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Getting out the message via video is more important than ever, according to realtor Murray McKeage at one of his luxury Oakville listings.PHOTO COURTESY OF DIGITAL ENTOURAGE

With the restrictions on sales centres and in-person viewings that were brought due to the pandemic, real estate agents, developers, brokers and stagers have had to scramble to find ways to maintain momentum and meet customer demand. Out-of-date websites and social media channels left to languish are no longer an option.

“If any business was hesitant about social media and marketing their businesses online before

COVID-19, they really had to get on board,” says Maya Merchant, digital marketing expert and principal of Toronto-based firm Digital Entourage Media Production.

According to the Canadian Marketing Association, Canada is on the “cusp of a rebound, returning to pre-pandemic advertising levels.” Spending on digital and TV advertising has grown four percentage points in each of the last two years, suggesting that the pandemic acted as a catalyst for this shift.

Digital Entourage Media Production has witnessed this shift firsthand. In the past year alone, the firm experienced a three-fold increase in clients of its digital marketing services, which include videography production, website design, digital advertising expertise, social media marketing and management.

She says Instagram is proving to be a powerful tool for the real estate sector because of its timeliness.

“I’ve seen agents walk around a property taking photographs or small video clips, posting them to Instagram, and selling that same property to a client via direct message. It’s amazing,” she says.

Even ‘print’ advertising in the real estate sector now has an increasingly digital component. In partnership with Moe Tawil, founder and executive producer of Moetreal, which specializes in media production, Digital Entourage has built a series of ads that include QR codes. Readers can scan the codes with their smartphones and directly link to online videos of agents providing insight into the real estate market and pricing trends, offering tips for buyers and sellers, and sharing their experiences of working with clients. Interested buyers can also call, message, or email the agent directly from the ad.

“Feedback has been amazing so far,” Merchant says.

Mimi Ng, senior vice-president of residential sales and marketing for Menkes Developments Ltd., says she has seen her clients’ behaviours clearly change over the past year.

“I think clients expect us to have a social media presence and, while they don’t ‘insist’ on plenty of followers, having a decent-sized or high follower count definitely helps legitimize your company in the buyer’s mind,” Ng says.

Menkes’ strategy involves actively engaging with clients and potential clients via online advertising and social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn, together with print advertising. She emphasizes the importance of quality, timely content when it comes to marketing.

“People who follow our social channels are typically interested in real estate development and architecture. They’re looking for information about upcoming projects, and/or they are already Menkes’ buyers who want to see construction updates on their future home. Posts of construction photos from any of our sites normally garner the most engagement and interest from our followers,” Ng says.

Menkes’ corporate profile on LinkedIn includes a series of videos of its latest developments and campaigns emphasizing the company’s commitment to the culture and communities of the Greater Toronto Area.

The company’s Instagram account features interesting angles and perspectives in its images, whether they are of concrete being poured for the P3 level of an underground parking garage at The Eglington Condos or skyline views of cranes working atop Harbour Plaza Residences in downtown Toronto.

“I think posting regularly and quality content are incredibly important. If you have a social media presence, people expect you to be active on that channel by posting updates and responding to inquiries. An account that is clearly a placeholder and hasn’t been active for a long time just leaves a bad impression,” she says.

Maintaining an active presence online and knowing what and when to post is where companies such as Digital Entourage Media Production come in. Merchant says her team helps demystify the process and offers simple tips to increase engagement with buyers.

“You don’t want to overthink it. For some who aren’t as familiar with social media, there is a tendency to want to preplan their posts. I encourage our clients to just pick up their phone, take a photograph or video, and post it,” she says.

Merchant says she is excited about the future of digital marketing and believes it will continue to evolve with changes in the popularity of social media tools and channels. She predicts TikTok will be the new Instagram and that the use of QR codes is here to stay.

“We’re at an exciting intersection where digital and print media are meeting and creating a powerful combination to reach audiences anywhere in the world,” Merchant says.

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio . The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.