Social Media and Commercial Real Estate
By now it should be no secret that I’m a big fan of social media. The statistics validating social media’s ability to positively impact performance more than serve as adequate evidence that commercial real estate professionals should be actively engaged in social media marketing. That said, not a week passes where the naysayers and apathetic scoff at social media as if were just a waste of time. If today’s post seems like a bit of a rant, it’s because it is…In the text that follows I’ll share a few brief thoughts in an attempt to reason with those still not switched-on to the many benefits of social media.
I want to begin by addressing the three most common objections (translation: cop-outs) that I encounter from the unimpassioned or uninitiated:
1. Real business people don’t use social media: The inference with this excuse is that social media is somehow not worthy of their attention – that “real businesses” simply don’t market using social media. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, if you do a bit of digging you’ll quickly see that the category dominant personal and corporate brands in virtually every sector are engaged at some level with social media. Moreover, most of them are dramatically increasing their investments into social media while cutting back on investments into traditional media. On a global level, marketers report an increase of 30% in digital expenditures in the last 12 months alone. While this “social media is for teenagers and college students” excuse may make for a nice sound bite in your mind, in reality the only thing you accomplish with this position is to demonstrate outdated thinking to those in the know. In fact, according to Neilson, the over 35 age category is embracing social media faster than any other demographic, while growth among teens and college aged users has been flat to negative.
2. I don’t have time to use social media: This statement smacks of naiveté at best, or of arrogance at its worst. Since when doesn’t a person have time to engage people in a way that builds trust, engenders confidence, and accelerates the efficiency of communication. Saying that you don’t have time to engage your prospects and clients where they want to be engaged is nothing short of flawed thinking. What many fail to understand until they experience it first hand is that social media doesn’t replace real relationships, it enhances and accelerates them. You simply don’t have time not to be involved in social media. Learn how to leverage social media to increase the frequency of quality, live, business development meetings, and your productivity will increase. Learn that social media serves to enhance all of the activities that you are otherwise too busy focusing on, and you will run a commercial real estate practice which features greater profits and efficiencies. Fail to understand this and you’ll fail to maximize your potential.
3. It doesn’t work for commercial real estate: News flash – as much as you may want to think differently, our business is not any different from other businesses. Believing that certain immutable business principals don’t exist for commercial real estate professionals is very dangerous thinking. Not only have I personally benefited from social media on several levels, but I am also aware of numerous examples of both service providers and end-users alike that have received benefit from their investments into social media. Commercial real estate almost always lags behind other industries in terms of adopting new technologies and means of information sharing. We will see a repeat of this trend as the number of social media naysayers is reduced to a scant few within the next 24 months. As an aside, as of April 2009, more people spend time on Twitter, Facebook, etc., than they do on email. Do you really believe that our industry is so unique that we are immune to these revolutionary changes? If you haven’t benefited from social media yet, my guess is that you’re either 1.) not participating in social media; 2.) new to social media, and/or; 3.) not committed to doing what it takes to be successful with social media.
If you’re still not buying-in to my logic, I’m going to cut right to the chase and outline a few representative examples below of the benefits of social media for commercial real estate professionals:
Benefits for Practitioners
Social media increases your presence and visibility on the search engines, your exposure to deals, prospects and information, your ability to engage in meaningful conversations, the ability to shorten selling cycles and improve relationships, the ability to improve your position relative to competition, the ability to demonstrate subject matter expertise by expanding distribution for your thoughts and ideas, the ability to reach more people with greater velocity, and the list could go on and on…The bottom line is this: It has been said that as high as 80% of all purchasing decisions and diligence efforts begin with an internet search. What possible reason would you have for not wanting to be found where your prospects and clients are looking? Put another way, and as if our business couldn’t be any more difficult right now, why would you want to add to the existing set of new business challenges by having a poor Internet/social media presence?
Benefits for Clients
Clients and end-users are turning to social media in increasingly larger numbers when looking for information, advice, properties and professional expertise. Clients looking for increased transparency and accountability from their professional advisors will be looking for social proofing that is easily found online in reviewing a professionals social media presence. Clients looking to buy, sell or lease property will turn to and value the professionals that have the greatest visibility online and access to the toolsets and platforms most likely to benefit them.
Regardless of where you are in the commercial real estate value chain, you won’t be able to ignore social media and remain competitive in today’s marketplace. I would offer my strongest encouragement to anyone not actively involved in social media to develop a strategy for implementation.