004: Using Facebook to Help Build Your Membership

Linda Ward of Ladies of Real-Estate joins Ward to chat about using private facebook groups to grow an audience, why she’s kept her pricing low and how she’s built a community of over 70,000 women in the real-estate industry.

Show Notes

Show Transcript

Ward: [00:00:27] Hi Linda. Thanks for joining me today.

Linda: [00:00:29] Thanks for having me. I’m excited.

Ward: [00:00:32] Yeah, me too. So we’ll start off with our first question. How did ladies of real estate begin? And how did you really build that initial?

Linda: [00:00:41] Okay. So when I first started ladies of real estate, it just kind of came out of nowhere from a whole bunch of variety of things. I was doing in the real estate industry. I first started off as a real estate agent and then I got pulled into the marketing side of things and I really noticed that even though women made up the larger portion of the real estate Community by up to I believe it 65% there wasn’t really a platform for them. It seems like it’s a very male dominated industry and I wanted to do something that kind of set women apart and gave them Direction with marketing and stuff like that. That was more specific to them because one thing I noticed was that women handled the business a lot differently than mended. So. I decided to start a Facebook group called ladies of real estate and I was like, I’m just going to see where this goes from here. I just want to focus on building a community of women. I don’t really have a goal for it aside from the fact that I just wanted a bunch of women who worked in the same industry to get together and have a conversation about real estate and all the things that we struggle.

Ward: [00:01:53] With with this initial Facebook group, that’s where people just naturally found it you’re saying just some searching Facebook or did you advertise it?

Linda: [00:02:02] So I just created the group and then I had tons of Facebook friends that were in the real estate industry that were women. And so with Facebook groups, you know, how you can add people in. I know sometimes that annoys people but I guess it was just specific enough and it was something that was really wanted that it actually got people really excited about it. So, I added a bunch of people instantly the group took off. So I had created other groups before where I was like really struggling to get engagement going. But instantly the engagement was going people were making post asking questions just really engaging. About a real estate conversation between women and I just asked them to start inviting people that they knew and I think the first thing I did was if they invited 50 friends into the group that I would make them a free Facebook cover for their business pages. And so I think we had like after I did that ad or post in the group. I think we went from like a couple hundred members, too. A little over 2000 so it grew instantly some people were adding way more than 50. They are adding hundreds and hundreds and what was funny is I think I only ended up creating like three Facebook covers for people only three people came and collect like claimed what I was trying to give away, but all these other people still added people in. At first it was free. It was amazing is for growing really fast out of town free later down the road. I advertised it with Facebook group or not Facebook group with Facebook ads and that took it to what it is today with nearly 70,000 members.

Ward: [00:03:44] Wow, so really all began with that. That Facebook group The Invite incentive system me come up with that’s pretty clever. The 50 people you design a cover for them for Facebook. When you started this group and you were doing that this work this, you know free work really was there a long-term goal here that you know, you’re going to try to turn this into some kind of a business or first you weren’t selling anything, right? This is purely just to communicate and help each.

Linda: [00:04:13] Right. Well, so at that time I had my branding and marketing firm, which is a completely different entity at the time and I knew that down the line I somehow wanted to incorporate that because I wanted to continue making money in the design world, but it was not the main purpose of the group. So what a lot of times what I did was I just created a ton of free social Graphics that were like holiday-related because this was around the holiday times when I created the group. So I made like Halloween graphics and Thanksgiving graphics and Christmas graphics that were all related to real estate and I just started giving it away. And I think that’s really what got people excited to is just I was showing them the value the group was going to have for them and what they were going to expect joining it. So Not only was it the community of I guess just women, you know because it’s just completely different when you have a community of women that they were going to be a part of but it was like, okay cool let’s join this group because we’re going to get freebie graphics and stuff like that. And I had always heard and learned that if you give things away and show people your value in that way that they’ll be more likely to spend money with you when you are ready to start a business. So even though I had the graphic design stuff, I didn’t want to necessarily advertise that I knew down the road there was something that I wanted to create but at that time, I didn’t know what that was. So I was like, okay. So all I’m going to do right now is just build a relationship with all these women and just show them what I’m capable of doing and what I’m capable of creating. And that really kind of skyrocketed.

