For commercial real estate professionals social media channels should be an integral part of their marketing strategy since they offer very real opportunities to reach out and engage with prospects in the places they spend their time.
But it’s not as simple as posting to Twitter every day, or spamming people with InMail on LinkedIn.
Social media for commercial real estate requires the savvy integration of content creation, hands-on outreach and engagement with your target audience, and clever advertising.
Every audience is unique. Every channel engages with those audiences in different ways. And your marketing strategy needs to adjust for several factors – from location to demographics to technology.
In this guide, we’re going to discuss the four biggest commercial real estate social media platforms, how to generate the right kind of content for each, and the tools and reporting metrics you should be using to measure ROI and continuously improve your efforts.
By setting clear goals and objectives, treating each channel as a unique opportunity to generate traffic, and leveraging the right tools, you can drive results for your business through the world’s largest online gathering spots.
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Setting Goals and Objectives
Maybe you’ve tried posting to social networks in the past and had minimal or no results. Or maybe you’ve just heard from other CRE professionals that it didn’t work for them.
The truth is that social media, like any other marketing channel is about targeting and having a plan.
A clear understanding of your target audience.
A laser focus on only the social channels where those prospects spend their time.
And an action plan for outreach to that audience.
Defining Your Audience
Who are you trying to reach? Where are they? What do they read about when they are online? The more detailed a profile you can sketch of your ideal audience, the more effective your social strategy will be.
Spend some time and outline exactly who you want to interact with online. This is going to directly inform the places you go to find them.
Focus on Appropriate Social Networks
Once you know your ideal target audience, you can look at the potential networks. There are hundreds of social media sites out there, and it’s tempting to throw time and investment into all of them to see what sticks.
Social media, however, is only as effective as the time you put into it. If you don’t spend the necessary time to make your efforts successful, they will fail. Posting to any one channel every week or two is pointless. So it’s important to narrow your focus to a small number of channels where you can drive results and then spend all of your available time and money there.
For commercial real estate professionals, the four most effective are going to be LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – each for different reasons, which we’ll dive into shortly.
Set a Strategy and Communication Plan
Now it’s time to set a clear strategy for what you plan to do with each of these channels. That means:
- Define Content – What will you post to each of these sites? Thought leadership, news, company updates, or something else entirely? This will largely depend on the channel and your business.
- Define Goals – It’s easy to get caught up in the vanity metrics that social media offer. And while there is some value in projecting an engaged audience through a large Twitter following or Facebook Page following, what specific things do you want to gain as a business? Is this strictly a branding exercise? Are you trying to generate leads? Are you angling for outreach opportunities? Be clear about your goals now to avoid disappointment later.
- Frequency of Posting – This is very important to set in advance. We’ll discuss shortly how often to post for each channel, but in advance of that, determine what your maximum available time will be. This may impact which channels you use. Create a calendar you can fill out based on this availability.
- Who Will be Involved? – Before diving into a promotional strategy, make sure you have clearly defined stakeholders. Who will post to each account? Who has access and when will they be permitted to post? What guidelines do posters need to follow? Who will produce content and visuals for the posts?
Using LinkedIn for real estate can be the most effective social media platform for CRE professionals, since it’s the single largest professional and B2B network in the world and offers ample opportunity for you to engage with prospects, potential partners, vendors, and much more.
The world’s business leaders come to LinkedIn to share their insights, making this the place to build a thought leadership portfolio, generate brand awareness among your peers and prospects, and directly generate leads both with content and advertising.
It’s also a very powerful recruiting platform. Some things to keep in mind as you build your LinkedIn presence:
- What to Build – Build up your personal profile to All-Star level, as well as a Business Page that users can follow and that allows you to run targeted Ad campaigns.
- What to Post – LinkedIn is the one social platform where updates about your business, new properties, and recent deals make sense. At the same time, articles with actionable advice related to the needs of your prospects is equally valuable. Consider posting on different topics and diversify between educational content and information about your business.
- When to Post – LinkedIn should be updated at least once a week, and preferably once every 2-3 days with a consistent schedule to remain top of mind for your prospects. Don’t post if you don’t have anything useful to post, but don’t leave this inactive.
- Types of Posts – The most effective content on LinkedIn is image-based. Links to articles with a feature image, or a single image with a write-up on the platform itself are both very effective ways to drive engagement. The more you can post on the LinkedIn platform the better.
The trickiest part of LinkedIn is that there are so many ways to post content here. This means a carefully planned strategy:
- Personal Updates – Your personal profile is often the first thing your prospects will see, whether through direct outreach or when researching your company. It should be fully optimized to describe your role in the company, what you personally offer, and links to your property websites, memberships in organizations, etc. Regular content shares each week are also highly recommended.
