Florida Realtor April 2012 : Page 22
Pull with CONNECT GLOBALLY Social media—it’s the next best thing to being there for global buyers and investors. BY BRIDGET MCCREA Silver, broker-owner at Silver International hristel Silver has had Canadian customers fi nd her through her Realty in Delray Beach and NAR’s Presi-Facebook page, pose questions dent’s Liaison to Germany. “Over time, through Facebook Messenger I’ve honed my social media to the point and enlist her help where it takes just a few min-to fi nd them South utes a day to produce results.” Florida properties. A Certi-Real estate has historically fi ed International Property been a relationship-oriented Specialist (CIPS), Silver has business so it only makes attracted homebuyers from sense that professionals in Britain and Germany in the the industry would gravitate Christel Silver same fashion. “It’s free and to—and benefi t from—new Silver Interna-doesn’t really take much time online socialization tactics. tional Realty, Delray Beach to develop and maintain,” says And while a myriad of social C 22 FLORIDA REALTOR April 2012
Pull With Social Media
Social media—it’s the next best thing to being there for global buyers and investors.
Christel Silver has had Canadian customers find her through her Facebook page, pose questions through Facebook Messenger and enlist her help to find them South Florida properties. A Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS), Silver has attracted homebuyers from Britain and Germany in the same fashion. “It’s free and doesn’t really take much time to develop and maintain,” says Silver, broker-owner at Silver International Realty in Delray Beach and NAR’s President’s Liaison to Germany. “Over time, I’ve honed my social media to the point where it takes just a few minutes a day to produce results.”
Real estate has historically been a relationship-oriented business so it only makes sense that professionals in the industry would gravitate to—and benefit from—new online socialization tactics. And while a myriad of social Networking sites have sprung up over the last few years, a select few appear to attract the highest number of sales associates looking to get the biggest bang for their bucks.
Florida real estate professionals who work with global buyers are using sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with overseas customers, with online video sites like YouTube, classified portals like Craigslist, and real estate–oriented networks like ActiveRain also occupying the typical agent’s social media portfolio.
The Starting Point
Doug Devitre, president of technology and social media consultancy Doug Devitre International Inc. in St. Louis, sees social media as an adjunct to an agent’s existing socialization strategy. After all, he explains, there’s only so much you can accomplish in person and by phone. “Social media helps you leverage your time and communicate with a larger group of people,” says Devitre. That can be particularly useful for the international agent who doesn’t have the time or resources to regularly visit countries like the Czech Republic, Germany, Canada and Brazil.
Selecting content to post on social networking sites is an important consideration, according to Devitre, who cautions not to overmarket yourself and your services. Instead, he says, figure out the biggest points of concern for buyers in the respective markets and then address those issues through posts, videos, feedback (on other people’s posts) and other interactions.
Right now, for example, many global buyers are looking for safe investments and new lifestyles. “They’re not just looking at houses,” says Devitre, who points to NAR’s 2011 Profile of International Home Buyers in Florida as a source for great clues to exactly what foreign buyers want. A YouTube video highlighting the “Top 10 Mistakes Not to Make When Investing in Miami Real Estate,” for example, would “get good traction among those buyers in search of a safe U.S. real estate investment,” he says.
That’s exactly what Silver decided to do when she embraced social media three years ago. She posts comments, market statistics and local information nuggets on various types of social media. Born in Berlin, she focused primarily on her home country, the U.K. and Canada when developing a presence on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and when using online advertising portals. Silver also has a German-language website, where she provides buyers interested in Florida homes and condos with market information and property details in their own language. “I find that international buyers are always more comfortable working with [those] who speak the language,” she says.
With so many options, where should you start?
Video Is Important
Devitre points to YouTube as one of the best starting sites for those looking to Increase their global reach. “International buyers naturally look to Florida as a target, but they don’t know what cities, attractions or amenities they want to be closest to,” he says. “Agents who create educational videos (highlighting a region’s top amenities, for example) and post them on YouTube stand a good chance of getting their names in front of those potential buyers.”
