Marketing Showdown: Direct Mail vs. Social Media

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About the Author: Andrew Helling is a licensed real estate agent, property manager, and founder of REthority, an online resource for real estate professionals and their clients.

The digital age is in full swing, and nearly everyone from millennials to baby boomers is on social media. After all, it’s an effective way to keep in touch with friends, family, and acquaintances.

In addition to connecting people digitally, social media allows companies to put their services in front of potential customers, often for reasonable prices. However, this does not mean old-fashioned marketing is dead. Read on to learn how social media differs from direct mail, and why both methods has a place in an effective real estate marketing strategy.

Social Media

Not only does social media help expand your brand’s reach through both organic searches and ads, but also gives you a platform to show prospects you’re an expert in your field. There are many social media platforms, but we’ll focus on the two most common ones: Facebook and Instagram.


Your brand should be an extension of you, and social media allows you to digitally showcase your personality and knowledge. If your personality is spunky and fun, you can post funny photos to Instagram. Or maybe you’ve listed a million dollar home. Posting this on your Facebook page will show prospective clients that you have the experience to handle big listings.

As clients become more tech-savvy, they turn to digital resources in their home search. By establishing yourself as an expert in your field while also connecting with customers on a personal level, you have a better chance of getting their business.


Instagram is a great platform to showcase your properties because it allows you to post photos with captions, tags, and locations. For example, if you are listing a home in Bel Air, you can upload some of your best photos with the hashtag #BelAir and tag the location as Bel Air. Then, someone searching for that location or hashtag will see your photos.

While this is not the only way to reach a customer, it’s another channel to ensure you’re capturing leads from everywhere possible. The old adage is that “photos speak a thousand words” so it’s only natural that a platform geared toward sharing photos is a great resource.

Business Page Vs Personal

A big decision real estate agents face is whether to promote their services on a personal or business page. Oversharing on a personal page may cause friends to either mute notifications or completely unfriend you. Given social media connections are personal, you don’t want to alienate your prospects. On the other hand, you want to stay fresh in their mind when they need representation.

For this reason, many agents choose to make a business page on which they will document their listings, successes, and even challenges. From time to time, they will share a business post to their personal timeline. This ensures that their expertise is well documented, but by doing this on a separate business page, it’s not alienating the very clientele they are trying to reach.


In addition to expanding your brand’s reach, platforms like Facebook let you target specific demographics using the ad modules. For only a few hundred dollars, you can put your ads directly into the news feeds of thousands of people.

Using ads, you can target an audience by age, marital status, income level, map coordinates, and other key metrics. Even better, Facebook has a “likely to move” metric that recognizes when someone has searched sites like Zillow or

While ad costs vary by how detailed your target market is and how long your ad runs, they are usually affordable. I recently ran a 15 day Facebook ad that targeted 3,000 people in a particular city for $300. Compared to direct mail, the cost per user reached was relatively low.

Cons Of Social Media

As with anything, you should be aware of the downsides to using social media to market your services. One obvious downside we’ve already mentioned is over sharing. If you share too much, you risk turning people away because they may get annoyed.

Additionally, you don’t want friends to think you added them just to get your business. If you do post about your services, make sure it’s on a business page, in moderation, and make sure to also share things that don’t involve business. This way you maintain your relationships in a healthy manner.

Secondly, make sure your personal profile is squeaky clean. If you’re effectively promoting your business, you will be reaching quite a few people. And what’s the first thing that many of them will do? To visit your personal page to see what you are all about.

While your business page may be buttoned up, if your personal page is full of party photos from Cabo, you immediately lose credibility you’ve spent time and money trying to establish. For this reason, keep controversial opinions to yourself. At a very minimum, make your posts private (not to be shared with the public) if you must say something that may spark a social media outcry.

Direct Mail

While social media marketing can be highly effective, you should not write off direct mail. As we’ve said before, a well-rounded marketing plan involves multiple advertising methods. Regularly putting your name in front of prospect increases your chances of them remembering you when they need your services.

Types Of Mailers

You’ve likely seen mailers sent to your house, and you probably remember them because they were really good or really bad. Unfortunately, we’ve seen more way more bad mailers than good ones. Direct mail is typically more expensive than social media marketing, and recipients tend to toss it after receiving it in their mailbox.

For this reason, it’s important to ensure your mailer brings value for the prospect. This increases the chance of them remembering you and also impacts them positively. Some of the best mailers include:

  • Market Analysis: When composing a direct mail campaign, you’ll target specific zip codes or neighborhoods. Homeowners love knowing what their home is worth, so we think the best mailer lists just that.

A great market analysis will target a neighborhood by recapping recent sales and the prices at which those homes sold. Going one step further, you can provide brief commentary on general market conditions and how interest rates would impact a purchase or sale.

This type of mailer establishes you as an expert in your field, and also provides your prospects value by educating them on home values and market conditions.

  • Neighborhood Guides: In addition to knowing what their home is worth, homeowners love knowing about their neighborhood. After all, they were drawn to move there in the first place. By providing a local guide, you can recap new community developments such as new businesses or popular restaurants.

As with the market analysis, this shows you know about the area and have taken the time to learn about their community. After all, real estate transactions stem from personal relationships, and taking a vested interest in your prospects’ neighborhoods shows you care and will increase the chances you getting a listing.

  • Recipe Cards: These mailer types are indirect, but increase your chance of your name landing on someone’s refrigerator. Pick a popular recipe that is appropriate for the time of year. Include this on the mailer along with your name and contact information. Instead of the recipient throwing away your mailer, they may save it for the next time they cook. If anything, this shows you’re creative and put extra effort into your marketing, which will have a positive impact on your prospects.

Where To Buy Direct Mail

After selecting your favorite mailer, you’ll need to have it designed, printed, and mailed. A quick Google search will produce an overwhelming amount of results, so we’ve included a few of our favorites.


This company makes it easy to send mailers because they’ll design, print, and mail your cards. Although you’ll need a general design idea, for $50 their in-house designers will create the card of your choosing. If you provide them with an idea of who you want to target, they will take care of this too.


This website sells generic, pre-designed mailers to save you time. Simply select a design, choose your target demographic, and PrinterBees will handle the rest.


Last but not least, VistaPrint makes it easy to design a custom mailer using their easy to use design module. While more expensive than the former options, the user interface is straightforward and may be a good option for agents wanting to save time by creating custom mailers.

Cons To Direct Mail

Direct mail certainly has its place in any good marketing plan, but should be used sparingly. Mailers are typically more expensive per prospect than online ads or social media, and a poorly designed flyer can do more harm than good.

While mailers are great tools, you shouldn’t cut corners here. Make sure to spend the time and money to design a professional flyer that brings value to the reader. We’ve seen plenty of mailers that look cheaply done and printed on thin paper. This not only devalues your brand, but without a “wow” factor, the reader is more likely to toss it in the trash.

This should not discourage you from using direct mail. Rather, it should inspire you to make a design that not only looks good, but also impacts the recipient. First impressions can be the best impressions. If your marketing is detailed, professional, and impactful, it shows the reader that you don’t mind taking time to do a good job, which ultimately is great assurance that you’ll do a good job for them too.


As we’ve discussed, there are pros and cons to both social media and direct mail marketing. Great marketing plans target prospects using various marketing methods, so you should include both of these into your own marketing strategy.

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