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Does 'Hyperlocalism' Help or Hurt Our Business?

Does 'Hyperlocalism' Help or Hurt Our Business?

By Darrin Friedman

Over the past couple of years, those on the more innovative end of the real estate industry spectrum have become fans of “hyperlocalism” -- the practice of marketing oneself as THE expert on a very specific (and sometimes quite small) niche market or geographic area. Many have touted hyperlocalism as the new frontier of doing business in the digital age of social media marketing. And why not? The results can be quite dynamic.

From Search Engine Optimization (better known as Google juice) to street credibility within a community (online or otherwise), some Realtors embracing hyperlocalism have enjoyed tremendous returns from online leads based on their efforts to frame themselves as the optimal resource to those searching for in-depth information about a particular area.

Of course, many copycats have followed suit, making a serious push to ensure an online territory and branding themselves with the town, neighborhood, and sometimes even the street of their choice. They believe that the time spent doing so will give back in spades, only to discover that the gold rush isn’t what they hoped for ... or had been promised.

Whether it is a blog promising “365 Things to Do in _______ Town" (yes, I was guilty of that) or yet another generic Facebook Community page, many of the late adopters to the hyperlocal marketplace are finding it difficult to make their way in the suddenly crowded space.

Furthermore, even the most adept hyperlocal marketers face challenges. For one thing, consumers can be brutally harsh judges when searching sites for truly new and inspired information, and some have the annoying habit of making their displeasure with trite content very publicly known.

Then there's the issue of what happens when a potential client wants to consider a home outside of your carefully branded area. The danger of pigeon-holing oneself as an expert in only one thing is a dilemma -- one that makes hyperlocalism potentially problematic as more and more embrace it on Facebook Community pages, Google+, and the traditional blog.

Now, I’m not saying sophisticated marketers should not use Facebook, blogs, YouTube, or any other tool they can to impress upon potential clients that they have serious market knowledge. However, sometimes these channels expose those who need to learn to crawl before they sprint. Social media can function like a self-service detective tool, making it easy for the public to dismiss agents as frauds before ever giving them a chance to show their value.

The reality is that hyperlocalism takes experience and savvy to pull off successfully, and it can kill a person’s credibility faster than almost anything else. If you think you're up for it, here is a short list of “musts” that I urge you to consider:


1. If you say on a Facebook Community page that you know a neighborhood better than anyone else out there, you'd better be telling the truth! Don’t just throw up a page with some graphics and iPhone pictures and say you know what you don’t. Study. Research. Become the expert instead of just saying so. Use linkable PDF documents that show real value. Be a reporter. Show that you care. Being the "real deal" is the only way to keep them coming back.

2. If you market yourself as specializing in one very specific thing, and then you encounter a consumer who says they went to another agent because they figured you only did that thing, you need to be able to address that problem with credibility and confidence. I know an agent who marketed himself as the “Loft Guy." Well, that may be a terrific niche market for those who are certain they want to buy a loft, but what if a buyer wants to look at non-loft properties? Would the agent turn away that business? Moreover, how much potential business is he losing when people simply assume that he cannot or will not help them? At the very least, you need to have an answer ready for those who inquire about your willingness and ability to work outside of your hyperlocal area. Find credible ways to be able to do both.

3. Script practice is vital. You need to be prepared to respond to a multitude of objections regarding your online presence, and you must never be embarrassed by or apologize for your content.

In the end, hyperlocalism can work beautifully for those who are committed to developing a comprehensive strategy behind it. Just remember, you can’t fake it — social media is too unforgiving, and a search engine's memory is very, very long.