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Relationships: The Power of Online Social Networking

Real estate marketing, be it at the corporate, property or personal level, has always relied heavily on relationships.

As we know, people do business with people they like, know, trust and can rely on for good information. The surging popularity of social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (which have seen their traffic increase by between 100 and 1,000 percent over the past year) can be explained largely by the effectiveness with which some people are using them to develop and enhance relationships.

At LoopNet, we have observed a significant and meaningful expansion of social media usage among our members, who are typically very technology savvy. Sixty-four percent of them believe that online networking with other professionals is critical to long-term career success. Thirty-nine percent have a Facebook account, 31 percent have a LinkedIn account and 11 percent have a Twitter account.

Brad Nix, a LoopNet member based in North Atlanta, is a broker and co-owner of Maxsell Real Estate and co-founder of REtechSouth. He observes that these Web sites provide an incredible opportunity to do "real-world networking without having to get dressed up…an opportunity to grow your sphere of influence, including with existing relationships, and add value to others in the networks."

On Facebook, he advises, real estate professionals might benefit from starting neighborhood pages in their markets to attract visitors with local interests who are willing to contribute content. Or real estate pros can establish company pages (separate from personal profiles) to explicitly promote their businesses and services. Property listings could be posted on company pages; your “Friends” would naturally discover your listings through the link between your personal and company pages.

He also suggests setting up automated alerts and conducting periodic content searches of social networking sites in the interest of gleaning bits of information that could be valuable, such as about a local company contemplating a relocation.

From Nix and other leaders in this space, these conclusions about social media can be drawn:

It's about sharing, not selling. In other words, networking in the interest of developing and strengthening relationships with people who might be customers one day or could refer someone they know to you or your firm.

It's typically about quality, not quantity. To the extent that relationships nurtured online produce business leads, they may be fewer but they should be of better quality. That said, there is a multiplier effect with these sites: Heavy-duty use of social networks could produce a high quantity of leads over time.

It's about information. People sometimes say things online in their blogs or Tweets before it's officially known to a broader audience. To the extent you are part of someone's network, you may learn valuable information.

Recognizing the growth in this area, and in the interest of helping our members expand their reach, LoopNet recently launched a new tool allowing members to post listings to online social networks. Through the "Property Profile" page of each LoopNet listing, visitors can choose to propagate listings to Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

This allows LoopNet members to take full advantage of the power of their personal networks, either to solicit feedback or insight on properties they are thinking of buying or leasing, or for identifying potential buyers or tenants for properties they are marketing. Think about these networks as a Rolodex on steroids.

So here we are 14 years after the launch of LoopNet, itself an Internet pioneer, integrating new media with even newer media in the interest of driving commercial real estate professionals' success through relationship building. What's next?

Mike Manning is vice president of marketing for LoopNet Inc., which operates the leading online commercial real estate marketplace.

--Commercial Property News