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Two-faced?

Facebook has been an established internet presence since its conception in 2004, and during 2009 it expanded beyond the realms of social interaction to become a growing commercial force. Much has been said about the benefits of its use in business, but what are the implications for the property market? Some agents recognise the need for Facebook, but don’t know exactly why. Others are sceptical about Facebook as a viable means of doing business, dismissing it as a purely social site designed for chat between friends. In essence, they are right. Facebook is just that, a social network, but it is precisely because of this that it can be a powerful tool for you to use. The social network should not be dismissed, but rather embraced.

Word of mouth PR has always been a powerful tool; an opinion from a trusted source is worth infinitely more than an advertisement. Generating a “like” on Facebook will instantly communicate this action to all of that person’s friends and family online who in turn could further recommend your brand. The exponential growth nature of social media can mean a recommendation is soon communicated to thousands of people, any of whom could be a potential client.

Of course, exposure on Facebook isn’t going to instantly breed a desire for everyone viewing to sell or buy a house, just as a billboard by a roadside, or an advert in the paper won’t instill than same desire either. However, the brand exposure, the constant reinforcement of your brand recommended by their friends over any other, will ensure that your business is the first name on their lips when they do. Facebook shouldn’t be viewed in a different light to any other marketing or PR tool, the only difference is the sheer numbers of people your brand could be exposed to. In fact, the only real difference is the cost; Facebook is substantially cheaper than any other marketing or PR avenue giving you a far greater return on investment.

In addition, generating a “like” on Facebook will give you key information about that person. Demographics, interests and contact details will be accessible to your business. In effect, Facebook will generate contact lists and potential customer avenues for you, without any need for you to collate this information for yourself. Social networks are a social net, ensnaring vital information that you would otherwise spend hours trying to collect. They are also a bridge, enabling you to maintain relationships with past vendors, landlords and buyers.

However, some agents ask, am I collecting the right information through Facebook? Am I appealing to the right audience? Does Facebook provide the correct demographic for my business? Well, the simple answer is yes. Over a third of the UK population is on Facebook, 81per cent of whom are over 18. In addition, half of all Facebook users are friends with at least one of their parents.
Facebook is no longer the realm of the teenager, but an advanced network across all demographics.

Of course, understanding how Facebook could potentially benefit your business is fine, but realistically, can one expect to generate real revenue, directly or indirectly, from this avenue?

A recent Deloitte survey measured Facebook’s economic impact in Europe. It found that Facebook’s broad effect, which takes into account third party activity as a result of the Facebook ecosystem, was worth £12.64 billion. A huge part of this valuation is classed as business participation, enabling businesses to raise awareness of their products and therefore generate new sales and referrals through Facebook business pages. The reason Facebook’s stock market valuation is so high is precisely because of its effect on business and its ability to increase brand awareness, and in turn generate sales and referrals.

Your business potential to generate sales is part of the reason Facebook is valued so highly, so you should grab this opportunity with both hands and ensure you reap the rewards on offer. Many household brands are now using Facebook to attract followers and fans. You’ll notice that on the majority of adverts on television, companies will ask the viewers to find their Facebook page, and post links to their social networking sites rather than their website address. Companies are actively promoting their social networking pages over and above their company website, which is a huge shift in their behaviour.

Some estate agencies such as Chesterton Humberts, have embraced this new outlook. They integrated PropertyPage (www.thepropertypage.com), a property search app that allows visitors to their page to search, share and like their properties across the UK and actively promoted its new tool. With so many agents already on board, as well as the compelling evidence for its use, the key question is can you afford to be left behind?

For more hints and tips on social media use, please visit: www.thepropertypage.com
Oliver Chapple is CEO Webdadi Ltd. www.webdadi.com

FACEBOOK AND TEXTING: THE AGENTS’ VIEWS

Facebook – yes!

Facebook page image“I think it would be foolish to ignore a communication platform such as Facebook, that boasts over 800 million users, half of which will log-in to their account every day. At Chesterton Humberts, we have embraced this opportunity to interact with clients and buyers and have recently re-launched our Facebook page with an innovative new property search function, allowing sellers to showcase their properties to the online community and house hunters to find their next property with the involvement of their friends and family.

“We understand that looking for a new home is an essential, but often tiring and frustrating process and are continually working on projects like the Facebook search and our mobile App in order to make it as simple, accessible and as hassle-free as possible.”

Chesterton Humberts is the only national estate agent to offer a property search function on Facebook, allowing users to remain on the Facebook website whilst browsing properties. Other agents’ Facebook pages require users to navigate away from the website to perform property searches or view search results, but this is unpopular with many users who prefer to stay on Facebook. Once someone becomes a Facebook ‘fan’ of Chesterton Humberts, they can use the company’s Facebook page to search for property according to area, rooms and price and then view and share the results of their search with friends and family. They can also book viewings and valuations and browse the ‘wall’ for news stories and market comment from industry experts.”

‘I think it’s foolish to ignore a communication platform that boasts 800 million users.’ Robert Bartlett, Chesterton Humberts

ROBERT BARTLETT CEO, CHESTERTON HUMBERTS

Facebook – no!

“It is called ‘Social Media’ for a reason. People are trying to give it a business aptitude and that’s where the dangers can lie.

“The recent launch of a new application in particular where landlords can target potential tenants and check their lifestyle, background and relationships online, I have found, in particular, to be shocking.

Although it will allow agents and landlords to advertise properties for sale or rent to a large audience, it opens up an opportunity for landlords to search potential tenant’s personal information and judge what they are like by looking at their photos and interaction with friends. This concerns me.

Many people using Facebook play out their whole lives online, and have personal information on there that they cannot get rid of. A young man might be in a steady relationship now, but have photos uploaded by himself or others from a few years back of a lad’s holiday, and he might be discarded as a tenant because of it.”

“Social media sites offer potential access to a huge personal database of people, the ability to intrude into people’s personal space, through them allowing access, due to their interest in a property seems incredibly intrusive. With regard to those who are running these new applications how do they know that the information being uploaded is factually correct?

The marketing of property might be a ruse to gain access to people on social media sites. There are many innovative and established methods for prospective tenants to find properties, and I strongly recommend that landlords receive professional management services to ensure that their tenants are referenced by the book. In the majority of cases, a house is a person’s biggest asset and it should be looked after in this way. Traditional methods shouldn’t be forgotten.”

SARAH RUSHBROOK RUSHBROOK & RATHBONE

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