Get ahead of the wave

He was a well-dressed gentleman seated at the table just to my left. Assembled at the front of the room were myself and three other panelists. We were wrapping up a morning’s worth of presentations with some questions at‘s Interactive Real Estate Marketing conference in Melbourne.

Silver-haired, impeccably groomed and dressed to the nines in a tailored three-piece suit, he raised his hand. His accent bespoke private-school education.

“Can I turn Facebook off in my office?” he asked.

His question took all of us by surprise. I asked him to elaborate. I had to make sure I understood what he was asking.

He went on to explain he was the owner of a large, well-respected agency (i.e. brokerage) in Victoria. Over decades he’d built an exclusive, polished, high-end brand. But now his agents were flocking to social media sites and he was worried that the well-crafted image he’d spent millions constructing might come crashing down around him.

Social media tsunami

Three days earlier I was in New Zealand at the Future of Real Estate conference in Auckland. Like in Melbourne, social media was the focus of the day’s discussions.

It’s no surprise that around the world, social media – and, by extension, savvy online marketing – has become a rumbling force within the real estate industry.

(You’ll have to excuse the earth moving metaphors. There was a 7.1 earthquake in Christchurch during my stay in NZ. And while the city was tossed into ruins, thankfully there were no fatalities.)

And as we’ve seen here in the US, it’s a tidal wave that will crest, and one that will eventually come crashing in and sweep away tired, stale marketing practices.

Looking up from Down Under

In Australia and New Zealand, the newspapers still rule. Real estate marketing basically consists of buying an ad in a dead tree. Sound eerily familiar?

But just like their counterparts State-side, agents Down Under are now turning their attention to the web. It’s a place to reach new consumers, to cut costs, take control of their message and generate new business.

Online portals like are helping them challenge conventional thinking. Companies like Sobox are helping them execute. And so piece-by-piece, listing-by-listing, blog post-by-blog post, the marketing landscape is changing.

This makes lots of people very uneasy.

My answer to the silver-haired gentleman? Get ahead of this wave. Don’t fear it, embrace it. Establish a strong online marketing strategy – one that includes a watertight social media policy for your employees. Encourage them to spend time on Facebook but to do so in meaningful, brand-building ways. Set up a corporate presence in social media that leads the way and can provide inspiration to less technologically-inclined team members.

Ultimately, you need to tend to your brand online with the same care that you did in the offline world.

To his credit, the gentleman acknowledged that times were changing. And that he would likely have to hire someone to help him make sense of this new world. Despite a seemingly dopey question, this dude was dialed in.

If only everyone were so with it.