- Industry Groups – Industry groups on LinkedIn are almost all private, and are segmented most often by specific industries or job roles. They are fantastic spaces in which to share content with your peers, reach new prospects, and establish thought leadership.
- Company Updates – Your company page is a brochure by default – a line card of services and recent company news. But you can leverage it by building a large following of employees, clients, partners, and vendors who can then share your content.
- Pulse Articles – Pulse is the integrated publishing platform on LinkedIn. It allows you to write and share content with your followers, as well as a larger audience when it picks up enough momentum.
LinkedIn Groups for CRE
There are hundreds of quality private groups on LinkedIn, including a number designed specifically for CRE professionals and the industry at large.
Be sure to join these as part of your outreach and content distribution efforts:
- International Council of Shopping Centers – ICSC – Global trade association of the shopping center industry. Its more than 70,000 members in over 100 countries include shopping center owners, developers, managers, investors, retailers, brokers, academics, and public officials.
- Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA) – The leading trade association for commercial real estate professionals for more than 100 years, it represents the owners, managers, service providers and other property professionals of all commercial building types, including office, industrial, medical, corporate and mixed-use.
- Pete Asmus’ Real Estate Networking Group (Investor Strategies) – LinkedIn group focused on building a global Community on LinkedIn to provide networking opportunities for those dealing in commercial or residential real estate, including acquisitions, private lending, distressed notes, construction, design, green development, asset management, etc.
- Pete Asmus’ Commercial Real Estate Investment, Development, & Property Management – A commercial real estate group, for those structuring or negotiating developments, investments, workouts, note purchases, etc.
- National Real Estate Investor – For more than 50 years, NREI has been a leading authority on trends in the real estate markets, providing top-level executives with in-depth analysis of important industry developments.
- Corporate Real Estate – Network for CRE professionals engaged in the construction, design, development, site selection, leasing, brokerage, acquisition, disposition, program/project management, tenant representation, facilities management, and asset management of office, retail, land, industrial, commercial corporate real estate assets.
- Technology for Commercial Real Estate – Sharing experience and asking questions about technology challenges and triumphs in CRE business.
- Commercial Real Estate Executives – Commercial Real Estate Executives is a group of professionals that work within the commercial real estate industry including: corporate real estate executives; asset and portfolio managers; commercial real estate brokers; and developers.
- Social Media Commercial Real Estate – Who, What, How, Where and Why of Social Media for Commercial Real Estate Business.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth guide, here are some of the most important areas of an effective LinkedIn strategy and the things you can do right now to improve your performance on the platform.
Twitter has gained something of a reputation in recent years because of the way it is used by brands, politicians and celebrities.
For professionals in commercial real estate, however, it offers several benefits, with a relatively low barrier to entry compared to other platforms.
- What to Build – Twitter is one of the only social networks not to offer integrated brand pages. All twitter accounts are created equal, and as such you’ll need a unique account for your personal posts and for your brand. This profile should be linked to a company email address and accessible to anyone in the company who will post to it.
- What to Post – Spend five minutes on Twitter and you’ll see posts from journalists, politicians, television channels, and teenagers intermingled in the world’s largest chat feed. So what should you post? Keep it relevant and focused. A mix of content shared from your websites, comments on articles or news about commercial real estate, and responses to comments or questions by other users will ensure maximum engagement.
- When to Post – Because of the limited exposure of any one tweet, aim to post 3-5 times per day on Twitter. Timing matters less than frequency and relevancy.
- Types of Posts – Images increase engagement on Twitter by 10-25% depending on audience, so it’s important to integrate as many visuals as possible. Hashtags should be used liberally as well to tie your posts into existing conversations.
Twitter is all about volume.
The average tweet remains visible in the timeline of your followers for as little as 5 minutes and no more than 15 minutes. This means you need to post more frequently, and gain traction, soliciting likes, retweets, and responses. To do that, means you need to:
- Follow Target Audience Members and Industry Leaders – Make a list of thought leaders, business leaders, peers, and target markets you want to reach and look for them on twitter. Statistically, more than half of them will have accounts you can follow and engage with.
- Engage in Regular Conversations – Twitter is very easy to keep updated with a handful of 140 character posts every day. The hard part is engaging in conversation with other people proactively. This is where your greatest growth will come from though, so set aside a few minutes a day to engage with other users on interesting topics.
