As social media platforms
such as Facebook and Twitter become more popular around the globe, real estate
professionals are exploring ways to leverage the potential power of these
tools. Recent trends indicate that the next wave of social networking has
already arrived in the form of mobile location-based or geo-marketing platforms
such as Foursquare, Gowalla, and Yelp.
These platforms allow
users to “check
mobile devices at locations — typically restaurants, shops, attractions, and
other businesses — to share where they are with their friends and other users
and post comments or reviews about their location. Other platforms, such as
Facebook and Google, offer location-sharing features as an integrated option or
as part of their standard or mobile websites.
social media platforms are used by a relatively small percentage of the online
population now, their current growth mirrors other successful services such as
Twitter. Commercial real estate investors, property managers, developers, and
brokers can use these new tools to generate buzz and differentiate their
properties in a particular market.
However, commercial real
estate professionals must be strategic and deliberative in their approach. It
is not enough to simply create places for people to check in; users must have a
reason to check in and post positive commentary.
Many businesses are using
incentives such as coupons, exclusive offers, and contests to encourage the use
of location-based platforms. Commercial real estate professionals can use these
tactics as well, as long as the new strategies are consistent with their
existing marketing plan. For example, developers or brokers can ask visitors to
check in at listed office buildings for a chance to win a gift card. Commercial
property managers can encourage tenants and guests to check in at building
events for the opportunity to win favorable leasing terms or a one-time rent
discount. At broker open houses, listing brokers can offer incentives for
visiting agents and brokers to check in and post commentary about the property.
Investors can use
location-based social media tools for research and competitive intelligence
purposes as well. Investors can learn more about commercial properties, retail
outlets, restaurants, and companies by researching their presence on
location-based social media sites. For example, site selection specialists can
learn who is frequenting a retail location and how committed they are to that
location, allowing them to draw a clear demographic profile of that area.
Owners of small strip centers could partner with existing tenants to obtain
location-based feedback from existing customers to help determine what new
potential services or retail they would likely patronize. Essentially,
location-based platforms add another layer of information for owners and
Most social media
platforms can also be linked with each other so check-ins are multiplied across
networks, providing further awareness of a location. By integrating these
tools, commercial real estate investors and professionals can leverage their
existing online networks and the networks of their followers.
challenges of location-based social networking cannot be overlooked. Privacy is
the primary concern, although most geo-location social media tools require
someone to actively check in, mitigating some privacy worries. Retaining
current or potential customer/tenant trust must be paramount when using any
Real estate professionals
should continue to adapt to the rapidly shifting trends in how investors and
tenants search for commercial real estate property. Given the connection
between real estate and location-based social media, those who incorporate
these platforms in their marketing plans are poised to capture current and
future clients and customers.
Mark Hickman and Andrew
Ryan are partners with Commonwealth Partnerships, a marketing and consulting
firm specializing in the real estate industry. Contact them at
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Foursquare: Currently the most widely
used location-based social media platform, Foursquare
boasts more than 10 million users
and recently announced a national partnership with American
Gowalla: Gowalla describes itself
as a “social
and is popular among travelers.
Facebook Places: A feature currently on
standard and mobile websites and smartphone applications, Facebook Places
most popular social network.
Google Places: Google Places leverages
dominant search engine and integrates with its
popular maps function to bring a more
standard website experience for users to share and rate their
locations, and for businesses to have a
listing on the Web giant.
Yelp: Similar to Google Places but with more robust
features and user interface, Yelp has a standard website and a popular