The Real Estate business will be making increasing use of social media going forward. Already agencies are embarking on online initiatives designed to forge lasting links with customers, often based on a local approach.

Real Estate: Agencies Using Social Networks to Engage with Local Customers

So far most Real Estate agents have been lagging behind in using the new technologies and new channels to promote their business. Now however they seem to be gradually discovering the new tools and options available, but in conjunction with a tried and trusted strategy: the local and personal touch. This traditional approach seems to be thriving again with the help of the social networks. Most of the noteworthy initiatives on this front are coming from the United States, but French realtors had the chance to find out more about them during the Real Estate & New Technologies (RENT) fair which took place in Paris on 29-30 October.

“Small is the new big.” This introductory phrase from Jimmy Mackin, co-founder of real estate marketing startup Curaytor, set the tone. During his session entitled ‘Social networks: What the Americans do today and what you will do tomorrow’, he advocated a simple, straightforward local approach to selling property. There is of course nothing new about working on a local, personalised basis but the US entrepreneur argues that the modern realtor needs to establish more permanent links with potential customers. Real Estate agents ought to be using the social networks to share comprehensive information with their customers on the neighbourhood they are interested in, as this is an area where the agent has superior, detailed knowledge and a distinct advantage over everyone else. A detailed, personalised message that focuses on the locality can help the Real Estate agent to stand out from the mass of messages that social network users receive, and prove successful in clinching the deal, he told the RENT fair audience.

Meanwhile Facebook is going in the same ‘local’ direction. A few weeks ago the social network giant announced it was creating a service for ‘hyperlocal ads’ – i.e. local awareness advertising that will only be seen by users who are within a three kilometre radius. This highly precise targeting could well be a boon to Real Estate businesses. It will enable them to announce only to interested parties living in the neighbourhood that a given property in the locality is up for sale.

Other Real Estate players have gone beyond just using local information to create intimate links with customers and set out to involve them more actively in the housing market, creating a community whose members do more than just passively receive information. Canadian real estate agent Julie Hamel has launched a participatory initiative on Facebook called ‘La maison dont vous êtes le héros’ (‘The house where you’re the hero’). The principle is very simple. While a house is under construction, online visitors get to vote on the colour of the parquet, the style of the lighting etc. Involving potential property purchasers throughout the construction and interior design process helps the Real Estate agent to forge stronger emotional bonds with them.

The other main issue discussed at the RENT conference and exhibition was about rating sites designed to help house buyers select a suitable realtor.  Agents are starting to become aware of the importance of such online tools in creating a community that engages and fosters interaction with potential buyers.  Moreover, dedicated ratings sites can serve to get around the syndrome whereby a negative comment, once posted on a forum, stays there for ever, poisoning relations with potential customers.

It seems then that social networks are breathing new life into Real Estate marketing, mainly through better local targeting.  And despite the fact that such initiatives have been generally slow to get off the ground in France, Cyril Maurel, IT director at French Real Estate network ERA, revealed at the conference that 5% of all ERA transactions now come through a Facebook page. This substantial figure could well encourage other Real Estate professionals to embark upon online initiatives.

By Guillaume Scifo