Content Marketing in the Time of COVID-19

As real estate marketing swiftly moves online, in this era of social distancing amid the coronavirus crisis, one strategy keeps popping up: content marketing. But what exactly is content marketing? What value does it give your broker business? And how should you go about it? 

This topic, along with your frequently asked questions, is the focus of this Lamudi Academy Live Sessions episode with Lamudi’s very own marketing team. Joining Lamudi Academy’s Learning and Development Coach Nadine Pacis are Jedda Fernandez, Lamudi’s Content Editor; Loren Padilla, Lamudi’s Senior Multimedia Artist; and Sam Dadofalza, Lamudi’s SEO Writer.

Here are the highlights of the discussion:

A Primer on Content Marketing

One of the most pressing questions of brokers about content marketing is how it differs from search engine optimization (SEO), whether or not the two are related or if one is part of the other. Fernandez explained, “SEO is the more technical side, and content marketing is more of story-telling. Basically, SEO and content marketing go hand in hand. If you’re doing good SEO, you’re already doing content marketing.”

She added that the goal of the latter is to create, publish, and distribute content that is valuable, relevant, and consistent. Ultimately, one aims to attract and retain a specific audience.

Noting that the world today is very visual, Fernandez explained that content marketing isn’t limited to written content. “Part of content marketing are videos and infographics,” she said. These could be distributed not only through the broker’s website, but through other online platforms as well. With that, content marketing is possible even without a website.

Meanwhile, Dadofalza captured the two digital terms, saying they’re both a game of words. SEO, for the most part, uses keywords for the purpose of ranking high on the search engine results page and capturing traffic, while content marketing harps on stories to provide better value for the audience. 

The Value of Content Marketing

Brokers can find promising results from a good content marketing strategy. Fernandez pointed out that it can help build an excellent reputation. “You want to be relevant and authoritative, and this shows in the content you post. For example, you can talk about real estate trends and offer advice to your prospects, so that when the time comes for them to buy, they know just the person to ask, and that’s you.”

Publishing regular content on social media accounts is already a good start, Fernandez mentioned. Likewise, spending a few minutes to sift through photos, considering which best highlights the property’s most desirable features, contributes to a better content marketing strategy.

With so much content being produced online every day, the challenge for content marketers is to cut through the noise. As Fernandez said, “You can’t just churn low-quality content and call it a day. You have to stand out by providing value, showing visual appeal, and delivering content consistently.”

Meanwhile, Padilla and Dadofalza gave tips on how brokers can get started on creating written and visual content. The former urged brokers to spend some time researching. She pointed out, “There are a lot of materials online that you can learn from–step by step visuals, like text and powerful photos. It’s important to use quality photos. Research and learn how to combine them properly, use limited colors lang, ‘wag masyadong cluttered.”

As for writing, Dadofalza mentioned that reading is a good starting point in improving skills. “One of my mentors said before that to really write a great piece of content, you have to read a lot of great pieces of content. I think it starts there. You can see the tone, how the angle is brought forward.”

Moving towards the actual writing, she advised brokers to brush up on grammar checks, punctuation use, and other similar skills.

Brokers need not choose between written and visual content. In fact, it’s ideal to have a good mix. “The good thing about content marketing is you can combine those elements to have better results. For example, if you have a good caption, that’s already enough. But if your caption is accompanied by a short video or good graphics, that would be even better. If you get a balance of writing and creating impactful graphics, mas maganda for your business.”

Creation of Valuable, Relevant Content

Given the health crisis, it’s crucial to produce content that is valuable and relevant now more than ever. The challenge is to ensure that every piece that goes out online makes an impact on the audience. The first step in making this happen, according to Fernandez, is to know the market. 

“For brokers and broker-business owners, since you’re already talking to your audience and prospects, you can get an idea of their concerns. That’s where content marketing comes in. You have to address those concerns,” she pointed out.

For instance, for buyers who are not sure how they can sign important documents given the lockdown, tips and advice about finishing property transactions online can greatly help them, Fernandez said.

Padilla echoed what experts have been advising over and over in the previous webinars: “Just be there for the [clients]. Show genuine concern.”

A good understanding of the audience is indeed crucial in putting out content that matters to the audience, Dadofalza agreed with Fernandez. She noted that a systematic approach to this is the creation of buyer personas, a marketing tool profiling ideal customers.

“Put profiles on the kind of customers that you have. In Lamudi, we have property seekers and brokers. From here, identify their pain points, concerns, and interests,” she said. With these laid out, it’s easier to think of content topics that will speak best to customers.

