April 20, 2012

Four on Friday: Coy Davidson of Colliers International in Houston, Part One

Hartman Simons Four on Friday Coy Davidson Colliers InternationalYou would be hard pressed to find a commercial real estate figure with a bigger online presence than Coy Davidson, an office broker and senior vice president of Colliers International’s Houston office. He authors a popular blog, The Tenant Advisor, in which he examines current trends in the industry, and he is a passionate advocate of social media. His information-chocked Twitter feed has earned a whopping 10,500 followers.

We recently got a chance to talk about a wide range of commercial real estate issues with Davidson. In this first installment of a two-part Four on Friday, he discusses the industry’s reluctance to embrace social media and the benefits the various mediums offer the industry.

To what extent has commercial real estate embraced social media?

In my opinion, commercial real estate has been very slow to adopt social media in comparison to other industries. While many commercial real estate professionals are starting to experiment with the medium, it is still very far from mainstream.

The number of commercial real estate professionals I’ve seen on social media networks has increased pretty dramatically over the last two years and when you’re on those channels regularly, it might appear that there’s more widespread adoption than there really is. But there are 50 brokers here in my office, and not many have adopted these tools.

The vast majority of the industry has not embraced these tools, and I think there are a couple of reasons. For one, it tends to be a more conservative, b-to-b industry like the law sector and financial services. Two, there’s still quite a bit of skepticism about social media’s effectiveness.

How fundamental a part of the industry’s future do you see social media being?

The day will come – I don’t know if it’s going to be two years from now or five years from now – but it’s obvious to me that it will become a fundamental part. I’ve been in the business long enough to remember when the desktop computer wasn’t a fundamental part of the business. People said, “You can’t make any money sitting at your desk typing on a computer.”

I can also remember when the cell phone wasn’t a fundamental part of our business. People would say, “Why would I want to have a client call me at home?”

I think social media will be no different. It’s a daily part of American culture now, and it’s only going to increase. It’s just a matter of time before it weaves itself into the business community and corporate America.

How would you describe the benefits of the main social media networks – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – for commercial real estate professionals?

That’s a broad question. Generally speaking, for brokers such as myself, the real value of social media is the chance to build credibility and visibility by providing valuable information. But most commercial real estate people don’t understand that. There’s a tendency to want to sell instead. They have not been educated in the basics of content marketing. Social media is a starting point, a place to initiate new contacts and then move the conversation offline.

Is there any one network that is best suited for commercial real estate figures?

I get that question a lot. The short answer is, I don’t think there’s one that’s better than the others. It’s whatever tool gives you the best access to your target market.

Our industry tends to gravitate to LinkedIn because it’s solely a business social network and is therefore the safe choice. People aren’t going to roll their eyes when you have a LinkedIn account, while they might if you say you’re using Facebook for business.

But I go against the grain a little bit: I believe in a multi-channel platform. Based on my two and a half years of using them all extensively, I think they all have their advantages and disadvantages.

The most important thing to keep under consideration is your target audience. You’re going to access different people with each of the networks, so whichever one of those platforms is giving you the most engagement with your target audience is probably the best one for you. I have found Twitter to be the best tool for accessing people that I didn’t know and Facebook to be the most engaging platform, where as LinkedIn has been a better tool to interact with people I already kind of knew.

On a personal level, I’m a little frustrated with the CRE community on Twitter right now. As all the brokers are showing up with the ingrained push mentality that is pervasive in the industry. The “we’re so awesome” tweets don’t resonate. They don’t recognize that their clients probably don’t want to read that stuff or about commercial real estate 100 percent of the time. My philosophy is that credibility with clients and prospects is more important than credibility from your peers.

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