By Kelley Skar
“The incredible brand awareness and bottom line profits achievable through social media marketing require hustle, heart, sincerity, constant engagement, long-term commitment, and most of all, artful and strategic storytelling.” – Gary Vaynerchuk
Towards the end of 2009 I thought I had this business figured out. We had just come through one of the worst recessions in Alberta history and I had tripled my business from 2008, the year that I finally went full time into commission sales.
I had no budget and no database but worked open houses like they were going out of style. I door knocked and did all the old-school things my broker had taught me and it was working, but I could see a change on the horizon.
In fact, the change was already there, I just didn’t know it at the time. There were pioneers in the industry effectively using video to build their brand – Ian Watt comes to mind. In 2009 and 2010 people were still using Twitter to get their name and their brand out to the masses.
These times were pre-business pages on Facebook, pre-Facebook advertising, pre-sponsored posts on Instagram. Heck, there was no Instagram at that time. Looking back to 2010 it is easy to see that year was the tipping point for social media being looked at as a business opportunity.
Realtors and marketers were still looking at social media as a networking tool – a place to be social – but what some were looking at was a way to build brand awareness. This is where we come back to my story.
The title of this article was meant to draw you in, but the picture I am going to paint for you will show you that what I have been able to build was not easy.
At the end of 2009 I wanted to make a change to the way I was operating my business and the way I was marketing myself. I knew there had to be another way to get my name and my “brand” out to more than five or six groups of people that came through my open houses on the weekend.
I devised a plan that would use video and YouTube (this is pre-Facebook video remember) to push great content to help the consumer understand the market, and to give my opinion on what was happening in the real estate world as it related to changes made by government, governing bodies or the financing sector.
YouTube would be my library and Facebook, Twitter and my blog would be the channels I would use to push that message out. I would shoot and edit five videos every. This made for some very long nights of editing, writing and putting together the plan to push the videos out. There were nights when my wife would come and get me to come to bed at 1, 2 or 3 in the morning.
It took two years to see the payoff. The long tail. The long game. The grind. Call it what you want, the strategy I deployed in my business was not going to pay off overnight and I knew it. I was willing to put in the work because I believed in my vision even when others didn’t.
At the beginning of 2012 after two years of these late nights, my wife and I had a heart to heart. It was time, she thought, to go back to a full-time job and work on real estate part-time. She was sick of the roller coaster our financial lives had become. She wasn’t the only one, but I had to push through. I had to continue to build on the foundation I had started.
I made a deal with her that I would close nine transactions before the end of the first quarter of 2012 and if I didn’t, I would look for that full-time position.
I am still selling real estate so you know how that story ends.
Are you willing to put in the work?
There are many different channels for you to work within to build brand awareness. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, podcasting and blogging are the five I would start with.
Here is what I suggest you do to get started. Formulate a plan. Come at this plan from the idea of creating your own media company. That company is going to spread your message out to the masses and in turn will start to develop your brand.
Decide on the channels you want to use in your quest and remember that each audience speaks a different language. Use YouTube as the encyclopedia and Facebook as the newspaper or talk show.
Once those videos are shot and edited and uploaded, they need to reside on your website via your blog. If you are podcasting, you will need an iTunes account and a way to syndicate and post that podcast, again, to your website.
Use snippets of the video you have shot to continually promote your brand across all those channels. Use pictures, video and quotes to help bring awareness to those videos and podcasts on Instagram.
Most important of all, you must be consistent. You must decide this is something you are going to go after long term and not just in the short term. This is a chance for you to build your business organically without spending a lot of money. You will be spending your time building something that will pay off in the long term.
How do I know? Because I am living it. The opportunities that have come to me as a result of creating my brand and continually pursuing that brand awareness online has led me to speak at multiple conferences around North America. It has helped me to garner referrals from other agents from across the country (95 per cent of my transactions this year are from my sphere and referrals). It has helped me land a gig writing articles for your favorite Real Estate Magazine.
If you are willing to put in the work, you will see the return on your investment. Have a plan and a message you want to convey and be consistent. These are more important than the channels you choose to push your message out.