Contact Us

#Success: How CRE Is Turning Social Media Into Deals

Can you really pull in $40M from some tweets and videos? Lee & Associates Orange County broker Allen Buchanan has brought in deals accounting for that much through the weekly social media content he curates.  

Buchanan is part of a growing number of commercial real estate brokers, marketers, researchers and companies embracing social platforms to expand brands, be recognized as industry leaders, engage with current and potential clients, and, of course, get deals. In honor of National Social Media Day June 30, Bisnow spoke with some CRE professionals doing it right and seeing major returns.

Lee & Associates Orange County's Allen Buchanan

“I am 61 years old, and I am a believer in social media content marketing,” said Buchanan, who has 6,000 Twitter followers, a few hundred YouTube subscribers and has been consistently posting since 2010. “Our industry has not fully embraced the power of social media and content marketing.”

While the strategy may vary from platform to platform and company to company, social media posts generally include breaking real estate transactions, news articles, thought leadership pieces, research reports and other in-house content such as photos, videos and blogs. 

Every week, Buchanan writes a column called Location Advice for owners and tenants of industrial buildings in Southern California. The blog is pushed out to about a dozen media outlets. Buchanan also produces weekly YouTube videos called Tuesday Traffic Tips to provide insight for industry professionals. He described consistency and authenticity as two of the most important characteristics of social media content.  

Glenn LaFollette

Many commercial real estate firms are educating their brokers on how to use the platform and encouraging them to do so.

“[Individual social media accounts] are just as valuable as the company’s branded accounts by providing a rich audience of clients and perspectives,” JLL Senior Manager of Brand Strategy Glenn LaFollette said.  “In some cases, they have spent years getting to know their audience. There is great equity in a personal network.”

The industry does not depend solely on brokers and other professionals to carry the load on social media. Firms allocate marketing dollars and personnel resources to build a following and produce content for the different platforms.

With more than 632,000 followers, JLL focuses primarily on LinkedIn, a business-focused social platform, according to LaFollette. Since 70% of the platform’s members are working, it offers the ideal audience for the firm’s target audience, he said.  

“The thing about social [media] is that you have to stay ahead of it,” he said. “You want to make sure [you're] not using the wrong kind of content in the wrong channels. You have to stay ahead of the trends.”

Transwestern's Stefanie Lewis

At Transwestern, the marketing team focuses on Twitter, according to its media relations specialist, Stefanie Lewis. It began to ramp up its social media plan in 2013. Transwestern has 5,000 Twitter followers and nearly 10,000 Facebook likes. The company’s following has grown over 700% across four platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram), and increased engagement by 800% over those platforms, Lewis said. 

In early June, the company merged all of its regional accounts for cities like Houston and Atlanta into the main account — an uncommon move — to create a single, unified corporate account, she said.  

“There is a big push for cross-collaboration between geographies and services,” she said. “There is not as much of a need for that segmentation on social media.”

LinkedIn has been best for recruitment, while Instagram is suited for company culture insight such as community service, wellness and professional development, she said.   

“Commercial real estate is all about relationships,” Lewis said. “Social platforms provide an easy way for brokers to research potential clients. They can see if they have any connections in the industry or interests in common so they can build some conversation starters.”   

Broker Melissa Alexander

Tennessee-based broker Melissa Alexander, the co-host of a monthly TweetChat #CREchatLIVE along with Casey Flannery, finds platforms like Twitter, its subsidiary Periscope (a live streaming app) and LinkedIn best cater to her target market.

“Social media is increasingly more and more important,” said Alexander, who joined Twitter in 2010 and has more than 1,600 followers. “The industry has been slow to catch on to social media but is embracing the CRE tech movement.”

Being a broker into today’s digital world — where the way people shop and communicate is evolving — individuals must be willing to create personal brands by sharing industry knowledge with followers, she said.

Alexander outlined three ways to engage on social platforms: simply retweeting relevant content, providing feedback and commentary on the latest trends and news, and creating original content like blogs or LinkedIn posts.

CORRECTION, JULY 1, 7:30 P.M. ET: In a previous version of this story, Melissa Alexander's company name and quote were incorrect. The story has been updated.