As a real estate agent, it isn’t always possible to switch off when you go home. Imagine if you could relax and stop taking calls because someone or ‘something’ could communicate on your behalf, or possibly even imitate you?

In the near future, this may be a reality rather than a dream. Facebook Messenger and Chatbots are likely to be able to take some of the hard work out of real estate marketing. You’ll no longer burn out or short circuit, because Number 5 is alive!

Remember Johnny Five? Or am I showing my age?

Who are you talking to?

In a world of increasing public scrutiny, more and more of us are returning to the idea of keeping our conversations private. People are moving away from communicating via public comments on Facebook and Twitter, choosing instead to chat one-to-one or in small groups of friends and family using apps like Facebook Messenger.

Almost 1.2 million entities now talk on Messenger – but not all of them are human. Developers have seen the enormous possibilities artificial intelligence (AI) offers for platforms like Messenger, and how much easier Chatbots could make life for businesses, especially real estate agents and agencies.

You may have already spoken with a Chatbot. They’re computer programs designed to simulate real conversations with human users online – and they’re becoming more sophisticated all the time. They’re highly customisable to suit the line of work you do, as a real estate agent, and can create deeper connections with your clients by communicating in a personalised way, especially through platforms like Facebook Messenger.

How do Chatbots work?

Chatbot conversations are based on three different elements or interactions:

Flow

A Chatbot can anticipate the “flow” of a conversation simply by asking a question. Based on the answer a person gives, the bot will then offer them new choices. For those of you who remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books, it works a lot like these – but often with real-life results!

Triggers

If a person types in a particular keyword, this can trigger a conversation flow. For example, a home seller may typing in the words “selling my home” which could trigger a conversation flow that asks them further questions about the property they own and whether they’d like to make an appointment with a real estate agent.

Promotion

There are also features which enable people to subscribe to your Chatbot. They generally work alongside your Facebook ads, or appear as a feature on your website.

Of course, this doesn’t cover every base of customer interaction – but it’s a good start.

The rise of the Chatbots

Over 10,000 conversational experiences have been built specifically for Facebook Messenger – and these Chatbots are now generating two billion messages every month with the people they engage.

This is immensely good news for Facebook, which owns Messenger and WhatsApp, both ideal platforms for branded Chatbots. It’s following in the footsteps of the huge Chinese social network WeChat, which has led the way in this form of communication – and provides a digital marketing solution made in heaven.

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Do Chatbots really help your social media marketing?

Brands using Chatbots on Facebook Messenger are reporting huge increases in success compared with traditional email marketing.

The typical open rate for email is 20 percent – this is being smashed by Messenger, which reports an incredible open rate of 80-90 percent. As for click-through rates, Messenger fares much better here, too, with CTRs of up to 30 percent, compared to just 1-2 percent for email.

Of course, this success rate may not remain the same forever – at the moment Facebook messages from brands are a novelty so people are more likely to open them. In contrast, their email inboxes are swamped with advertising, so branded emails are more likely to be deleted or ignored.

But Messenger bots have an inbuilt advantage over email in that they offer more personalised, Q&A-style conversation, actually interacting with your clients in a way that automated email simply can’t – and this is unlikely to change.

Live chat… or is it?

Many companies are also replacing the “Live Chat” feature on their websites with the Facebook Messenger Chat plugin. It enables their audiences to use Messenger directly from the website so they can use a platform they’re familiar and comfortable with, and feel more connected with the brand as a result.

And, as Facebook already knows them, the chat experience is far more personalised. It also helps to reduce waiting times and creates a better customer experience because it gives users the ability to message you at any time and get the answers they want – even out of hours.

This might sound a little bit like the rise of the robots, and in a way, it is. But Messenger Chatbots can actually offer a huge amount of advantages when it comes to your real estate marketing.

Automate repetitive tasks

This is a huge plus for any real estate agent. You often struggle to find enough hours in the day – so wouldn’t it be nice to outsource some of the more tedious parts of your workload?

The tasks a Messenger Chatbot can automate include:

Reminders – contacting interested clients to remind them about open homes or live events.

Alerts – such as when a property price has been adjusted down.

Appointments – a bot can book appointments for home inspections or listing appraisals, arranging a convenient time for you to visit a client’s home.

Information – distributing your newsletters or current market updates.

All your questions answered

A Chatbot can act as your customer support assistant, 24 hours a day!

As you’ll know, one of the most time-consuming aspects of real estate marketing is having to answer the same questions from home buyers and sellers again and again. A Chatbot can take care of all these for you, as well as your property enquiries, in a way that makes users feel they have communicated with you personally. This boosts the reputation of your brand as it offers customers a prompt and personalised response.

According to Facebook, 80 percent of adults now use messaging apps every day so they’re an ideal way to communicate with anyone enquiring about your properties. And as millennials are the earliest adopters of this new technology, this makes Messenger Chatbots a perfect choice for dealing with repetitive enquiries about the rental market, too!

Building awareness of your real estate brand

Having a Chatbot communicating with your prospects on your behalf can be a great way of helping them understand what you do and how you can help them.

One way this can be achieved is through storytelling. Messenger is an ideal, personalised way of taking home sellers on a journey by sharing the story of a current home seller as it unfolds. Following the journey of someone in a similar position creates a connection with home sellers and enhances your personal appeal as an agent.

Your bot can even check in with home buyers periodically to find out what stage of the process they are at by asking them a few pertinent questions. It can then provide them with useful information they might not have realised they need to know, adding value to your brand.

Helping with sales

A Messenger bot can recommend properties a person might be interested in, or send them recent sales reports. It can also upsell them on related services such as building inspections, conveyancers or home removals.

In addition, your bot can deliver evergreen lead magnets i.e. content that covers topics of high interest such as home seller guides or investor reports.

Your Facebook adverts for both your real estate brand and your properties can become more interactive too, with a Messenger bot supporting your ads and giving the viewer specific calls to action.

But the big question remains…

Can a Chatbot close a deal?

Probably not – at least not yet!

A Chatbot won’t be able to replace you anytime soon. But it can certainly make your life a lot easier. And who doesn’t want that?

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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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