Eight Ways to Utilize Social Media in Real Estate: #1

November 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Robin's Ruminations

#1 Facebook (first in a series)

With over 500 million users, Facebook has become the world’s fastest-growing social medium.  Whatever is its appeal?

Facebook allows anyone with a computer, an Internet connection, and an e-mail address to easily stay in touch with family, friends, classmates, co-workers, and previous customers who have become friends.  If your family is far-flung – even in other countries – you can keep track of their comings and goings, and share news and pictures.  If you have not been diligent in keeping in touch with past friends and classmates (and most of us have not), Facebook makes it easy to reconnect.  You can also keep track of their birthdays, through Facebook.

Setting up a Facebook account is simple.  Just go to the Facebook homepage, and follow the steps.  Facebook guides you through the process, and helps you find your first Facebook friends!  (For additional assistance, download the free step-by-step guide to “Setting Up Your Facebook Account,” on the Resources page of this website.)

As the owner of your Facebook account, you decide who sees each different kind of information you post:  everyone, friends of friends, or just friends.  There are extensive Account Settings and Privacy Settings that you can adjust, to ensure that your privacy is at a level with which you are comfortable.  You can also specify what kinds of occurrences you’d like to be notified about by e-mail, such as a friend writing on your Wall or commenting on something you posted.

As you explore Facebook, you will be able to enjoy some of the entertaining features provided.  These include interactive games, quizzes, and groups and affiliation pages that you can join.

Why would a real estate agent want to have a Facebook account?  Naturally, doing so marks you as someone who is knowledgeable about current trends.  More importantly, it gives people an opportunity to know more about you than is typically possible in a purely business setting.  Why would they want to do that?  Because consumers tend to do business – particularly financial business – with someone they trust.  And they are more likely to trust a person who demonstrates that they are friendly, communicate well, and are involved in their community.

By sharing news items about your community – and about real estate trends in your community – you demonstrate your knowledge of the area.  Post links to interesting stories and area pictures, too.

With Facebook, the focus is on friendship, not on business.  In fact, it breaks Facebook rules to advertise your business in your basic Facebook account.  To support your business, you may want to consider setting up a Facebook business page, which is the subject of the next post in this series.

Forthcoming post: #2  Facebook Business Page

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Ten Things a Real Estate Professional Can Do in a “Down” Economy: #8

March 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Robin's Ruminations

#8  Create an Innovative Prospecting Plan for Your Target Market (eighth in a series)

Let’s face it: every REALTOR® out there is engaged in some kind of marketing.  Some of them are even daring to market themselves in your territory!

So, it is essential that you determine how to differentiate yourself from other real estate professionals in your marketplace.  How can you make yourself more appealing to potential clients than the other guys are?  How can you grab consumers’ attention?

I’ve organized my recommendations into a four-step approach.  (I do like to be organized!)  Naturally, you should make detailed notes, as you go along.

First Step:  Who’s Your Audience?

Never be afraid of the obvious; sometimes, secrets are hidden there.

Where do you hope to find sellers and buyers?  Your “farm” and your Sphere of Influence, of course.  Anywhere else?  For example, are you trying to focus on one particular type of property, such as new homes or luxury homes or starter homes?  Or, are you specializing in one particular consumer category, such as seniors or singles?  Analyze the audience for your marketing efforts in a variety of ways, to make sure you have identified all of their key characteristics.

For each distinct audience group, list a number of descriptors and needs that make them different from each of the other groups.  For example, those looking for a starter home may be seeking smaller homes in the lower quartile of your market.  Affordability is key for them, as is ready access to transportation – whether mass transit or good roads – and, possibly, good schools.  Usually, these will now be young adults with the preferred buying styles of Millennials.

Second Step:  Why Would Anyone Choose You?

This step often makes people cringe; they hate analyzing themselves.  In particular, many of us were raised to not “brag” about our positive qualities and accomplishments.  For this exercise, you must banish all such reticence and take honest stock of who you are and what you have to offer.

Create a “Why Work with Me?” list.  Include an appraisal of your skills, your values, and your personality, as well as your community activities and the way you prefer to work.  Consider also your previous work experience.  For many of us, real estate is a second, third, or fourth career.  What strengths did you develop through past jobs?

Don’t rush through this activity; it’s worth the time you invest in it.

I suggest that you show a draft of your “Why Work with Me?” list to a very good friend, or to your spouse.  That person may be able to suggest other characteristics that you have overlooked.

 

Third Step:  What Can You Do, That Is Different?

A number of companies offer branded, “frequent-touch” marketing programs, to which you can subscribe.  This is a simple way to maintain constant contact with your Sphere of Influence and the people in the markets you are targeting.  Drawbacks of using these programs include cost and the impersonal nature of the communications.

If you are willing to invest the time to design your own marketing program, you can put your personal mark on marketing materials that will be far more effective than what you purchase.

