Professional services and advisory firms are gradually coming to terms with the growing number of individuals within large organisations utilising their personal social media channels as business development tools. This edition of the Infinite Global podcast takes a closer look at the trend, exploring how firms can empower their stakeholders to benefit both the business and the individual.
We sat down with Daniel Daggers, partner at real estate firm Knight Frank, to discuss how social media has expanded his reach far beyond more traditional marketing channels. Daniel also reveals the ‘Eureka moment’ that made him realise how social media could connect him with new clients and generate referrals for Knight Frank.
In addition, this episode looks closely at how professional services firms can personalise their brand by supporting key stakeholders to build their own digital presence whilst still supporting the wider business.
Jamie Obertelli is Infinite Global’s Digital Strategy Leader, based in London. A digital content strategist with a background in journalism and PR, he provides clients with strategies that drive engagement and tell their stories to audiences more effectively. Jamie can be contacted at email@example.com
Need help with your firm’s social media or digital content? Infinite Global can help you develop a bespoke strategy to suit the needs of your firm and empower your individual stakeholders.
Full interview transcript:
JO: Welcome to the Infinite Global podcast. Today's episode looks at how self-promotion through social media is becoming increasingly important for stakeholders in the advisory and professional services sectors.
We're joined today by Daniel Daggers who is a partner in the private office at real estate firm Knight Frank, also referred to as 'Mr Super Prime'.
We worked together in the past at Knight Frank, so I have a good understanding of what it is you're doing at the moment. For those listening who won't have had the pleasure, could you take us through your background how you started in property and, more importantly, what it is that you actually do for Knight Frank now?
DD: My background is that I became a an estate agent at the age of 17 and a half for a small independent company in Little Venice, Maida Vale, which is a West London neighbourhood. I was sat by the front window with a fax machine, telephone, a book and pen selling property from £80,000 to probably at the time £2m and I spent 11 years there. I used the opportunity of building a little bit of a reputation which led to Knight Frank headhunting me. I went and joined Knight Frank in their St John's Wood office. I ran the department of sales between £4m to £10m, which was our Prime Market, for about eight years and then I moved to the Private Office which deals with ultra-high-net-worths out of our head office in Baker Street. So we're dealing with ultra-high-net-worths interested in acquiring or selling real estate, whether it be residential commercial. And then I am also the US ambassador to cities like Miami New York, LA and Aspen, where I'm networking with the best agents over there, engaging with the right audience and making sure that we can connect the dots when they're looking for real estate across the planet. Mainly homes, that's my job, and in excess of £10m.
JO: For anyone that has followed your career it’s clear that social media clearly makes up quite a big part of how you connect now with prospective clients and in the way that you promote your work. How long has it been something that you've really focused on and was there a ‘Eureka moment’ where you first realized the potential of the medium?
DD: I started to understand it when I took the plunge in the US and I was out there traveling across these major cities meeting these great global brokers. Many were filming themselves on these social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram and it was more to show off about where they were and what they did, as opposed to saying 'look how beautiful this property is'. I thought to myself 'wow they are spending 80% showing off what they're doing and 20% on the real estate’. I thought I should just professionalize the idea, tweak it a little bit and make it 80% about the real estate and 20% about me and my life. It is important for people to really engage with an individual and to understand that person, or least that's how I felt about doing business over the past 21 years.
My Eureka moment was I was in I was invited by the developers of 432 Park Avenue in New York, which is one of the tallest residential buildings in the world. Prior to completion of the development, we went up on the outside lift into the 80th storey and we were looking around this floor plate in the clouds and it was an amazing view, something that very few people have ever experienced before. I thought to myself 'wow, it would be amazing if I could share this to my friendship group'. So I thought I'd do a Facebook live video. This was about two and a half years ago when I made the plunge. It was really rocky, I had no idea what I was doing, but it highlighted the property and showcased the incredible views. I ended up getting something like 8,000 views in a few hours and I thought 'wow this is really impactful' because this was to a group of people who may be buyers. I realised that for me to engage with this many people I would have to make eight thousand phone calls, send out eight thousand emails or something close to that. For me to engage my client base and use a CRM (customer relationship management) system would just take me ages. Whereas now I'm pretty much tapping on everyone's shoulder going 'don't forget about me, I'm here, look what I'm doing and I'd be delighted to help'. That was the first Eureka moment.
I came back spoke to you and the Head of Marketing, and you guys really helped me out, that set the groundwork for me and then I've built on that. I realised that because what I do is so visual and so inspiring that Instagram is a better tool and there are so many people on it, it makes sense for me to build that platform and use that as my foundation.
