BEIRUT: If you have any connection to Lebanon, chances are you have seen a Sayfco ad on Facebook. That has been the business strategy of the Lebanese real estate giant since it started its fan page in 2009, when businesses all over the world entered the world of social media marketing. Sayfco took the plunge, making it the real estate company with the most “likes” in the world – 3.2 million.
“People thought I was crazy to sell real estate on Facebook,” recalls Chahe Yérévanian, president and chairman of Sayfco Holding, who got the idea to start a Facebook fan page after having a successful experience interacting with clients online in the late 1990s – the earliest days of online marketing. Today, he acknowledges that the frequency of the ads led to regular complaints about “spam.” All in all, he is pleased with the campaign, because the numbers have been good.
“I apologize to those who are annoyed. But you need ads for a business to grow,” Yérévanian told The Daily Star at the ArabNet Beirut conference, where he gave a presentation about social media marketing.
Before his Facebook marketing days, he was selling around 500 units a month. In the past three years that has risen to 4,000 units a month – 70 percent of which are sold on Facebook.
In fact, the strategy has been so successful that six months ago Facebook’s Dublin office contacted Yérévanian to inform him that his company has become the No. 1 real estate company on the social network. They have now made Sayfco the subject of one of their case studies.
The ads are not the work of a social media analytics firm, but are instead the work of Yérévanian, who spends two hours every morning responding to questions, comments and complaints about Sayfco.
He once briefly hired someone to run the company’s Twitter account, until the person responded unkindly to a customer complaint – about spam, Sayfco’s most common complaint – which then went viral. This quickly taught him the value of personal customer service.
“The danger of outsourcing is that it can tarnish your brand,” Yérévanian says as he opens the Sayfco page on his phone to check up on new messages.
Since it started its page, the company has sold spent $3 million on Facebook advertising, garnering just over 3 million fans – around a dollar for every fan.
Yérévanian says that to his knowledge all of the Sayfco “likes” are genuine, noting that the vast majority come from Lebanese Facebook users, 40 percent of whom are expatriates. In response to those who question his strategy, he simply points to the numbers, which he claims are firmly on his side.