077: How to find a niche and build an audience for your membership – with Maris Callahan

Maris Callahan is the founder of The Social Broker, a content membership that helps Real Estate agents to build great online brands. In this episode, she joins Ward to discuss how to create an audience for your membership in social media.

✍️ Show Notes

📄 Show Transcript

This transcript is computer generated, please excuse any errors 🙂

Ward Sandler: Welcome, everybody! Today I’m talking with Maris Callahan, the CEO and founder of The Social Broker, a content membership empowering real estate agents to build polished and thriving online brands. She’s a long time believer in social media with 15 years of experience in public relations and social media for big brands, innovative entrepreneurs, and some of the largest national real estate companies. Maris is a returning guest, so welcome back to the Membership Maker Podcast. 

Maris Callahan:  Thank you for having me back. It’s good to chat again!

Ward Sandler: Yeah, for sure. There are many strategies site owners can employ to get ahead of the competition, but we generally know that finding a niche market goes a long way for a membership business. How do you go about carving out a niche business in social media? 

Maris Callahan: That’s a great question because if you look on social media, everybody’s looking for advice, and there’s a lot of content out there about digital marketing and social media.

From the beginning, from when I started my membership, I knew that real estate agents were my target audience. I had come from a corporate role at a real estate firm, a real estate firm. That’s actually very sophisticated in the types of marketing resources that they offer to their clients. And if their agents were looking for help, I thought, okay, there are probably people all over the country who don’t have these same resources that this company did and, you know, they probably need a boost.

So that’s where I decided to focus my business on social media for real estate agents. However, when I first set out on my business, it wasn’t a membership. When I first launched my business, it was consulting and doing social media management for individual clients. But what I found was that there were more people who were looking to, you know, to have a DIY resource versus completely outsourcing it. And it’s also important that if you are going to promote your business, whether you’re a membership or, you know, or a realtor. It’s important to really include yourself in your marketing plan. And that’s not always easy for those of us in the service-based business, because our focus is always on our clients, not on ourselves. So it can be really uncomfortable to market yourself, but really being able to educate, inform and entertain your audience about a specific topic will really help you resonate within that niche. 

Ward Sandler: And when you say include yourself, could you give me some specific examples of what that would mean?

Maris Callahan: Yeah. So you have to treat yourself as though you’re one of your own clients in a way you have to treat yourself like you are a brand and think about marketing that brand as if it were a person. So for me, in the real estate space, I think about what are my real estate agents. You know, if, if I’m looking to market my business on social media or through email marketing, what is it that, that niche, what is it that my niche of real estate agents wants to consume? Is it tips is in social media, you know, tricks and trends and information. Sometimes the content that resonates best with agents is humor, fun content that kind of helps them escape a little bit, and everyone is low as looking for a laugh, right? So it’s important to kind of mix up the types of content to see what will really resonate best with your audience. Especially if you’re niching down. 

Ward Sandler: Yeah. And I think the niche thing is something that like, I think most people probably would say, they’ve heard, right? It’s like you should sell to a niche, but it’s also one of those things that’s easier said than done, like in terms of finding the niche or, you know what, I think a lot of people maybe when they carve out a niche, maybe it’s too specific or too a too broad, right. So like for you, for example, when you say you sell real estate agents, do you sell to any real estate agent? Is it specifically commercial real estate agents? Is it residential real estate agents? Like how do you reach down within that niche? 

Maris Callahan: It’s predominantly residential agents, although commercial certainly could leverage some of the content that I provide residential real estate agents.

And I would say my primary niche is agents that are newer to the business or newer to social media. If you’re an agent and you’re producing a hundred million dollars a year, and you have a team of people under you, you probably already have somebody helping you with your marketing full-time, so you don’t necessarily need a service like the one that I offer. But if you are an individual or small team, like I said, getting started or new to the business, then it’s a great option. But at the same time, you know, I do have top producing brokers who are, you know, who do sign up for the content because some people really like to be hands-on in different aspects of your business. And you know, I think we all find eventually as business owners, that there comes a point where we have to delegate certain things. And for some people they delegate social media for other people. That’s something that is important that they own on their own. 

Ward Sandler: Yeah. I think the way to think about is like, when you’re recruiting your content library, when you’re adding to it, when you’re thinking about how to phrase things or how to categorize things.I imagine you’re keeping that main niche, the residential real estate, olks that are a little newer to social media, right? Adding a few words. If your niche is like two words, it’s probably not specific enough. So there’s a few words you’re adding there, which drill it down to make it in that I assume that’s kind of the, some people would call it like the user persona that you’re imagining, or the avatar that you’re imagining when you’re creating your content.

And I think that’s important to keep in mind. Cause if in your head or thinking, ‘Oh, I’m making this for real estate agents’ It’s just too broad, even though yes, that’s a specific thing. It’s still too broad. You need to drill down and, and like you said,even if you’re just making it for specifically the real estate agents that are newer to social media, it still might resonate with others and that’s kind of like an unintended benefit, but you can’t try to appeal to everyone, right? You’re trying to appeal to a civic group, and maybe that helps others. 

Maris Callahan: Definitely. And another on that too, is the the thing that I’ve also learned throughout this process is how important it is to really get to know the industry that you’re marketing to. I’m involved in a lot of different things, trying to take advantage of a lot of different networking opportunities. I go to clubhouse talks. I spend time with real estate agents. I once in a while, I’ll we’ll invite a friend to (Well, pre COVID) to meet up. And we’ll just talk about the real estate industry. I read everything I can about the real estate industry. I, myself am not a realtor. I’m a Marketing and Communications professional. So I, you know, I’ve made it a priority to get to know the industry, because again, that’s where my clientele, they eat, sleep and breathe real estate.

And if I’m creating content that they’re going to share, I need to, you know, be walking the walk as well. 

Ward Sandler: Yeah. It’s important to actually know the customer that you’re serving, not just from reading about them, in a Facebook group or through social media, even, right? Maris, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. We really appreciate it. Would you like to share any resource or recommendations for folks trying to learn more about The Social Broker? 

Maris Callahan: Thank you. Yeah, my website is Thesocialbroker.com, and over on Instagram, I’m @the.social.broker 

Feel free to drop me a DM and say hi. I always love to talk about memberships. 

Ward Sandler: Sounds good. Thanks, Maris. 

Maris Callahan: Thanks, Ward.