• Shannon

Using video in your real estate agent marketing? Why?

Updated: Jul 25, 2019

I’m willing to wager that if you use video as a real estate marketing tool to promote your brand you do so because of those amazing stats that you read and hear about.

I’m also willing to bet that you didn’t fact-check what you heard or read. Am I right?

If you had, you would know that video is pretty much useless for real estate agents. It’s time-consuming, expensive to do right and, at least right now, there are other marketing methods that are far more effective.

You are being lied to about video for real estate

Sounds harsh, I know, but it’s true. Most of what you read online -- promoting video for real estate agents -- was written by people who either didn’t verify what they read or heard or by those with an agenda (companies that offer video production services to agents, for instance).

Don’t believe me?

Take my hand and let’s hop into the dark underworld of the video-for-real- estate-agents fallacy.

Facebook fudging numbers?

Remember when Facebook prompted a massive “pivot to video?” Publishers based their decision to pivot (and thus laid off, en masse, editorial staff to create entire departments devoted to video ad production) primarily on Facebook’s astounding video ad metrics.

Those metrics, it turns out, were erroneous and allegedly intentionally inflated. At least according to a class action lawsuit in a California federal court brought by a group of advertisers (LLE One LLC et al. v. Facebook).

The folks at Facebook claimed that the metrics were inflated by “only 60-80 percent,” according to the filing. In reality, “they were inflated by some 150-900 percent.”

Here’s the kicker, though (and thanks to Tom McKay at Gizmodo.com for pointing this out): most of Facebook’s video ads are viewed for “short periods of time.”

In fact, the filings claim that

“users scroll right past [them]. If advertisers were more widely aware of this fact, and in particular, if they knew that their advertisements were among those that were not drawing viewers’ attention, they would be less likely to continue buying video advertising from Facebook.”

Which is why it took so long for Facebook to finally cough up the truth. They initially claimed they first became aware of the discrepancies in August of 2016.

Documents subpoenaed by the group’s attorneys, however, show that the company knew about them a full 18 months before going public with the discovery.

Imagine 18 month’s-worth of marketing dollars going up in smoke for completely useless ads. And all because marketers (especially real estate folks) are thirsting for that next shiny object.

Sadly, Facebook isn’t the only one chasing after your time and money

I spent a good chunk of last weekend tooling around the internet in search of hard statistics that might prove video as a viable marketing tool for real estate agents. What I found was laughable, when considering the pitiful ROI of an agent’s marketing dollar.

For instance, on a somewhat popular online “real estate referral generating platform,” I found an infographic that promised to show me “Content Marketing Stats Every Real Estate Professional Should Know.”

Among these stats was this one: “video is the most widely used, and the most effective content marketing tactic according to both B2B and B2C marketers”

The author goes on to back up the claim by telling us that:

  • “YouTube is now recognized as the second largest search engine on the web”

  • “real estate listings with video receive 403% more inquiries than those which do not include video”

  • “40% of prospective buyers find video virtual tours to be very useful.”

Ok. See the steam coming out of my nostrils? Let’s take these three claims one at a time.

1. Yes, YouTube is the second largest search engine on the web. Yes, it’s wildly successful. But why, I would ask myself if I were still an agent, should that vague information sway me to use YouTube? Where is its value for me?

First, consider what they mean by “video.” It’s a pretty broad term, after all, encompassing a whole bunch of genres.

So, when you read that “More than 500 million hours of videos are watched on YouTube each day,” PLEASE stop and think:

How many of these 500 million hours are spent watching real estate videos?

It turns out, not much.

In fact, any video produced by any business, unless it is so clever it goes viral, is rarely viewed by the typical YouTube watcher.

Folks are primarily using YouTube to watch movies, TV shows, news and sports videos, in that order, according to a 2018 white paper published at Limelight.com (State of Online Video 2017).

Interestingly, Millennials, the holy grail for far too many real estate agents, shun videos produced by businesses. The number of them that watch finance-related videos, which includes real estate, is dead last on their list of 15 preferred genres, according to Oath.com’s Video Genre Preference Study (April 2018).

So, yes, YouTube is huge. But not for real estate agents.

2. “Real estate listings with video receive 403% more inquiries than those which do not include video.” I was pretty shocked when I read this one and, thankfully, the infographic’s author included a list of sources.

It comes from a video content production company’s blog who also provided a source for the statistic – an article at Inman.com who, in turn, sourced the statistic to a study by Domain.com but didn’t include a link to the study (see what I go through for you?).

