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Integrating Social Media into Real Estate Search

Differentiating between social media vs. inbound marketing and leveraging social media to grow brand.

Want the short version? Download the Inman Slide Presentation

The inside joke for social networking at Hawaii Life is “social not working.” That’s because our agents get lost in Facebook and Google +, not because social media doesn’t work. Social media does work, just not how we at Hawaii Life traditionally think about marketing. Maybe that’s because what is traditional at Hawaii Life is not traditional at all—and why, when we try to explain our business model, people look at us confused…like we’re from the future.

Hawaii Life is largely built on an inbound marketing platform, which we see as the norm. Inbound marketing, as defined by Hubspot, is “where you help yourself ‘get found’ by people already learning about and shopping in your industry.” If you’re not familiar with inbound marketing, I highly recommend Hubspot’s article. When reading the article, you’ll notice that Hubspot includes social media as a form of inbound marketing. We’ve tested this theory extensively and found that this is not the case, at least when it comes to integrating social media in real estate search. Our research shows that social media is more inline with traditional outbound marketing (a.k.a interruption marketing) like a television commercial or email blast to a large mailing list. Let’s see why:

Note: Want the short and sweet version? Here’s the PDF used to present this information at Inman Connect NY, 2012.

1) Search engine traffic has the potential to drive more traffic, but social media is growing more rapidly.

Insight: Search engine traffic (SE) = 225,592 visits vs Facebook (FB) = 6,111 visits. Year over year traffic growth for FB is more than 10x greater than SE. However, a majority of this growth can be attributed to integrating FB into search, so we can’t expect this rate of growth to continue. We can expect FB growth to outpace SE, but even at this rate FB traffic is nowhere near catching up to Google, but we expect it to surpass Bing and Yahoo in roughly 2-3 years (maybe sooner).

Another thing to note is that bounce rate is considerably higher for FB traffic. We’ll talk about why later.

2) Search engine traffic is driving the growth of our social media.

Insight: What’s interesting about this strategy is that search engines are driving the growth of Facebook traffic. Here’s how: When somebody finds HawaiiLife.com through Google and does a real estate search on our website, we make it easy for them to share property detail pages through FB, Twitter and Google +1. When a user “shares” the property, that property goes out to that person’s “friends.” The majority of traffic we see from Facebook is when one of those “friends” sees that property on their wall and comes to Hawaii Life to view the page the original person shared. Looking at HawaiiLife.com’s Facebook Insights, we know we get roughly 1,200 impressions per comment, share or like (tip: the more responses and likes a comment gets, the more chance it has at being placed on their friend’s walls). So, if 3 people share a property detail page it has the potential to be seen by 3,600 people.

3) This type of marketing is more inline with traditional advertising and should be used to grow awareness of the brand—NOT drive leads.

Insight: Remember when we talked about bounce rate earlier? The reason why Facebook’s traffic bounce rate is so high is because people are not engaging with the website once they get there. Instead, they’re checking out the property their friend is interested in. These visitors are not “already learning about and shopping in your industry,” as Hubspot defines inbound marketing. Instead they are being “interrupted” by what their friend is doing. What’s great is that Hawai Life is not interrupting them, their friend is. So, it’s much more acceptable and does not bring the negative connotation that an email blast does.

It is important to note that this type of outbound marketing traffic will not generate leads or sales like search engine inbound marketing traffic. That’s because the user is not actively looking for your product or services. However, like a television commercial, it is growing brand awareness.

4) Effectively handling social communication with Facebook leads.

Insight: We’re not saying that Facebook traffic doesn’t create sales. We know it can because it happens at Hawaii Life. However, you cannot treat a Facebook lead like a standard website lead. We’ve tried this approach and failed miserably. Every time we’ve asked for the sale on a Facebook lead, communication stops abruptly. What we’ve found to be most effective is to provide the information the consumer is asking for freely. When the person is ready to buy, they will contact you directly.

Another important thing to note is that the 6,111 visits from Facebook does not clearly communicate the effectiveness of this brand marketing. Just in the month of December 2011 Hawaii Life had 267 shares from its detail pages. With an average 1,200 impressions per engagement, Hawaii Life’s brand has potentially reached 323,828 people in one month. By providing, good, timely, free information, the user’s Facebook friends will see these communications, creating buyers and sellers down the road if these friends ever decide to buy real estate in our market.

5) Another benefit to integrating social in search is that social shares are becoming a stronger ranking factor in search engine algorithms.

Insight: Google’s algorithm is clearly showing the importance of social media in ranking results, which seems to be getting stronger daily. So, by integrating social into search, you are also improving search engine rankings and driving more traffic through Google, Bing and Yahoo.

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CJ

January 19, 2012

Great inexpensive advertising at it’s best. With all this brand awareness Hawaii Life should open a merchandising store and start selling some gear online. It’s not only a brand but a way of life…

CJ

January 19, 2012

Great inexpensive advertising at it’s best. With all this brand awareness Hawaii Life should open a merchandising store and start selling some gear online. It’s not only a brand but a way of life…

Justin - Head of Innovation

January 19, 2012

I wouldn’t call it inexpensive!

Katie Minkus, R(BIC)

January 19, 2012

LOL – @Justin, you make me laugh!!

Seriously, though, this is great information – thank you!! I’m a huge fan of the FB plugin on the detail page and use it to post content to my FB Business Page, where people have specifically signed up to follow my business and the information I post about Real Estate. It’s a fantastic tool and sellers love it!

The Hawaii Life brand is outstanding. The support Hawaii Life offers it’s Brokers and agents is unsurpassed in Hawaii. The exposure we offer our sellers is incredible. CJ is right, we need to sell gear.

Justin - Head of Innovation

January 19, 2012

I wouldn’t call it inexpensive!

Katie Minkus, R(BIC)

January 19, 2012

LOL – @Justin, you make me laugh!!

Seriously, though, this is great information – thank you!! I’m a huge fan of the FB plugin on the detail page and use it to post content to my FB Business Page, where people have specifically signed up to follow my business and the information I post about Real Estate. It’s a fantastic tool and sellers love it!

The Hawaii Life brand is outstanding. The support Hawaii Life offers it’s Brokers and agents is unsurpassed in Hawaii. The exposure we offer our sellers is incredible. CJ is right, we need to sell gear.

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