It’s been awhile since we’ve had a From the Trenches post! Our last interview was with Bill Gassett, a real estate agent and expert online marketer. This week, we’re excited to bring you a Q&A from Mark Traphagen, a Google+ genius and digital marketing extraordinaire.
Mark Traphagen is currently the Senior Director of Online Marketing at Stone Temple Consulting, an agency out of Boston. With a social network of over 80,000 people, Mr. Traphagen knows what it takes to get an audience and keep them. Mark is a contributor to many blogs, including Moz, Maximize Social Business, Search Engine Land, and Bill Gassett’s website, Maximum Exposure Real Estate. Mark is also an in demand speaker at many conferences across the country, including PubCon and SMX. He has taken some time out of his hectic schedule to give us some fantastic tips to pass along to all of you.
Q. You’re a Google+ master. What benefits do you see from Real Estate Agents moving to that G+? Do you think that it’s better than some of the others for generating leads? What pointers would you give to first time Google+ users?
A. I actually don’t try to sell social media in general to anyone as the best means of generating direct sales or leads. Those can happen from social media, but they’re rare, and not really the role of social media. Social media does its best work higher up in the sales funnel. Along with your content, it’s where you establish your “creds.” It’s where you demonstrate that you’re trustworthy, that you’re an expert in your field, that you’re helpful, and that you listen and respond. Social media is where you turn your brand from “just another brand” to “a brand I love (or respect).” Then you work to capture a dedicated audience out of those people who trust you, by getting them on your email list, subscribed to your YouTube channel, etc. It’s in those channels that you win your leads and sales.
So what is the benefit of Google+ in that role? Simple (well, simple to say, but real work to execute): Google+ is the best opportunity ever to gain real authority with Google. How does that benefit you? Google search is still the number one place people turn when they want to learn about something or are ready to make a purchase. You want to show up there when they do. Google is using Google+ as one way of assessing who the persons and brands are that matter. In addition, if you build a large network there, you’re potentially influencing the search results of all those people (and possibly their followers as well) when they search Google while logged in to their accounts. Google uses Google+ to personalize search, and if you have content on G+ (or that has been plussed or shared on G+) relevant to what they are searching, that content can get elevated in their search results.
Q. What are some tips for the people who don’t think they have time for their own marketing and no money to pay for others to do their marketing?
A. Well, if you have no time or resources for marketing, your business is already dead of dying 😉 But everyone’s time and resources are limited, of course. It may surprise small business owners, but at Stone Temple Consulting we work with a lot of major brands, and at scale, they face the same dilemmas of time and limited resources.
In social media marketing, I recommend starting small and focused, and then branching out. Actually, your best investment these days is in first building really great, useful content on your own site. That content shouldn’t be sales messages, and shouldn’t be focused on just existing for search keywords. Instead, it should be truly useful, answering the questions you know your prospects have better than anyone else in your market. For example, you might write an article about the neighborhoods in your territory that have the best-rated schools but still have affordable housing.
That content becomes your calling card. First of all, it lends credibility when people visit your site to check you out. But it also gives you something useful to share via social media. And it becomes worthwhile for your followers there to reshare with their followers.
After building content, building an audience is your next priority. Social media is great for that, but as we all know, it can become a tremendous time suck. Don’t feel like you need to start on every social network out there. Ask your existing customers where they spend their time online. Pick one or two networks to master before you expand. In your social posting, go for around 20% sharing your own stuff, and 80% either sharing good, relevant content from others and/or engaging with people you want to get to know (and whom you want to know you). Strive to become a useful resource that people want to follow and recommend to others.
Q. How important is it to create and develop a personal brand, especially in regards to Real Estate? How should agents go about doing this?
A. I’m betting most real estate agents already understand the importance of a personal brand. I almost never see a billboard, newspaper ad, or shopping cart placard for real estate without the agent’s face featuring prominently. Real estate agents understand, perhaps better than most other businesses, that purchasing decisions, especially for something as major as property, are intensely personal and emotional. People want to hire an agent they feel like they will like and trust.
Want to know more about the importance of personal branding? Read this blog post.
Social media opens up tremendous opportunities for agents to create and enhance that personalism. Here we are, several years into the social media revolution, and most businesses still treat social networks like places to post ads. Real estate agents can really shine here. They know how to engage with people and make them feel relaxed, comfortable, and confident about a relationship. Make use of that in social media. Show that you are a real person. Demonstrate to people that you actually care and want to help them. You know, the exact same things you already do in face-to-face sales!
Q. What helps people in any industry succeed on social media? What should real estate agents do specifically?
A. The brands I see succeeding best on social media use it to humanize their businesses and build relationships with both their customers and prospects. That’s really the unique opportunity that we have now with the internet, and with social media in particular. Back in the Mad Men days, it was all a one-way and highly controlled message. It was what Seth Godin calls “interruption marketing.” You were interrupting people’s lives with a message you hoped would break few to enough of them, even though you were delivering it at a time and place when they weren’t looking for it.
Social media opens up the new world of “permission marketing.” When you get someone to follow you on social media, they have given you permission to communicate with them. That’s very precious, and you need to treat it as such, because they can take it away (unfollow) in an instant. So you need to continually make them feel like they made a good decision to follow you. Be helpful, entertaining (where appropriate), and informative.
Q. Any other tips or tricks or final comments?
A. Don’t let it overwhelm you! Following social media feeds and interacting with them can quickly take over your life, as we all know. Don’t feel like you have to be online 24/7. If you’re even just spending some defined time each day creating valuable content and interacting with at least a few people, you’re probably doing more than most of your competition. Then as your business grows (because of all the new leads you’re generating from feeding the top of your funnel!), you can afford to bring on help to expand your social media presence.
Thanks for taking time out to talk to us, Mark! Agents, if you would like to read more great content from Mark, you can add him on Google+ and Facebook, follow him on Twitter, @marktraphagen, or connect with him on LinkedIn.