The COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call for the world to go digital. It has forced marketers to go virtual and create online webinars. It is time for the commercial real estate companies – which are traditionally slow to adopt new technology – to include social media marketing as part of their marketing strategies. In the past 10 years, many B2B and B2C brands have adopted social media and influencer marketing in their marketing plans very successfully. We can learn from these successful practices and apply them in commercial real estate.
Why Companies and Industry Professionals Should Use Social Media Marketing
According to eMarketer’s 2019 U.S. Social Media Users by Generation report, 90.4% of millennials, 77.5% of Gen X, and 48.2% of baby boomers are active social media users.
The majority of the decision-makers in the commercial real estate industry are currently baby boomers and older Gen Xers. However, this will change in the next decade. Millennials now comprise the largest workforce generation in the United States, and these future decision-makers of the industry consume information differently from the previous generations.
Thanks to the innovation of LinkedIn, it is now easier for commercial real estate companies to market themselves on social media. According to LinkedIn, it is the world’s largest professional network with more than 722 million users worldwide. LinkedIn is now more than just a job-hunting platform. It is the best networking platform for business professionals and B2B companies. And for commercial real estate, the question is not whether you should use social media marketing, the question is how.
How to Use Social Media Marketing for Commercial Real Estate
Many professionals in commercial real estate are not using LinkedIn correctly. Here are some of the common mistakes:
- Too many promotional posts about their listings or their deals without actually providing value-added information to the audience.
- Not posting on a consistent schedule or not posting at all. The platform is most active on weekdays so plan to post once a day Monday through Friday. There is no such thing as too many posts as long as your content or comments are thoughtful and provide value.
- Not being patient. Social media is a long-term strategy. It’s a mistake to assume that social media marketing doesn’t work based on one LinkedIn post that received zero likes over the course of three days.
Too many companies only post about themselves, the deals they closed, their listings, their events, their company announcements, etc. Do you see the issue here? They only focus on themselves. What about the audience? Social media is a two-way conversation, not a one-way promotional speech. Companies can post more useful context like market reports, industry trends, employee spotlights, regional economic statistics, answers to common questions, and tips about signing a lease or getting financing. A few company-specific pieces of content can be mixed in but there needs to be a heavy balance toward value-added information. A good rule of thumb is that 80% of content should be information that the audience can gain value from, and 20% of content can be self-promotional posts about your business and services. Give value first before you ask for business.
Social media marketing does not work if you only post 10 pieces of content a year. And some people don’t post at all. A smart strategy is to post on your company’s LinkedIn feed and Stories at least once every workday. Create a biweekly or monthly social media content calendar to plan and schedule your posts in advance by using a scheduling tool like Hootsuite, Buffer or Sprout Social. Another tip to stay consistent is to create a recurring series. For example, if your company is in construction, every Tuesday can be Construction Tech Tuesday to provide a specific focus for that day’s social media posts.
Do not expect to see rapid results from social media marketing. One of the reasons why many companies in the CRE industry are not using this type of marketing is because it takes longer time to see results than other types of marketing. Email marketing shows you the click-through rate immediately. Magazine ads tell you how many subscribers the publication reaches, and event sponsorships can provide the number of event attendees who signed up. The best way to approach social media marketing is to build a brand, not sales. Building a brand takes longer time and is much more difficult, but the ones that pursue this strategy will win big in the end. Good things take time.
What’s Next in Commercial Real Estate Marketing?
LinkedIn Stories is a new feature that came out a few months ago. It allows users to share images and short videos of their everyday professional moments. Just like Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories and Snapchat, your LinkedIn Stories can last for 24 hours. These Stories appear on the very top of your feed on the LinkedIn app.
LinkedIn Stories has huge potential. When you post a Story, your picture or video is on the very top of your connections’ home page. This means your posts are easier to see. Again, high-quality content matters. If you want people to keep coming back to see your Stories, you must provide value.
A few tips on using LinkedIn Stories:
- You can only post a Story from the LinkedIn mobile app.
- If you don’t see this feature on your app, please update your LinkedIn app to the newest version.
- You are only allowed to upload video that is less than 20 seconds.
- You only see Stories created by your connections and people and pages you follow.
- If you create a Story, you will be able to see who have viewed your Story and their profiles.
- You can set yourself in private mode if you don’t want the creator to know that you have viewed his/her Story.
Podcasting is another hot trend and being a guest on an industry-related podcast can be a great way to promote your company or service. When you reach out to a podcast host, make sure to let him/her know about your talking points and what value can you bring to the audience. The high-quality podcasts with more downloads are more selective about guests, so another way to promote your brand is through sponsorship. A great example is Fundrise, a commercial real estate crowdfunding platform. It is a frequent ad sponsor on multiple business podcasts.
Here is a list of podcasts I recommend:
- “The Urban Lab” by Dr. Sam Chandan, Dean of New York University Shack Institute of Real Estate and Founder of Chandan Economic. He invites C-Suites from institutional commercial real estate companies to talk about current market trends and economy.
- “The TreppWire Podcast” by Trepp LLC, a leading provider in data, analytics, and technology solutions to institutional investment companies. This podcast focuses on the Commercial Mortgage Back Securities market.
- “The Weekly Take” by CBRE. This podcast invites industry experts to share their distinct views on the latest in CRE.
- “The RealCrowd” by RealCrowd, a crowdfunding investing platform. This podcast gives listeners an inside look at commercial real estate investing from industry experts.
- “Commercial Investment Real Estate” by CCIM Institute’s quarterly magazine.
- And I also invite you to check out my own podcast: “CREative Talks Commercial Real Estate Podcast” by Minjia Yan. My podcast focuses on young professionals and includes a variety of topics ranging from investment, development, CMBS, millennials, casino design and the development history of the Las Vegas Strip.
Both social media marketing and podcasting are still new to the commercial real estate industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitization of the world and the way we live and work. Now is the time for marketers in commercial real estate to rethink how to keep their marketing relevant and innovative.