Is Facebook for Small Business?

Recently, I’ve been asked the question of whether or not Facebook is really valid for small businesses or for any business for that matter. The major point of contention between business owners is that Facebook has decreased the percentage of followers that a business page may reach via an organic post (no advertising) to approximately 6.5%. The gradual (and not so gradual) reduction has been happening for years, but when you spend additional marketing dollars on a content marketing strategy so your page and presence looks professional on Facebook, you obviously want to get the most bang out of your buck.

Facebook Reach

I have been working with Facebook for business since its inception so I understand the pain point very well.  My own take on it is that Facebook is like the Yellow Pages used to be, but with one caveat, Facebook has the unique ability to target consumers with their advertising better than anything other than Google. Couple this with the fact that according to the Pew Research Internet Project, “Social Media Update 2014,” 58% of all adults use Facebook, followed by Linkedin, Pinterest, and Instagram all in the low 20%’s.  So, while we may not be able to enjoy the free-wheeling days of the mid-2000′s where organic posts were reaching a great deal more of our followers, the ad rates that Facebook charges and the pay per click model that Facebook and Google have built their businesses is here to stay.  Get used to it.  With digital advertising, you know your customer looked at your ad. Not only that, but you have an opportunity to capture that consumers information with relevant landing pages and free offers for your valued services.  Give folks a free taste and you will be surprised how many engage with you.

Social Network Users in U.S. 2014

As my Dad always says when I’m complaining about my golf game…”Play Better.” In this case, start advertising digitally, build your audience, foster those relationships (convert your contacts to a database) and follow up with them via email drip campaigns.  Marketing is the same game, it is just morphing into a digital form. Social selling is based along the same principles as traditional selling.  Meet people, however you can, meet people, online, offline, in the grocery store or on Pinterest, but engage and develop relationships.  It is conversations that have meaning, not the platform where they happen.

How Century 21 Creates Award-Winning Real-Time Social Media

I had the pleasure of appearing on the Social Pros podcast hosted by +Jay Baer.  We discussed what it means to direct social media for +CENTURY 21.

Social Pros Podcast

Social Pros Podcast

As the largest residential real estate franchise sales organization, @Century21 has created multiple award-winning campaigns specific to the social media space. Most recently, I’m proud to report that our brand was recognized with a Gold Stevie Award for “Communications or PR Campaign of the Year – Social Media Focused“.

This summer the CENTURY 21® brand celebrated a fourth consecutive win during this year’s advertising awards season collecting a Gold Andy Award, Gold and Silver OneShow Pencils and the People’s Choice Award at the Webby Awards for innovative social creative content.

CENTURY 21 Award-Winning Social Media Campaigns

CENTURY 21 Award-Winning Social Media Campaigns

Most recently the brand was honored with a Stevie Award for best PR and Communication – Social Media Focus.

Our social media team has been focused on maintaining the brand’s position as the number one most-trafficked real estate franchise website and providing unique social content that drives conversations and engagement opportunities for CENTURY 21 affiliated brokers and agents.

The biggest challenge and opportunity within our business model is that we have both a business to business (B2B – Brand to Franchise) and a business to consumer (B2C – Brand to Consumer) relationship.  Each franchise is its own individual business, so the corporate team supports the 103,000+ agents in their 7,100 offices around the world with fresh content and with social media education. We also market to the consumer via national advertising campaigns and sponsorships like U.S. Soccer, Indy 500, Super Bowl, Little League World Series, and the National Spelling Bee Championship.

Social Pros Podcast

Century 21 releases best practices, but really it comes down to the local operator. Some offices have their own Facebook and Twitter accounts, and they leverage the content that Matt’s team provides. “At the end of the day, they have to make business happen,” Matt says. “They understand the market better than anyone at corporate headquarters.” Matt’s team encourages every franchise to get out there and use the tools in ways that work for them.

Take a listen to the full podcast and let me know what you think and how you manage the same types of challenges in your organization.

List of social media awards earned by CENTURY 21 since 2013:

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Innovative Social Campaigns Earn Prestigious Awards for CENTURY 21®

I’m pleased to report that this summer the CENTURY 21® brand celebrated a fourth consecutive win during this year’s advertising awards season collecting a Gold Andy Award, Gold and Silver One Show Pencils and the People’s Choice Award at the Webby Awards for innovative social creative content.  These are some of the most prestigious awards ever achieved by the iconic real estate brand for its marketing efforts.

