John McGrath shares tips on how to get started with social media

Whatever your age, interest or inclination to be on social media it’s important to understand how to use it to grow your real estate income. From ensuring your face is seen, promoting your real estate skills or whether it’s to draw out buyers to take interest in a property, the benefits of this digital media channel are too good to pass up. 

Here I talk with John McGrath to find out what he thinks about social media, and to gauge insights from his own experiences coaching McGrath agents, to his tips for taking baby steps to get started. This video is well worth its weight in gold.

Click below to watch the video.


Following is the video transcript.

Getting to grips with social media marketing

Melanie Hoole

I am interested in your thoughts on digital marketing for our show. So today we’re going to talk specifically about marketing, from both an agent and a marketing person’s perspective, and delve into what your thoughts are on digital media and social media.

What are your thoughts on what we have today versus when I first worked for you back in 2006? What’s the difference in what the agent had then versus what they have now in their digital toolkit?

John McGrath

I still think digital marketing is underutilised. And I think people gravitate towards bits and pieces but not all. Some people make great use of REA and domain.com.au, the real estate portals, but they’re not so good on some of the other social media or digital apps that can be used.

Some are great on social media; others kind of have a blind spot around social media. And I think that you don’t need to use everything, but you need to be open to finding out what everything can do for you.

Does age matter with social and digital marketing?

I speak to a lot of real estate agents, and if you’re 40 years plus, you didn’t grow up with an iPad or social media. Only the other day, an agent who I was coaching said, “I’m not into the social media stuff”, and I said, that’s a story you’re telling yourself. Social media is an important part of being an agent so you’ve got to get into it. Because otherwise, the other agents around you that are competing for your business, will make use of social media more effectively than you. Customers nowadays like keeping an eye on agents and properties and what’s happening in areas though their social media accounts.

Melanie Hoole

There’s a misconception that comes up in conversation all the time. Agents assume that people over the age of 60 are not on social media. This is not true. Older generations, particularly Baby Boomers are very active and have their iPad, tablets and most importantly they have the time to scroll and can go at a slower pace through their social feed. They use social media to stay connected to friends and family. So it’s actually a great way, and a great medium and channel to reach them.

John McGrath

I agree. I think social media, in particular, Facebook (and I suspect Instagram) is quite common in the personal usage of people that are in their 50’s and 60’s.

However, in the workplace, if you spoke to most real estate agents, and let’s say the average audience age for this video was 55, and you asked, “Are you effectively utilising social media to promote your properties, and promote your business?” Then the answer would be “No.”

Melanie Hoole

I agree with you, because when I consider who my clients are, the majority of them are in that 55+ age range, because they come to me and my team and they say, “I don’t want to do it. Could your team just do it for me?” So yes that’s a commonality. 

Making the most of immersive digital experiences

John McGrath

But even if real estate agents utilise a service like yours, and outsource their digital marketing, which is a great idea, because again, you can’t do everything. There are some people who have that passion and their own special touch about how they are using social media to promote themselves. They are doing it themselves, whereas other real estate agents need to get an expert in.

Most importantly, you still need to be across it, aware of it, interested in how social media marketing works. So even though I’m not personally into Facebook and Instagram, again, I follow sites that inspire me. So it could be that I simply use social media for coaching and training and just insights. It could be architectural sites that I’m following to discover the latest trends in new developments. So you may not be an avid user or super active online with your own social connections. But even as a business tool, it’s arguable you have to be in that space.

Melanie Hoole

John, you mentioned that you’re ‘multi-platform’, and might research different websites when you watch a movie. So I did this. Yesterday, I watched a movie, but then I find myself going to Wikipedia, to research the actors. And then I read around the topic and subject, so we like to get really immersed in information. Today, it’s more than just one digital experience, we use multiple platforms for different reasons and to access different information or visual elements to build a more rounded picture of the cast, characters and media attention. 

John McGrath

100%. I agree with you. I’m the same. If I’m watching the big screen, not on my iPhone or iPad, and they say something, and I don’t know what that word means, I’ll go and research the word. Or I’ll say, oh, How old is that actor? And you know, what other movies have they done? Your right. I find it’s critical for sourcing information.

Either you’re a natural, or you hire someone to help

Melanie Hoole

What about marketing people, because there’s a lot of real estate coaches in the industry that help on the sales side. And I’ve always thought of marketing versus sales in real estate as a kind of Yin and Yang. There are still not many people to support agents with real estate marketing, so there’s still a lot of opportunity for people like me and my marketing cohorts to raise the bar by sharing industry knowledge and offering training.

So how do you train your agents and staff in marketing?  

John McGrath

Look, let’s put the McGrath business aside just momentarily because we’re a bigger firm than most in terms of the number of offices and perhaps the infrastructure we have.

Let’s just talk to the individual that’s watching here. Either you’re bloody good at social media, you’re in touch with your digital marketing and creative, know what to do and how to say it, or you’re not.

If you are good at social media marketing, and there are some very good people out there, then great. Go for it, do it yourself if you can. Do it all and if you’ve got a particular strength and are really good at using social media then that’s good. 

Trouble is, most people aren’t, and therefore you’ve got to say well, I either stay out of that game or I hire an expert. I would say, hire an expert.

Real estate agents that lead by example

So this lady on the Northern Beaches that I know very well, Lisa Novak, from Novak properties is extraordinary at social media and the way she utilises Facebook, which is predominantly to sell her properties. I think that most of her listings have a short period on her social channels before they hit the major portals, and she’s getting tremendous cut through in selling the homes before needing to do a full real estate marketing campaign. Her proposition to the client is, why don’t you give it to me for a fortnight, and we’ll see if we can sell the property on Facebook for a great price. And if not, well, we will then move forward with an advert on REA and signboards and so forth. 

