Spending time on social media without a social media strategy is a lot like going to the grocery store on an empty stomach, according to Eric Proulx, Internet marketing specialist with Market Leader. Without a list (a plan) you’ll most likely wander aimlessly down the aisles grabbing whatever looks good, calories and nutrition be darned.
It’s the same with your social media marketing plan. If you don’t have a strategy around making social connections for your real estate business, you’re most likely throwing ideas against the wall, hoping something will stick. This willy-nilly process leads to time sucks such as reading and responding to every post, following links posted by friends, and generally following every shiny object on the screen in front of you.
Why do Real Estate Agents use Social Media?
“The number one way to stop wasting time on social media is to get clear on why you’re even on social media,” claims Proulx. Some of these reasons include:
- Keeping in touch with clients - Interacting with clients is a great way to stay top-of-mind, so that when the topic of buying or selling a house comes up, you are the person who comes to mind first.
- Reaching out to new clients - As part of a well-rounded content strategy, social media can help you rank in Google search results, according to Proulx.
- Learning - Proulx says that many agents use social media as a learning platform. “It’s a place where you can seek out other real estate agents and industry experts and get answers to your business questions.” Some of the social media sites where agents might go to learn from others include Google+ and Google+ Communities as well as Facebook and Facebook Groups. ActiveRain, even though it’s a blogging platform, has social network aspects to it, and many agents claim they learned how to blog by communicating with other ActiveRain contributors.
Taking Control of Social Media
Once you understand why you use social media, it will be easier to figure out ways to make it less of a time suck. Time management, while important in all aspects of your real estate practice, is critical when working with social media.
- Determine a strategy – Your daily social media activities should start where they will have the most impact, according to Rich Brooks, President of flyte new media. That means your first social media stop of the day should be wherever your clients hang out, such as Facebook or Twitter. Read and respond to customers first and save the links to YouTube videos or news stories that your friends share for the evening.
- Schedule your visits – Time blocking will help you keep on track and avoid the temptation to follow every shiny object you see while using social media. Actually schedule a block of time to tweet, create and respond to Facebook posts and check in on Google+. Once the time is up, close the sites and move on to the next task on your daily schedule. Some agents find it more advantageous to schedule two blocks of time: one in the morning and one at the end of the work day.
- Avoid groups and communities – Proulx recommends staying away from these social media time sucks unless you are using social media purely to get business advice, or if you schedule these visits for times outside of your normal work hours. He claims that it’s far too easy to get lured into debates and conversations. Before you know it, you’ve wasted precious time that should have been used to make money. Save the groups and communities for your downtime, such as in the evening after the kids go to bed or on a weekend with no open houses scheduled.
- Avoid distractions – Rethink using that handy feature that emails you every time someone mentions you on Twitter or posts to your Facebook or Google+ page. It’s far too easy to let curiosity get the best of you and find yourself on these sites outside of the time you’ve scheduled for them.
- Use tools – While many real estate agents and social media experts debate the pros and cons of social media scheduling tools, any discussion of how to avoid wasting time wouldn’t be complete without mentioning them. Tools to automate the publishing of your content, such as those offered by HootSuite, TweetDeck (Twitter’s scheduler) and the Facebook post scheduler tool, will definitely save time, but there are drawbacks.
The most significant argument against using scheduling tools is that they make your participation more akin to an announcement than a conversation. If you are asked a question, or if one of your comments takes off, if you’ve followed the advice to avoid being contacted when people post, you won’t be there to respond.
While face-to-face interaction with past and prospective clients is always more memorable, communication via social media can be a valuable resource in your efforts to remain top-of-mind. The trick is to not allow social networks to dominate your day, but to take control by coming up with a solid strategy that works for your real estate business.