When Montreal-area luxury real estate broker Martin Rouleau started to use social media in 2011 to promote his business, people told him that “the $2-million vendors are not on Facebook.”
But Rouleau didn’t listen to them and it turned out to be a smart move. He now conducts most of his marketing via social media and “business has been booming.” In fact, the Engel & Völkers broker was honoured by the brokerage in 2018 as one of its Top 10 in the world.
Rouleau has 80 current listings worth $150 million, mostly in the tony Westmount area of Montreal.
“Real estate and social media go hand in hand,” says Rouleau, who has a reach of more than 50,000 followers. “Using social media on a daily basis is a way to keep at the top of people’s minds,” he says. “Often, I’ll see contacts and they’ll tell me that they see me every day when they open their computer. Also, it shows your clients that you are working and producing.”
Rouleau has 5,000 friends on his personal Facebook page, 10,801 on his business Facebook page, 24,400 followers on Instagram and 3,700 on Twitter. He also likes LinkedIn because it reaches professionals who are not on other social media.
Aside from being a social media buff, Rouleau conducts his entire business on the cloud. “I keep no paper in the office” and almost all of his business is done electronically. Everything is saved on Dropbox and all documents are readily available to each member of his team.
“I’m dealing with a big volume of sales and I find that in order for the whole team to be efficient everybody has to have access to the same information at a moment’s notice,” he says. “I don’t believe in hiding information. I think everything has to be centralized.”
Rouleau even forbids brokers from leaving a pile of paper listings in a house when they have a showing. “We are always improving our listings, so I always want to have the latest version on everybody’s phone or iPad to avoid mistakes.”
He decided to go the social media route after returning from a two-year sabbatical from 2009 to 2011. During his sabbatical, he would go to Starbucks every day and noticed everybody had a computer and that there was always a Facebook page open. “I said to myself, ‘That’s going to give me enough business if I can reach all of those people.’ ”
He ignored what his competitors were doing and started doing most of his marketing on social media. The strategy was: “I’ll let the competitors fight and get the bigger ads in the paper at $20,000 a page and I’ll just build my social media brick-by-brick.”
Traditional advertising still makes up 30 per cent of Rouleau’s marketing budget, however. He places corporate ads – photos of himself instead of properties – in luxury glossy magazines and in two local newspapers. He also distributes flyers in targeted areas, “which I honestly wish I did not do. I don’t think it’s environmentally friendly.”
After spending his career at Groupe Sutton, Rouleau switched to Engel & Völkers four years ago, citing the brokerage’s “modern approach” to real estate. “The timing felt right. It’s actually a great decision. It’s really helpful to my business.”
Rouleau usually posts twice daily on Instagram and everything is shared on all of his other platforms. A team handles his social media but “I keep a very, very close eye on how they post and I have meetings with them on the tone.”
Most personal posts are created by Rouleau. “You have to be careful. You can’t just delegate all of your social media because then it’s completely impersonal.”
He tries to combine lifestyle posts with real estate posts. “If you give them too much real estate it becomes a hard sell and people don’t like it. It has to be like a magazine – a bit of real estate, a bit of food, a bit of travel, a bit of family. But it’s always focused mostly on real estate.”
Rouleau says given the comments and the numbers of likes he gets, the current format is what most followers want to see.
He uses a high-end photographer for real estate photos and spends a lot more for the images than competitors “because I always say we don’t have a second chance to make a good first impression on the Internet. Today, people don’t talk to each other; they just look at visuals.”
Clients are more than happy to see their houses on his posts, he says, and often ask, “When are you going to post my property again?” After all, he notes, “real estate is a happy subject. Nobody gets bored of a beautiful interior.”
While Rouleau says it is important that he show on his posts that he is successful, it has to be done honestly and without bragging. “You have to show them that you’re doing well. But you also don’t want to get on people’s nerves. It is a fine line. You don’t want to rub it in people’s faces.”
Rouleau urges less tech-savvy agents to make an immediate switch to social media and the cloud. Otherwise, “you will lose market share to the new generation of tech-savvy brokers.”
New brokers are all on social media and those that are not will see a hit to their bottom line “because social media is a lot less expensive than any print advertising,” he says. “Social media and real estate go well together. People on social media love seeing beautiful properties. It’s something people can dream of, can use to compare with the value of their own home.”