058: Using Social Media To Turn Followers Into Clients – with Maris Callahan

Maris Callahan, founder of The Social Broker joins Ward to chat about how her membership helps real estate professionals with their social media content creation, planning, and engagement to help them turn followers into clients.

✍️ Show Notes

📄 Show Transcript

This transcript is computer generated, please excuse any errors 🙂

Ward Sandler 0:06
Hey Maris, welcome to Member Maker.

Maris Callahan 0:37
Hi Ward Thanks for having me.

Ward Sandler 0:39
Yeah, sure thing. So what is your business and who do you help?

Maris Callahan 0:43
I have a social media marketing business exclusively for the real estate industry. I mostly serve real estate agents all over the country. But I also work with other businesses in the real estate space, including developers No company is really anything under that real estate umbrella.

Ward Sandler 1:03
Gotcha. And so real estate, that’s obviously very specific. Why did you choose that niche?

Maris Callahan 1:09
Yeah, so I’ve been working in communications for a long time for about 15 years, I’ve worked with all different industries, from food to hospitality to technology. And I most recently had a full time role. I was the head of communications for one of the largest real estate brokerages in Chicago. And when I was there, I really found that I love working one on one with the agents, you know, working on the corporate side of the business was great, but where I really kind of saw the most opportunity and where I really felt the most passion was for helping the individual agents and, you know, Agent teams grow their businesses using social media marketing, and there really are not a lot of resources out there in real estate. It’s such a relationship. Driven business where people are used to having that face to face contact with a real estate agent. And I think, you know, now more than ever, with all of the stay at home orders and social distancing. realtors are embracing the fact that you can use social media not to replace the face to face relationship, but to really kind of enhance it, and to do all of the same great networking activities that you would do offline, right on Facebook or Instagram.

Ward Sandler 2:29
Gotcha. So when you say real estate, that’s obviously pretty broad, right? There’s people who lease out apartments there’s people who sell commercial real estate there’s people that sell in you know, big houses, there’s people that sell mansions So what kind of real estate exactly are you focused on?

Maris Callahan 2:45
Really residential real estate is probably my bread and butter, but I have worked with commercial agents. And you know, I find that a lot of agents really, you know, their businesses run the gamut. They’ll do everything from rentals to helping buyers find a new home. to helping people sell their homes and, you know, sometimes tapping into that, you know, mixed use or commercial multifamily markets as well. There are two sides of my business, you know, I have a sort of an agency model, right, where I help clients and really just sort of take over their social media management, or they’ll come to me and kind of say, you know, there’s really two types of people, they either want to learn how to do it themselves, or they want to hand over the keys and say, here, you do this, because they’re already so busy, and there are so many competing priorities that they really need, you know, to be really need that support and you know, creating content that could be a full time job. So I take that off their plates so that they can really focus on what they do best, which is, you know, helping buyers and helping sellers. And the second piece of my business, which is why we’re here today is my membership. And that’s where real estate agents can go online on my website and every month I really release a new batch of content. So you get a content calendar, you’ve got all of the graphics and photographs that you need to post a social media every day. I include caption templates, hashtag guides for Instagram and a lot of good bonus goodies to help those who want to do their own social media or who aren’t ready to completely outsource it. Really, you know, use it meaningfully grow their engagement grow their businesses,

Ward Sandler 4:25
okay, so there’s the two different models kind of the do it yourself and the you know, the client does it or sorry, you do it for them. For the DIY, though, that is the membership side of this right and and what do you actually charging for that?

Maris Callahan 4:38
Exactly. So I charge right now I charge $35 a month or $90 per quarter. And I actually chose that model to sort of incentivize people who are signing up on a quarterly basis, because social media is a long game. It is not something that is going to work overnight. You know, it takes time to do To build an audience and to, you know, get more engagement. And so that’s why I kind of like to sort of incentivize longevity there. Because if you sign up for a month, you might know in a month, if you like the content and you know, if you feel like the, the plan is right for you, but you will not see real results until you’ve committed to showing up every day and posting the content and really being present and engaging with people on your social network of choice.

Ward Sandler 5:30
Yeah, no, that makes sense. So I guess if we, if we were to, you know, double click on that for a second, why even offer the monthly why not just do quarterly or annual?

