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6 Things To Consider When Working with a Social Media Management Firm

April 10 2012

So it appears that I have stirred up a little controversy on the Internets this past week. If you haven't read it, I wrote a blog post about 3 reasons REALTORS® should outsource their social media efforts3 reasons REALTORS® should outsource their social media efforts.

By putting myself and my "blunt, to-the-point" opinions out in public, for anyone to read, I understand that I'm going to be called to task occasionally. Not only that, people are going to tell me why they feel I'm wrong, give me an example to illustrate their point and why they feel they are correct. This is what is called "constructive dialogue."

All in all, there was a great deal of spirited, passionate and constructive conversation that took place this past week. I can't tell you how many phone calls and emails I received from people that were passionate about my article, with opinions on both sides of the fence. For that, I thank you.

So without further delay, here are six things to consider when choosing and working with a social media management / brand monitoring firm.

A relationship with a marketing firm is kind of like a marriage. You will tell the firm things about your business that are not public knowledge. You are busy, all the time, so you need to be working with a firm that is "in tune" with you and knows your real estate practice's brand, voice, and value proposition so well that it's like second nature to them, thus freeing you up to run the operations of your day-to-day business.

Last, but certainly not least, just like all marriages, you are going to hit bumps in the road. It's critical that your relationship is strong enough that both sides are able to constructively address and remedy the situation in the fastest method possible, allowing regular business to resume.

To those ends, here are six things I always present to a prospective real estate client (as well as suggest they ask any other agencies they may be interviewing) when meeting with them for the first time to determine if the two of us "are a good fit."

 

1) Make sure the firm you work with gives you some sort of monitoring panel that you can access to see how things are going, at any time.

There is a lot of trust that goes into working with an outside agency. Even though you may have found the "perfect match" for your needs, it is always a prudent idea to take the stance of "trust, but verify." The easiest way to do this is by having them give you login access to the social media / brand monitoring control panel they are using to manage your campaigns.

If you are a firm like mine, you'll have your own private-label solution that handles every aspect of the campaigns. There are many control panel solutions out on the market though, so even if it's not their own, don't stress. The key thing here is that they need to give you access so you can see how the messages that are being deployed look, what feedback is coming in, and how it's being responded to.

Now it is true that you could just go to each one of your online properties and look this information up--but you're busy! Why go to many places when it can all easily be handled in one place?

If you interview a firm that does not have some sort of control panel and login access for you or your team, eliminate them from the pool of prospective vendors. While they are no doubt good people, they most likely do not specialize in social media management, or online marketing, so it's probably not worth the risk.

2) Be understanding of an agency's social media portfolio.

While we may post work we do for our real estate partners in our blog and on our website, we rarely, if ever, post anything related to the social media projects we work on for these REALTORS®. There is a very valid reason for that:

Most of our real estate clients DO NOT want the public to know that their social media is run by an outside firm.

Would knowing this fact turn people away from doing business with them? Most likely not. But it is what the REALTOR® has requested, and as a professional firm, we grant their wish. That said, when contacted by a prospective client, we are more than happy to share our projects with them, in a one-on-one webinar or an in-person meeting (translation: NOT on the internet where anyone can see).

So, when you start your web search for prospective firms, don't be discouraged if you don't see any of their social media work online. Also, don't get upset when, if asked to see it, they require an online or in-person consultation. They are more than likely just granting their client's privacy wishes, which of course would extend to you and your real estate practice, should you decide to retain their services.

3) Make sure any firm you interview is well versed in ALL the latest platforms (even if you don't intend on using them all).

Even if you don't plan on using every social media platform that is out there, it is very important that any firm you interview is well versed in all platforms, especially the latest and greatest.

If they are not, it may be an indication that they are "fat and happy," and not interested in improving their services. The thing about social media is that it moves quickly. Take a break even for a few months and you can get blown right by.

4) Make sure you have a dedicated person working on your account.

Again, you are entering into a relationship with this firm. For them to truly speak with the correct voice and brand positioning for your real estate practice, they have to think just like you, finish your sentences and truly "know" what you want.

The best way to accomplish this is to have a single person dedicated to your account that runs lead. The reason for this is that they will get to know you and your business well, and all the above described things will fall into place.

5) Be understanding.

What you are about to embark on is a process, not an overnight quick fix. The reality is that these efforts could take 3-6 months to gain full steam. While you obviously have to have benchmarks in place, it is important that those benchmarks are realistic.

One of the most common things we do with a new REALTOR® client is to start out with a six-month agreement. We have a formal analysis meeting at the three-month mark, and then a final review at the six-month mark. This allows our client to be satisfied that things are going in the direction we have promised. It also gives us the opportunity to make changes mid-way through the initial agreement should something need changed up.

We find that after this kind of start-up period, REALTORS® are much more comfortable and willing to agree to long term arrangements.

6) Set realistic benchmarks to track progress.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The number of followers DOES NOT equate to a successful social media campaign.

If anyone ever comes to you and promises you X number of followers in an allotted amount of time, throw them out of your office. If you have 1 million Facebook fans that NEVER interact with your posts, then who cares? Low interaction rates mean your posts never show up in anyone's news feeds and all that work is being done for NOTHING.

Instead of number of fans, calculate fan interaction. For instance, sticking with the Facebook page example, if your current fan interaction rate is 3%, perhaps set a goal for your firm of 8% or 10%.

Trust me on this. I would rather have 500 rabid fans on a fan page than 2,000 fans that could care less about my brand and what I offer.

If you follow these steps, you should be able to comfortably know that you have made the right choice when choosing a firm to work with you and your Real Estate practice. If you would like to discuss your current social media strategy, and if our firm might be a good fit for your needs, please feel free to contact me anytime.

For more great content from Christopher Leo, visit his contributor profile on RE Technology.