Many people think of content marketing as a mechanical exercise. They want to know how many posts per day to schedule or what time of day to post to a particular platform. They want to know how many words their blog post should be. They want to know the magic ratio of posts to conversions that will make content marketing “worth it.”
In reality, content marketing is more interconnected and alive than that. It involves the interaction between core content, distribution content and the ways you enhance that content with graphic elements, paid outreach and other methods of increasing engagement. But at the heart of it all is a brand message that resonates and makes you matter to the people you are trying to reach, says Stacey Cohen.
Stacey Cohen is a personal branding expert who is the president and CEO of award-winning branding firm Co-Communications. Her deep background in real estate — both personally through her own work in the field and through her family connections to the industry — gives her special insight that helps agents and brokers more effectively position themselves in their local market.
“Know thyself” is the great philosophical maxim, and it is the foundation of all great marketing. Christy Murdock Edgar reached out to Cohen about the three questions she answers again and again from clients to help you begin thinking about your brand. Here are her expert insights into personal branding and how it can help you grow your business.
How to start to develop my brand?
At the end of the day, purchasers and sellers often make decisions based on their relationship with the individual estate agent, not the business entity. As a real estate agent, it’s more important than ever to establish yourself as an expert, which requires projecting your best self (online and offline) to existing and prospective clients.
The most important action to ensure success is to create a plan that includes three tiers: discovery, development and delivery.
In the discovery phase, you need to identify your expertise, achievements, skills and passion and find an answer to: “Why choose me?” It is critical to crystallize your uniqueness and value or competitive advantage and why you’re a worthy investment.
This requires an understanding of your intended audience — what they need, how they function and what drives them to take action.
Personal branding is not a matter of me-me-me — it’s about the value you offer your audience.
Sellers and Buyers seek the brightest and best “fit” so show them what you got. Some real estate professionals differentiate themselves through individual achievements (deal volume) while others boast added value (MBA, mortgage industry background, etc).
Pinpoint phrases that best describe your expertise: coop expert, data guru, luxury specialist, interior decorator, “green” specialist, etc. Also, identify words that best describe your personality: driven, persistent, honest.
Keep top-of-mind that you are more than a listing — hone what makes you different whether it be a skill set, a point of view or simply your creativity. And look outside yourself: What niches are not being exploited within your local market? Once you figure it out, you’re ready to put your stake in the ground.
What type of content should I develop?
In the development phase, you need to create a powerful online/offline portfolio and showcase your value and “good fit” qualities. Good is not good enough; to stand out, you need to create relevant, platform-appropriate content to capture your audience.
Determine who you’re talking to: consider age, gender, personality and profession. Then, identify your clients’ pain points: How can you solve their needs better than your competitors?
To build a compelling and consistent image, share content in various forms: online profile, blogs, self-published articles, curated content, news releases, testimonials, videos, customized infographics, photos, professional speaking and earned media. Provide invaluable tips to homesellers and homebuyers.
Before you build-out your online presence and profiles, begin with a clean-up. Remove social media profiles that are dormant or off-brand. It’s important to not only showcase current listings but also properties you’ve successfully closed.
Before hitting the “post” button, take a step back and ensure your post is relevant and relatable. Take into account the recipient’s mindset: “What’s in it for me?” and make certain the content is shareable, engaging and actionable. Humour drives further interaction when used appropriately.
And don’t forget the “wow!” headline. Pay very close attention to what content your followers are most drawn to, and adapt your content based on this. And always ensure you adhere to your company’s brand standards and policies.
What channels should I use to reach my target audience, and how frequently should I post?
Once you’ve crafted a compelling brand and consistent online presence, it’s time to make some noise. Delivery of content requires a multi-channel approach.
The array of tools is seemingly endless: websites, blogs, social media (Instagram, Facebook), print collateral, open-house signs, ads, email blasts, etc. Before you select the best channels, get a clear understanding of where your target audience “hangs out” to consume information and connect.
Make sure to inject your brand into your daily routines, habits and all touch points. It is important to increase your visibility both online and offline.
A good rule of thumb is to post once a day, five days a week. If time is scarce, it’s fine to focus on just one social media channel. (It is prudent, however, to provide a link to the active platform on dormant social media channels.)
Consider increasing your visibility offline through speaking engagements, networking and joining non-profit boards. Perhaps, form a business group to expand your network. And remember, reputation management is key; not delivering on promises can wreak havoc to your brand.
Content marketing is not a blog or social media or branding only. It is all of those things working together to create a virtuous cycle that highlights the benefits of working with you, creates high-level content to reflect your expertise, then drives traffic to that content.
Instead of focusing on discrete pieces, focus on optimizing that cycle with a coherent, meaningful brand identity, and build it consistently over time. You will see it become the foundation of your business’s marketing, paying dividends for years to come.