I hold certain views regarding Twitter and its use as a communications network by property portals. Let me re-emphasize that point, in my view Twitter is not a social network, it is a communications network.
Let me also be clear that I hold a favoritism for Twitter that may present itself as a bias in this analysis, not I should assure you, because I have any financial interest in the company (that would be nice!) it is just that I have been using Twitter since early 2008 and have found it a valuable platform to communicate and build relationships. It would be of value for me to follow up on this article by examining the use of Facebook by Portals, a task I shall take on soon.
The recent examination of the top property portals on Twitter provided me with an opportunity to see how each was engaging, to what degree they had built a community and for what it was being used for. The result was as might have been expected a very mixed bag.
So let me share my opinions in a series of points that I hope will be of value to users of Twitter running property portals.
My first point is that it is important to very clear as to who you are addressing your twitter account.Is it the consumers, those home shoppers who use the site to seek out property to buy or rent; or is it the customers, those agents and real estate companies looking for guidance and insight into the operation of the portal and how to leverage digital media. In my opinion if you have the resources you should have two very separate accounts – much as is practiced by Zillow, Trulia who have in addition to their consumer brand on Twitter a Pro account (Zillow for Pros / Trulia Pro) . Rightmove has adopted this delineation through their separate Rightmove Overseas Twitter account.
This leads me on to the second point, which is resources. As with everything in the online world, if you are committed to something you need to stick with it and resource it properly. If you believe that Twitter can be a communication’s network to build engagement and a branded relationship with consumers or customers you need to be put someone in charge of running it and using it with regularity to share and respond. An intermittent posting is of no value. If you are a successful portal with a million unique visitors a month you should be adding content to Twitter at least 20 times a day and building an audience of at least 10,000 followers. That will require a resource, which should be part of the marketing department, not a full time role but a core part of the communications role.
My third point is naturally content, and for the sake of these comments I am thinking of the Twitter account to the consumer as home shoppers.
It may seem like stating the obvious but you have to think of your audience and what they might want to see in their Twitter feed by the very act of them adding you to their Twitter followers list. In this regard it is so important to remember that Twitter is as close as we have these days to the former approach of one-to-many shotgun marketing as represented by traditional media. Therefore it is my belief that what you should not use Twitter for is featuring individual listings, as your potential strike rate will be at best 1 in 10,000 and with 10,000 followers means 9,999 people who think, “why promote that property”.
Having said that there are instances where promoting property is relevant, that being an unusual property, an extreme property, a themed property. An idea could be to choose a house of the day to randomly showcase – maybe a “lunchtime showcase” as a great opportunity to drive site traffic. The important thing is not too often. Whilst touching on this it is so important on Twitter to give context – yes 140 characters is a small statement but give some context. A couple of examples: which I have recently posted to demonstrate this approach:
— Alistair Helm (@alistairnz) May 29, 2013
— Alistair Helm (@alistairnz) May 29, 2013
— Alistair Helm (@alistairnz) May 29, 2013
The key here is to tempt the recipient to click through as they can imagine the context – you are not trying to find a buyer for the property, you’re just building engagement.
My fourth point naturally flows from the few examples and that is the use of hashtags, I confess I am not a fan as they look ugly. I did deliberately chose to use them because they could allow these aspirational tweets to be found via searches where the user may not be thinking about real estate, but the connection may attract them to check out the link and hopefully make a connection through following your account.
Hashtags can be very valuable for aggregating content. Take for example the initiative that Realestate.com.au has begun of a monthly “Tweetup” Property chat where by using the hashtag #propchat they hold a session on the last Monday of the month in the evening with a couple of experts who answer property related questions posed on Twitter.
Now getting back to content as my third point, I would add to my comments that you should not in the main tweet listings outside of the example I provided. So what content is relevant? In my opinion context is the key watchword. People who are using a property portal are usually in the process of looking for property, so they will be interested in articles, insights, advice and suggestions all related to the process of buying or renting property. You can use Twitter to showcase articles that exist on your site about the property buying or renting process, or you can link to news articles that discuss and analyse the property market. The idea is to feed the communication pipeline of Twitter with relevant and consistent news stories as links that can engage an audience that creates a sense in their mind that there is value in continuing to follow your Twitter account, however always remember gaining a follower is a simple as a single click but so is unfollowing.
My fifth point is about followers and following. This matter is important. There is a lot of social reciprocity with Twitter. You follow me if I follow you. I have always held the view in running my own personal Twitter account that I never wanted to follow more than 100 people, in that way I could maintain an ability to effectively read my twitter stream. Well that principle fell by the wayside as I now follow close to 250 people. Twitter is all about profile and a key objective with a Twitter profile should be the number of followers. Adding followers should in theory be all about providing rich and valuable information, however whilst this is still true, the power of reciprocity is strong; so go on a following hunt and don’t be surprised that by following 3,000 you may end up getting 3,000 followers. However if you want to build a large following based on reciprocity, then what I suggest you do is build Lists. Lists are effectively sub groups that can for example purely contain those whose judgment you value. So you could have a list of key media organisations, property data companies and leading real estate customers. In that way you can easily scan these condensed feeds to be able to build content of value to share with your audience – you are therefore acting as a trusted curator of content.
A couple of key rules. In principle always try and attribute rather than hijack content. If you see a good tweet then retweet referencing the originator and maybe add a small comment. I my opinion always follow someone who tweets with reference to a link to your portal site or using your twitter handle, show appreciation, reach out and engage.
A sixth point, it is important to use the search parameter on Twitter to be aware of comments using your company name outside of your Twitter handle or dashtag. Keeping a surveillance of the Twitter stream is also vital to be able to see comments in the context of the property market or your customers and your competitors. Twitter is a powerful and vital listening device.
So to a final thought; I made the point earlier that Twitter is a broadcast medium, which is valid for the opportunity to share links, insight and value to a wide audience credibly and professionally. Twitter though can be a tool to surprise and delight and never miss the opportunity to do just that on a one-to-one basis. I have delighted people in the past when working at Realestate.co.nz to see a tweet from a random person who has tweeted that they have just had their house for sale featured online; I have spontaneously reached out to them offering a free premium advertising upgrade. Make someone’s day and share the unique one-to-one relationship that Twitter can provide and show that although you are a large company you are still human.
This subject and other related topics of marketing will be a key part of the conference Property Portal Watch is holding in San Francisco in July, don’t miss out places are limited and going fast so register today. Full details of the conference and agenda here