But, wait, I’m falling further into this research rabbit hole because Domain.com is a site that sells domain names. Luckily, I work with a lot of Australians and figured this one out.

The Inman author is referring to Domain.com.au. Two little letters can mean so much, right?

But here I hit a brick wall. I could find not one word about any research the site has done, let alone real estate listing video research. And, not bragging here, but if something exists online, I will find it.

So, let’s work with what we do have. Australia isn’t the U.S. and their real estate market is vastly different than ours.

Then, ask yourself this:

Is there an MLS in the U.S. that allows video in a listing?

If so, let me know because I've yet to hear of this. I have a feeling this is an Australian statistic. Completely useless for the American real estate agent.

More important, however, is that the Australian home sale process is actually similar to our foreclosure auctions. The difference is that, in Australia, buyers gather outside the home to openly bid on it instead of on the steps of the local courthouse as they do in the U.S.

I would imagine that, in such a system, online video listings would be quite important.

The bottom line, however, is that using a foreign market’s statistics to convince American agents to buy into your idea is not only misleading, it’s manipulative. It turns out that the author of the Inman piece is (are you ready?)

The communications coordinator for “the nation’s largest provider of walk-through video house tours.”

No agenda there, right? Shame on Inman for allowing that article to be published on the site.

3.“40% of prospective buyers find video virtual tours to be very useful.” Yikes, did they mangle this statistic. And, sadly, I’ve seen it used the same way on a number of blogs.

Taken from the NAR’s Real Estate in the Digital Age Publication, what these writers are leaving out is that very few homebuyers said they used "video" in their home search. The actual statistic claims that “40% found virtual tours very useful.”

So, here's the truth: only a small number of buyers watched real estate videos when searching for a home. Of that small number of buyers, fewer than half claimed that virtual tours were useful.

Which brings us to the next mangling of the statistic.

Virtual tours.

Any agent who has been in the business for more than a decade knows that virtual tours aren't the same thing as video tours. Nor are they the same as those slide shows that some agents try to pass off as virtual tours.

“A proper virtual tour is interactive, allowing the prospective buyer to view the home at their own pace and according to what draws their particular interest,” says Andrew J. Carr , editor at Prospero Media.

Think Matterport, not video, if you want an example of the modern virtual tour.

I found a number of different variations of the NAR statistic during my searches, with one seriously stretching it to attribute the buyers preferences to “dynamic visual content.”

There are tons of other erroneous statistics and downright made-up stuff about the power of video for agents floating around the web.

Do yourself a favor – if you don’t have time to research what you read, don’t jump on the bandwagon and waste your precious time and money. And, here’s why.

The truth

Your own association, the NAR, provides you with annual statistics in a publication they call “Real Estate in the Digital Age.” It’s the same publication that too many with an agenda use to offer up mangled statistics.

Like this one from someone I respect a great deal, and wonder what he’s trying to do here:

Seth price at Realtor.com claims “According to a joint study from the National Association of REALTORS® and Google, 86 percent of online house hunters watch videos to learn about a specific community.” He got his info from the 2013 study.

Here’s the truth: 86 percent of homebuyers who said they watched videos (which, remember, was a very small percentage of those surveyed) said they did so "to learn about a community."

See what he did there?

He is making it seem that 86 percent of all “online house hunters” watch videos. That is simply not the case.

Video is the lowest ranked source of information for homebuyers, according to the 2018 Real Estate in the Digital Age report (26 percent) which is almost 20 percent lower than the second to last, open houses.

Most significant is that this number is down from 36 percent in 2017. Which means that

Real estate videos are actually declining in popularity

But there are some videos that agents should be using

Listing videos. I know, they don’t get watched and they are a waste of money. Until home sellers get that message, though, they expect their listing agent to use a video in the marketing plan.

If I were still in real estate, I would create some sort of a handout that explains how useless video is and try to sell my listing clients on a 3-D tour instead.

Then, there are branded videos, which I hit on briefly here. They are challenging to get right but if you have the money to hire someone, these videos are definitely Facebook bait.

There’s nothing wrong with using video in your content strategy but use it right. This means considering a mix of branded video with other forms of content. It means coughing up the bucks to do it right. After all, your marketing videos are examples of how you’ll market a potential client’s home.

If you can’t afford to pay for professional videography or don’t want to, skip the videos. It’s certainly not going to hurt your content strategy.

As you now know, real estate consumers don’t, by and large, consume video content.

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