In 2008, a newbie real estate agent in Toronto by the name of Shaun Nilsson accepted a personal challenge from friends to build his business strictly online without any marketing budget.
In the cutthroat realm of Canadian real estate—and nowhere is it more cutthroat than the country's largest metropolis—this seemed an act of career suicide. The feat seemed foolish to attempt even for a veteran agent with an established reputation; for a rookie, where would he find the wind to lift his wings?
Fast forward to 2012 and you have CityBlast, a startup that is "well on its way to revolutionizing the real estate industry in Canada." After Shaun remarkably earned more than $165,000 in commissions in the first year as a real estate agent—a period where most agents would be happy to break even as they gain that first foothold—he realized the incredible potential of social media marketing and leveraged his expertise to craft a business around it.
Paired with technical co-founder Alen Bubich, Shaun launched CityBlast less than a year ago, a service that works "by coaxing agents' online friends anf followers into online conversations about real estate topics"—the same strategy Shaun used during his initial effort. From an official release:
It appears as though the agents are researching, writing, and sharing social media posts that focus on buzz-worthy real estate topics. The secret? They don't actually have to make any of the effort. CityBlast automatically updates their Facebook status by using software to post interesting or sensational real estate articles, videos, and listings, adeptly mimicking the marketing savvy of a seasoned social media guru. Just as Nilsson did, the agents log in to their account intermittently and reply to the resulting comments and questions from friends who have engaged with the latest auto-posts since they were last online.
“Once in conversation, it's much easier for the agents to turn interested online followers into new clients and then help them with their transactions,” says Nilsson. “It passively makes their Facebook accounts into a powerful new source of real estate leads, and builds them a rewarding reputation as a trusted provider of industry information, even though they don't have to make any actual effort.”
CityBlast.com claims the largest social media reach of any real estate company in the world. The app reaches over 710,000 Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn users daily with real estate information and has signed up over 1,300 real estate agent members in Canada in its first nine months.
Shaun is living evidence that this strategy works, but is it something clients would be happy to hear about? The tactic can be seen as either clever or lazy—or perhaps both.