So I've built up an Instagram account, it was doing quite well and I was getting some engagement, but when I knew it really worked was the first time I put my face on camera, which is petrifying. While some people might look at me and think 'Daniel's not shy of confidence', putting your face on camera is not an easy thing to do.
One Saturday, before meeting a client, I decided to put my face on for the first time. It took me about 20 takes to get it right. I said: "right, I'm visiting a friend of mine who's bought property from me before and we're now out looking for an upgrade, a pretty substantial purchase, about a 10,000 square foot house in St John's Wood in North London. I uploaded it, put it away and then went out and conducted the viewings. About four hours later I got a text message from someone I haven’t spoken to you for about a year. He said: "Hi Daniel how are you? I'm not sure you know but I own a very big house in Primrose Hill that no one knows about and I would be interested in selling it potentially now." I know from looking at my stories that client / friend follows me. And so that's when the penny dropped and I decided I had to go guns blazing on this because this makes total sense. So they're the to Eureka moments that made me think that firstly I needed to start using social media properly and that I needed to put my face on camera.
JO: It's interesting that you flag up putting your face on camera as that moment when all of a sudden the penny dropped and you really realized the potential. I think it speaks very much to the change we've seen over the last few years where social media has become about people again.
Previously companies tended to dominate these channels, whereas now it's the personal touch that we know people are really looking for. For instance, I wouldn't follow Virgin as a brand at all, but I might be interested to see what Sir Richard Branson has to share through his own channels. So that certainly speaks to the trend at the moment and people taking advantage of social media to promote themselves rather than just the brand, which I think people really respond to.
DD: There are a couple of points there. Firstly, a brand that is faceless is a very dangerous place to be. You want to put a face to the brand because it gives them foundation.
JO: And a sense of trust.
DD: Yes. My social media is a fundamental part of my business now, so there's big element of trust when someone sees a face on camera. The next point is that if you've got a social media account and it's just pretty pictures of buildings then anyone can replicate that and therefore there's nothing that's really personalized about it. So unless I see an individual who is appearing in video on their page on Instagram I'm not a hundred percent convinced that account is legitimate necessarily. I think people really want to know this account is not just a duplication of someone else's work who's able to take really pretty pictures. As a credential you need to be able to do that.
JO: I know from our previous conversations that you've had some really impressive results and you know you steadily built up your following. I believe you've just recently reached your 25,000 follower mark on Instagram in only a couple of years which is a big deal, especially within the sector that you are in. How are you currently using social media? Can you break it down a little bit and give us some insight into some of the successes you've had? How has social media impacted on your work and what you do for Knight Frank?
DD: Firstly it's an awareness. There's probably 20 people in London that do what I do, at the level that I work at, and therefore I need to make sure if someone in the marketplace wants to buy a luxury asset across London, the US, or the rest of the world in fact, I'd like them to engage with me. The next point is that I want to de-cloak myself from the big business that I work in and I want to personalize what I do.
It's vitally important to build trust with people. You need to understand people and if you watch me on social media you'll understand that I'm super passionate about my job. I want to make sure that I can engage with a mass audience. And hopefully help people in their journey to either acquire property or get the right advice whether or not they're looking to sell or buy. So what you're really asking is whether there is any return on this investment? Yes, it's huge.
JO: Obviously the work that you do is all about discretion and you can't speak about individuals or specific deals but are there any particular instances where just of the back of social media you have been instructed on a property or have made a sale you wouldn't have otherwise? Is that something that you know is becoming more regular thing?
DD: I've had over a hundred referrals of people looking to either buy or sell real estate across our platform at Knight Frank purely from social media. People see me as a safe place to go to ask questions immediately and I refer them to the right people because I know the best people in the sector because I've been doing this for so long. I'm about to sell one of London's most expensive homes and I was able to give it to a very precise audience because of the set up on my Instagram account. If you're an ultra-high-net-worth individual and I prove you are legitimate then I may put you into my close friends list, which is where you'd get exposure to some off market properties or some distressed assets. These are opportunities that no one else can see because the videos vanish in 15 seconds and it's an amazing tool. I don't think everyone's grasped the opportunities from social media yet and people aren't brave enough. But this is this is really creating an amazing opportunity for people.
JO: I think that is changing and more people are starting to understand how to harness the power of social media. It varies between sector but I think that the opportunities are uniform. The type of content that you may share in the real estate world will be different to what a lawyer is sharing, but the opportunity to network, to create new contacts and to bring in new business applies across all sectors.
