I was reading a recent HomeGain article about the relationship between social networking and SEO, and it made me think about the anxiety many real estate brokers must feel as they work hard to position their company and agents for success in this rapidly evolving online world.
Even though agents have been told that they should be blogging, understanding all of the tools, tricks and systems required for implementing an effective Social Media strategy is an overwhelming challenge that most busy real estate agents simply don’t have enough time for.
However, for a real estate company, building a strong web presence must be a priority if they want to help their agents gain a competitive advantage in the local marketplace.
While there are several DIY trail-blazers that are willing to openly share the process of how they failed their way to success on the web, brokerage owners don’t necessarily have the luxury of being able to test a few Internet Marketing strategies until they get it right.
Agents, support staff, listing clients, landlords…. are all counting on their real estate firm to execute an online agenda that provides measurable results.
Our real estate business is finally at the point where we have to budget for a full-time social media department in order to simply maintain current traffic and rankings.
So, whether you’re in the process of researching virtual assistants or considering hiring an in-house Social Media Manager, the following outline is what we used to qualify and structure the roles our Internet Marketing team would be responsible for:
An Internet Marketing / Social Media Manager’s Roles:
An Internet Marketing Manager that is responsible for overseeing a complex and high powered online presence for a real estate brokerage will have to balance the delicate relationship between SEO, SEM, Social Networking, PR, REALTOR Code of Ethics and client / agent legalities.
Keeping in mind that real estate professionals “close” transactions, the person in charge of social media is simply there to enable the agents’ success.
Web activities and priorities fall under the following three categories:
1. SEO – Search Engine Optimization
2. Social Media Monitoring
3. Social Networking / Community Engagement
Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
With an emphasis on building perpetual equity in the real estate brokerage’s online presence, the Internet Marketing Manager’s focus should be on search engine optimization activities that will increase the authority and reach of the company’s proprietary web site and blogs.
Daily Content Creation -
Content is the foundation that search engine marketing equity is built on.
Obviously, above and beyond any SEO value, writing excellent articles that are relevant to your audience is one way to become known as the professional voice in your local real estate market.
Since blogging is difficult for agents, especially if they haven’t found a purpose that will motivate them through the late nights and learning curve, the in-house social media person should definitely have a passion for writing.
Other Examples Of Content Creation: Adding new articles to the company’s blogs / site, updating neighborhood pages for IDX search, auto-responders for IDX registration, blogging on authority domains, writing creative copy for link bait, managing guest bloggers, updating listings on high traffic real estate sites and integrating video and photo slide shows.
Link Building -
I’ve heard that SEO is a team sport.
Just as high profile publicists have friends in the media, an Internet Marketing Manager should have a strong portfolio of authority sites and relationships that can be leveraged for SEO.
Obviously, it’s good to know the difference between black hat and white hat strategies to ensure you don’t accidentally get your site punished or banned. While there are some blatantly dirty SEO tactics, you’d be surprised how many honest mistakes bloggers make that could have a significant impact on their site’s existence in the search engines.
General Link Building Activities Inclue: Commenting on “Do-Follow” blog posts, article submission directories, trackback marketing and press releases.
Internal Page Structure -
Google’s mission is to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Clearly understanding a company’s internal page flow, link structure, sidebar and navigation architecture is an essential part of helping Google provide the most relevant search results that pertain to a real estate company’s market and niche.
In addition to satisfying the search engines, an Internet Marketing Manager should be able to display the content within a real estate web site so that the various target audiences can easily find answers to their home buying, renting or selling questions.
Agent / client relationships are built on trust, which is why it’s important to prove that you have the ability to lead a potential client through the complex real estate process by articulating the steps and challenges in a manner they can understand.
Examples: Designing strategic landing / information pages, monitoring analytics for high traffic exit & entrance pages, keyword research, proper use of anchor text, multi-site cross linking strategies and knowing how to use the top SEO plugins.
Social Media Monitoring
While SEO may be the driving force for most of the business generated online, there is a high level of social media engagement and Internet monitoring required to maintain public relations, promote the brand image, protect the company from damaging online conversations, as well as seek out new opportunities.
Web Listening Skills -
The high frequency of breaking news and relevant conversations that are happening in real-time across the web can literally drown a single individual in information, unless they have the technical savvy and experience to know how to find the right shiny objects to focus on at any given moment.
Mastering Google Reader, Google Alerts, advanced search strategies and other social monitoring web applications is the key to knowing which journalists, agents, consumers and other industry professionals require immediate attention.
Press Releases -
Social Media Monitoring isn’t always about being on the defensive and playing a reactionary role to the hot topics of the day.
By monitoring and paying attention to the right social media noise, an Internet Marketing Manager will be able to find angles on stories and news that would potentially benefit the real estate company through press releases.
Being a newsmaker vs commentator or curator is an approach very few real estate professionals consider as part of their online marketing or social media strategy.
Social Networking / Community Engagement
Developing relationships with other real estate professionals, journalists and high traffic blog owners is an important component of SEO, SEM and referrals.
But, maintaining a separate online presence for B2B and B2C marketing requires a higher level of technical literacy than most full-time agents have the time to learn or keep up with.
Social Networks -
Updating specific Facebook business pages, cross referencing on multiple Twitter accts, Google reviews, Yelp, Google Reader, social book marking sites….. to build a following of both industry professionals and locals can easily become a full-time job by itself.
Blog Commenting -
Regardless of the SEO benefits, commenting on high traffic industry blog articles will increase the exposure the real estate company has to other agents across the country.
Either way, it’s important to support other industry bloggers by participating in the conversations on their blogs.
Bottom line, blogging is a lonely sport. So, it’s nice to be recognized for your work when you’ve spend a weekend or late night writing.
I’m sure that the few professional real estate social media managers reading this post will have plenty to add or debate, which is awesome. However, my main objective for starting this list was to give real estate brokers a high-level perspective of a few areas that an Internet Marketing / Social Media Manager would be responsible for.
I’ve spoken with a few brokers and agents that think it’s as easy as contracting work out to their high school kids or paying someone from across the ocean $3 / hour to build links by leaving spam comments on blog posts.
Yes and No, but someone still has to oversee the big picture.
Either way, it is becoming more difficult to find success on the web, due to the fierce competition, advanced technical literacy required and strength some of the early adopters have gained over time.
I’ve actually chosen to take over this role for our real estate company for at least the year, since I have a vested interest in our success.
As always, I’d be happy to help answer questions or network with anyone who is facing similar challenges or objectives as us.