Tweets ahead (or not as the case may be)

I’m a huge fan of Property Week and read it religiously every week.  Excellent journalists, great leader and all round best-of-breed publication – it ranks alongside the Sunday Times for me as one of the only two papers I read every week.

… so please consider this constructive criticism and of the broader, corporate, industry rather than the publication itself. 

For the most part it’s good that social media has been highlighted at all (I haven’t seen anything in other property press yet).  The article below demonstrates to me how far away from ‘getting’ social media the mainstream UK property industry is at present.   Disappointing when you consider just how much networking is involved in the sector.  I didn’t really drink before I got into property; that quickly changed, and how, when I fell in love with residential – my excuse is/was that it requires so much great networking.

I’ll pick out the key points that should stir further discussion:

  • Knight Frank has 440 followers; Savills 100 (and have never tweeted) and JLL 10 – only Knight Frank is even off the starting line.  Most people I know that have been using this [5 year old] service for a year or so have 5,000 or more followers.
  • The story centres around marketing – social media experts agree that the real value is in knowledge gained and introductions made.  Listening  & helping others should come before overtly marketing or selling – in social networking business generally comes by way of attraction to centres of influence & by referral.
  • Facebook (FB) is described as a purely social medium whereas many authors of business pages on FB will describe their search engine and networking success upon establishing an active one – it’s far from purely social.

Meanwhile Claer is absolutely right when she says the personal touch is as important as ever – this should be in relation to the way people & business communicate through social media however.  Don’t just give it to one person in the marketing team; the principals of the business need to really get involved and be consistent and transparent in their communication; frequently.  And look long and hard at how they need to adapt their business and routine to suit the new, online economy.

That’s not to say real-life activity is unimportant – people buy people both online and offline and if anything offline networking activity needs to be increased rather than sacrificed in favour of online.  Time online needs to be spent ‘smarter’ and time needs to be invested in learning the ropes – because it’s not just a new rule or two; it’s a an entirely new, virtual world and it’s influencing the real world at an accelerated pace; for the better I might add.

For more information I suggest readers start by buying the excellent Know me like me follow me by Penny Power – creator of the first online social network (Ecademy) more than 12 years ago.  And check out some of our free social media resources.

For those in any doubt Thomas Power has a great explanation “it takes 3 years to adapt and succeed online – a year to be known, a year to be liked and a year to be followed.  It also takes about 30 years for a new technology age to become embedded in the economy (and for the economy to become dependent on it).  Bearing in mind the internet was created in 1973 by DARPA (US defence).  Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau invented the World Wide Web in 1990.  Therefore we’ve more than 35 years of ‘internet’ and almost 20 years of ‘web’.  The clock is ticking – adapt … or die.

Major players in property should be beginning their 3 year learning process now (if not before) if they intend to survive and thrive – and the opportunities are plentiful.  As Clay Shirky said ‘The group gets better together’.

by Martin Skinner

Source article from Property Week by by Claer Barrett below.

Are social networking websites time-wasting distractions, or can they help business? Claer Barrett finds out how many property companies are plugged in

Knight Frank has 440, King Sturge has 23, DTZ boasts 165, Savills has 100 and poor old Jones Lang LaSalle only has 10.

What are we talking about? The number of followers these firms have on Twitter.

Popular opinion suggests that social networking and the workplace do not mix. Many big firms have blocked access to internet sites such as Twitter and Facebook in their offices, believing they are a time-consuming distraction for their staff.

However, there is increasing evidence that big bosses should embrace social networking as tool for driving business, building their brands and winning clients. One property company has revealed that Twitter has doubled its profitability.

Networking has always been an essential part of the property industry. We are a sociable bunch and the perpetual search for the next deal means gossip is our lifeblood.

No surprises, then, that Facebook was an instant hit with the younger property crowd. Online groups were quickly set up, but served little purpose other than to exchange office gossip, circulate drunken pictures and organise leaving dos. Their purpose was firmly social. The novelty has since worn off.

A gap in the market emerged for professional sites for older users who wanted to advertise their business acumen. The most popular of these is LinkedIn, on which members create detailed profile pages in their real names.

“Friends” become “contacts” and, once you have joined, you can nose through an individual’s network to see just how well connected they are. You can even upload your CV.

Many older professionals admit they use LinkedIn in the hope of securing a lucrative non-executive directorship, or board position in an industry group or charity that will enhance their reputation.

It is not just jobseekers and the promotion-hungry to which this site appeals. As a result of the downturn, it is an invaluable publicity tool for professionals who have set up their own businesses.

