Your audience is on social media! The majority of landlords and tenants are likely to be using some form of social media pretty much every single week, if not every day.
Why should letting agents use social media?
The lettings industry as a whole, however, has been relatively slow to jump on board and fully take advantage of the tremendous power of social media for getting the right message in front of the right people. While television, radio and newspaper advertising has been successfully used by agencies for years, the opportunities to get yourself known and heard online by the right people are immense, and generally come at a far lower cost.
Although you can be pretty confident that advertising via traditional means will ensure you reach a wide audience, you have limited control over who that audience is. Social media allows you to target at a truly micro level, which means reaching a smaller audience but with far more control over exactly who they are - and with less spend involved. Another advantage lies in the ability to monitor this advertising in real time, and subsequently adjust or fine-tune a campaign accordingly to ensure optimum results.
Importantly, with GDPR on the horizon, social media will become an even more useful marketing platform for letting agents everywhere. With digital marketing moving into an opt-in only world, the fact that users of social media have essentially already agreed to be advertised to via the acceptance of channels’ respective terms of membership will become key.
Start a blog
Effective marketing via social media is not just a matter of posting an inspirational photo on Twitter or Instagram and a link to one of your currently available properties on Facebook. To really harness the potential of these platforms requires a coordinated and consistent strategy that plays to the strengths of each respective channel used, driven primarily by strong content that your target audience will want to see and share. Sales are really just the tip of the iceberg. So if you haven’t done so already, start a blog!
There are so many opportunities for creating quality and shareable blog content geared towards your different audiences including, for example:
- Thought and comment from your experts on current topics of interest, such as the tenant fee ban or changes to legislation that will affect landlords
- A checklist for tenants who are moving house, or advice on how to give yourself the best chance of passing a reference check
- Case studies and customer stories that demonstrate satisfied clients and therefore provide social proof of your agency’s success
It really is important to remember that your audiences don’t use social media in order to be sold to, so it is key that the content you share doesn’t generally look like advertising. In order to generate engagement, interaction and a positive response, a post ideally needs to fit well into a user’s newsfeed either by:
- providing some kind of value or sparking genuine interest, or
- standing out by being brilliant - not because it looks like a cold and commercial advert amongst everything else
Your existing followers are clearly the people who (in theory) see your social posts by default. However organic reach is declining - the social media world is very busy, there is a constant stream of content everywhere, and the hard truth is that realistically you now need to pay in order to give yourself the best chance of social success.
Boost your posts to help them get seen by your followers, but also pay to reach others. Because the social landscape is so crowded, try and really focus your efforts by targeting specific groups who are likely to respond well to what you have to say. And even though we call this concept 'advertising', it's best to try and make it look like anything but.
Make a splash on Facebook
Putting a budget - even a relatively small one - behind your Facebook posts is a quick and simple way of increasing the reach of your message across the platform, and can provide you with greater visibility amongst potential tenants and landlords than more established local competitors in a very short space of time if done correctly. By utilising Facebook’s targeting functionality you can, for example, promote a post to any or a combination of the following:
- Potential tenants who live in very specific parts of your local area
- Potential landlords who follow or like a combination of accounts that you specify (such as leading landlord or letting industry publications)
- People who have already visited certain pages of your website but aren’t yet on your customer database
You can then use demographic targeting to ensure your post is seen by people of specific age ranges, certain salaries, particular interests, relationship statuses and many more variables besides. Looking to promote your student properties? Try targeting 18-21 year-olds who live in the area and are listed as studying at or 'liking' the local university.
Why not, for example, create a dynamic audience of users who have been visiting your listings in the last 30 days and ‘retarget’ your latest properties to them? You can get as granular as you want - perhaps filter out your existing customer base and split the remaining audience into sub-groups based on the kinds of properties they’ve viewed. You can categorise by number of bedrooms, area of town, monthly rent, or maybe even properties that are pet-friendly - and by using this data effectively you can be confident that your specific property adverts will be seen by people with a genuine interest in what you are looking to promote.
NB When using personal data for advertising purposes it's important that you adhere to data protection laws. The ICO's Guide to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) contains extensive information to help organisations comply with GDPR requirements.
Position yourself as an expert on LinkedIn
LinkedIn isn’t the place to post links to your available properties or to shout about your latest deal. It is, however, a perfect platform for positioning yourself as a thought-leader in the lettings industry, and for identifying and engaging with landlords and potential investors.
LinkedIn has experienced a sharp growth in daily use over the last 12 months as people begin to treat it as a genuine B2B platform rather than just a way of finding a new job, and through regular comment, thought and engagement from both your brand and your key people you can position yourself as a trustworthy, knowledgeable and engaging agency who others will want to do business with. Your thought leadership and commentary blogposts from earlier will be key here, and these can also be repurposed as articles within LinkedIn’s native publishing platform - potentially reaching even wider audiences and demonstrating to other businesses that you are a strong player in your industry and/or region.
Make powerful connections on Twitter
By using Twitter effectively you can really place yourself amongst the local community and beyond by following and engaging with relevant local businesses, publications, journalists and experts.
The agencies who do well on Twitter are the ones who put themselves at the heart of relevant discussion and prove to be a knowledgeable (but humble) source of valued insight and content. Typically, they:
- share interesting and timely content - which could be their own or that of a trusted third party who is likely to also be of interest to their followers
- don’t constantly shout about themselves, or use automated tools that brag about how many new followers they’ve accrued in the previous week (a figure which is of interest to precisely no one outside of the business)
- respond quickly to questions, acknowledge positive feedback, and deal proactively with anything more negative
Through the building of online relationships with key real-life businesses and relevant individuals, it’s possible to create brand ambassadors who can help to ensure your voice is far more likely to be heard in the right spaces and by the right audience.
Plan and be organised
Probably the most important thing to do when it comes to using social media as a business is to plan. Make sure you use (and stick to) a content calendar. A good rule of thumb is to divide your social media output into category types, and try to stick to them. For example, a good regular aim might be:
- 50% - own content (not salesy)
- 35% - third party content and industry news
- 15% - more salesy content, including outright adverts for properties available to let
By using the bulk of your social media quota to provide value through your own content and advice, or to share the strong and relevant word of others, you 'earn the right' to be a bit more salesy and business-focused with the remainder of your posts. They are more likely to be well-received and shared than the output of a business who use social media channels purely as self-promotional sales tools.
Even when you’re not generating sales or leads on a daily basis through social media, the halo effect caused by keeping your brand in the positive thoughts of potential landlords and tenants can’t be underestimated when it comes to the point at which they do actually require your services.
There are 42 million users registered with social media accounts in the UK, so it is a vital landscape to promote your brand, services and properties. Different social media channels should always be used in ways best suited to their individual strengths but the general principles remain the same whether you are using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other such platforms - engage, share, provide value, and in doing so really earn the right to make the most of the powerful opportunities available to promote your services and properties to the right potential customers.