- Run Paid Campaigns for High Value Information – If you have a particularly important post, or if you want to share recent news or new content from your company, Twitter ads can greatly amplify your message. Paid campaigns allow you to target users by several criteria including location, industry, title, who they follow, and what their browsing habits look like. This level of targeting on such an open and active platform is huge for reaching tenants for leasing efforts.
There is a lot of noise on Twitter.
Being able to effectively rise above that noise can be an involved process. It requires a lot of content, daily posting, and a large enough following to push your message at scale.
We salute the women in #retail and #realestate who are paving the way for the next generation of leaders. Thank you for your commitment to advancing the industry and for volunteering your time to #ICSC in many ways. pic.twitter.com/qINhbYG1vk
— ICSC (@ICSC) March 27, 2020
Top Twitter CRE Twitter Accounts
If you are just starting your Twitter account, the first step is to network with other users, establishing relationships through regular posting.
These are just some of the top CRE Twitter accounts you should be following to get started:
- CCIM – CCIM Institute, Commercial real estate’s global standard for professional achievement
- ICSC – Preeminent membership organization serving #retail and #realestate professionals.
- Coy Davidson – Senior Vice President at Colliers International, founder and CRE blogger at The Tenant Advisor
Ken Ashley – Corporate real estate broker focused on serving mid-cap US companies.
- Michael Lagazo – ICSC Chair, Senior advisor, retail, for SVN Asset Advisory Group
- Robert Pliska – Owner/Managing Director, SVN Property Investment Advisors
- Duke Long – Managing Partner at Pur Ventures, CRE blogger at Duke Long
- Barbi Reuter – President PICOR
- Bo Barron – the EVP of the Massimo Group, North America’s premier Consulting and Coaching group
- Diane Danielson – Chief Operating Officer for SVN
- Michael Bull – Founder of Bull Realty, host of CRE Show
- Jonathan Schultz – Co-founder of Onyx Equities and passionate blogger about CRE technology on Jonathan Schultz
- Jeremy Neuer – Corporate real estate broker (SVP, CBRE) and CRE blogger at NeuerSpace
- Allen Buchanan – Commercial Real Estate Broker and founder of Location advice for owners and occupants
- Bucky Beeman – Millennial #CRE #RealEstate dude! (in his own words)
- Casey Flannery – Affiliate Broker focused on representing building owners to create maximum value for their real estate assets in Memphis.
Top Commercial Real Estate Hashtags on Twitter
One of the most effective ways to drive engagement with your tweets is to use hashtags that make them more searchable.
Here are some of the most popular current hashtags being used in the commercial real estate space:
Facebook is the world’s largest social network – the one that every member of your family is on and where you watch cat videos and read news articles every day after work.
It also happens to be the world’s largest collection of brand pages and private groups, both of which offer a powerful opportunity to engage with your target audience and drive activity on your CRE web properties.
- What to Build – Little or none of your Facebook marketing efforts should go through a personal profile. Rather, create a Brand Page that allows you to build a list of followers, run advertisements, invite friends to Like, and embed content from off site. Facebook also has powerful private group tools you may consider for engaging with people either geographically or based on prospect status.
- What to Post – Much like Twitter, visual content excels on Facebook. Engagement rates for images are about 50% higher than simple text links, and video engagement rates can be as much as 70% higher than text and links. A mixture of content from your website and links to interesting information you’ve collated from other sources will work best here.
- When to Post – Aim to post to Facebook at least once every 2-3 days, with daily being the optimal frequency. The exception is if you have an event, are publishing new photographs of a property, or have launched a new site – more frequent posts can be effective in capturing an audience otherwise not seeing your posts.
The single biggest challenge on Facebook is getting heard. By default, the average brand page’s posts are only seen by between 2% and 8% of their Followers. That means, even with 1,000 followers, only 20-80 people will see them. Even with a healthy engagement rate of 2-3%, you’re getting 1-2 clicks per post at those rates.
To improve those numbers, there are several things you can do:
- Engage with Audiences Directly – If someone comments on a post, likes or shares content, or reposts it on another group or Page, be sure to engage with it. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who have already engaged with your content as well. Facebook is a communications platform first and foremost – take advantage of that.
- Join Private Groups and Share Content – Private groups can be massive and house huge communities of potential prospects. Much like on LinkedIn, you can join these groups and share your most recent white paper, photographs, or blog post to drive traffic back to your properties. Avoid open promotion, and be sure to add to these conversations with regular posts and comments.
- Work with Other Brands on Facebook – Brand Pages can not only like each other, they can share each other’s content and comment on each other’s posts. Use this to your advantage to amplify your own messaging.
- Pay for Boosting Your Content – A very small percentage of posts get seen on Facebook. A small $1-3 boost for important posts can vastly multiply that reach and is recommended periodically to ensure your content is being seen.
