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Social Media: You’re Invited

Afraid of social media networking? If you’re not sure what it’s all about or you’ve given it a try but didn’t stick with it, just think of it as being invited to a barbeque with a few old friends and meeting a few new ones. You just need to BYO patience and positive attitude. Story by Braden Walters.

Is social media networking the future of real estate marketing? It’s obvious that it is one of the easiest ways to reach an infinite number of potential buyers with minimal effort. Could you imagine not having to do mass e-mail outs or weekly newsletters whenever you list a new property? By simply having them follow you on Twitter, you can let them all know the property is listed in less than 30 seconds, they can follow YOU and remain up to date at the click of a button!

While it might not be a good fit for everyone, millions of people are using social media to communicate and its popularity shows no signs of fading. If you’ve filled out a profile on Facebook or LinkedIn but are wondering what to do next, here’s some advice on how to do it right. When used correctly, blogs and social networks are powerful tools that can help broaden your real estate knowledge, strengthen your reputation, and ultimately expand your client database.

Benefits of social networking

  • Marketing to new clients
  • Trialling marketing ideas
  • Measuring the impact of your marketing

RULE 1 – You have to be a good agent first!
One of the biggest mistakes that real estate agents can make in approaching the web is to think that the simple act of creating an online presence—whether through a blog, a Facebook profile, or a fancy website—will in itself bring new business.

In reality, to see results, you must already have strong business fundamentals and a solid marketing plan. People will be able to see right through you. There is no point advertising poor business practice.

RULE 2- Social media is like riding a bull; getting on is the easy part!
People who fail at social media are those who think it’s some gimmicky, get-rich-quick technique. You have to think of it as a job. If you don’t have that kind of discipline, it’s a waste of time.

If potential clients come across a blog that hasn’t been updated in more than a month, they might conclude that it is inactive—or that the author isn’t on top of his game. Also, for the blog to place highly in search engines, it should be updated frequently.

Creating a strong following on sites such as Twitter and Facebook also requires a big time commitment that can’t be outsourced. Even though some elements can be updated automatically, it will be no secret to other users if you’re not personally interacting with the sites on a regular basis.

RULE 3- You don’t have to be a tech wiz to participate!
The last thing that should stop you from leveraging the business tools, information resources, and networking opportunities on the internet is the technology itself. Some people may find the concept of an online social network intimidating, but the applications and platforms are typically intuitive and easy to learn. For real estate agents who tend to be naturals at networking and forming community connections, social media seem to be a perfect fit. Many of my older colleagues are reluctant to try social media, but I think it’s usually because they aren’t familiar with the tools.

So how does a social media novice get started? Through experimentation. Join Facebook, join LinkedIn, join Twitter, read blogs, and ask your peers what sites they find most valuable. You can even get software to help you manage them all at once. I recommend a program called Tweetdeck, it is free to download and makes social networking from your PC even easier. I have also downloaded a new Blackberry application that allows me to Tweet for free called Ubertwitter, so I can tweet everywhere if need be. So jump in with both feet, spend a day and a half joining every social media network. The experience will make you more familiar with the various platforms and tools and will help narrow your focus on those you like best and find most useful.

RULE 4- The web is constantly changing
You have to keep up with it. Having an experimental, early-adopter attitude is a big advantage for anyone who wants to make the most of the ever-changing web. Take Twitter. A couple years ago, this microblogging platform was practically unknown, but today it gets about 55 million visits every month, making it the third most trafficked online social network. So while the web is here to stay, don’t get too attached to any one social media platform or site. You have to be willing to try out new things and keep up with the latest communication trends.

RULE 5- Don’t fake it!
As you venture into the new world of social networking, it’s important to remember that every interaction, as anonymous as it may sometimes seem, is a representation of you and your business. Although your goal is to project a positive and professional image to prospects and clients, you should not attempt to create a new persona that you think customers would desire.

Rather, you should be the same person that you are in your everyday, face-to-face interactions. Pretend that social networking is like being at a friend’s barbeque – have fun, share fun facts, be happy to answer questions on real estate, BUT don’t go bragging about how good you think you are at real estate, just be yourself. You will get barred by your followers/friends if you go at them for business. Many times I have seen agents try to start up and all they write is “If you want to sell your house in XYZ call me, I am the best” over and over again. That’s not how social media works. Stick to the barbeque scenario.

While some people may wince at letting their professional and personal lives collide on the web, many agents say that sharing photos and snippets about their family, pets, and hobbies can actually create a stronger bond with customers. It is “social” media, after all. Some people may not have a lot of respect for real estate agents, but when they read your posts or blog, they see you are a person just like them.

RULE 6 – The web is so much more than a prospecting tool!
A well-planned social media strategy can generate clients, but what I find most valuable about the web is its capacity to teach. Social media in particular can serve a business purpose that should be obvious to any agent: market intelligence. These online networks are like a window into the minds of consumers.

Not surprisingly, the web is also the best place to find information about successful online marketing and prospecting strategies. If someone’s out there killing it, generating real business on the internet, I want to know about it. And that kind of information is really easy to find.

By developing an understanding of consumers and interacting with them online, you can generate business using the law of attraction-that is, pulling clients to you by sharing valuable information, rather than the more traditional strategy of pushing yourself out to them. You should be asking yourself, “How can I engage people? How can I build trust? How can I get them communicating with me?


RULE 7 –
Make sure it’s time well spent
Measuring your return on investment in the world of social media can be a bit more challenging than other marketing or networking activities. For starters, the initial investment isn’t purely monetary—most social media tools are free. However, they do require a substantial investment of your time before you start seeing tangible results in the form of new clients, higher search engine rankings, or whatever your goals may be.

So the question for many agents is:-How much time should I be spending on this, and how do I know that it’s working? It’s best to start small. The first six to nine months that I was involved in any of this, I never replaced any activity that was currently bringing me business. I would squeeze in social networking at the end of the day or during stints of downtime.

You may not be looking for the same types of results as the person next to you. Maybe you want to increase your contact database or simply boost your visibility. It’s smart to define those goals up front; that will help you evaluate your progress. Just don’t give up too quickly, social networking is all about building relationships, and that doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re going to commit only three months to it, it’s not worth doing. Like any traditional networking activity, it’s going to take longer than that for it to pay off.

If you would like more information or want to follow me on Twitter, find me at twitter.com/bradenwalters and say “hi”. There’s plenty of great people to talk to at my barbeque! ;) I am more than happy to let you in on some more websites relevant to property and social media.

Braden Walters represents the new breed of young guns taking the real estate industry by storm. Braden is a licensed agent, buyers agent, auctioneer, and is one of the youngest agency principals and real estate trainers in Sydney. Braden is also Chairman of the REI NSW Inner west divisional committee and of the young agents chapter.

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