The Internet, particularly social media, has changed the way companies do business. Statistics show that 90% of buyers are influenced by what they see online, and 55% of buyers search social media for information. But that doesn’t mean business relationships are not important. In fact, they are just as important as they ever were. As with all businesses, the way commercial real estate companies cultivate relationships has changed dramatically in the past decade.
Mark Zuckerberg and friends created Facebook in 2004 as a way for classmates to keep in touch, but just a few years after its creation, businesses started using the social media platform as a marketing tool. In 2006, researchers at the University of British Columbia coined the term “social selling” to describe how businesses use social media to reach customers. LinkedIn, a social media site that is used by millions of business professionals, defines social sellingas “leveraging your social network to find the right prospects, build trusted relationships, and ultimately, achieve your sales goals.”
The Importance of a Social Media Strategy
It’s easy to be fooled into thinking if you post enough content on your social media channels, the customers will call. But to build trusted relationships through your social network networks, you need a strategy. Your strategy should begin with identifying your audience. Find out who are the key decision makers in renting, purchasing or investing in commercial real estate. Once you find them, find out where they hang out, or in other words, find out what their favorite social media channels are. LinkedIn is a popular destination for business people who want to network with some spending as much as six hours a week on the social media site researching prospects. Some consumers turn to image-based social media site Instagram when searching for real estate. Once you learn where your target market is, create a strategy that includes those social media platforms .
Next, you should create a branding message that reflects who you are and whom you want to reach. Are you looking for professionals for high rise office space in a large metropolitan area? Create a sophisticated message that appeals to attorneys, finance professionals and others who want to be in the middle of a busy downtown. Are you trying to sell retail space in shopping centers? Look for small businesses and others who are looking for space or may need space in the future. Create a message that reflects your customers’ needs and how you will meet them.
Remember-- most people don’t like seeing multiple sales pitches or spam-like posts. Share content that is useful to your target market. This is content that can be created by you. For example, you can write a blog post featuring the community near an office building in your portfolio. Highlight the restaurants and discuss the traffic and parking situation in the area. Also, share content that will interest your target audience. For example, if you are marketing properties in a downtown area of a large city, share relevant stories from the local media. These stories will engage your followers as you show your expertise.
Social Selling and Relationships
Commercial real estate deals are unlikely to close on Facebook or Instagram. The ultimate goal of your social media strategy is to engage the prospect and create trust. These relationships should lead to meetings offline and ultimately, a lease or sale. The difference between social selling and the “old school” method of cold calling is you are “selling” less and focusing more on the relationship between you and your prospect.
Social Selling Success Requires Professional Marketing Tools
You will not be successful at social selling with a complete marketing strategy. Your social media profiles should include a professional website where prospects can learn more about you. Your website should include well-written blog posts you can share with your prospects. Make sure you have professional photographs of your available properties to share on your social media pages. Use your social media to develop your email marketing list and follow up with well-crafted newsletters or messages that don’t seem spammy. A professional commercial real estate marketing team can help you create a social selling strategy and the marketing tools needed to build those important business relationships.