A combination of paid boosts, active outreach, and frequent posting will help you to improve both reach numbers and engagement, and in turn generate a large audience for your content.
Instagram has quietly become one of the largest social platforms in the world, with more than a billion users worldwide and 120 million in the United States. While there is a perception that Instagram’s audience skews young, the largest percentage of users on the platform is between the ages of 25-44. More than that, it’s a purely visual medium, crafted specifically for the smartphone era, allowing commercial real estate companies to highlight the key selling points of individual properties.
In short, if you’re not yet utilizing Instagram in your marketing plans, you should be. To get the most from Instagram, consider the following:
- What to Build – Create an Instagram account that is connected to your business directly from the Facebook Business Manager. This will allow you to post as a business and leverage the Facebook advertising platform through your account.
- What to Post – Instagram is a visual medium. It’s all about showcasing high-quality photography that captures people’s attention as they swipe through the endless scroll in their feeds. Content should be stark, engaging, and beautiful. You already have the photography – leverage it to get the most from your feed. Instagram Stories allow for short, time-sensitive bursts of content that expire, and you can post short video content such as drone footage or 3D tours of properties. Include hashtags that are relevant to the content as much as possible – aim for 5-10 tags for each post.
- When to Post – Instagram is a 24/7 platform and is exclusively used on smartphones, so there is no “right time” to post. The key to success is consistency. Post regularly, ideally at least once every day, to capture as much attention as possible from followers.
Instagram is about relevance.
Feeds are automatically updated based on a range of factors that the algorithm takes into account. The type of content someone regularly engages with. Hashtags and the searches performed. The accounts someone already follows. To leverage that and increase visibility for your content, you need to:
- Follow People Who Post Similar Content – Instagram is similar to Twitter in that you can follow and be followed by anyone. The ratio of followers to following can impact your visibility and the perceived value you offer. To amplify this, carefully curate the list of accounts you follow – looking for local influencers, CRE topics, and other relevant content.
- Comment on Other Posts Daily – Spend 5-10 minutes looking through Instagram every day and commenting on posts that are relevant to your own content. This can help boost your signal, capture the attention of other higher-profile users, and encourage engagement on your own posts.
- Leverage the Facebook Ad Network – If you are already running Facebook ads, it’s a natural next step to also run them on Instagram. Both are owned by the same company and use the same platform. With Instagram representing 30% of the total traffic between the two, you’re leaving a big platform on the table if you don’t post your ads here as well.
Instagram isn’t as noisy as Twitter. Nor is it as heavily curated as Facebook. It’s a perfect middle ground where users curate their own content and you can have an outsized impact with relatively few posts each week.
With the four major social networks covered, let’s look at the single most important thing you can do to ensure all that work isn’t for nothing.
Content is the foundation of any successful social media strategy. It provides something you can share with your followers, a magnet to draw people back to your website, and a resource that builds authority for your brand.
To ensure you’re getting the most from your efforts, a blog is a must. Here are several things you should keep in mind:
- Write About the Right Things – A blog should be relevant, educational, and entertaining. That means less stories about your most recent deals and more about industry-relevant topics that your audience will be interested in reading (and searching for). Useful content that provides answers to key questions, market studies you’ve participated in, recent news and commentary, and tips and tricks related to your industry are all valuable resources.
- Write Guest Posts to Build a Larger Audience – Your own audience will start small and grow over time. To supplement it, write guest posts and submit them to established industry sites. Not all websites and blogs accept guest posts, so a bit of research may be required to find sites that will publish your content.
- Blog promotion – Content is nothing without promotion. It’s vital to have a plan in place for how you will distribute content and get it to the right people. The social media channels we’ve already discussed should play a major role here with every post being published immediately to these sites. You should also send your highest quality content to existing contacts via email, reach out to thought leaders and other site owners who might benefit from your content and ask for them to share a link.
Social Media Tools for Commercial Real Estate
Posting manually to social media daily can be time consuming and highly inefficient. To avoid wasting all that time, there are thousands of powerful tools out there that allow you to leverage time and get more from your accounts.
It’s easy to get carried away and signup for a dozen different tools for each of your channels. The goal here is to streamline efforts, which means each tool should:
- Reduce the time spent each day managing your social accounts
- Improve your reach to target audiences
- Provide key insights to inform how you run your campaigns
- Fit your budget and provide measurable results for the investment
Tools that do this can be costly, and there are a lot of them, so it’s important to choose solutions that fit specific needs in your organization. Here are some of the most important you should consider:
- Buffer – Buffer is a streamlined, easy to use scheduling tool for the major social networks. It installs a button on your social media pages and ads a widget to your browsers that allows you to share content with the click of a button. You can then load several posts into your queue and they will automatically post at times you’ve scheduled in advance. Even a business account is only $10/month.