Maris Callahan 5:39
Yeah, that’s a good question. And it’s something that I have been, you know, considering is do I remove the monthly option, but I think, you know, a lot of my, my clientele, they are newer agents, and they’re sort of feeling out, you know, different programs, and I do, you know, want to give them the flexibility to try it for a month. And then what I’m finding is that most of my members Come in, they try it for a month, and then they do end up, you know, kind of upgrading to that quarterly cycle. I also give out more, you know, on the monthly plan, you have access to the monthly content bundle. And then you have access to my tips and trainings, I can no I go live and our members only Facebook group. And I provide different kinds of training worksheets and videos to the agents throughout the month. And then for the quarterly, I also release you know, just kind of other assets. So maybe it’s a graphic overlay to go over your listing, you know, your new photo of your beautiful home that you’re selling. So they would be able to download a graphic that says for sale to put on top of that, or bonus content for Instagram stories, seasonal content for holiday. So that kind of thing. So as a quarterly member, you do get more content, more resources, and it actually costs a little bit less because I really want my members to commit to this for for the long term so that they can see those those real results.

Ward Sandler 7:05
Yeah, I mean, I just have heard in the past from others who offer like a lot of content and like a resource library like you’re doing that sometimes they have an issue with kind of like hit and run members. So like somebody who signs up for a month downloads all the content and then you know, cancels and then maybe comes back six months later gets all the new stuff cancels and it just like, if you’re not noticing a big problem with that, or that’s not really a trend that’s happening in your audience, then awesome, but if it if it is something for people that are maybe listening out there, that’s a good reason for those types of memberships, the ones where you’re offering a lot of content resource and older content that’s still relevant, is to maybe switch to more of like a quarterly or an annual or even like a one time lifetime, sort of a model. So it’s like, yeah, you get access to this amazing resource, and there’s no real worry about a hit and run kind of member.

Maris Callahan 7:54
That’s a great point. I think the one thing that sort of, you know, protects my business. This model from that is that there is new content released every month and it is time sensitive. So I might be talking in May about spring and getting your home ready for the summer. And, you know, obviously right now lots of the content is related to staying home. So it is time sensitive. That’s not to say that they couldn’t repurpose some of the images or some of the content. But that’s a really great point. And it is something that I have been considering. I attended your lifetime had a skyrocket customer lifetime value webinar last week. And I thought there were some really great, great points on there about, you know, the different kind of membership models and member cycles.

Ward Sandler 8:38
Yeah, exactly. And basically, obviously, you remember that from the webinar, one of the ways to hedge against a member signing up and canceling is exactly what you’re doing, which is that seasonal content, so it’s always, you know, relevant. It’s not just, oh, this is generic. So it’s smart that you kind of done it that way. And it doesn’t sound like it’s a problem. So we can we can move on. But I just thought it’s interesting to hear different people’s perspective who are offering that kind of a concept.

Maris Callahan 9:00
Yeah, no, that’s a great point. And I think, you know, to your point as well, and not to not to stick on this point, but I think my, I launched officially in member space in January, so I am still kind of analyzing some of those, those patterns and, you know, I have to dig deep into those analytics months, I have a few more months of, you know, it tends to perform,

Ward Sandler 9:20
right. Yeah. And then so I like though that your model, you have the membership side of it, that you know, the DIY and then you have the, the part where you are actually doing it for them. And like that’s, that’s a nice kind of an upsell, right, you can get people who want to get in there, maybe they, you know, learn to know like and trust you and all that through the membership or via any of the free content you’re offering out there. And then it’s a natural progression to be like, okay, at some point, I don’t want to do social media for myself, right? If you get your business to a certain size, I would imagine they would want to have you do it or is that not really the trend you’ve seen?

Maris Callahan 9:53
You know, it is a little early to see since I’ve only been live for about four months with a membership portal. I did test it back in the fall. So I was kind of in beta, doing just really I had the content in Dropbox, and it was, member space has been a huge upgrade for me. But you know, I do certainly hope that as my members businesses grow, that I can be that continued resource for them from the time they’re just starting out on social media, all the way, you know, to their, you know, their eventual growth to the point where they’re ready to outsource social media. And because I have that communications background, I can really help them integrate social media with all of the other marketing that they’re doing. Because I think you know, and this applies for any business and other industries. A lot of the principles that I do teach about social media for real estate are very applicable in other you know, other industries. But really, it’s about, you know, being present and engaging and, you know, having social media complement the rest of your brand. So I when I work with Clients I do, you know, work to kind of incorporate if they’re doing email marketing, or if they’re doing the client appreciation, really working to make sure that social media is kind of consistent and really matches their brand and their authenticity.

