Finding renters in Toronto is not hard with skyrocketing real estate prices and recent measures which make it harder for first-time homebuyers to enter the real estate market. Where it gets competitive is finding good tenants with great credit scores. The latest Pew Research Center data on social media demographics show Facebook is the breakout winner both for audience size and percentage of affluent people using the channel. Instagram, however, is worth keeping in mind if any of your properties appeal to millennials.
It’s all about Facebook advertising
When it comes to local marketing and reaching out to potential renters, the channel you should spend most of your energy on is Facebook. To get the most out of Facebook, you have to spend money on it. The simple act of “boosting” any new property listings on Facebook for a small budget to a local audience will attract renters, and it’s easy to do. Go to business.facebook.com to sign up for Business Manager, link your account to your company page, and you are ready to advertise.
Facebook is the best choice for local marketing because it allows you to advertise locally to a large, mostly captive audience. While ads on Google allow the same granular targeting by demographic and geography, they tend to be more expensive and you’ll be competing with large local property management companies with budgets that dwarf yours and push your listing down in the search engine results. Facebook levels the playing field somewhat, and while those large companies may get more play in their chosen demographic’s feed, you’re at least still on the field.
Start with a budget of about $10 per post, and ramp it up if you aren’t getting enough hits. Make sure you’re selecting the right demographics for your listing, and change your ad for the same listing with each demographic (in marketing, this is called segmentation). For example, if you are listing an apartment for students, you’ll want to write two posts for two age groups – one for the students, one for the parents. You would create the post just as you usually would for your company page, and then hit “Boost This Post” once it is posted. Then, select your demographic information and your dollar amount. Choose your most attractive property photo for your ad; posts with photos have much more significant engagement across all platforms than posts without graphics.
Tracking your Facebook ads successfully
Next, you’ll want to be able to differentiate who is hitting your site from which Facebook ad, which will give you the information as to what is working and what isn’t. While Facebook’s Business Manager offers helpful analytics, you should also follow Facebook’s instructions to place a “conversion pixel” on your website to allow for more granular tracking in Google Analytics. Side note – if you don’t have Google Analytics enabled on your site, do it now. It will not only tell you how your Facebook ads are performing, but how everything on your site is performing. It also allows for tracking of other social networks under the “Referrals” tab.
Cross-post on other social media networks
Don’t give up on other networks entirely – you can cross-post your carefully crafted Facebook posts to any other social media network with tools like Hootsuite. Twitter now lets you post photos without any penalty to your 140 character count, so your posts may need some shortening for Twitter but not much. If you’re putting in the effort for Facebook, you may as well squeeze some extra juice out of other social networks. Google+ helps to drive up your search engine optimization, so don’t leave it off the list. Ideally, you should be using Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram for the most social media coverage.
To hashtag or not to hashtag?
This depends on the network you are using. A November 2016 study found that Facebook users don’t care much for hashtags, and if you are going to use them you should stick to one. You can get a little looser with hashtag use on Twitter, which makes sense since Twitter profiles are (for the most part) public and they are used more for content discovery than they are on Facebook. Still, two appears to be the current upper limit for hashtags before user engagement starts to drop off on Twitter. Since the best strategy for a time-pressed landlord is to focus on Facebook, pick one hashtag that best represents your post, and cross-post that update to all channels. Ritetag is a free tool that helps you find the best hashtags instantly with very little research, and it integrates with most social media management tools. Use of hashtags on Instagram, however, is very necessary and a completely different ballgame.
Instagram – a hit with millennials, a pain to use for marketers
Instagram actually pulled ahead of Twitter in terms of percentage of the American population using the channel in 2016. And it’s not a small gap – 32% of online adults use Instagram, where only 24% now use Twitter. 59% of those adults are 18-29, with a fairly even spread between income levels.
That’s exciting, right? Not so fast. Instagram will take more time for you to use, but the effort is obviously worth it if any of your properties have millennial appeal and are lagging in interest with more traditional and Facebook marketing. Unlike any other social network, you must post to Instagram with a mobile device such as an iPad or smartphone, and you can’t use a tool like Hootsuite to post directly to Instagram. The easiest way to do it is to compose your Instagram update in a tool like Hootsuite, then cut and paste the post on your mobile device and post to your Instagram app. Instagram is almost entirely visually oriented, so attractive property pictures are an absolute must. You should also use a tool like Canva to include your logo and website on the image for branding purposes.
You also use RiteTag and Instagram itself to research a set of 10-20 hashtags, some of which should be local, to use with each post. This is because hashtags are the only way to find content on Instagram, unlike any other social media channel. This is why it’s easier to compose your update in a tool like Hootsuite, because you can cut and paste your hashtag set. You should also add a couple of individual hashtags that are relevant for specific listings to each post. If, for example, you have a property in the Annex, you would include #Annex on your post.
So why all this effort for social media? More people use social media than any combined numbers for local, more traditional advertising methods. As we’ve seen in the study, people with higher incomes use social media. And most importantly to cash-strapped landlords, it’s far cheaper than pay-per-click advertising with Google and other traditional methods of advertising; you just have to be willing to put in the time.