Constant Digital Production

Constant Digital Production

For the past year, the social media team has been focused on maintaining the brand’s position as the number one most-trafficked real estate franchise website and providing unique social content that drives conversations and engagement opportunities for CENTURY 21 affiliated brokers and agents.

A major part of our strategy was to grab the attention of industry and the consumer by matching our content strategy with our tag line: “SMARTER. BOLDER. FASTER.®  Having come from the PR industry and now fully dedicated to driving lead generation, traffic and brand preference initiatives on the digital team, I’ve seen the evolution of the media environment first-hand. Generating a news headline in a mass media publication like the NY Times used to be an achievement that would linger for a few weeks, maybe even a month.  No longer the case.  Today’s media environment demands constant digital production across multiple channels to fuel inbound marketing opportunities, engage with various target audiences and support SEO efforts.

So, for aspiring public relations professionals…campaigns that take 30 days to plan and execute for one week’s worth (if it is a major campaign) of coverage across mass media, its time to change your mental model of what PR is in the year 2014. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing like the Super Bowl to drive publicity, but there are only so many Super Bowls.  So, if you are not sponsoring a major event every day, what are you going to do to inspire your fans, consumers, sales force, and other stakeholders on a daily basis?

In 2013 in conjunction with Eric Montague and Tim Cawley we executed a concept called “Drumbeat.”  The essence of the new reality of digital marketing is that you must produce high-quality, low-cost digital creative to feed the beast, which is no longer just mass media, but all digital / social media.

How is the team doing it? By creating shareable social media moments to be seen far and wide, via a mix of content – photos, memes and videos – across the brand’s most popular social channels like FacebookTwitterYouTubeGoogle+Instagram and Pinterest.

This form of marketing is not for the feint of heart. I can tell you the journey from the beginning of this new way of thinking about corporate marketing was not an easy one. Creating “co-collaborators” within a complex corporate matrix takes time and patience. Legal and leadership have to know and feel comfortable that you are doing everything by the book and they have to buy-in to the concept, as expedited reviews are a major element in creating topical campaigns that leverage the news cycle.  Patience, persistence and just the right amount of moxie, or as Cawley describes it, This is creative for the speed of the Internet. Topical event. Have and idea. Produce it. Socialize it. Collect hardward at next year’s creative shows. Done. Well, actually not done, as you have to do it again next week and the week after. This is the new timetable for creative. Get used to it. No time and no money no longer mean bad work.”

Throughout the past year, the brand has generated real-time social campaigns celebrating the following:

  • U.S. Soccer Victory Dance – a video victory dance celebrating each time the U.S. Soccer team scores a goal in the World Cup
  • Lawn Invasion – A group of lawn ornaments “Fears the Sign” as their neighborhood friends disappear as the CENTURY 21® SOLD sign goes up in the yards around their homes
  • Easter – something for the littlest ones in the family, a video with footage of the “real” Easter Bunny outside a CENTURY 21 listing
  • Valentine’s Day – a little Barry White spirit with love poem videos to set the mood
  • New Years Day – the launch of the first ever National Stay at Home Day with the help of brand partners Dish and Snuggie
  • Holiday Season – a video series featuring Gingerbread real estate agents selling Gingerbread homes
  • Thanksgiving – a custom rock song for Turkey Day, aptly titled, the Tryptophan Slow Jam. Not only is it a 60’s style throwback, but the tune will remain stuck in your head for days
  • Halloween – a series of haunted house videos with the tagline, “Slightly haunted? Yeah, we could sell that.”
  • The Series Finale of Breaking Bad – a phony listing of Walter White’s house on Craigslist, chockfull of insider show references, as well as a phone number with a voicemail that asked callers to share their thoughts on the finale
  • The Royal Baby – a Facebook post welcoming baby George, and their need to upgrade to a bigger place

The payoff…a very proud CMO!

“I am very proud of the recognition this work has received,” added Thorne. “However, we are not sitting back as we enter the peak months of the 2014 home buying and selling season. The brand is as committed as ever to putting CENTURY 21 affiliated real estate professionals front and center with consumers in more unexpected, clever and highly sharable ways!”