Ward: [00:05:55] Alright, so your audience being built through that Facebook group sounds pretty natural and you were providing a lot of value to get people interested in to stay engaged. That’s awesome. That sounds like a really good tactic. How did you transition that into actually starting a business? Like how did you go about getting your first actual sales and sit and coming with pricing and business model?

Linda: [00:06:17] So what I did was I decided I created another group that was related to ladies of real estate. But instead this was going to be a paid group. So we had the free ladies of Real Estate Group. Next. You’re going to get the paid group. I created this website where I was like, okay, I want to make it affordable because I want to see where I’m going to take this and I knew that there was gonna be some interest. The graphics that are always already making so like every time I made a graphic post that I was giving away for free would get like 500 to 700 likes and tons of downloads and people are just super excited to think. Okay, let’s take this concept and let’s make it an affordable version of it where I’m constantly doing this on a daily basis and then it’ll be more unique stuff. I guess you could say I started doing videos and really creative stuff like that. And so I set up the website and I was like, okay, let’s just start at 20 bucks a month. We’re not going to make it too complicated. They come into the the paid Facebook group will get an invite into it and then every single day I would just create stuff for them to be able to use for their social media. So basically they have the free group I gave away a couple things maybe like once a week once every two weeks. That gave people a general idea of the type of content that I created and then I’m like, okay if they like it then here is the paid group where you can get stuff like this every single day come to this website sign up and then you get to go to the group and get all the other stuff.

Ward: [00:07:55] Gotcha and just kind of curious do you have a background in graphic design?

Linda: [00:08:01] What’s funny is? No, I didn’t so when I was doing the real estate stuff I had to learn how to do everything on my own like building a website building a professional Facebook page and everything like all the graphics for it because I wanted to fake it till I made it in real estate. It’s really hard to get business and real estate because of the transaction amounts and. I was like, okay so how do I make it seem like I am the professional and this industry. How do I compete with the thousands of other real estate agents out there that have already built a reputation in our Nashville Community which is really hard to break into and I didn’t have money to hire graphic designers. I was incredibly broke like I have no money. So I was like, okay if I don’t have money to invest I have to invest time. So I just watched tons and tons of YouTube videos and. Just went to Google and found like bunch of free training and stuff like that. And I just practiced mostly on PicMonkey and sites like canva and I feel like what really set me apart is I feel like I had an eye for it. And I think that was really my saving Grace, I guess you could say like I just when I when I create something it just looked good and people like what was creating so that was really big benefit.

Ward: [00:09:30] Yeah, you had that feedback from from the group so you would know right away okay, this is working or not so much. So that’s that’s good. All right, so $20 a month. That’s what it cost to join the private Facebook group and you would sort of funnel people to that group through the free group where you be interacting with people helping people occasionally posting free content as sort of like a taste of what you could get in the pay group that all makes sense. So how did you transition all of that to having some kind of a and by the way, how are you actually charging people the $20?

Ward: [00:10:05] So I had a website set up on Squarespace which we still use Squarespace for everything. And then we just had I just Googled subscription providers for Squarespace and we just ended up using one company that it wasn’t great. But it was what I could find at the time. So I was I had that set up on the Squarespace and. That’s how it was basically processing it and then it was going into the stripe account with how that’s all set up and then I’ll soon as somebody would sign up they had to use their email to sign up. So then we would contact them via email to send them the private link to the page in Facebook.

Ward: [00:10:46] And then how did you transition that into having like a true membership website?

Linda: [00:10:51] So when I first created the private group, I was like, okay, let’s just see where this goes with the 20 bucks. I’m probably going to get like three or four people in it and then like a week I had a few hundred people signed up. I’m just like holy cow. What is going on? I did not expect this kind of excitement. And when I first had set it up at 20 bucks I was just thinking like, uh me bugs a lot of money. I’m not going to make much but then when I saw how many people were like signing up, I was just like, oh my gosh, that 20 bucks really adds up super fast and so as it just continued to grow. I mean it was growing so fast I have to say I was it was completely unexpected. I didn’t expect it to go as well as it did but it was definitely obviously needed because of the way it went and that’s when I took the time I was like, all right, let’s let’s build out a legitimate website. Let’s have a subscription thing where people can actually log in and. Everything will be directly on the website. Then we’ll be able to update that on a daily basis. So it just went through growing so fast to thinking like, okay well, I guess this is going to be my full-time job now. Let’s let’s make it legitimate.

