Back in October, I had the pleasure of attending the Philadelphia Real Estate Council‘s fourth quarter round table, where the topic was a departure from the group’s usual fare (capital markets, urban development opportunities, valuation). The subject of this meeting was “Social Media and Real Estate.” Three guest speakers shared their experience with social media, its challenges and opportunities. The underlying question throughout this conversation was this: when it comes to commercial real estate (in all of its forms), what is the ROI for social media marketing?
I’ve tackled this subject before, here on the Llenrock Blog, and I’m going to save us all a lot of hand-wringing by saying this: It is impossible to know the ROI for social media marketing, in commercial real estate or anything else.
So let’s stop talking about social media in these terms. It’s difficult to calculate the value of social media for the same reason it’s difficult to calculate the value of any marketing/advertising. There’s a lot of guess work, but we know when it works. And that’s the point all those people in the social media business (myself included) are trying to make: even if we can’t make a direct connection between a company’s online presence and annual income, a connection still exists.
With that said, it’s worth pointing out that one size does not fit all when it concerns social media presence. Since SEO and social media first appeared on the corporate world’s radar, a lot of people (especially self-proclaimed “SEO Experts”) have pontificated on the subject a great deal. Most of their observations are common sense, but they have pointed out an important dichotomy. This is the distinction between business-to-business and business-to-customer efforts.
Since commercial (as opposed to single-family) real estate has a huge B2B component, creating an online presence for one’s CRE firm isn’t always as straight-forward as standard B2C marketing–like Pepsi, McDonald’s, and Kim Kardashian, all of which are brands/products intended for the widest possible audience. Those who work in commercial real estate finance, office brokerage, land title insurance, valuation, and other CRE specialties do not need “the widest possible audience.” They need the best possible audience. The social media geared toward “the masses” (you know which ones I’m talking about) may not be the ideal choice when it comes to generating new business.
I’ll admit, I’m jealous of Tom + Lorenzo, whose “Fabulous & Opinionated” fashion blog gets something like seven million visitors per month. That’s more than any commercial real estate website I know of. It’s tough to compete with entertainment, but remember, Tom + Lorenzo is a B2C product.
B2B marketing depends a lot more on individual relationships. Where can a person meet that perfect contact, the one that generates new business, new investment opportunities, etc.? For a while, LinkedIn seemed like the place, but lately, the site has been glutted with, for lack of a better term, “junk” (spam, unwanted commercial opportunities, and other clutter).
Commercial real estate does have a great number of B2C specialties–hospitality, leasing, sales, retail development–and for these branches of the industry, social media as we know it is still a useful tool. For those in the industry looking for a useful contact, something more substantive, it’s worth searching for smaller enclaves of professionals with the same interests. You won’t hear about them, but they’re out there. Google it.