Oh, and before I forget…the most important thing of all.  I am humbled and honored to have played a small role in creating a new space for creative minds to flourish and innovate.  The trophies ain’t bad either!


CENTURY 21 Takes Over YouTube Home Page With Puppy Cam!

On March 27, Century 21 Real Estate became the first national real estate franchise to takeover the home page of when it launched “Puppy Cam” with the tag line: “Fall in Puppy Love with Your Dream Home on”  (The March 27 date corresponds to the highest search traffic day for real estate, according to Google.) The campaign included a full banner at the top of the home page of

The campaign was a huge success drawing over 44 million viewers who spent over 22,000 hours viewing our eight puppy cams! (More metrics to come)

According to Digiday article:  What do a ton of fluffy puppies and a real estate franchise have in common? On the surface, not much, but in a series of Web ads that launched last month, Century 21 has essentially equated watching a litter of wiggling baby dogs to the feeling you get when buying a new home.

Last week, the company took the campaign as step further, running a massive ad on the YouTube homepage featuring an all-day PuppyCam that directed users back to the Century 21 website. The stunt, according to Century 21′s chief marketing officer, Bev Thorne, resulted in more than 44 million impressions.

Puppy Cam YouTube Takeover

“The original puppy video was received so favorably, so we used that creative to take over the [YouTube] front page and had a little fun with it,” said Thorne. “With the traffic that we got, we were able to connect people with agents and offices.”

“In essence, we’re inviting YouTube visitors to fall in ‘puppy love’ with their dream home by showcasing eight adorable videos of furry little friends playing, running, sleeping and, overall, just being downright lovable.”

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Will G+ Dominate Social in 2014?

Google Plus has been live for over three years now and as of December 20113 it had over 550 million users* on the network. For comparison sake, Facebook has 1.19 billion users** and its mobile business has been growing rapidly; however, its user growth rate has slowed.G+ Circles Image

So, will G+ supplant Facebook as the world’s most dominant social network? Well, according to G+ expert @RebekahRadice, blog post, “Google Plus vs Facebook: Why G+ Should Dominate Your 2014 Marketing Strategy,” G+ will become a much stronger player in the social media space. I strongly encourage you to read the post in its entirety as it is well thought out and includes quotes from other thought leaders on this subject.  Key quote:

Google+ is Google. Google is search. Search is where people go to buy. Buying is what makes your clients money, which they then reinvest in your services.”

In my humble opinion, Facebook has a great deal of functionality that enables and fosters community building. This is great for businesses and sales professionals who plan to manage a community and foster business via long-term relationship building. This will require time and an ability to generate engaging content that inspires and generates ongoing conversation.

Google+ is much more for brands and business who want to be found online. And…given the growth of online shopping, this objective continues to grow in importance for every business.  G+ in its present form does not have the robust feature set as Facebook.  This definitely gives Facebook an edge in community building and management.  However, G+ continues to improve and the fact that it is Google provides an inherent value that Facebook cannot match.

The bottom line:  I believe brands, businesses and individual sales professionals need to have business pages established on both platforms. Currently, the networks serve different purposes with Facebook serving as more of a CRM tool for customer incubation and G+ providing an edge in search.  I don’t believe there is an either / or answer to the question of whether you should market your business on Facebook or Google+, but you must understand the differences, understand your business/marketing goals and spend the time / money that is appropriate for you on each platform.  Oh yeah…G+ is launching social ads.

Now, to answer the question of whether or not G+ will dominate social in 2014? Yes, I believe it will grow more rapidly than any other social network. No, I would not expect it to “dominate” social. There are way too many smart app developers and start-ups in No. Cal., Boston, Austin and many, many other cities around the globe creating an entirely new Web environment every day, but as my Advanced Writing professor taught me…draft attention-grabbing headlines.

Bonus thought: Regardless of how much time you dedicate to Facebook and/or G+ this year, make sure everything you post, design, develop is done with a mobile audience in mind.  The growth of mobile and the volume of content consumed will only increase in 2014 and beyond.

For tech trends in real estate, make sure to read: from our good friend @tracyweir