The most common sight we now all see whether travelling on public transport, at work or even at the dinner table, is people with their heads down, not in prayer but tapping away at social media.
It is one of the biggest social changes we have seen since William Caxton introduced the printing press to England in 1476.
This means we now have a major choice to make in our profession.
Do we continue to place our properties on the portals in order to reach prospective customers – and remain as servants to these domineering masters?
Or do we focus on the more visited Google, Facebook and YouTube channels to reach our target audiences?
My view is we all need to get better, slicker and more digitally savvy around these channels and use our own brands to promote our properties, becoming less reliant on the property portals, as new technology will certainly overtake them.
The question is, are we ready? The resounding answer, for most estate agents, is almost certainly, not yet.
Therefore, we need to think ahead of the digital picture and start to develop our own networks to promote properties directly to every person’s handbag, briefcase or pocket.
In my own company we have brought FLINK to the market, which is already proving to be a game changer. This uses clever technology to put our property ads on social media feeds in front of the people most likely to buy – as well as those who aren’t even looking.
It’s far more advanced than using targeted Facebook ads, enabling us to show different permutations of ads for the same property, depending on the interests of the social media user.
We are now seeing passive buyers where we did not reach them before with traditional marketing methods.
Just over two months since launch, the increase in click-throughs to our own website has been astonishing.
Our properties have been seen by almost 37m people on social media – with 13% of people who see a property on Facebook, Instagram or Google Plus clicking through to our website, costing us just 8 pence per click.
It’s a fraction of what any estate agent would pay to promote a property on Rightmove Featured Agent, and much cheaper than Google Ads which cost us £2.85 per click.
At the same time, our number of Facebook followers has increased eight-fold. This is true digital disruption in estate agency.
I look back to when I first started in estate agency, and in my town, as a former professional national newspaper photographer, I was considered a trailblazer for using photos in newspaper ads!
We paid more than three times as much in those days for a page of ads – and the more pages you could afford, the more market share you would have.
Compare this now to the declining number of newspaper ads for estate agents, correlating to the declining newspaper circulation figures, and consider instead the amount of different channels and technology we now have to keep on top of – including web, social media, PR, advertising, leaflet drops, blogs, vlogs, brochures, boards, branded cars, review sites and even radio and TV if you can afford it.
It’s a real conundrum to know where to focus your marketing efforts, but what I do know is that we all need to put our foot on the gas on the digital super-highway – or otherwise we will risk being left behind.
Be careful what you click for
As the holiday season approaches and we start to book our flights to warmer destinations, it is always easy to be tempted by those low price air fares that seem so good to be true – and indeed they are until you start adding on all the extras, like luggage, the price of a sandwich or the company’s own insurance policies.
Well, the same is happening in our world of estate agency, where the offer of a cut price, low rate fee is soon overtaken by all those extras you are then asked to pay for, such as accompanied viewings, brochures or forcing people to use the company’s conveyancers.
So suddenly the bill isn’t as cheap as you expected.
And while it still undercuts the traditional cost of selling houses, the one thing sellers haven’t costed into the equation is the value of face-to-face contact, knowledge about buyers and local expertise that you always get with a branch-based estate agent.
The budget estate agents are all charging different things for a different level of service, confusing the public in the process, who don’t realise they are paying for their property just to be listed – not for it to be sold for the best possible price and service.
It’s just another aspect of our marketing that us traditional estate agents need to keep reminding the public about. After all, you get what you pay for in life.
We will always be a people business
Even though social media and the digital revolution is shaping the way we operate, we still need the very best and highly trained teams to handle property sales.
Selling in whatever guise will always be a people business – or H2H, as I call it. Not heart to heart or head to head but human to human.
And while technology may dictate how we do that, speaking and dealing with another human being will always be the preferred option for most people buying or selling a home.
This is especially true when the sale isn’t straightforward and you need that human intervention to not only smooth out the problems but act in a reassuring way.
This is why getting the best staff will always be the bedrock of any successful estate agency, and we only do that through encouragement, proper training and incentivising our teams.
We’ve just had our annual awards ceremony and conference where we rewarded our top performers for their amazing efforts, treating them to top speakers, comedy and entertainment – and giving them a day and night to remember.
Would a budget agent look after their staff in the same way?