Ward: [00:12:02] So so you did all that and then that’s when you transition to having everything on the website where you still having the private Facebook group at the same time.

Linda: [00:12:10] Yeah, so we did away with the private Facebook group now because it was just too much to work with all the groups they had but yes at that time, we still work keeping the group and what we were doing is we were that was our communication with our members was through the group because I didn’t do email marketing then I kind of like I didn’t really care for email marketing back then. So I just used group. Let members know every time I added something brand new website.

Ward: [00:12:37] Understood. So did you in the pricing model here the $20? I’m looking on the lre social website. It looks like it’s still 20 dollars a month. So have you ever thought about revisiting that do you feel like that’s still the right spot or do you think you should maybe raise it? What are your thoughts there?

Linda: [00:12:53] So what I noticed we’ve actually done this a couple times where we changed it up. There was one time where we went to $49 a month and sign ups significantly slowed down now. We were making the same amount of money, but I didn’t like the feeling of not getting as many signups even though because I know some people say that like when you have a business model, if you have too much work, just raise your prices, you’ll still make the same amount of money and it will keep things calm but I like the idea of having a membership where we had so many agents involved that at a certain point we could really just kind of grow from word of mouth. And my biggest thing too is when I started at 20 bucks a month my initial thought was I want to make this affordable because when I started everything, you know hiring a graphic designer or website builder, it’s thousands and thousands of dollars and I couldn’t afford that so I was like, okay when I went to the $49 a month I was taking away from the reason I had even made a $20 to begin with. So I didn’t like the feeling I brought it back down to 20 obviously people are weren’t super happy that I was at 49 bucks. We kept it at 20 bucks for our current members, but because so many people had started hearing about ladies of real estate and how it was only 20 bucks. We were getting a lot of email saying like hey, I was referred to you guys by this agent It’s 49 bucks. I thought it was 20. So we’re like, okay, we’re going to fix that. And then down the road. We tried a three-tiered membership program where the main membership 20 bucks and then we have like a $59 and a 149 and even though we had a lot of people signing up for those too. It just made it too complex for me to keep up with and it was a bit of a headache so I was like. I’m a type of person who tries to do too many things at once and it ends up biting me. So I’m like I need to stop. I need to just stick to what lre is now it’s growing as fast at it as it is now. I noticed too that we had a pretty big decline in membership when we had three tiered membership because it took my focus away from the one thing that was getting us to grow so fast, so it’s like okay, let’s go back. Let’s just stick to 20 if we offer additional stuff. It’ll be on a completely different website of its own. So it doesn’t confuse people.

Ward: [00:15:16] I like that you really stuck to your guns there and the thing with pricing at least we found it, It’s not always about you know, the dollars and the cents and exactly what’s going to absolutely make you the most amount of money possible. There’s something totally subjective there too. As far as you know, how is this going to be affordable as are these the kind of people I want to help is my pushing away folks who could have been really successful with it. Was that 20 there. These are all good questions to ask. I like that you kind of related to back to your experience where when you first began of okay, if that this tool is available when you were first starting that would’ve been a that’s affordable. Whereas 49 just isn’t for some folks.

Linda: [00:15:54] Right right. Exactly and I felt like every time I tried to increase that price I was taking away from the reason I started it in the first place. So yeah, exactly keeping it affordable I just had to continue to make that priority.

Ward: [00:16:08] So, how do you what do you do specifically to reduce cancellations and refund requests from customers?

