Social media has changed the world in so many ways. It has given us almost unlimited access to the lives of friends, family, distant acquaintances and potential clients. Whatever they choose to share we have the opportunity to consume. And consume we do. A recent study by Experian Marketing Services found that Americans are spending an average of 16 minutes out of every hour on social networks.
It's an interesting coincidence that the rise of social media happened almost in unison with the 2007 crash of the housing market. Or perhaps this evolution wasn't so much a coincidence as it was a business necessity. Just like in any industry affected by the economic downturn, as our market declined, so did our marketing budgets. The money to run costly newspaper, billboard, bus benches, television advertising and magazine campaigns that were once the center of our marketing strategies disappeared. We used these marketing tools in an effort to create top of mind awareness. When someone thought of real estate we wanted him or her to think of us. The problem with this approach is not only is it expensive but there's only so many times you can tell someone how great you are before you become annoying.
During the downturn, these marketing tools were replaced by free blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and several other social sharing sites. Utilizing these new communication vehicles also meant changing our messaging. No longer were we shouting out "buy from me" and "sell with me" messages. We had to find another way to connect with our sphere of influence and potential new clients.
From this challenge has emerged perhaps one of the most promising marketing concepts our market has seen in decades: the friend of mine strategy. It's something many of today's real estate marketing stars are coming to rely on and are constantly working to perfect. Leveraging social media in every way possible, they create blogs that provide useful and relevant content, connect and build relationships on Facebook and Twitter, and showcase their professional expertise on LinkedIn. The general message they are getting out to their network and potential customers is simple but powerful: "I am always there for you - available simply to connect or to help with anything you might need." They don't have to be yelling, "Hey, I'm in real estate…. Do you wanna buy a house?"
Jay Baer brought this concept of friend of mine marketing to life in his latest book, Youtility. In the book, Jay shares numerous examples of businesses that successfully made the shift from top of mind to friend of mine marketing. There's the pool installation company that teetered on the brink of collapse until they started answering questions on their website that customers had about pools. By becoming an information source, they secured their future and took their business to a new level. Another example from the book is a taxi company that started sharing flyers on the best places to eat, dance, get your computer fixed etc. etc. in their town. They weren't directly advertising their taxi service so much as they were providing the inside scoop on the neighborhood - the kind of info you'd ask your friends about. Just like with the pool company, this strategy resulted in a pretty lucrative taxi business.
These businesses utilized friend of mine marketing strategies to change the way they were perceived by current and potential customers. Rather than being viewed as simply purveyors of a product or service, they were recognized as valuable resources within their communities.
Have you made this shift in your business?