Personal branding, social media & estate agency
Lawyer. Accountant. Architect. We understand what these words mean, or more importantly, what someone had to do in order to gain that title.
At the other end of the same spectrum, an estate agent can start today. Tomorrow they can tell the world that they’re a property expert. Or a trusted advisor. Social media has given everyone a voice, and the ability to use it to say anything.
In estate agency the use of social media has become almost totally ubiquitous. You either understand and accept its power, or you believe the earth is flat. We’re told that if we’re not constantly posting, we are missing out on an endless stream of new customers. As with many things produced in vast quantities, quality tends to suffer.
I read an interesting article this week about addiction, which I think helps explain the current popularity of these platforms.
Individuals who thrive in sales roles usually have something in common - an addiction to dopamine. The feeling you get when you sell something, but especially a very high value item like property, is addictive. Likes, follows and the other endorsements that exist on social media release the same chemicals into the brain.
Social media and personal branding have also become ways to self certify the uncertain. As an industry we are totally unlicensed, and there is no easy way for customers to benchmark the quality of the individual who they’re about to entrust one of the largest transactions of their lives with.
As a result, personal branding has in some instances become a shortcut to doing the work required. Often through choice (it’s easier) but also through circumstance.
The pandemic has been especially hard on young people, who currently aren’t able to learn firsthand from more experienced colleagues or workplace mentors. In other industries the counterbalance to this are independent and externally verified qualifications, which of course estate agency lacks.
There’s also the issue of the effectiveness of social media in actually selling property. It’s great at the top of the marketing funnel, where activity can build awareness of who you are and what you do, interest in your work and consideration of whether to use your services (when the time is right).
However there are easier ways to target customers further down the funnel, those who are showing actual intent. Google search and the property portals (Rightmove, Zoopla etc.) are the best examples of this.
What’s also worth bearing in mind is the age demographic of London’s home owners, plotted against users of social media platforms, but specifically Instagram. The former is largely concentrated in the hands of the over 55’s, who make up less than 6% of the users on the platform.
Household home ownership rate by age of household head, London 1990 to 2019
Distribution of Instagram users worldwide as of January 2021, by age group
For me, there are some important takeaways from all of this.
Firstly it’s almost certainly worth ensuring that whoever you trust to market your property is engaging in a targeted digital marketing campaign. Creating high quality content and distributing it on channels where engaged buyers are spending time is a valuable exercise. Feedback loops are important here too. The beauty of digital marketing is that its effectiveness can be measured, and it should be.
Secondly, if we are going to take lessons from our friends across the pond about estate agency, it should be that we need a system of not just licensing, but also continuing professional development and peer to peer learning.
Lastly, it’s a mistake to think that social media platforms are benevolent organisations, hoping to help you achieve your objectives.
“If you’re not paying for the product, YOU are the product”
Things I’ve been paying attention to, watching or reading this week
A “Masters of Scale” podcast about personal branding with Tyra Banks. My only previous interaction with Tyra was casually walking past the TV whilst my wife watched America’s Next Top Model. Whilst I’m not about to go back and watch all 24 seasons, I definitely judged her too quickly. It’s an enjoyable listen.
“The easiest personal brand is the one that you don’t have to act. You don’t have to pretend. It’s organic and natural"
You can check it out here
Gabor Mate is the author of the article I linked to above - it’s fascinating, so I also included a link to his TED Talk.
I watched a thought provoking interview with David Baddiel last week about his new book, “Jews Don’t Count” - about how in his view, identity politics has failed one particular identity. It’s only 125 pages long, and well worth a read. You can buy it here.