Dadofalza provided some examples of how the Lamudi team turns the audience’s concerns into content pieces. “For the real estate brokers, right now, they’re on the lookout for new learning opportunities. Thus, [Lamudi provides] webinars. 

“For the property seekers, some are bored at home, so we have blogs dedicated to what you can do in a day so that you will be productive. For property seekers who wish they have a new home, we have put out blogs that address that, how to find a quarantine-ready home,” Dadofalza shared.

There are various ways to craft buyer personas. Dadofalza advised asking clients directly through interviews or social media surveys, and observing how the buyers’ concerns shifted when the lockdowns were placed.

Padilla added that brokers can check their social media analytics, say, which videos have earned the most views, as that will be an indicator of audience interests. Emphasizing the use of social media, Fernandez pointed out that the comments in posts can help a great deal in learning about customers’ pain points. 

Another very important platform to look at is Lamudi’s lead management tool. According to Dadofalza, brokers can make good buyer personas if they are diligent in updating information, profiling clients and keying in lead statuses.

The bottom line is that relevant, valuable content comes back to how well brokers know their audience.

Content Production Workflow

The first step in content creation is spending considerable time reading. Fernandez shared, “Before you can create content, you have to stay updated on what’s currently happening in the world. Once we have a general idea of what we want to write, we brainstorm with the team.”

With ideas laid out, the next step is to prioritize. “We have to identify which ones are better as written content, which ones are better with graphics,” Fernandez noted.

From there, a schedule is set. She advised, “Create a timeline of when you want those things accomplished. For example, you might be thinking of a lot of topics right now, but by the time you push that content and publish it, baka stale na siya. ‘Di na siya relevant. So, dapat talaga doon sa brainstorming process, we have to think which ones will benefit our target audience the most.”

In creating actual content, Fernandez urges maximizing different forms. The Lamudi team, for instance, uses bullet points or numbered lists, easy-to-digest content pieces, as well as visuals, which highlight points that the marketers want the audience to remember.

For visual content, Padilla explained that all the materials they produce come from the written pieces. Once they receive it, they decide how they will present it in a format, whether or not it will be in one material or a series of visuals. “We also decide if infographic ba siya or real photos ‘yung gagamitin,” she said.

In most instances, the team uses vector graphics for journals that have bulleted formats. Real-life photos, on the other hand, are for one-image posters. In terms of videos, Padilla shared that they produce motion graphics and real footage.

Personal Workflow

Aside from the team’s overall workflow, their individual work processes were likewise discussed. Social media check is the first step in Fernandez’ to-do list in a day. “I check Twitter first thing in the morning, check hashtags kung ano ba ‘yung beat ng mga tao for that day, ano ‘yung mood nila.” 

She’s also part of a Telegram group that posts announcements on confirmed COVID-19 cases and government info. She pointed out that this is crucial, since factual content is necessary especially in the era of fake news.

“After that, we brainstorm, then write, and then, syempre, importante ‘yung editing. For our partner brokers, if you’re putting out content, you have to make sure that they’re free of grammatical errors, and then if there are things you can take out para maging clearer ‘yung point that you want to share, take them out.”

Meanwhile, Dadofalza shared that she has three to-do’s in her personal workflow: look for sources about the topic, write the content, and then proofread. The last one involves checking technicalities and making sure that every detail is present, say, the required number of words, meta descriptions (labels that appear in the search engine results page), and hyperlinks.

Padilla shared that her workflow starts with checking the assignments sheet the marketing officers fill in with visual content deliverables. This is her main reference as to what to include in the infographics and videos. In most cases, posters are a bit faster to create since there are already branded templates. Videos, on the other hand, take longer to produce.

In the midst of content creation, the panel recognized that breaks are crucial. Padilla mentioned that the benefit goes beyond resting the mind. “Sa mga simple walks na ‘yun, or talking to someone, or five-minute social media break, makakakita ka rin ng inspirations,” she said.

Measures of Content Strategy Success

When it comes to evaluating the success of their strategy, Fernandez said that there’s value in studying each piece of content, as well as the campaign as a whole. In measuring the success of individual pieces, certain elements can be variables, such as titles. 

“We can go with a certain title for one piece of content, and then i-compare namin siya sa isa pang content using a different format of title, and tingnan namin kung ano ‘yung mas naging engaging sa audience. Kung ano ‘yung mas naging engaging, we might adopt that for our future campaigns. So basically, it helps the whole campaign,” she said.

Looking at analytics is likewise helpful in evaluating strategy success, Fernandez noted.