Ward Sandler 11:16
Yeah. And I love that. Because you offer those two options. If someone has a problem with social media, you’re there to help no matter what it’s like, there’s free content, DIY, and they’ll do it for them. So it’s like, if they have a problem, and they come to you, you have something for everybody. So I kind of like that. It’s like a very inclusive type of business model. So I think that’s really clever of you.

Maris Callahan 11:36
Exactly. I launched the agency piece first about a year or so ago in early 2018. And what I was finding was a lot of people were calling me, but they weren’t just not quite ready. They knew they needed help, but they weren’t quite ready to kind of outsource and hand over the keys to the kingdom as I like to say. So that’s where I thought, well, what if there was a more affordable option? In that, you know, provides all of the resources right at your fingertips and teaches you how to, you know, make the most of those resources online.

Ward Sandler 12:09
Yeah, that’s great. So let’s get back to how you actually build up that audience. Right. So you were working more in a corporate atmosphere? How did you transition from that to having your own business and how to get and how do you continue to get people to care about it and know about you and build your audience? Oh,

Maris Callahan 12:23
yeah. So initially, you know, I knew that there was this need out there for social media resources, people were trying all sorts of approaches, but really couldn’t figure out why they were posting all the time, but not, you know, not getting an audience. And then there are some people who, you know, didn’t even know how to log into Instagram because it was just so new to them. So I saw that need for the kind of resources out there. And when I did leave my full time job, I started getting calls from agents who said, Hey, now can I hire you? So I thought, okay, yeah, there is a market for this. So that’s when I started Working one on one with clients. And since then, you know, since my initial sort of word of mouth, I have been building up my own audience on Instagram primarily, you know, I use social media, I use LinkedIn and Facebook too. But Instagram is really I tell my clients this and I practice what I preach. Instagram is where there’s the most opportunity for engagement. And where people are really making those, you know, personal connections,

Ward Sandler 13:26
right? So you started getting calls from people, but then how are you still getting inbound outside? Like, I assume there’s, you know, your network of people who knew about you, and now we’re calling you but outside of that, how do you get people to come to your website right now? Like, what are you doing to kind of get that going?

Maris Callahan 13:42
Yeah. So that’s where I’m doing a lot of social media marketing. I posted Instagram most days, I do give away a lot of free content, tips and advice and ideas for agents to help them build their social media. You know, I’m very active on Instagram, and I have gotten A few, you know, business referrals and the number of members who have found me on that channel. And I also have been building an email list, I do a little bit of content marketing. I have a blog on my website, which I should, admittedly update more often. But I try to get up there at least a couple times a month. And each time I have a new blog post, I will market that via email. And email has been a nice source of lead generation for me as well.

Ward Sandler 14:27
Gotcha. But it sounds like the main channel that’s driving customers and traffic is Instagram. Is that right?

Maris Callahan 14:33
It is.

Ward Sandler 14:34
Gotcha. Yeah, I’ve heard that from a lot of folks. It’s not true for every business type, right for what you’re trying to do. Specifically social media, for residential real estate agents. It makes sense that you know, Instagram would work. I would imagine Facebook has a lot of your target audience too, right?

Maris Callahan 14:50
Facebook does too. I think that the difference between Facebook and Instagram and I’ll back up for a second. A lot of people come to me and say, Do I need to be on both or can I pick one or the other? Mark Zuckerberg On Facebook and Instagram, and he knows what he’s doing. So I always say he’s not going to, you know, make the network so similar that you have to choose one. I think that on Facebook, people tend to really have those kind of longer form conversations. And it’s where people stay connected with their, their friends and family. And, you know, Facebook groups is a huge trend right now, where people are creating, you know, different sort of subject matter groups or local interest groups to connect with people who you know, or have kind of like minded interests or live in their neighborhood. And so that’s a huge asset on Facebook, but on Instagram, it’s really more of that, you know, kind of quick, you know, a lot of people scan their Instagram feeds and then they watch stories. I think it’s nice because on Instagram, there are a lot of different ways that you can kind of post and consume content with your Instagram feed people have really, you know, nicely designed content grids that represent their brand and then You have Instagram stories for that sort of fun behind the scenes. And then if you want to educate or entertain, you can post videos to Instagram TV for that longer form content. So I think people like that there’s a lot of variety there and a lot of different ways to make connections. Okay, so if we could just dive back into the pricing real

Ward Sandler 16:20
quick, for the option where you’re doing the social media for people, what does that really include? And what’s the pricing? Like, how do you think about the pricing around that?

