As the real estate industry looks for new ways to market and sell property during the downturn, technology firms are launching ways to use social media — like FavRav’s new Facebook referral tool – to help businesses grow. But not everyone believes Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks can help them expand their businesses. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said the social network is on track to reach 1bn users by the end of next year, while speaking at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festivals earlier in the month. LinkedIn and Twitter also have seen tremendous growth in recent years. FavRav said its automated platform allows small businesses, like brokerage firms that can’t afford social media experts, to promote themselves on Facebook, where existing customers, or buyers, can provide recommendations to friends and family. “We’re really the place people come when you need a trusted referral from friends on important decisions like your first child’s pediatrician, a Realtor for your next home purchase or an insurance agent to help you protect your family,” said FavRav co-founder Bill Manos. Also recently, technology companies like Top Producer Systems, which is operated by Move Inc., released the next generation of its product suite for real estate agents. In addition to giving agents and brokers the ability to pre-qualify leads and generate real-time market data, the new software includes the ability to capture updates, status changes and direct postings from Facebook and Twitter. “Top Producer 8i gives real estate professionals an information-age advantage by offering a seamless integration of Facebook and Twitter feeds with instant access to the comments, needs and activities of client contacts and leads,” said Frederick Herot, vice president of customer marketing for Move Inc. But not everyone has made the leap into social media. Topher Thiessen, who works at Reverse Market Insight, a consulting and data services provider for the mortgage industry, said Facebook and Twitter don’t play a role in their business. “We are focused solely on business clients like banks and mortgage firms, and haven’t yet determined any real value in trying to leverage those websites,” Thiessen said. David Puno, director of operations at Commercial Capital Fund, a commercial real estate lender, said his company is only using LinkedIn.com, a site that enables businesses and colleagues to connect with one another, as a tool for its business. “We think Facebook and Twitter are good for some businesses, but not ours,” Puno said. Frank Leogrande, an appraiser at Grande Appraisals in Florida, said Facebook and Twitter are virtually useless for the appraisal industry with the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) limiting contact between businesses. “I use none of them [Facebook or Twitter] for business purposes. I am registered with all of them but the appraisal business is so HVCC regulated now that unless you are an AMC, you cannot do work with brokers anyway,” Leogrande said. With the launch of the FavRav tool, Matthew Ferrara, CEO of Matthew Ferrara & Co., a real estate consultant, said real estate agents and brokers have always relied on referrals, and these sites, if used correctly can generate more. “Realtors have always relied heavily on referrals to drive their business. Many realize that having a social media presence is critical, but don’t have the expertise to execute and are overwhelmed at the prospect,” Ferrara said. “Social media tools like FavRav can be a good option for realtors trying to engage potential customers and increase their social media visibility, but who don’t have the time to be a social media guru.” Bruce Ailion, a broker with RE/MAX in Atlanta, said he works with his son to take full advantage of the interaction between social media and real estate. Like 80% of brokers, he said, he’s behind the leading edge on this aspect of the business. But recognizes a value in it. “As a 30-plus year broker, I feel these methods of communication are essential to the future of real estate marketing,” Ailion said. Write to Jon Prior.
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