Even the notoriously unreceptive major property portals began to take the agent’s side, announcing temporary price freezes and free listings during the summer, when many smaller agents simply couldn’t cope with the lack of office footfall.
However, while the government has effectively called estate agents ‘essential workers’, allowing them to conduct viewings in person and facilitate home moves; the sector is still facing an uncertain year ahead.
At present, we are of course in the middle of our third national lockdown and are none the wiser about what the year will hold for both the health of the industry and the country as a whole.
One thing that is for certain, though, is with the end of the current stamp duty holiday rapidly approaching on March 31, and a speculated buyer slump to occur in its absence, now would be a great time for agents to take stock of their financial situation and truly ascertain if listing on a property portal is the only way forward.
As the director of Residential People, I have always stated the need for estate agents to list on as many platforms as possible if they wish to achieve more eyes on property listings. While nurturingAI is an omnichannel marketing platform and not a property portal, the evidence still suggests that agents would be better served to list on multiple platforms as opposed to just one.
However, as the title of this currently slightly off-topic opinion piece suggests, we aren’t here to sing our own praises - in fact, I would like to highlight the virtues of social media, and in particular Facebook.
Introducing Facebook Marketplace
Unless you’ve been living in a nuclear bunker for the past four years, you would have no doubt heard about the free-to-list Facebook Marketplace. However, what you might not be so aware of is the fact that Facebook’s marketplace is actually a more than competent listing platform that can offer agents a truly viable alternative to property portals.
As one of the largest social media platforms in the world, Facebook has more than 800 million people globally using Facebook Marketplace each month to browse, buy, or sell various items, including property.
During our talks with various independent agencies across the UK, we found that many of them have experienced great success when marketing their properties on Facebook, with one agent even suggesting that their days of marketing via Rightmove might be at an end due to the uptake and interest they’ve received.
While Rightmove and Zoopla are the two giants of the UK property market, Facebook Marketplace is rapidly becoming an integral part of the property searching process for many home hunters as well.
Due to its quick, convenient and easy-to-use nature, Facebook Marketplace benefits greatly in terms of familiarity, with millions of its users already well-versed in the platform’s nuances from years of using the site for keeping in contact with friends and family.
Time is money
One of the common concerns we hear from agents is that they’re too busy, or unable to dedicate the time to micromanage every portal/site that they list on.
While this may be true for the likes of Connells, Hunters or Savills, this is clearly not the case for a one branch independent, locally-known agency on your high street.
As such, I would challenge these firms to truly assess if the grass could be greener on the other side if you were more willing to give it time to grow.
In simple English - perhaps it is time for smaller agents to stop paying through the nose to list on portals when in turn, they could make more profit by listing on a free platform such as Facebook Marketplace.
Why marketing matters
In order to get the most value from Facebook Marketplace, it’s a good idea to also consider targeted ads on Facebook in general.
As we outlined in a guide on our website, the real key to being successful with Facebook Ads lies in targeting.
Facebook has a multitude of different targeting options to choose from, which can make identifying the ideal categories to select quite difficult for those unfamiliar with the process. Thankfully, nurturingAI has analysed several successful marketing campaigns, and our smart and intuitive platform is able to help you to accurately and automatically, target the correct audience for your advertisements.
As the name suggests, Facebook’s targeted ads will allow you to specifically target a particular audience, ensuring that your properties are seen by those who need them the most.
Unlike traditional property platforms, Facebook’s targeted ads can help you get more genuine enquiries from those who really are interested in the exact property that you have on offer - as opposed to merely canvassing for similar properties beyond the listing.
When creating Facebook Ads, we really can’t emphasise enough just how important video is to your marketing campaign. Videos on Facebook have a much greater reach and seem to generate greater engagement amongst targeted audiences.
Simply put, Facebook’s marketing algorithm loves video, and as such, the platform will reward you for using video in your marketing campaigns.
The ongoing pandemic has shown us that agents don’t need to have the cinematography skills of Roger Deakin or the directorial knowledge of Christopher Nolan to see great results from your videos.
These days, more or less, everyone has a smartphone with a high-quality video camera built right in, allowing you to create short but personal messages wherever you are.
Video can help you add a much-needed personal and human element to the house buying process, that over the last year has been eroded due to the constraints of the pandemic.
The great thing about using video in your Facebook Ads is that sometimes even the most simple and basic video content, such as a snippet of a virtual tour that features eye-catching aspects of the property, is all that is needed to entice an interested property seeker to your listing so they can learn more.
Even beyond advertising on Facebook, I would challenge agents who may have previously neglected video content to start using video within their agency as the latter rewards could be very significant, and in time, will outweigh the initial camera-shy awkwardness of your first forays into video.
As with all marketing - whether it is on a traditional portal, billboard or elsewhere - it is important to remember that the amount you spend doesn’t always correlate to financial success.
However, while targeted Facebook Ads are not completely guaranteed to yield results, (especially if you fail to target the correct audience,) if you’ve managed to target the right audience, the odds of a lucrative return are stacked heavily in your favour as you’ll be attracting the attention of eager and ‘in-the-market’ property seekers.
A brighter day awaits
While Facebook marketing might not be suitable for every agent, and certainly by no means the panacea that the industry needs after dealing with the problems of 2020; the ever-rising costs of existing portals and the uncertainty of what lies ahead, makes Facebook an interesting and truly viable alternative to consider.
nurturingAI is the new, automated omnichannel marketing platform exclusively for estate agents and the property industry. Created by the free-to-list property portal, Residential People, nurturingAI is aiming to revolutionise the way estate agents market their portfolios and business.
To learn more about nurturingAI and all the fantastic marketing features we’re bringing to the table, visit our website.
*Christopher May is Director of Residential People and nurturingAI