How to stay out of social media Bizarro World

First, take a hit off this (start at 1:50):

Then – quickly – absorb about thirty seconds of this:

Now imagine that it is Andy Williams and Steve Austin that are fighting, on a pastel-hued sound stage, with Sasquatch prancing about in a skirt.

That, my friends, is the sort of bizarro world you must conjure to effectively register the real estate social media universe these days.

A bad trip


Social media hit real estate about four years ago, at roughly the same time the market began its slide. The attention and energy of a restless industry flowed into blogs, online real estate communities, and mainstream social networks.

It all made sense. Real estate is a social business. It’s based on service – on people – not product or even, really, on brands. Real estate brokers and agents had been masters of social media for generations, blogging, in a sense, whenever someone at the grocery store asked “How’s the market?” and networking on platforms like Rotary or the PTA.

This social media thing was made for real estate.

But does it feel to you like real estate has really nailed it? It doesn’t to me. In fact, cases of social media success in our industry are few and far between.

There are lots of reasons why. The details are less important than some of the faulty assumptions driving them:

  • That hundreds of thousands of under-experienced practitioners could play effectively on a platform that rewards substance
  • That the social media opportunity would get bigger the easier it got to participate
  • That social media marketing could be sensibly peddled to agents by many of the same folks who convinced them that haranguing their friends and neighbors with scripts was a good idea

Welcome to Bizzaro world. Meet Andy, Steve and Sasquatch.

But you said this was good shit

Right. It is. All this social media stuff can be really valuable.

But there are caveats – big ones – we put to clients when assessing the viability of social media as a marketing strategy. Sometimes we go for it, sometimes we don’t. And that’s OK. There are other ways to approach the marketplace.

We have not become cynical, just more careful.

Here are a few of those caveats:

  • Writing is a skill you must possess, or hire, to be successful. Writing is hard for most people. It’s hard for me right now as I sit in seat 12C, my mind wandering across the isle, out the window – anywhere but this screen. But good writing is absolutely essential to most social media strategies. If you’re not strong in this area – and plenty of smart people aren’t – don’t shine a spotlight on it.
  • Social media marketing costs just as much or more than “traditional” marketing. You’re going to need to spend a lot more in time and spend your money in different places. On a marketing director with great writing skills, for example. Or a video producer who can do right by you. Social media needs to be treated with the same care that big newspaper ad contract received back in the day if you want results.


  • Don’t believe anyone who says blogs are passé. Just because 95% of agents and an only slightly smaller percentage of brokerage companies lack the skills needed to publish a great blog does not mean they are not still the best way to engage. Can you exposit a complex thought in a Tweet? Can you build trust with a status update? It’s important to understand that there are no shortcuts.
  • It’s from you but not about you. Reality TV may be popular, but no one wants to tune into the show called You. It’s your blog, your Twitter account, your YouTube channel. But just because you own it does not mean it’s a good idea to broadcast the quotidian pitter-patter of your life. No one cares. I’ve felt the temptation to write about something off-topic here from time to time, just because I can. But I always think better of it. No one wants to hear about how I spend my weekends, my workout regimen, or my thinking about how John Gosselin should be getting his shit together. Writing for a reader is harder than writing about yourself. But remember, this isn’t supposed to be easy.
  • You must be willing to make yourself uncomfortable. Who am I going to piss off? Is that reference too weird? I have a twinge of fear every time I hit “publish.” But I do it anyway. If you don’t push yourself to share things others can’t or won’t, or say what they will say in a distinctive way, you’re probably wasting your time. Explore the taboo. Embrace controversy. Open yourself to criticism. Safe loses every time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put on my favorite Andy Williams sweater and go unleash some whoop-ass on Steve Austin.