Favorite Pieces of Lamudi Content

Asked what Lamudi content they would recommend to brokers, the panel gave highly interesting answers prompted by different kinds of reasons. Dadofalza, for one, mentioned her recent favorite is the blog Ideas to Get Trippings Done Online,” since property viewings amid the lockdown emerged as one of the most pressing challenges real estate brokers face during this era of social distancing. 

“Providing that kind of information was fulfilling, very rewarding,” she said.

Pacis added that this was one of the challenges she faced herself as she talked to brokers, even experts who graced the roundtable discussions. From the brainstorming sessions she did with her team, considering how exactly they can help real estate agents with the dilemma of remote trippings, they came up with a comprehensive guide to virtual tours.

Meanwhile, On the House: Small Talk with Big Bosses, Lamudi’s interviews with real estate tycoons, as well as the recent webinar series, are Padilla’s favorites. For the most part, she thinks it’s the kind of content that people would want, as they’re stuck at home.

“People want to watch and listen to industry experts and learn from them, from their experiences, what their insights are about this situation,” she pointed out.

Trend reports, on the other hand, are Fernandez’ recommended reads. She has a special preference for these pieces of content because she likes seeing numbers, how they changed over time. She encourages brokers to prioritize these, especially when the time allotted for learning is limited.

“If you only have 10 minutes to read something, you have to make those 10 minutes count. So, kung ako, mag-start ako sa trend report kasi marami na akong makikitang insights doon, and pwede ko siyang i-break down into smaller chunks na pwede ko siyang i-share sa certain groups of clients. By reading just one trend report, marami ka nang makukuhang insights.”

Skills Necessary for Successful Content Marketing

Reading is one of the most important skills brokers need to develop, Fernandez pointed out. Yet, at the same time, she urged brokers to know when not to read. 

“Right now, we have to protect our state of mind. If maraming opinions on social media na inflammatory, or it will put you in a bad mood, mawawala na ‘yung focus mo to do productive stuff. So, read and find good sources of information, so you can cascade accurate data to your team and prospects,” she mentioned.

For Dadofalza, creating a content plan and repurposing pieces are necessary skills. The former involves being able to discern which information should go out at the right time, while the latter entails being creative in reusing content. 

“In a blog, there are a lot of other forms of content that you can spin around that one piece of content,” she said. She added, “It’s not really putting new pieces of content every day, but it’s just repurposing ‘yung mga meron na. It’s efficient, it will not take too much of your time. It will also give your page varieties of content that people would want to look at.”

Exploring different tools, meanwhile, is crucial in visual content creation. “For posters, visual static graphics, they can use Canva. They have a lot of templates there that they (brokers) can just tweak and put their images and texts. It’s easy to use.

“I also recommend Open because they have articles that will be helpful for brokers to create unique materials,” Padilla noted.

Speaking of tools, Fernandez and Dadofalza shared theirs for writing. The former shared, “For our brokers who want to try blogging, the most common platform they can use is WordPress. They can try downloading the app. They can start drafting thoughts. If they come across information that they think will help their clients, i-draft na nila doon

“Then, combine nila with another tool I recommend, Grammarly. It’s an extension that they can install on their browser. It helps with everything, your Google docs, emails, your social media statuses.”

Pacis personally vouches for Grammarly, especially because it’s cost-effective and very helpful in maintaining that professional image when it comes to content.

Meanwhile, SmallSEOTools is a tool that Dadofalza personally uses for plagiarism checks. She also swears by the app Pocket when it comes to being a better reader. The app allows users to save content they would want to view later. “Whenever I see something really good, and I can’t dive into it agad, I save it on Pocket. I don’t forget reading that piece of content.”

Final Tips from Content Marketers

“Be open to new skills,” Fernandez encouraged brokers. “You don’t need to have perfect grammar from the get-go. You don’t need to be an expert in making cool graphics. But if you start somewhere, you can improve those skills.”

Adding the value of endurance, she noted, “At the end of the day, it’s better to try and fail than not do anything at all.”

For Padilla, she underscored the importance of listening to feedback. “Accept all the criticisms thrown at you. You’ll learn from that,” she said. As for the actual content creation, she advises making pieces that are straightforward and concise.

Dadofalza, on the other hand, focused on being sensitive, while being positive about the things we put out there online. In embracing optimism, she said that brokers should be careful not to dismiss the gravity of the situation, but rather, acknowledge it and give reassurance that they will be with clients throughout the journey.

“Because we’re putting out a lot of things that people will be able to read and watch, it’s very important that we exercise empathy,” she noted.

Content marketing is an effective strategy in connecting with clients, offering them great service, and establishing relevance even in the absence of physical, personal interactions in this time of crisis. More importantly, it’s the one tool that can help make your brand human, as you bring comfort and encouragement to an anxious, weary market.

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