LinkedIn appeals to the mainstream, but Twitter is a different concept entirely. Known as microblogging, users can post short messages, or “tweets”, which can be about anything at all, as long as they are less than 140 characters — the SMS or text message limit. These are sent to “followers” who have opted to track that user’s online musings. Reading the site’s strapline, “Share and discover what is happening right now”, one can conclude that Twitter is the future of news delivery. Certainly, reports of the demise of the newspaper ring loud and true when browsing through Twitter’s detailed collection of news feeds.

Popular follows for property professionals include Telegraph Property, Times Property, London Evening Standard Business News, Property Week and Estates Gazette.

So how do you get a news story into 140 letters? Simple: follow the headline and hyperlink approach so that users need only click through to the website. The news finds you, and there is none of the tiresome bother of actually reading a paper.

As one might expect, the retail and residential worlds are leading the property industry’s charge into cyberspace. Follow Westfield London on Twitter, and you can receive notice of sales, new openings and the latest fashion trends.

Down in Bristol, Cabot Circus is tweeting news about promotions, competitions and online discount vouchers. Glance at the icons and you will notice that the malls are “following” individual retailers, such as H&M and Monsoon, which quickly spotted the marketing potential of social networking sites.

The residential world has a different sort of presence. The rise of online estate agency portals has already pushed the home-search industry online. But the fear of receiving thousands of irrelevant tweets about homes for sale means sites have had to rethink their consumer appeal.

A very popular follow, Property Porn, is not as dodgy as it sounds. The news alerts direct users to marvel at unspeakably expensive properties they will never be able to afford. This useless, albeit fascinating, information is collated by online estate agency Globrix, which is cleverly driving web traffic and brand loyalty to its main site in the process.

Another special case is the Landlord, who uses Twitter to post his hilarious and outrageous blogs. Having commanded a huge following within the buy-to-let community, his website carries adverts from all kinds of property services firms that are happy to pay to grab the attention of his fans.

To date, this kind of innovation has been lost on the commercial property industry. All the big agents have a presence on Twitter, but their most exciting tweets are press releases from the research team.

In fact, Savills — which has 100 followers — has yet to make a single tweet. A company spokeswoman confirms the situation is “under review”.

Whatever Savills comes up with, it is likely to be directed at clients, rather than employees of the firm. As a guess, tweets about wealth management, “super-mortgages” and the high-end residential market will appeal to a well-heeled audience.

Easy as B2C

Business-to-consumer strategies on Twitter are easier to dream up than business-to-business ones, but that is not to say they will not work. For example, take the case of Needofficespace.com.

“We started using Twitter three months ago and it has changed our business model and more than doubled our profits,” says James Welch, director of Needofficespace.com, which has 200 followers.

Welch started a Twitter news feed to bring traffic to his website, a portal for serviced office and management business space. The stories are aimed at occupiers and those working in the serviced office leasing industry, and he invested in a full-time member of staff to make the posts.

“The exposure has got us on to other people’s areas, who are following us on Twitter, and it’s grown from there,” he explains. “We get hundreds of serviced office leads a week, but now we are getting demand for traditional leases, too, which are more profitable. We never got these before at all. The only reason we’re getting them now is Twitter exposure.”

The RICS, which has nearly 1,000 followers, is surprisingly ahead of the game. It used Twitter to promote this month’s launch of Surveying-360, an online resource for graduates who are considering a career in surveying.

Property Week launched Property Network a fortnight ago and its users are already busily blogging, joining groups and sharing information, experiences and pictures (network.propertyweek.com).

And executive search agency Kerr Ingram has set up its own social networking tool, Kerr Ingram Direct.

“It’s very clubby and it’s just for property professionals,” explains founder Patricia Kerr. It is also unusual because users’ profiles are anonymous and accessible only by clients who pay Kerr Ingram a search fee. Although their level of experience is listed, clients do not know their identity and so can only use the service to blindly send job specs and request interviews. Since its launch, the database has attracted nearly 400 profiles.

There is no doubt that online social networking is a popular and fast-evolving trend. But one drawback is that the medium through which it is provided is subject to constant change. So to neglect traditional networking skills would therefore be absurd.

In fact, with the increasing background noise of technological innovation, the personal touch has gained added currency. When it comes to winning your next piece of work, a simple phone call could end up being the best route to your client’s heart — and cheque book. (Claer Barrett, Property Week) http://www.propertyweek.com/story.asp?sectioncode=274&storycode=3151797

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1 Comment

  1. yeah, Business-to-consumer strategies on Twitter are easier to dream.


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