It’s networking Tim, but not as we know it…
Innes England director Tim Garratt writes for the RICS magazine ‘Modus’ about the fast-paced and fascinating world of social media.
So, there I was the other day at a local authority event which was all about sport and business. It was an interesting evening and so I whipped out my smartphone to engage with the outside world – and give them a few nuggets of knowledge I had learned at the event.
While balancing a couple of curious canapés on a small paper plate, I began drafting an informative tweet about the event, while naming checking colleagues close by and adding a couple of hashtags for good measure.
It took just a few seconds, but I felt a property lawyer friend sidle up beside me – and tut.
He told me he wasn’t into Twitter and ‘all that stuff’. He and his firm weren’t ever so keen on being out there in the Twittersphere and getting it wrong. Pointing at my Twitter app on my phone, he asked: “Who are you actually talking to?”
Well, 1,536 people actually, I told him. These are my followers on Twitter, I explained. And my blog, which I have been writing since 2009, attracts thousands of readers every month. The lawyer tutted again and lurched for a new tray of nibbles.
And there you have it. Despite the fact that are 647 million Twitter users globally who tweet 58 million tweets a day, there are still business and property people in the UK who don’t see the benefit.
So, exactly what is the benefit?
I always tell people – it’s about creating conversations and providing thought leadership among your followers.
Over the past few years, people in property – and across all sectors and industries for that matter – have increasingly signed up to Twitter and other social media avenues such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and the often overlooked LinkedIn. Why? Because the downturn made us to do. Well, not entirely, but while the phones were fairly quiet and we were looking for new ways to engage with new audiences, we began seeking out new networking opportunities. And social media is just that – a way to network, but via your phone or laptop, and without the need to leave the office.
While sales were dropping, many professionals began to seek out more social ways online. The property professionals went a step further – looking at photo and video sharing to enhance their listings, along with sites like LinkedIn to hone their onlinenetworking and shout about their skills.
As a result, agents like me have found successes in lead generation, sales and brand building through the use of mass audience social platforms like the ones I have mentioned. There are others too of course such as YouTube, Flickr and Google+.
Whether its video sharing, listings or offering advice to your community – or audience and prospective clients – property people are making progress in using social media.
I’ve been running a blog since 2009 called La Frondeuse (I’ll leave it to you to find out the meaning) which has attracted a wide UK audience. Not only does it get people talking on Twitter (I like to say it how it is), but it attracts journalists, clients, former colleagues, and useful contacts.
So, what’s the matter with the usual streams of communication websites?
My opinion is that websites can be boring and corporate. While they are there to sell a brand, quite often they don’t do any more than that. You don’t find out about what people are thinking or doing.
Social media, however, is more about people and more aligned to personality and how they think. Social media is a way to get across your opinions in an engaging way and remember - people employ people, not brands. If people like what you say on social media, then chances are they will want to work with you.
I also know that I’m paid for my opinions not my doubts so social media can give a platform for that. Which is why I started the blog.
A blog can be an outlet – and a place for short sharp views. Your blog gives you the opportunity to create relevant content for your audience and this can then be used as a marketing tactic to drive traffic back to your website if you want to.
If you are using a blog on your website, you should make it the foundation of all your social media platforms and they should all link together. If you write a blog, then tweet the link to your followers to drive more traffic to the blog or website. Why? Because it will encourage more people to your website to find out what your business is. Blogs increase your SEO and fresh, newsy content is a great way to boosting those search engine results.
My thoughts here about this paragraph are that a blog can be embedded within a business website so that it is operating as a news channel and in that case the fresh, relevant copy (including keywords for which you want to be found) will help the website's ranking in search engines.
Some thought leaders may want to run a separate blog, which drives traffic to the website, as this may give them more freedom to include content on diverse topics - not all work-related.
There's a strong argument for saying that the business website (with or without an embedded blog) should be the hub of your digital marketing with other platforms operating as satellites bouncing traffic to the website and from the website to the other platforms. Together they create a virtuous circle that definitely enhances your overall rankings in search engines.
It’s good to use keywords in articles too with topics and categories you want your business to be found with. I use these words and phrases when writing my blog posts. Of course, whether you actively seek these out or not, blogging regularly about your business, industry, product or customer lifestyle willnaturally increase your search keywords. Being intent about your words willonly increase results.
Keywords and topics on your website are a significant way in which Google (and othersearch engines) find your site for these searched words.
I think it's important to stress that while you need to be savvy about using keywords in all online content and headlines - the first rule is to write in a natural, authentic voice aimed at the specific audience you want to attract. Write for people first. If you start keyword-stuffing your online posts (on any platform) you risk sounding fake and consumers will be turned-off. Google is also getting more more adept at marking down online content that it thinks is written with search engines in mind.
I would always recommend creating a series of business personas for the people you want to influence and engage with and then write about subjects and topics that will interest and engage them - and put you firmly in their heads as the go-to expert for your area who could potentially solve a problem they have. Relevant keywords should come into that conversation naturally.
But, a word of warning. Long blogs are dull so anything more than 300 words is enough. Anything really short like a comment or a news snippet is perfect for Twitter. You have your comment and then bish, bash, bosh – it’s out to your audience. While I strongly believe that Facebook is not right for all lines of work, LinkedIn is definitely up there when it comes to useful ways to engage. It’s a genuine way to make connections with those people you would like to engage with. If you meet fellow LinkedIn’ers who use it genuinely to build interesting contacts and make strategic relationships, then it’s really useful – and I have gained work from it.
Well written articles demonstrate your company as an industry leader. By posting topics which resonate with your market and show your knowledge, you are marketing your skills for your business, service or product too.
If you are a frozen food company, for example, you would write blog posts about your frozen food. Your customers will get to know you as the knowledge source for the products they want. So, if you are a property person, write about property. You are building trust, too. The more you can show that you are well-versed in your field, the more likely a potential client will trust you to supply what they need.
You can read Tim’s blog entry about the topic here: http://timgarrattnottingham.co.uk/tag/modus/