Share Through Groups
Facebook and LinkedIn have been particularly effective for Silver, who actively seeks out groups in her target countries. She joins them and begins interacting and sharing information with their members. “I get involved and start contributing facts and information about the areas that I’m marketing,” says Silver. “Once people see that I’m a real estate professional in Florida who works with international buyers, they start asking questions.”
Carla Rayman, CIPS, agrees. The broker-associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Sarasota has worked with customers in Panama, Costa Rica, Dubai, the U.K. and Canada. She uses a Facebook business page to maintain constant contact with existing customers and to attract new ones.
Rayman regularly updates her Facebook page with local market news, worldwide real estate trends, market statistics, information about new community developments and other facts that she thinks her international customers would find interesting. “I post anything that looks relevant,” says Rayman, who feels that the content fills a gap where national news sources leave off. “An international buyer may see that home values are down 20 percent nationally and assume that all property prices are going to come down that much. By posting local information and news, I help them better understand the situation.”
One social media tactic that Silver uses regularly involves reading other members’ posts and then giving her “two cents” on them. Recently, for example, an agent in Germany posted a photo of a home for sale on Facebook. In the front Yard was a sign that was “nearly as big as the house itself,” says Silver. “My comment was: ‘I guess you don’t have sign size restrictions there, huh?’” Silver received feedback, which she in turn answered, thus exposing her comments—and her real estate profile—to even more people in a viral manner.
LinkedIn is another social media outlet that’s helped Silver develop her international business model. The business- oriented site helps her identify real estate agents in her target countries, create connections with them and stay topof- mind for professionals working with buyers interested in Florida properties. Much as she does on Facebook, Silver joins LinkedIn groups that include members from the U.K., Germany and Canada (including Global Connections: Marketing Homes Internationally and Brazil, Russia, India & China [BRIC]). Each of those members has his or her own social networks that Silver can reach out to and interact with.
Rayman’s efforts have paid offon both the listing and the sales side of several transactions. She’s generated a number of international listings via LinkedIn including one European seller who enlisted her services to sell a property in Costa Rica. “He found me on LinkedIn, connected with me through the site and wound up becoming a client,” says Rayman, who advises sales associates to leverage multiple social networking sites and to always post relevant, educational information of interest to international buyers and sellers.
Craigslist Gets Your Listings Noticed
Silver augments her international social media strategy with online classified advertising sites like Craigslist, where she markets her listings for free. On more than one occasion she’s been able to develop relationships with potential buyers who saw her listings on the German and Canadian iterations of the online classified site. “It’s great exposure at no cost,” says Silver. “Through the site, I’ve been able to reach people whom I can friend on Facebook and continue interacting with.”
As you develop your own social media strategy, Devitre says, you should look at each medium as an adjunct to face-to-face, phone call, email message and other connection points with your customers. It also helps to consider the cost of not being online, rather than dwelling on the time and resources spent developing this customer development channel. “Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn help agents fill the gaps left by more traditional means of communication,” says Devitre, “and have become particularly important for those working with clients who aren’t physically accessible.”
Don’t spend an inordinate amount of time on social media activities, though, warns Rayman. “Look at social networking as just one more tool that will help you grow your international business,” she says, “and not something that you have to spend every waking minute on.”
Bridget McCrea is a Clearwaterbased freelance writer.
9 Global Social Media Sites
The real estate professionals and experts interviewed for this article recommend these sites for agents looking to enhance their international presence via social media:
2. AplaceInTheSun.com: A U.K.-operated site that offers a property search and, for a fee, listings from 89 countries
5. IRED.com: The International Real Estate Digest lists links for brokerages, sales associates, mortgage lenders and other real estate–related businesses in more than 135 countries.
7. Rightmove.co.uk is one of the most popular real estate listing sites in the U.K. Most of its listings are located there, but about 1,900 U.S. properties are listed on the site, of which more than half are in Central Florida.
GREAT IDEA Most international sales associates select one or two countries to target, but Carla Rayman, CIPS, a broker-associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Sarasota, says you should keep your eyes open for new opportunities. Traditionally focused on Central America, the U.K. and Canada, Rayman recently listed an $11 million property portfolio for a seller in Dubai. “He researched me through social media and decided that I was the right one to market his properties,” says Rayman. “A few months later, I was in Dubai meeting developers and viewing the portfolio.”
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