If you are a broker, speaking at conferences to a large audience on a topic where you are an authority is one of the best ways to get clients. Just by being on stage, you are deemed an expert. When you finish your presentation and open it up to questions, you can take the conversation to a deeper level. This reinforces your authority and people will get a sense of your personality. And they’ll decide whether or not they like you. Perhaps the most valuable part of presenting occurs after you leave the stage and talk with the people waiting for you. Many of them will become leads and some will convert to clients.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could do this every day? You can with social media marketing. You can achieve many of the same benefits… You’ll reach a large targeted audience and be seen as an authority. You’ll get questions and comments that will allow you to give insightful answers and practical advice. You’ll get private messages, emails, texts, and calls from prospects wanting more information. Social media is a powerful, but still untapped tool in commercial real estate brokerage. Why? Commercial real estate brokers haven’t recalibrated their marketing and selling methods to how we communicate today.

Richard HopenWe rely on our smart phones. They are always by our side, even when we sleep. Without them, we feel cut off and disconnected from friends, family, clients, and the world. When communicating one-on-one, we prefer texting to talking. Text messages are less intrusive than a phone call, we reply when it’s convenient, and we don’t waste time with small talk. It’s more efficient.

We also stay connected to our family, friends, and business contacts with social networking apps. Sixty-five percent of American adults use social media networking at a shockingly high daily usage rate of 2.7 hours. Mobile social media is how we communicate with each other in 2016.

Compare this with how you communicate with your prospects? Do you use any mobile social networking platforms? Are you still cold calling and sending emails, even though they don’t know you?

Sixty-five percent of American adults use social media networking at a shockingly high daily usage rate of 2.7 hours.

Most of my professional career as a broker and lawyer, I won business by getting prospects on the phone and persuading them to meet with me. I would then build the relationship from there. It allowed me to build my business, but we live in a different world today. People are more protective of their time. Have you noticed how much harder it is to get a prospect on the phone today than a few years ago? When a stranger is trying to sell you a service, do you talk with them on the phone? Do you read their emails? My guess is no. I don’t.

It’s time to examine how you pursue new business. Using social media to build rapport with prospects requires learning new tools and trying a different approach. Once you understand it, you’ll discover how much easier it is to win business.

Your goal should be to communicate with prospects that you are 1) skilled at brokerage, 2) trustworthy, and 3) likable. Social media is beautifully suited to convey these three attributes. You can do this to a large audience instead of one prospect at a time. This is good news. What is even more exciting is that very few brokers are effectively deploying social media marketing. If you and your firm commit the resources ahead of your competitors, you’ll enjoy “first mover advantage.” You’ll stand out among your competitors, gain market share, and build brand equity.

Why is social media growing so fast?

It’s hard to ignore the growth of social media and how the platforms are capturing our attention. In almost all public venues, people are looking at their phones. We see it at airports, on trains, in waiting rooms and restaurants. People drive while looking at their phones. People cross the street while looking at their phones. Heck, people fall off of subway platforms because they don’t look up from their phones. We’re putting our need to be connected to our social network ahead of our personal safety. That’s how strong our craving is to stay connected.

A leading figure on social media marketing is Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of Vaynermedia. He argues social media is as significant as TV or the Internet: “It’s natural that every new marketing platform would usurp the one that came before. Radio leached away the audience for print. TV poached the audience for radio, the Internet stole audience from every one of these old platforms, and now social media (which is really the evolution of the Internet) is well on its way to overtake them all.”

Social platforms tap into our innate desire to be near others, share our thoughts, feelings, and opinions. It’s what we do as humans. If your prospects are on their phones using social media, that’s where you should be.

Six ways you can use social media to build your brokerage business.

Step 1. Identify a Narrow Audience
Before you begin crafting your message and sending it out via social media, think about who is your best audience. If you could invite 100 people to hear you talk about how they could grow their business by improving their real estate portfolio, whom would you invite? Most likely, this group mirrors your best clients. And that’s your target audience.

As brokers, we are confident we can serve a wide group of businesses. So we tend to avoid targeting a particular sector. However, this shotgun marketing approach is not as effective as targeted marketing.

As brokers, we are confident we can serve a wide group of businesses. So we avoid targeting a particular sector. However, this shotgun marketing approach is not as effective as targeted marketing.

One very expensive lesson I learned in 2014 and 2015 was the importance of marketing to a specific audience. I temporarily left brokerage to create and sell an online personal finance education product that could help almost anyone control their spending, reduce their debt, and increase their income. Pretty big audience, right? I started advertising with Google Adwords and Facebook to a broad demographic. I was able to test ad images, headlines, and landing pages. The results were horrible.

After months of testing my message to different audiences, I discovered the importance of specificity. Instead of targeting people wanting to reduce credit card debt, I targeted young couples with credit card debt trying to save for their first home down payment. My ads featured a young couple from my program that eliminated over $20,000 in credit card debt and saved enough to move into their first home. Here was the winning Facebook ad…

hopen_facebook_ad

The ad worked beautifully because the target audience felt that I was talking directly to them. When you tailor your content to a narrow audience, your marketing will become much more effective.

