For better or worse, we truly live in an interconnected world today. How many personal and business relationships these days exist more so digitally online, as compared with face-to-face? How many real estate agents would even recognize their long-term clients if they bumped into them on the streets, after years of buying and selling properties together either locally or in multiple states? To prosper these days, agents should learn how to connect more with people online and in person.
Per multiple sources like the National Association of Realtors, upwards of 90% to 95% of all people first search for properties or mortgage information online before these same prospects later contact a real estate agent or mortgage broker. In past decades, real estate agents, attorneys, or accountants might have been the “go to source” for answers related to investment, legal, or financial questions. Nowadays, the “go to source” for answers may first begin with online search engines.
Top Online U.S.-Based Search Engines
1. Google (1.1 billion)
2. Bing (350 million)
3. Yahoo Search (300 million)
4. Ask (245 million)
5. Aol Search (125 million)
6. Wow (100 million)
7. WebCrawler (65 million)
8. MyWebSearch (60 million)
9. Infospace (24 million)
10. Info (13.5 million)
Source: eBizMBA Rank (August 2015 data)
The Chinese version of Google is named Baidu. Based upon user volume worldwide, Baidu would be considered as the #2 most popular search engine on Earth. Yet, few Americans have probably ever heard of this site. According to online data analysis sources such as Digital Trends, Baidu has more users worldwide than both Yahoo and Bing combined.
Baidu has aggressively been seeking to hire more English-speaking engineers in order to make their site more “user friendly” to the English speaking sector, and much easier to translate written words into almost any language on the planet. How many Americans today are using Baidu to market to prospects? The answer is probably very few, which makes it an untapped marketing source for wealthy foreign prospects.
Blogging & Social Networks
What is more important to the internet’s “Digital World” than written content? A high percentage of real estate agents use blogs to share information online with prospects and existing clients. There are an estimated 12 million + bloggers who use Social Media. The businesses and people who post online blogs have an 87% higher inbound traffic rate than those people or businesses which do not use online blogs. People need to continually add content to their sites in order to keep their readers or viewers coming back, and updated blogs are one of the most popular options.
In years past, real estate agents and other businesses might have invested significant amounts of money on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis towards their marketing budgets. Businesses need clients to survive, and businesses usually need to find new prospects or clients on a consistent basis in order to stay afloat. Past traditional marketing budgets included costs for print mailers such as black and white or four color postcards, letters, or print advertising in local, regional, or national newspapers or magazines. Stamp prices used to be quite affordable in past years or decades. At present, these same stamp prices are hovering near 50 cents each.
Many agents have turned to marketing online by joining numerous Social Media groups (both individually and within tens or hundreds of specific groups or subgroups within each Social Media site which cater to people interested in real estate), joining as many online chatrooms as possible, and figuring out the most creative ways to use texts, emails, and other free forms of marketing.
When people go online, they are typically searching for something to read or watch on their computer screen or smart device. A high percentage of Americans are interested in creating wealth in the near term as well as boosting their net worth so that they may one day retire. As such, the topic of real estate greatly interests a vast number of people who use computers, smart phones, and other high tech gadgets.
Agents and property owners can use free blog services offered by Blogger (owned by Google), WordPress, and other free blogging sites in order to attract more prospects, and find more buyers and sellers for current and future listings and purchase deals. With any form of marketing, the content provided is only as good as the prospects targeted by way of any form of marketing. One of the most important factors with digital marketing is to know which social networks have the highest user traffic in order to potentially reach the most prospects.
The Top 10 largest U.S. based Social Networking sites based upon users as of August 2015 were as follows (source: eBizMBA):
1. Facebook (900 million)
2. Twitter (310 million)
3. LinkedIn (255 million)
4. Pinterest (250 million)
5. Google Plus (120 million)
6. Tumblr (110 million)
7. Instagram (100 million)
8. VK (80 million)
9. Flickr (65 million)
10. Vine (42 million)
A World Full of Prospects
Per the internet analysis group named We are Social, there are an estimated 3 billion active internet users worldwide out of an estimated population base of 7.2 billion on Earth. An estimated 2.1 billion of the world’s residents are reported to have at least one Social Media account. An even larger number of 3.65 billion mobile users are reported to access the internet at least occasionally by way of tablets or smart devices (e.g., iPads, iPods, smartphones, etc.). So, there are literally billions of the Earth’s residents who are online daily, weekly, or monthly, and could be a potential reader of a real estate agent’s blog or an investor’s posting about their latest “Fix and Flip” deal for sale.
Foreign investors are actively purchasing both residential and commercial real estate all across the United States. Some of the steadiest and wealthiest buyers of U.S. real estate originate from countries such as Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany, Great Britain, India, and Russia. In order to find these foreign prospects, agents and sellers of U.S. properties need to know where to search for them online.
Many Asian and European investors like to invest in western U.S. region properties found in California, Oregon, and Washington. They also have a healthy appetite for residential and commercial properties in Texas, Florida, Boston, Chicago, and New York. U.S. based agents and sellers who effectively market towards foreign prospects need to first know about the names of the more popular social networks outside U.S. borders. Americans need to also realize that many of the most popular U.S. social networks sites are banned in places like China and elsewhere such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, so their residents may not be able to read or view posts from agents’ or investors’ blogs or sites.
The popular non-U.S. based social networks include:
* Sina Weibo
* QQ (Chinese instant messenger service with 780 million active users)
* Tencent Weibo (Chinese version of Twitter)
* Renren (Chinese version of Facebook with 712 million users)
* Youku (Chinese version of YouTube; 2nd most viewed video site worldwide)
Approximately 25% (1 in 4) of internet users worldwide are Chinese. The internet market in China is, by far, the largest in the world with well over 600 million users as of 2014. As such, the number of Chinese internet users is almost double the entire population base in the USA.
Chinese and other Asian residents are big fans of micro-blogging with short messages. There are approximately 85% of all Chinese internet users who have a micro-blogging type of account which they use on Twitter (if they can access from their home country), Sina Weibo, and Tencent Weibo. There are a number of social network sites and other online sites such as “Google Translate” which will instantaneously translate a post in English to just about any other language on the planet (and vice versa). As a result, it is actually much easier to market to foreign prospects online than in person due to fewer language barrier issues.
The larger the pool of prospects for a real estate agent or seller, the more likely the agent or owner will find a qualified buyer or seller. In many U.S. regions, foreign buyers with all cash for residential and commercial properties may reach upwards of 33% or 50%+. While most U.S. agents or property owners do not speak more than just their native language of English, they are quite fluent with Social Media skills.
Regardless of whether a person is fluent in more than one language, a posted blog or video of a subject property that is translated into multiple languages and posted worldwide is likelier to generate more responses than mailing out 50 postcards. A “picture may speak a thousand words” as the old saying goes, but a worldwide post may reach a number of viewers a multitude of times more. The world is yours with unlimited growth opportunities online!
Author: Rick Tobin
Rick Tobin has a diversified background in both the Real Estate and Securities fields for the past 25+ years. He has held seven (7) different Real Estate and Securities brokerage licenses to date.
Rick has an extensive background in the financing of residential and commercial properties around the U.S with debt, equity, and mezzanine money. His funding sources have included banks, life insurance companies, REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts), Equity Funds, and foreign money sources.
You can visit Rick Tobin at RealLoans.com.