A recent article entitled “How the Web is Ruining Real Estate” has ignited quite the firestorm among agents.
The article, published by Realtor magazine, detailed comments made at the RE Tech South Conference that accused social networks of harming the real estate industry.
Was Realtor magazine correct? Is social media marketing really ruining real estate? Let’s take a closer look at the debate.
Is social media replacing “real” relationships?
“Social media is affecting not only our businesses but our personal interactions,” said Jeff Turner, the conference’s opening keynote speaker. Turner, president of web development firm Zeek Interactive, pointed out that real estate professionals are being “seduced” by social media to the detriment of their careers and personal relationships.
Turner went on to describe a colleague who was so focused on maintaining social media networks that he had trouble focusing on conversations with his family.
“The feedback I get online is more satisfying” than interactions with family, the man reportedly told Turner.
Constant social media monitoring can also detract from the daily chores of being a real estate agent. Managing showings, phone calls, negotiations and listing appointments is difficult enough without tossing a handful of social networking sites into the mix.
Is social media worth the cost?
Maintaining a consistent presence on social media networks may be cost-ineffective, added Turner. Turner stated that while “likes” and “shares” are personally rewarding, their business value may be minimal.
And it’s hard to argue with that. The significance of a “like” has been annoyingly difficult to track, leaving many analysts guessing about the true value of social media marketing.
But services like Google+ and Facebook are heeding the valuation call and ramping up engagement and conversion metrics in 2012. Better analytics will hopefully steer real estate professionals in a more informed direction.
Is social media frying your brain?
An intense focus on social media feedback could even be changing your brain’s chemistry, suggested Matthew Shadbolt, director of interactive marketing for the Corcoran Group.
Shadbolt explained to conference attendees that positive feedback from any source, including social media, causes oxytocin to be released in the brain. Oxytocin creates a calm, soothing and pleasurable feeling. Pursuit of that feeling can cause social media participants to behave abnormally.
Shadbolt said some social media users abandon creativity and original thought to conform to the views of their followers. Others behave outlandishly, making controversial comments simply to incite a reaction.
Plus, constant monitoring of multiple networks may be shortening attention spans and diffusing concentration. As Oxford pharmacology professor Susan Greenfield has pointed out, social media interactions are short term and characterized by quick bursts of contact.
“As a consequence, the mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilized, characterized by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathize and a shaky sense of identity,” Greenfield said in a Guardian article.
“When all of these factors collide, they make people self-absorbed, unfocused, and lethargic in their relationships outside the virtual sphere,” wrote Realtor magazine columnist Brian Summerfield. “And it doesn’t take an expert to help real estate professionals understand why that’s bad for business.”
Moderation is key
Each of these alarming omens can be tempered with simple moderation. As FixCourse.com founder Brad Smith said, “Contrary to social media gurus, the most important part of your day is real work.”
What does this mean for agents? Facebook is not going to return your phone calls, and Twitter is not going to submit listings to your MLS.
If you’re attempting to manage your clients and run a successful social media campaign, you’ll need to schedule your social media use. Don’t spend the entirety of every day monitoring your “like” counters and “re-tweets.” Dedicate a few small chunks of time each day to your social media marketing.
Don’t forget to automate your content as much as possible. Use tools like HootSuite to manage and measure multiple social networks, and schedule posts in advance.
And remember: Social media is an effective tool for any business person, but it’s only one facet of a successful marketing campaign. Keep sharpening your other tools, and maintain focus on the most important part of your business as an agent: building good relationships.
Photo courtesy of Jerry Bunkers