I often find that Realtors are confused about how to best build business with Facebook. The confusion stems from the fact that as a user, Facebook is a very easy platform to navigate. It isn't hard to figure out how to create an account, connect with friends, and socialize - 500 million+ people have gotten that far. But far fewer are effectively utilizing Facebook as a marketing medium. And, I was stunned when at the annual California of Realtors Expo this year, Executive VP Joel Singer showed a slide that indicated that only 5% of California Realtors were utilizing Facebook as part of their business. What a missed opportunity!
As you get ready to do your business and marketing plan for 2011, it is a great time to think about how to fold Facebook into your overall marketing strategy. To do that, you have to first understand the variatey of tools that Facebook offers. Check out this road map I created to illustrate the options (a full description of each tool is articulated in the post this chart first appears in - Facebook Foundations: Facebook's Marketing Tools Explained):
As you can see, there are a lot of options on how to market yourself on Facebook. Of all of these tools, I find agents most commonly confused about the difference between profiles and official pages (aka fan or business pages). It is an important distinction to understand as the terms of service are different for each Facebook product, and as a result, the strategies for marketing success vary dramatically.
In general, when you sign up for a Facebook account, you receive a Facebook profile. Profiles are designed to be personal to you and representative of an individual (not a brand). It is against the terms of service to have more than one profile. And, it is against the terms of service to use your profile for commercial gain. This means, NO listings on your profile wall. Not only is posting listings on your profile against the terms of service, it is not an effective way to promote or sell property. Think about it...is anyone at all looking for a house on Facebook? They are not connected to you on Facebook to receive ads or hear about your listings. They are connected to you on Facebook because it is YOU. Your communication on your profile wall should be reflective of that.
In contrast, an official page is a Facebook tool that is explicitly to be used for commercial gain. It is separate from your profile and you are allowed to create one, or many pages. Official pages are a perfectly legitimate place to post your listings within the Facebook terms of service. They can also be an effective way to separate your personal life from your professional one, as the connections you make on a Facebook page are separate from those who are your Facebook friends. Strategies for successfully marketing yourself and your business with Facebook pages vary dramatically and you need to have a clear strategy to have success. Is the focus of your page your community (like the very popular 365 Things to Do in "x" Community pages that I've written about before)? Is the focus of your page your brand (either your name or your real estate brand name?) Is the focus of your page a niche market (such as seniors or condo living)? To be effective, you need to pick a focus and a strategy for your page. You also need to understand how pages interact with those who like your page. It is very different from how you can interact with friends on your profile. For a full explanation of the differences between the two, check out this post on Facebook Foundations: Profiles vs. Pages which includes a details comparison between the two and a chart which summarizes the major differences.
As you can see, Facebook is a complex and rich marketing platform. There is a myriad of ways to grow your business with this increasingly important tool. Now is the time to start understanding Facebook as a marketer so you can be putting the power of the worlds largest social network to work for you in 2011.