How can CRE professionals stand out in a sea of internet clutter? Digital marketing expert Sarah Malcolm weighs in.

According to the latest study from Pew Research, roughly seven-in-ten Americans use social media to connect with one another, engage with news content, share information, and entertain themselves. That’s nearly 224 million people in the United States alone — a staggering 64 percent increase since 2005.

As potential clients, colleagues, and even future employers spend more time online, a strong and professional digital presence has become more than an experiential marketing hack — it’s a prerequisite for success.

But for those who have yet to enter the social media fray, it can be challenging to identify where and how your efforts will be most impactful. We caught up with Sarah Malcolm, Chief Digital Strategist for The News Funnel, to find out what advice she has for CRE professionals looking to grow their online footprint.

Q: Why is it important for CRE brokers, appraisers, and even investors to have a digital presence?

A: In today’s world, you simply have to have a digital footprint. I honestly can’t imagine building a brand without one. But more importantly, you have be the voice leading the conversation. People need to know that you’re a trusted source in the industry and the best way for people to see that and to get to know your brand is through digital channels.

Q: Where should a CRE broker who is interested in creating a website or social media presence start?

A: LinkedIn is the best for networking. Twitter is good for building relationships. Instagram and Facebook are useful for building a personality. There are many platforms for building a blog. Of course, the key to all of that is sharing and engaging regularly.

Q: Is it still possible to build an engaged audience from scratch on heavily saturated social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter?

A: Those platforms are tricky these days, and it’s particularly challenging to organically build followers on Facebook — it is very much pay-to-play now. That said, there are still a few tricks that can help. Facebook Live is a good tool. You can always ask your friends to share your work. But the best way to reach the audience you want is by using targeted ads and amplifying great content directly to them. On Twitter, the best way to grow is to interact daily with the major influencers in your industry.

Q: Similarly, how can companies that are new to the digital scene set themselves apart from competitors?

A: It’s like I was just saying, you have to focus on consistently engaging with influencers. And by that I mean every single day. The other way is to consistently publish quality blogs. Some people think blogging is overused, but content really is king. People are looking for great information, so if you’re an expert in CRE, build an audience and let them hear about it.

Q. What is the biggest mistake you see CRE professionals making online?

A: Well, actually, there are a few. The first is that they create accounts and never get around to updating them. This is a very bad idea. The reason our agency, The Content Funnel, is so successful is because we take that burden off the broker’s plate and we get results.

Another mistake I see in this industry is a general hesitation to have a personality. The mindset is that people have to be professional at all times. That’s not necessarily true. People like “real” people. When they like you, they do business with you. It’s that simple. That said, you have to be yourself. If you’re not a funny person, don’t try to be funny online. It won’t resonate. People like authenticity.

Another huge mistake is that people fail to use the data these platforms provide to you. Twitter, for example, lets you know what your followers’ top interests are. This is a great roadmap for creating content.

Finally, I’d say it is a huge mistake to stop following trends. There are a ton of resources online for this. In fact, we host a #CREMarketing call that is aimed at helping folks stay on trend. You can also attend events, like the one we’re hosting in partnership with Mashable for Social Media Day on June 30th in New York City. We have Comedy Central, GGP, JLL, Boxed, Grubhub/Seamless, and COHN speaking. Hope to see you there!

To see all of this in action, read our list of top CRE professionals to follow Twitter.

Looking for up-to-date, comprehensive commercial real estate market data? Reonomy offers CRE professionals real-time access to the data points they need to grow their business — from debt and sales history to zoning and building owner information. Sign up for a free trial of Reonomy National today.

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