The Internet has brought on many changes to our society in the past 25 years. One of the most elegant changes has been the appreciation of a self-serve culture, both in terms of how wonderfully efficient it is and the wildly exponential growth of the idea. The website as a mass medium is fully assimilated into our lives.
Twenty years ago, mass media was television, radio, and print. Professionals went to university to learn media theory so they could create marketing campaigns and commercial advertising. It’s interesting that the big outfits continue to set a high bar for small town stations staffed by fresh college grads and sometimes the results is a sincere but off-beat ad to sell used cars or mattresses. (Thank goodness for these opportunities to learn.)
Websites make it easy for anyone to publish anything, on their own, without any experience in marketing or copy writing. Even when a professional website designer is brought into the fold, the content itself often misses the point, which is to have a conversation with a prospect: one that is so compelling that they’ll want to hire you based on introductions.
All media is about content, channel, and creature. That’s the basic formula. Content is the message, channel is the way your prospect receives it, and creature is the demographic of the audience. Mass media is defined as generalized content, with delivery of the message in specific space-time channels, and the existance of a receptive audience. Let’s have a look at how a real estate website fits into these definitions and explore some things you can do to make your website better.
Generalized content is mostly what we see on real estate websites, which is good – it appeals to the mass medium audience – but it tends to lack context. The reference point is sometimes “I am appealing to everyone” instead of “I am licensed by the government to trade in real property; I must follow a professional code of ethics, have a minimum standard of business, and carry E&O insurance to protect the consumer”. That is a completely different paradigm.
Website copy tends to image-building and creating a “sensuous firstness”; which is that magnetic feeling we get when home renovation shows do the final reveal. It’s nice but the problem is that it’s very difficult to conjure and very easy to copy. No moat, no differentiation, and worse, now you’re a commodity so anything valuable you had to say is subjugated.
In human relationships, exchange is the media of bonding, and the sum of our internalizations of bonding directs our behaviour. It’s not a heavy concept. It just means that giving to each other is what turns us on as a species. When you craft a mindful message of exchange, whether it’s based on the Realtor® brand or your own secret sauce, the message on your website remains special to you. The iPhone is a good example of a “people first” way of doing business and, in comparison, Android is a high quality copy-cat but it can never replicate the culture of Apple or embody privacy ethics because of its business model. Does your website explain your business philosophy? Is it copy-proof?
Websites allow you to deliver your special content in a specific time and space, which is the second component of mass media. Controlling the delivery of your content can be done by using referral sites like the Chamber of Commerce, Realtor.ca and company portals, submitting articles to a local paper, and myriad of other public relations and marketing activities that put your URL in the right place at the right time. Online ads can be scheduled and have become very intelligent in the past few years. It’s possible to create a pay-per-click campaign that is autonomous: ads will write themselves for all pages, not just a few that you guess might do well.
The third component to a successful mass media device is an audience. Visitor analytics can provide solid insights for agents who have had a website for a long time. Have a look at the age and location demographics. Are most visitors in a particular age group, such as empty-nesters? If you live in a vacation town, where do the website visitors live? Their IPs will be geo-located and show in your control panel. Perhaps advertising in their neck of the woods might be helpful. If you’re new to the business, consider becoming a neighbourhood specialist (your own is a good place to start) instead of rolling the dice on a big ad campaign. A niche website strategy can help gain control of your one square-kilometre farm area.
Owning a niche market or neighbourhood with persistent farming is perhaps the ultimate mass medium in real estate: your marketing will speak to anyone it wishes, marketing efforts are multiplied, and the competition is immobilized.
Interested in learning more about websites as a mass medium for Realtors®? Contact us today.