By Karen Highland
For the last decade social media has drastically changed the marketing world. Many small business owners would say for better, and many would say for worse. But one thing we can all agree on…social media is here to stay.
Yes, social media has invaded every aspect of business and marketing. And if you have been paying attention the last few years, you noticed that social media keeps changing. New platforms come and go. Trends change, tactics are in and then they’re out. For example, hashtags are in…wait, no, don’t use them here, use them there! It can be confusing, right?!
Even though trends can change, here are three things about social media that do not change. Over time, these common sense principles have proven true, and will help you navigate the changing landscape of social media.
Engagement is King
You can post your heart out on social media, but if no one ever engages with your content, does it even exist? The algorithms that determine what users see are constantly evolving, yet they have continued to give preference to posts that get engagement, ie. reactions, comments, or shares. The key to being seen and remembered is to be engaging. How do you keep from being invisible?
- Always bring value. Study after study has shown that people go to social media for three main reasons, to stay in touch with friends and family, stay up to date with current events, and for laughs. So, as the O’Jays advised us, give the people what they want. Be of value, be informative, be entertaining, and be engaging.
- The best thing about social media interactions…you’ve got time to figure out how to be clever! So take the time, think of something to say that’s meaningful. Google it, consult your thesaurus, or phone a friend, but take the time to comment or share something that will be engaging.
- Grow or give up. Unfortunately, you can’t coast when it comes to social media, at least if you are using it for business purposes. Increasing your reach means increasing your social sphere. The reason? Your peers are increasing theirs.
- Consistency establishes trust (and keeps you in front of your sphere.) Because social media platforms are ruled by algorithms, you can’t just check in once a week and expect to stay relevant. You must be consistent. The gurus have different advice, once daily, 3 X daily…post 4 times, use 33 hashtags, use hearts, no use haha’s…you get it, the advice is crazy. Figure out how you can be consistent. Make it work for you and your schedule. But don’t take too much time away from it, or you will become irrelevant.
Tip: How do you stay consistent on social media without it sucking up all your time? After all, you’re a real estate professional, there are only so many hours in the day! This is where finding and using the right tools can increase your efficiency, while keeping your social media presence consistent. There are several scheduling tools that work very well, allowing you to time-block. Buffer and Hootesuite are two that I like. You can spend ½ hour to an hour once a week to schedule all your posts on all your platforms. That will save you a lot of time and worry, freeing you up to check in now and then, to check for engagement and to BE engaging.
The Best Thing About Social Media – Personalization
Here’s what I love about social media: we could gather two dozen people in a room and post about the same thing…and we’d all get different results. This is the beautiful thing about personalization! We all have a different social media network, or I like to say “digital footprint”. What works for one person doesn’t always work for another. While there are certainly best practices, every individual can make social media fit their own personality. Everyone must find what really fits them.
- Use the social media platforms you like. If you don’t like a platform, you won’t do well there. It doesn’t matter what the gurus say. If you like it, you will use it. You will figure out how to make it work for your business goals.
- Don’t compare and don’t copy. First of all, beware of the “humble-brag”. You can’t really know if all the claims people make are true. Secondly, you can’t copy even if you try. To quote my favorite children’s author: “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.” Never has that been truer than true, than with social media.
- Be authentic, be engaging, and keep it real. People are smart. They read through the lines. They are looking for authenticity. Let them find it in you.
Tip: Leave no friend behind. Use lists, groups and communities to see everyone you want to see. The algorithms don’t show you everything from everyone you are connected with. If they did, most of us would have a stream that moves like a ticker tape, and that would not be a good experience. It may take some time, but by putting all of your contacts on lists, you can outsmart those algorithms. Click on the list and see the posts of everyone on the list.
The Brand of You
While big brands are busy trying to figure out how to humanize their brand on social media, the small business person has the opposite challenge, how to build their own brand from a small, singular human effort. In many ways the individual business person has some advantages over the big brands. Keep these things in mind as you build the “Brand of You”.
- Be professional. Once you post something on social media, it lives there forever. Sure, you can take it down, but rest assured, someone has seen it. Someone has possibly taken a screenshot of it. We’ve all heard stories about successful executives tanking their careers because of one thoughtless tweet.
- Be positive. As Chaka Khan would say, “Tell me something good.” Think about the brand are you building. Is the “Brand of You” a positive one? Remember that the lines are blurred and everything you post speaks to who you are as a business person. Your social media image is a “curated self” and you are the one doing the curating. Does your curated self give the tone that you want people to remember?
- Study each platform and post accordingly. All social media platforms are different and your audience and their expectations will be different. LinkedIn, for example, is not like Facebook, in that it is a professional platform. You don’t see people posting what they had for lunch. You see sharing and conversations around business, innovation and education, and professionalism.
- Don’t tell them, show them. Find ways to show what you do for people without the obvious “humblebrag”. It doesn’t work anymore. Share what’s interesting, fun and inspiring about what you do. Your followers will be able to connect with you. Real connections are what keep you top of mind.
Tip: The visual web has evolved. Most algorithms favor visual content, especially video. To take advantage of that, make sure you add compelling visuals to as many social media posts as you are able. Eye candy matters. It attracts human attention as well as algorithm attention.
We can all agree that if you want to be in business 5 or 10 years from now, you must adopt social media into your marketing strategy. Whether you hire a social media marketing company or individual to handle that for you, or if you’re a DIY, or a combination of both, it is important to understand the basics. Like any aspect of your business, you want to measure what you do and always be ready to adapt as your analytics tell you what’s working and what isn’t. We must all make time to learn, to keep up with current marketing trends.
The good news is, it’s much easier to mix business and fun because of social media. The lines have blurred. But, when you think about it, that mirrors real life doesn’t it? Especially in real estate.
In real estate business, whether you are an agent, lender, title, home inspector…any aspect, you get the opportunity to get personal with people. You often get to know their families, their dreams and goals, their dog, where they may want to put the special piece of furniture. Sometimes, you even find yourself playing half attorney/half psychologist …(you all have stories, I’m sure of it!)
Social media is a great opportunity to continue those relationships you make. It’s the perfect platform to mix fun and professionalism, stay top of mind, and deepen friendships, both with clients and with other professionals.
Karen Highland is the former Communications Director for FCAR. She is a licensed real estate assistant, an avid blogger, and social media addict. She trains in real estate blogging and social media. You can find her real estate musings at Frederick Real Estate Online.