With real estate in his blood and a background in marketing, Sam Battista, centre, co-founded PropertySpark, which offers a way for real estate agents to optimize engagement via social media using a special targeting technique.\u00a0Battista is pictured with lead developer Damon Richardson, left, and Matthew Graves, head of Sales & Partnerships. With real estate in his blood and a background in marketing, Sam Battista, centre, co-founded PropertySpark, which offers a way for real estate agents to optimize engagement via social media using a special targeting technique. Battista is pictured with lead developer Damon Richardson, left, and Matthew Graves, head of Sales & Partnerships.

Sam Battista is the co-founder of PropertySpark, a software application that works on phones and desktops enabling realtors to create their own ads on social networks Facebook and Instagram and target them specifically to people who have engaged with a real estate post within the last 180 days within their selling area.

Battista, whose father is a real estate agent, has a background in marketing and data analysis. In the mere two years PropertySpark has been around, its ads have been seen by more than 1 million people, and has more than 300 real estate agents using the software across North America.

PropertySpark promises better social media engagement then even Facebook ads can deliver with the equivalent effort it takes to order a pizza online. So how do they do it? We asked Battista that exact question, and he gave us the lowdown on why social media is so crucial to real estate agents of any age if they want to stay ahead in a dog-eat-dog market like Toronto.

How did PropertySpark.com come to be?

It all started with my dad Phil Battista who is a real estate agent and has been doing it for about 15 years now. I started helping him with his social media marketing and after trying out about 1,000 different things, we discovered that the return-on-investment for Facebook ads and Instagram ads was unbelievable. His commissions blew up. They almost doubled in a year and have been growing since then. What we did is just take what I did for my dad and develop it into a software called Property Spark, so that any realtor can do what I did for my dad for themselves in under five minutes a week.

How does the software actually work?

It's pretty incredible. What the realtor does is go on PropertySpark.com, sign in, they upload their properties — we request photos and some information about the properties — and pick where they want their Facebook ad to go: it could go to a city, a postal code or a zip code if you're in the United States and they click create campaign. Then, what we do is we create an ad that the realtor can put on their Facebook page that gets delivered to thousands of people on Facebook in the area they specified.

Then we take it a step further. We don't just deliver it to 1,000 random people, which is what you might get if you just boosted a Facebook post, we actually deliver it to thousands of people in that area who have expressed an interest in real estate in the last 180 days. For example, in Toronto we have over 20,000 people in our data set who have expressed interest in real estate, so they can reach people in their area who are in the market for a home in less than five minutes and all of that is through their branding. It's all automatic, so in less than five minutes they get thousands of engagements from people who have an interest in real estate.

Since these are people who are already interested in real estate, you get an ROI that would be a little bit higher than a regular post, right?

Yes, it's actually way higher. It's six times higher than a regular Facebook post in terms of engagement and people commenting, which means the amount of people actually doing something with the post is just that much higher than a random post that real estate agents could just randomly place on their page. This is because the software looks for people who specifically clicked on one of our PropertySpark ads within the last 180 days. It goes beyond an interest that you can find on Facebook. This person has actually clicked on a PropertySpark ad, or they've scrolled through the pictures on a PropertySpark ad. It's more than just a programmed search term, it actually looks for people who have shown an interest in real estate through their behaviour.

How many people actually use Property Spark?

At this point we have over 300 people across North America using PropertySpark as part of their social media strategy. We have reached over 1 million people with our ads on Facebook and Instagram. We just launched our enterprise products, which means we have actual real estate companies coming on board and giving us access to all their agents. It's growing tremendously and we've only been around for two years.

What background do you have that allows you to start a business like this?

I actually worked in the sales and marketing department at Procter & Gamble and I also worked at Bain & Company, which is a management consulting firm. We did due diligence on big corporate acquisitions. I was in the corporate world and I did a lot of analysis on marketing and sales. It wasn't for me. I wanted to get more into entrepreneurship, but that type of analysis and rigorous data collection is what helped me figure out all the data for what we're doing now at PropertySpark.

If I'm a realtor, why should I use PropertySpark and why is social media so important to my business?

I think social media has been the biggest game changer in terms of real estate marketing that we've seen since billboards came out. The reason I say that is basically for two reasons. First, the ROI you get on social media is usually 10 times higher than what you would receive on a postcard campaign or a newspaper campaign. This is because although we assume social media has been around for a while, it's actually still fairly new and the prices are still fairly low when it comes to advertising on social media, so for that little investment, you get so much more ROI. Then, the second reason is you can just reach so many people so quickly on social media.

If you ran a PropertySpark campaign right now or even if you just did it on your own through Facebook or Instagram, you're going to see thousands of people viewing your post within a couple hours and that's never been seen before. It would usually take you a couple days just to have your postcard campaign printed if you're lucky. Plus, a newspaper ad that's coming out next week will usually cost you $300 to $500. The combination of return on investment and the number of people you can reach has never been seen anywhere ever.

Then, when it comes to real estate, it's so important because real estate is such a competitive industry, especially in Toronto. Who's going to win? It's going to be the people that can stretch their dollar the furthest. It's going to be the people who can reach the most amount of potential clients in the shortest amount of time. All of that can be done with social media and that's why it's so important. If you want to stay competitive in today's real estate market, you have to be advertising on social. It's not just younger people who have to advertise on social, it's everybody. It's people like my dad and others who have been in tindustry for 10 or 20 years. They have to get with the times or else someone else will.