Linda: [00:16:16] So it’s kind of hard with the real estate industry because each season has its ups and downs. So like right now we’re going to add towards a down period because the real estate market really cools down real estate agent struggle a lot in this time period so It’s expected. So we’re not worried about it because we had the same exact experience. Last year is we slowed down significantly in the winter. But then in the spring and summer it surges with signups because that’s when real estate agents are successful. That’s when the market gets hot and going everybody’s successful. So they’re signing up for our system or trying to convince people that during these times that it’s important to keep the membership because it’s. Well with clients you still want to be working really hard to get out there. You don’t want to just like quit but people I understand because they’re tied on a budget and even at 20 bucks It’s a hard to Industry is really hard. So when this time we do see a lot of cancellations, but it doesn’t worry me because I know in Spring will just jump back up again, but the number one record keeping our clients happy is always generating new content. Sometimes that can get stressful because we already have like thousands of stuff on our membership, but we have to evolve with our world our social media world. I feel like when I first started, Graphics where we’re still really a big part of everything but now video is such a huge part of everything and we have to figure out how we’re going to incorporate more videos. And we have to stay on top of every social media Trend and that changes constantly as long as we can stay on top of it or memberships climb our cancellations are slipper or less if that makes sense. But if we fall behind if you know I’ve had times where I don’t put something up for a week or something like that because I’m trying to build a different part of the website out and that’s when we’ll get cancellations. So I guess our biggest thing that keeps people around is always just giving them something new something fresh that they can go out there and use and if what they use before from our membership didn’t work for them in the past. They have hope that as long as they’re getting new stuff something’s going to click and their market and it’s going to become a successful them.

Ward: [00:18:42] Do you think there’s something psychologically about having new content always that makes people say okay I’m getting value out of this because there’s always something new or is it that people are actually using everything you’re posting?

Linda: [00:18:55] I think it’s both for sure because if you think about it everything that we offer you’re really not going to find that with anybody else for 20 bucks. With everything we offer because on top of that we also offer coaching on how to use the content. So I always thought like don’t understand why people are unhappy because we have so much but yeah, it goes back to that other part. Yes that they using it so constantly that they’re taking the training and they’re listening and they’re paying it work that they’re just constantly wanting that daily stuff new stuff so that they’re not repeating what they’ve already used off of the membership. So that does make me happy to know that you know, this is a website that people are actually incorporating into their businesses. And I think that’s a big part of why they always want new stoves.

Ward: [00:19:44] That’s awesome. For the future as far as growing and and you know continuing to evolve the platform. What are you doing right now to continue to grow or are you happy with the kind of the size you’re at you just kind of want to maintain and keep cancellations down?

Linda: [00:20:01] So I do want to continue growing my happy number is ten thousand members, but I. But before my happy number was 5,000 and then we succeeded or went way past 5,000. I was like, I’m not as happy as I thought it was gonna be. So now my happy number is 10000 if we can hit that maintain it at that we’re going to continue growing the membership, but we really want to focus on more in person stuff as well with the ladies of real estate Community kind of doing like speaking events and stuff like that, which I think will get new people to sign up. Right now in the US alone, we have Agents from like Canada, I believe no. No, I believe they are using it from Canada in their markets out there. But we’re is I think there’s like over 600,000 women in real estate with the realtor title. So there’s Realtors and then there’s real estate agents. That’s like a whole different podcast of its own but there’s over 600,000 and I was like, okay, we’re nowhere near that number. How can we hit a broader audience and scale to even 50,000 members or a hundred thousand members. And so that’s kind of where we are right now is like we’re happy with where we’re at. But we definitely still want to continue growing and then we got to figure out how we’re going to make people happy enough to get that many signs.

Ward: [00:21:30] That sounds good to me. I appreciate you taking the time to talk about all this Linda.

Linda: [00:21:34] Absolutely.

Ward: [00:21:35] Before we go. Could you let everybody know they want to learn more about LRE or learn more about you? How should they wish they find you? Yeah, if you just go to Facebook if you look up ladies of real estate or even Google it’ll come right up. You can see our group our group. We only do let real estate agents join, but you can find out anything you want about us a lre social.com or you can just Google more information about us.

Ward: [00:21:59] Great. Thanks again, Linda.

Linda: [00:22:01] Thank you. Thank you for having me.