DD: Yes. The way I look at media now is that it's totally fractioned and previously you would have had seven newspapers to publicize your business which would cost you an absolute fortune. I don't really read the newspapers anymore because I source my information from my telephone. It doesn't matter whether or not you're a lawyer or a real estate agent. There is a form of media that would suit you. I'm showing beautiful homes so pictures and video content makes sense. But if I was a lawyer I would use slightly different forms of content. I'd be using blogs, I'd be writing a lot more and doing things like podcasts.
JO: The advances in technology over the last few years mean that every single person is a brand but is also a publishing house in their own right. So you could be competing with somebody who lives in the most remote part of the world and as long as they have an internet connection and they're savvy with the way that they create content they could be reaching exactly the same audience as you are. It levels the playing field and opens opportunities for everyone. When you look at the types of things that people share on social media if very much depends on what sector they're in. So for Real Estate is a lot more image led and very much about the visual. For anyone in professional services who has more advisory role it could be pure thought leadership. Whether that takes the form of a blog, videos or podcasts it doesn't really matter. Another point to consider is that one particular piece of content can be amplified and can go a really long way. Today's podcast, for instance, is audio content but that's not to say that we can't transcribe this and it becomes a blog. I'm sure you'll be doing interesting things with the audio on your own channels as well. The opportunities are endless and I think more and more sectors are going to start to realize the value. By and large social media, and intelligent use of social media, can only benefit your business and your brand.
DD: If you're not doing this you're devil blind to the world. My father would pick up a newspaper everyday, he'd watch TV and look at the adverts but those days have gone. People are picking up all their content from their mobile phones and they're spending all their time on certain applications. If you're not on those applications and you're not publishing what you're doing then no one knows where you are. You're practically not advertising anywhere. Individuals have this opportunity now rather than the big businesses and you can do it all from your phone. I hit on average 211,000 accounts a week which is a huge amount of people. That is going to continue to grow. I've done it from a very personal place. I've put a lot of time into this but I see this as one of the most valuable things that you can do right now. I can walk into properties and I can tell the client I can market their property and that I know the digital landscape better than any other real estate agent. Especially if they don't have support, ie someone like you who understands digital content and social media. I was the first person to produce video content in the UK for luxury assets and then use SEO to market it. This is the way the world is going.
JO: You've talked about your content being more visually led but can you tell us a bit about what goes into creating it? What support do you have because obviously it helps when you've got people in your corner who are assisting with the assets and helping you schedule.
DD: Every big business now is starting to come to terms with this and no one's got a quick fix. When you're in a big organisation that's trying to facilitate everybody is very hard for them to make fast moves. So the production of content is very important and we have a team that can do that. Production houses that can go into homes and do some really slick video content.
Developers in some instances will be doing it themselves but do they know what they should or shouldn't be showing? I've been doing A/B testing for the past two and a half years so I'm a good person to ask. Then there's the distribution of the content which I do myself. My stories are all curated myself, the images that that I upload are from Knight Frank because we've had professionals take those shots. You do need support because it's hard work and it does take time.
JO: How would you say an individual approach has benefited you as opposed to just relying on Knight Frank's own corporate channels? There are some businesses and individuals within those organizations who solely rely on the centralized function of their social media, so they may just share what's coming out on the corporate channels. But as you said the personal approach is so important. How have you managed the split between relying on the structure and the templates that you already have in place from Knight Frank and then adding your own touch?
DD: First and foremost the Knight Frank brand within the luxury residential and commercial sector is A*. Coupled with a personal brand that it is strong, positive, kind and good can only do well, so they should really benefit each. It's a very interesting landscape and what I found when trying to manoeuvre around it is that a lot of people don't like corporate media. If it's too shiny into slick they don't engage with it so much because it's not as personal. So I definitely get a better response that way. If I'm going to produce a piece of content for home, and it's going to be used as a piece of marketing material to hopefully engage a potential buyer somewhere across the planet, then it should look really beautiful, it should be curated and the business will help with that.
But if I walk around a house, record description as I walk through, talk about the architectural elements, why it's so hard to build something like this because it's grade two listed and the need to preserve certain features then people are getting really valuable content. That is not something that they would necessarily receive from a piece of really slick corporate material that's used to engage buyers.
I think the business will have to create some pillar content that acts as an anchor for the individual and then the individual needs to be themselves.
JO: So you can personalize that pillar content and pick your own?
DD: Well, you're going to have a piece of content from the business. It could be me selling a beautiful piece of real estate in Malibu, where I help curate the video. Everyone who sees it loves it and it's a great pillar piece of content. But then again, I might build off the back of that and I might start talking about what I think is beautiful about this house and I might get the client on camera with me because she loves it. She really enjoyed it. In fact, I asked her to be in the video and she's walks down the stairs onto the beach and everyone says, this is the best part of the video. Some people like this collaboration. You have to have that personal feel with people because everything personalised now.