Years ago, both Studley (now Saville Studley) and Staubach (now JLL) did this with law firms. Essentially, they owned the large law firm market. I believe at one point they had represented over 90 percent of the top 100 law firms. They became the legal industry’s go-to brokerage firms because they understood the law firm culture. They spoke the same language and became masters of navigating the partnership politics that exists in all firms.

Do the same thing with your strongest market segment. Research where your target audience is online. A good place to start are LinkedIn groups. Read through the discussion topics and find the active participants. Who are the experts in the group and the influencers? How can you help them? Monitor the group and provide thoughtful feedback. (As someone who publishes fresh content on a regular basis, it’s nice when I read a comment from someone who has really thought about what I wrote and is sharing their opinion.) Go outside of LinkedIn and check out other social platforms. At a minimum, look at Facebook and Twitter.

Step 2. Become An Authority
The best way to show you are competent is to produce valuable content. This can be in many forms. You can write blog posts, make videos, record podcasts, record webinars, or broadcast live stream video. Find the medium that most intrigues you and test it. Learn about it and persevere.

Step 3. Produce New Content Each Day
It’s important to stay in front of your audience. You want them to depend on you for something new and valuable everyday. Consistency is key. You can write a very short post, a status update, and tweet. You can post a picture on Instagram or Facebook. You can produce a video on your iPhone and post it on YouTube.

I enjoy finding quotes I think are relevant to my audience and post them daily. Insightful and clever quotes tend to be widely shared. [I use the free graphic design site Canva to create my quote images.] Here’s an example of two quotes: one from me and the other from Richard Branson.

hopen-quotes

(The Richard Branson image went viral and as of today, it has received 13,768 shares, 4,537 likes, and 125 comments.)

Step 4. Show You Are Trustworthy
Trust is an essential foundation in all relationships. Earning it requires hard work, consistently good behavior, and time. There are no short cuts and one minor misstep could undermine months of hard work. A major breach could kill a relationship. Any broker who has invested a lot of time building a relationship with a great client understands the process.

To earn trust, become your own media company. Deliver valuable content each day and don’t ask for anything in return. I wouldn’t even include a “call to action” at the end of a blog post for them to call and set up an appointment. And, I wouldn’t ask them to provide anything more than an email address to download a lengthy report.

When people ask questions in your online communities, provide practical well-thought out answers. When you help them, others will notice. And don’t forget to “Like” their comments. Share valuable material. Provide redacted templates, analyses, cheat-sheets, and forms. Leverage the best material you generated for clients to win new clients. Your mantra should be give, give, give and give some more.

When do you ask for something in return? It depends. I follow these two rules: First, never stop producing valuable content and giving practical advice in online communities. This builds your reputation and brand. Second, if you start helping a prospect offline, at some point they’ll start feeling uncomfortable getting free advice. At that point you can figure out what’s fair for you and the prospect. As you know from life experience, when you do something nice for another person, they feel obligated to reciprocate. The social psychology term for this is the Law of Reciprocity.

By giving value to your audience and not asking for anything in return, you win their trust. You also prime them to be more receptive to giving you something in return when the time is right.

To earn trust, become your own media company. Deliver valuable content each day and don’t ask for anything in return

Step 5. Show You Are Likable
Likability is easy to convey online. Simply be yourself. Avoid worrying about being polished, corporate, and scripted. Let your personality shine through and don’t be afraid to show your flaws. This is why certain live streaming video platforms like Periscope and Facebook Live are so popular. Be transparent. Be authentic. Your audience will bond with you more easily when you are genuine.

Richard Branson is the personification of a likable CEO. He’s not afraid to discuss his failures and often shares stories of his personal life with the world. Show your sense of humor and express your opinions.

Step 6. Learn Social Media, Experiment & Have Fun
Keeping current on social media will require you to invest time. And unfortunately, the older you are the more time it will take. Some apps that are intuitive to my kids (16, 21, and 25) don’t make sense to me. If I can’t figure it out, they need to slowly walk me through it and then coach me once I start posting. (This makes me feel really old!)

Here’s a 2014 Facebook post I made with my daughter Bernadette’s words of encouragement.

hopen-daughter

I’ve taken inexpensive online classes on Lynda and Udemy when I need more handholding. In addition to LinkedIn and Twitter, I suggest looking into using Facebook for your business.

Here are two more great resources:
Hubspot, a digital B2B marketing platform, has a wealth of free information.
Digital Marketer is one of the top digital marketing education companies.

Once you become comfortable with LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, move onto the other big three: Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat. But know that each platform is continually trying to improve and change its functionality. This means you are going to have to stay on top of the changes.

Promise yourself you will learn social media marketing in 2016. You’ll not only jump ahead of your competition, you will serve prospective markets, build your personal brand, and position yourself for long-term success.

Richard Hopen

Richard_HopenRich Hopen is a national tenant rep commercial real estate broker. He is a Costar Power Broker, has a Corenet MCR designation, and is an attorney. Rich is fascinated with the changes impacting CRE brokerage and writes about social media marketing for brokers.