Maris Callahan 16:30
Yeah, there are definitely different levels of engagement that clients can bring me in for, you know, I kind of start with a plan that’s focused around content creation. You know, every client has different needs. Some people come to me with a really kind of strong brand and all the fundamentals in place, and they really just need help getting the kind of getting the word out there using social media. And then there are other clients who kind of just want to hand me the keys and say, you know, this is all you and maybe we’re starting from scratch, maybe We’re starting with a profile that hasn’t been posted on a few months because the agent was super busy and couldn’t focus on social media. So there’s, you know, those two levels. And then you know, there are people who are looking for kind of that more integrated approach where maybe it’s their, you know, we’re writing blog posts for them, and, you know, helping them with email marketing, and really kind of integrating, you know, their social media into a broader digital marketing plan. And, you know, the pricing it really, it really varies per person, because everyone has different needs. So when I do have a, you know, a new client who’s interested in coming on, I almost always start with kind of a 15 to 20 minute exploratory call, where we’ll discuss, you know, potential needs goals, and I can get a better idea of their scope of work.

Ward Sandler 17:47
Right. So, what I like about that is that you’re keeping it flexible, so you know, you don’t have a it definitely cost this much definitely doesn’t cost that much. It’s more like let’s talk about what you need. We’re going to tailor a package of some kind to What you’re looking for that works for both of us. And I think that’s smart to do, especially since you mentioned, this is still, you know, somewhat new, because it allows you to be flexible and allows you to kind of change gears, if something in your business changes, or you decide you want to kind of change the model, you’re not locked into something. Maybe in the future, as things start to scale up, and you get more and more folks doing this, this option with you, I would imagine you might productize it a bit more maybe have like more strict like tier one includes this tier two includes that is it, are you kind of thinking that way as well or not so much.

Maris Callahan 18:30
Yeah, that’s definitely an opportunity. And, you know, having a membership has really sort of taught me a lot about how to, you know, structure some of those plans, because people really do like to know, here’s what I’m paying, here’s what I’m getting. And then you know, they have that, that ability to kind of measure results.

Ward Sandler 18:47
Right, right. Okay. So what is an example of something that you’ve tried in your business that didn’t really work yet and why and I know like you said, this is still relatively new, but maybe I have an example to share with everyone.

Maris Callahan 18:59
Yeah. I think one of the most fun things about having, you know, your own business and being entrepreneurial is the ability to just try different things, and run with it. You know, when you work in a more corporate environment, there’s often a lot of layers and levels of approvals. And you know, that can certainly have its benefits. But what I really love is if you have an idea, you can just go with it, if I want to write a blog post, I think of it, I do it. So I think, you know, I’m still sort of, to your point learning, you know, what are some of the things that are most resonating with my clients and my audience, but I think when I started off, you know, last year, I thought that coaching real estate coaching, so helping agents, you know, helping them do their own social media would be more of a, you know, more of a draw, but it turned out most people just wanted me to kind of do, you know, do the social media management for them. And then the other thing too, is, you know, I can incorporate coaching in the membership, so that I can still you know, sort of Do that I really enjoy helping people, you know, again, going back to that kind of one on one, working with agents, helping them grow their businesses, I can do that, you know, a skill and a membership where if I were, you know, say selling my time by the hour, I would only be able to help one person at a time.

Ward Sandler 20:15
Right now, that makes a lot of sense. All right, cool. So, Maurice, this has been great if you could just let people know how they can learn more about you and your business.

Maris Callahan 20:23
Yeah, my website is the social broker calm. And on Instagram. I’m at a VA dot social dot broker. And I would love to hear from other membership owners. I’m always open for networking and conversations.

Ward Sandler 20:38
Awesome models. Great talking with you.

Maris Callahan 20:40
Thank you so much.