For those building a career in CRE, a willingness to adapt and experiment with new strategies is essential to long-term survival.
In today’s constantly connected world, every industry has felt the transformative impact of social media. The commercial real estate business is no exception. After all, CRE is about forging new connections and establishing rapport with clients, and social media offers invaluable ways to cultivate those relationships at scale.
Lee & Associates Principal Allen Buchanan has taken full advantage of all that social media has to offer, using his blog, YouTube, and Twitter to establish an online presence with the power to attract business and close deals. We spoke with the broker and Southern California resident to find out how a smart digital content strategy directly contributed to the growth of his business.
The Journey to YouTube
Buchanan entered the real estate industry in 1984, expecting to quickly learn the trade, turn on autopilot and, as he puts it, “cruise to retirement.” He quickly realized, however, that successful CRE brokers must constantly evolve their skillset and determine how best to allocate their resources, meaning his day-to-day activities were far from thoughtless. When it comes to surviving in CRE, he says, “if you’re not changing, you’re dying.”
Buchanan’s mantra was never more prescient than in the months immediately following the 2008 market crash, during which his target demographic (small investors putting up between $1 million and $10 million) found themselves unable to buy, sell, or borrow money. In search of a new path forward, Buchanan began to investigate the possibility of leveraging social media technology — specifically YouTube and blogging — to grow his business.
But it wasn’t until the summer of 2013, Buchanan says, that he came up with the idea that would significantly grow his follower counts and, in turn, his business. He was driving to work when it came to him.
“It dawned on me that I needed to consistently create Twitter-friendly content that people would continue coming back to consume,” Buchanan says. “I realized that Twitter users were much more likely to watch a short and informative video than they were to read a lengthy blog post.” With that in mind, he began filming short, service-oriented CRE videos from inside his car each Tuesday on the way to work.
“That’s how Tuesday Traffic Tips were born,” he says of his now signature YouTube series. As for the tips themselves? Buchanan sources colleagues and viewers for the industry-specific advice he doles out in each weekly installment — a practice that accelerates production and encourages audience engagement at the same time.
It wasn’t just business savvy that motivated Buchanan to launch his digital undertaking: “I was 57 at the time,” he explains. “I had spent 30 years in the industry, and it was time to give back.” That pay-it-forward mentality was soon reciprocated by viewers who urged him not to record himself while driving — today, Buchanan records all of his Tuesday Traffic Tips from the safety of a parking lot.
Buchanan goes out of his way to emphasize that his now sizeable followings didn’t appear overnight. Rather, it was his consistency that made the biggest impact on his personal brand’s visibility. He notes that in the course of a recent deal in Texas, the broker asked, unprompted, if he was the man behind Tuesday Traffic Tips. That recognition, he says, is “really a testament to how far these videos are traveling. Visibility leads to credibility, which leads to a deal, which ultimately means more revenue.”
It’s thanks to that visibility that Buchanan has closed numerous deals — each sparked in some way by social media discovery. He attributes nearly $12 million in sales and leases to his YouTube series, over $25M in sales to his blog, and over $1M in leases from relationships that began on Twitter. He’s also seen success from his Facebook and LinkedIn pages — to the tune of over $1M in sales from each platform.
What About the Rest of Us?
There’s much that other CRE professionals can learn from Buchanan’s dynamic approach to content strategy, with or without the confidence and charisma needed to launch a successful YouTube series. Take the time to think critically about your current digital footprint, analyzing your online presence through the eyes of a curious potential client.
Don’t like what you see? Whether your online presence is simply undetectable or needs a drastic makeover, take ownership. Challenge yourself to spend an hour or two each week connecting with colleagues and prospects over social media. Craft thoughtful posts and curate news items relevant to your business focus. Who knows? What might feel to you like CRE common sense might be the content your untapped online audience has been waiting for.