- Hootsuite – HootSuite has been around longer than Buffer and offers very similar features, but with a bit more robust of an interface. It’s not as user-friendly, and there are several limitations in its free version, but the combination of tracking and reporting that you don’t get in as much depth in Buffer make it a good, if slightly more expensive option than Buffer.
- SproutSocial – Sprout Social is also a social media management tool, but it goes above and beyond what either HootSuite or Buffer offer. Designed for businesses, it has a robust social inbox for tracking keywords, a social content calendar, unlimited reporting features, location and keyword monitoring, and much more. It’s also a fair bit more expensive each month for a Premium account, but for active social marketing, it’s well worth it.
- Mention – One of the most important things you can do through social media is engage with people who are already talking about you. Social monitoring tools like Mention are incredibly powerful for this, constantly scouring the web and looking for mentions of your brand, stakeholders, or properties, alerting you to them so you can take action and reply as soon as possible. With competitive review tools, influencer search, and automated reporting, this is a powerful tool for large scale social activity.
- Social Mention – Social mention is a free real time search engine for social media. It will pull from blogs, social bookmarking sites, image sites, video sites, and more to display the current hottest topics, links, and information being shared related to your search terms. You can export top keywords and hashtags, setup email alerts for specific search terms, and more, allowing you to monitor the conversation in real time for your target terms.
Metrics and Reporting
Finally, we need to be sure that all the work being invested into your social media marketing efforts has the impact you need it to have. Too many businesses invest time and money blindly in social media, thinking it a necessity, only to find out months later that it hasn’t done what they expected.
With clear metrics and regular reporting, you can be sure your efforts are working or that you have the information needed to adjust if they are not working.
The most important metrics for any marketing activity is ROI – how many sales do you generate from leads that originated via social media?
But be careful.
Social media isn’t a prime lead generating channel. It serves you much better as a resource for audience development, engagement with existing contacts, thought leadership, and brand development. High engagement for each of these will and should lead to leads for your CRE business, but it’s not the primary metric you should be looking toward, at least not right away.
Here are three tiers through which you should measure your efforts:
1. Low Engagement
At the most basic level, how many people are seeing what you post. This will be impacted by both the number of followers you have on each channel, and the activity of those followers. On Facebook especially, users are more likely to see your content if they have engaged with it in the past or if others are engaging with it now.
* Views – How many people see what you’re posting? The total reach of your content is important to measuring its effectiveness.
* Followers – Are people following you in increasing numbers? At a low engagement tier, this is an important metric to ensure your efforts are working.
2. Mid Engagement
At the middle tier, how often are your users actively engaging with the content you share. This takes many forms. The most basic form of engagement (and lowest value) is the Like. This means someone saw your post, absorbed enough of it to form an opinion and shared that opinion. Other, better forms of engagement include clicks on your links, shares or retweets, and comments. These are highly valuable – look for a 1% or higher engagement rate as a good benchmark for your posts.
- Retweets – Retweets are the ultimate form of sharing on Twitter, as other users further broadcast your message. Track, save, and respond to these to encourage greater engagement.
- Likes – Likes are a mid-level engagement action that both show up as a metric of your reach, and as feedback from your followers that they like what you’re doing.
- Shares – Shares, like Retweets are important because they amplify your message to a wider audience.
3. High Engagement
At the upper tier of your efforts is high engagement. This is where users not only consume and interact with your posts, but follow through on them, visiting your website, clicking your call to action buttons, and converting on your forms to become users. Even with a strong website conversion rate and an average engagement rate on social media, this rate will be as low as 0.01%. Every action you take to customize and improve your content, grow your audience, and make sure everything you post is relevant will increase that number.
- Request for Information – Getting someone to reach out and ask for more information independent of what you’ve published on social media is the goal and generally the best conversion you can expect from these efforts.
- Download – If you offer downloadable content offers like white papers, ebooks, checklists, or video content, this is a strong high engagement action.
- Sign ups – Sign ups for your email newsletter, webinar you might be running or other similar actions will help you to get more from your social efforts.
Social media marketing for commercial real estate is a potentially high value activity that will allow you to better engage with your target prospects, build an audience for your brand, turn yourself into a digital thought leader, and ultimately grow your business.
It’s all about focus.
Focus on the right people, the right networks, and the right content. Do these things properly, and you’ll benefit immensely from a smart social strategy.