract like minded clients to help them through the real estate process. The bonus is the ability to provide good information to 1000’s of others along the way, how can you loose?

    • Thanks for the comment, Jeffrey. We often have the best conversations on this blog… Let me pick up on something you mentioned, though:

      IMHO I don’t think there is any right or wrong way to go about your strategy unless it is not authentic. Each of us will appeal to a certain segment of the population and that is where you should be concentrating your efforts. The only wrong it to do it half heart-idly without passion or commitment.

      If marketing were driven/judged on the basis of motivation, there would be no need for marketers. 🙂 But more importantly, motivation is not feedback. You can do all the wrong things, hurt your brand, screw your business, waste time and money and energy, but with great intentions. I feel like you need feedback, both positive and negative, to tell you what you’re doing that works and what you’re doing that doesn’t work.

      I’m not talking about the specific tools, or doing vs. not doing. I’m asking about Doing, but how do you get feedback to know if what you’re Doing is done well or done poorly.

  2. First, I apologize in advance for the length of my post Rob.

    I was introduced to FB two years ago while I was associated with a big box. At first, I didn’t think twice about the platform. I just wanted to keep in touch with building past friendships and family members overseas. I started to get inundated with invites form everyone from the company. Then I realized some of my contacts were being solicited. That wasn’t what I had in mind, or how I wanted to maintain my profile page. I like sharing and interacting with people I know and building other relationships as well through my sphere and others. After being on for some time. I realized that not many were socializing. They were just stagnant, and I was the only one engaging. Maybe fear of being expressive. I deactivated FB last year. I joined Twitter in March of 2008 and I find it to be more to my liking. It is instant, short, and I have gained so much from it. I can choose who to follow, unfollow and block. That is my social media of choice for now.

    My views on social media: You have to be “real” – not put up an “act.” Many put up an “act” pretend to like something or engage, not because they want to — but because that is their tactics; the salesman sets in. All I hear from marketers is ROI, SEO. Enough already! If someone likes you, they will engage, they will read your blog, they will go to your website, they will ask questions, and they will investigate you. Heck, they might even insult you. What ever feedback, whether positive or negative, it will help you. Why can’t everyone just engage, be authentic and enjoy the platform; without having to put up an act.

    REALTORS already are stigmatized by the way they conduct business. And, not in a positive light. Isn’t it about time they think for themselves instead of following what everyone else is doing or advising them to do. And figure out their platform of choice or not.

    I find it rather disturbing that the Board of Realtors is stressing the use of social media to its’ members. They are even feeding listings directly to FB. Total NAR membership (per website) for July month end is 1,088,919 – Facebook has over 500M users. Imagine how many flocked to FB. And, they don’t just put up a profile; they go for the whole kit and caboodle. I recently read a NYTs article … More Real Estate Agents Using Social Media – http://nyti.ms/dc4cTd . Interesting read.

    In my humble opinion, I call this spam and social media train wreck. What this will do, eventually is piss everyone off. It will alienate rather than form relationships which can lead to potential future business.

    If you are a natural conversationalist, these platforms will serve you well. If you think they are the magic bullet just because everyone is doing it. The latter may end up being a rude awakening later.

    From my experience, I wanted to have a single conversation with someone through direct mail on Twitter. Reason being, I was fearful of posting my views, of typos, and at times grammar mistakes (all due to my impulsiveness and horrible proof reading skills for my own writing). Fear of being disliked or what everyone would say or do. Mostly fear of being alienated from my pears in my industry. I committed the cardinal rule of sin for use of social media. That is, I intruded on that person’s use of the way he uses the platform to engage.

    My lesson: Engage with people and do it in the manner they wish to engage. Don’t cross the line. People will either like you or not, same as in real life too. They will either work with you or not. Don’t Push! Engage! And at times, unfollow.

    -toni

  3. Another great post/question Rob…

    If the desired use for SM is for authentic engagement, isn’t the feedback rather immediate? I find it to be much like the socializing you do at a conference, especially in the halls between sessions, If you are clumsy. pushy, salesy, etc in these face to face engagements, the feedback can be instant. What’s not readily apparent is the ROI of these meetings. The same can be said for interactions on FB, Twitter, or a blog. Those with social skills, that add to conversations rather than monopolize conversations, have the intuitive ability to determine if they are developing or nurturing relationships. Isn’t this, in a sense, feedback? As you know, there are some personality types that need to stay far away from SM. They can do nothing but hurt themselves.

    Perhaps the question that needs to be asked, before starting a SM campaign, is do I have the right stuff (personality) to effectively use SM as a relationship building tool? If the answer is yes, engage away, effectively, in a strategic, time-efficient manner. If the answer is no, don’t.

    It’s a simplistic answer to your question, but sometimes, simple is good, right?

  4. I guess if you take it offline let’s say I am trying to analyze my word of mouth advertising which essentially
    is social networking but in real life. I tell all my friends and people I come in contact that I am in real estate, ask for business, etc.If i don’t come across well or like a jerk or don’t know what I am talking about I am not going to get any business. How do I correct that other then changing the way I come accross.

    Like Jeffrey said I don’t think there is any right or wrong way other than be yourself and let people see you are the professional to turn to. I know what you are saying Rob that you would love to have some raw data of your results in social media but I just don’t think it is so cut n dry, unless somebody comes along with some special tool that can somehow analyze the results. I guess we need to get the mad scientist to work.

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