Melanie Hoole

Yes, I too know Lisa as I rode with her husband Mark Novak across Thailand as part of Steve Carroll’s Digital Live Charitable Bike Ride.

Lisa is doing a great job with selling properties as off-market or pre-marketing listings. Her strategy is very much aligned with social media and making use of her buyer database, we mustn’t forget the email database. Those two marketing mechanisms help the agent test the waters, see what the price perception might be with active home buyers before they launch a full marketing campaign for the property.

Go out there and have a crack

John McGrath

Lisa is a great example of someone who’s very comfortable in front of the camera. This is the wrong term, but it’s “down and dirty”. It’s very authentic. She doesn’t get wonderful camera crews as we have here, with lighting. She literally walks through a home with a camera and says, ‘Hey, guys, have a look at this. This is a great beachside apartment that needs a bit of work.” It’s very effective.

So you’ve got to just pick your mark, and some of our guys, are really strong social media users themselves. I would think that 60 to 70% of McGrath real estate agents do social media themselves. And I’d say 30 to 40%, hire a consultant or expert. Both have great outcomes.

But it really depends on what your passion is? What are you really good at? Can you be honest enough with yourself about whether you need help with social media or not. And it could be that you start off doing it yourself. Because if you’re an agent sitting there saying I don’t have a huge budget, I’m not writing half a million yet. I’m writing from 150 to 200 and have more time to do self-promotion because I only have a couple of clients right now. 

You may not have the capacity or the time, nor the financial resources to actually outsource it. But then you might go from selling one property a month to six or seven a month, at which point you might say I need to step it up now and delegate social media promotions to someone else. So I think you’ve just got to be honest with yourself about what you can cope with? And, what are you really good at?

Melanie Hoole

And it’s very technical. A lot of people assume its easy because we use social media ourselves. And they’ve made the same assumption with marketing for years – because we’re bombarded with it, and we see it, and we can touch it and experience it that it’s it must be super easy and happens in, you know, the wink of an eye.

Generate growth with social advertising

But, my challenge in the industry is to lift the game on paid advertising. So that’s taken some of the budgets from the portals, and realigning the marketing playing field a bit. Real estate can now be promoted across multiple digital mediums. You can promote yourself as an agent using Google ads as well as building a reputation through social media ads.

Paid advertising gives us the ability to create our own audiences. We can literally build our own databases on Facebook. And as soon as somebody visits your website, we can tag them and follow them around the web, which is called ‘remarketing’. But paid digital advertising is a whole world that real estate professionals still haven’t cottoned on to.

John McGrath

That is where you need to know the expertise for sure. Look, I think capturing basic content if you’re quite adept at digital and using cameras and stuff. I think it’s actually not that hard, for most. But then where does the content go? Some people say, “Well, I put a post on my Facebook. I say, “That’s interesting, I had to look; you’ve got 14 followers, so it’s probably not going to go far.”

However, retargeting, search engine optimization, and Google AdWords are ideal, but again, if you’re writing 150k, you may only have a small budget, not a big one. If you’re selling 15 properties a month, you’ve certainly got the capacity, and you probably need to really boost paid advertising up and turbocharge it.

So from my perspective, I think it depends on where you’re at in the growth cycle of your real estate business (or career). You’ve got to start looking at how you can generate growth.

Try out social posts on a small audience

Someone may be watching this interview and a number of your other ones and feel overwhelmed and confused. So, just start small. Go look at Lisa Novak’s Facebook account, to see what she does. Try and do one or two posts or videos yourself. Post on your own Facebook account and Instagram. Even if you only have 14 followers, just test it, get good at it, and then all of a sudden, you might end up with 144 followers, and you might be getting better at it, and then all of a sudden, you sell property off the back of your social media accounts. You’ll have people saying, “I saw the property on Facebook, can I see it?”

So don’t be afraid to start small and test. Don’t be afraid to engage experts like yourself if you have the interest and the budget to do so. That’s good too. But just don’t get overwhelmed, actually have fun with it. Go and find something interesting to say, not just property updates. You know there is Stefon Bertram in Ryde who does great work online, as does Michael Dowling and Alex Mintorn up near you Mel. They do social media posts themselves, because they’ve developed a passion for online and are serious about it, and that comes across.

Don’t fear the unknown, give it a go

So you’ve kind of got to balance all that up and work out where you are in the social media space, but you can’t be out of it. You’ve got to be in there somewhere. It just depends on how deep you want to jump in, and whether you want to jump in yourself, or do you want to get an expert to do it for you?

Melanie Hoole

And you shouldn’t feel bad about being overwhelmed because I’ve been doing this for over 20 years now, and I’m constantly having to test and try things out. And you know, the goalposts move continually, and the platforms change constantly.

So I love the fact that you’re saying give it a go, jump in, don’t be afraid to press buttons, and put a bit of budget behind your posts to see what happens, and then constantly learning.

John McGrath

Most top agents do post properties on social, and they do $10 a day to boost. I think it’s now gone up a bit because they’ve had great success with Facebook advertising. But they started with $10 or $20 a day to boost their ad on Facebook. They just started small, and all of a sudden, they’ve properties are reaching more people. They’ve got more followers, and their content got better.

So a very good strategy is to start small.

About this video series

Hoole.co’s video series brings together the best digital and social media minds in the real estate industry, to share the wonders of the web and magic of mobile. Subscribe to Hoole.co or follow us on social media (below) for free tips and tricks to grow your reputation and attract prospects, digitally.

Melanie Hoole

Written by Melanie Hoole

Melanie specialises in helping real estate professionals perfect their personal brand, build a first-class digital profile, and implement inbound marketing activities to attract property owners planning to sell. If you are unsure which direction to take with your digital marketing – contact Melanie Hoole for help.

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