As you design your prospecting strategy, consider the image you want to portray:  how do you want to appear in person, in print, and online?   Do you want to portray yourself formally (suit & tie)?  As a modern professional (business casual)?  As the “girl next door” (casual)?  Your answer should reflect your marketplace:  what will work best in that context?

Ensure that you incorporate a mix of contact methods, with an emphasis on face-to-face and digital communication, rather than print.  I make this recommendation for two reasons:  (1) face-to-face communications are still the most effective, and remain the only form of communication trusted by many members of older segments of the population; (2) digital communications are favored by the younger generations.  These methods are also the most economical.

For each of the audience segments you identified in Step One, specify from 6 to 12 communications.  Communications may be in the form of market-specific newsletters, personal letters, or cards (whether digital or print), as well as in-person visits and phone calls.  Some may be the same for all audiences; others will be targeted to the specific group.

Here are just a few communication ideas: current market reports; seasonal greetings; today’s buyer “hot buttons”; link to a new blog post; staging tips (potentially several communications, focusing on exterior, main rooms, kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, garage, and basement); government mortgage-assistance programs; relocation services; when to consider a short sale; invitation to a neighborhood Open House; featured property flyer; link to a virtual tour; offer to conduct a CMA; birthday / anniversary cards; and a seasonal gift – flags for Memorial Day, pumpkins for Thanksgiving, etc. (Such gifts are “corny,” perhaps, but are cheerful and usually generate a smile.)

Determine the sequence in which you would like to communicate the marketing messages, throughout the year.  The sequence will be affected by local market seasonality and special holidays, but can otherwise be up to you.

CAVEAT: Ensure that every marketing communication you create has been proofread by someone.  All of your work will be in vain, if what you write is riddled with syntactical and typographical errors.

Fourth Step:  How Can You Manage the Work?

The primary effective strategy for managing a marketing campaign is breaking it into bite-sized chunks.

Start by quartiling your markets – dividing them into four segments.  A segment may be market-specific, alphabetical by last name, geographical, social, or source-based.

Implement step 1 of your marketing plan (for example, hand-delivering a seasonal gift) with one quartile each month, for four months.  During the next four-month period, implement step 2 (for example, making a personal phone call).  Implement subsequent steps, in successive four-month periods.  By following this plan, every individual will receive some kind of communication from you, every four months.

If your audience is smaller, say 300 or less, you can use three-month periods, and step up the frequency of contact.

Previous post:  #7 Work with a Partner
Forthcoming post:  #9  Be More Visible in Your Community

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Ten Things a Real Estate Professional Can Do in a “Down” Economy #6

July 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Robin's Ruminations

#6 Implement One New Technique, Every Month (sixth in a series)

blogicon1Earlier in this series, I recommended using any period of low business activity to undertake professional development activities, such as training. Often, during such activities, one learns about more new tools and techniques than one can possibly implement at one time. If you are participating in social media, such as Twitter, then you probably also learn about useful new tools and websites from your virtual connections, on a regular basis.

How can you efficiently implement so many new tools and techniques? Simply, by making a plan. (Yes, another one!) Planning will ensure that you implement the tools and techniques that you like in an orderly way and that you don’t forget to use them.

  1. Start by creating a list of new tools and techniques you have encountered, that you think will add value to your real estate business.  Consider this to be a “running list,” because you should add items to it, as you learn about them.  Because you will be sorting this list, I suggest that you create it in a spreadsheet program, such as MS Excel.
  2. Next, categorize the tools and techniques.  (Insert a special column for this.)  Some categories that you might find helpful are
    • Prospecting (including sphere of influence, market niches, FSBOs, expired listings)
    • Marketing Listings (including digital photography, virtual tours, listings websites, mobile technology)
    • Customer Management (including follow-up, frequent-touch programs)
    • Communications (including blogging, presentations, objection-handling).
    • Sort the list, so that items in the same category are together.
  3. Then, prioritize the categories.  (Insert a priority column, and assign the same letter or number to every item in any given category.)  The area in which your business requires the greatest improvement, such as Marketing Listings, should be your top priority.  Be brutally honest with yourself, here.
  4. Prioritize the tools and techniques within each category.  (Insert another priority column, and assign a unique number or letter to each item in any given category.)  This will give you a “nested” list, with the tools prioritized within prioritized categories.  For example, you may decide to improve the quality of your digital photographs of interiors before you add virtual tours to your listings.
  5. Finally, assign a month – or week – during which you will first implement each of the tools or techniques, in order.  (Yes, that’s another column.)  I suggest that you transfer these assignments to your calendar, so that you don’t forget to do them!

This is what your plan might look like:

Tools & Techniques

         

Target Date

Cat.Prior.

Category

Tool Prior.

Tool/Technique

7-Feb

A

Marketing Listings

1

Wide-angle photos

14-Feb

A

Marketing Listings

2

Real Estate Shows

21-Feb

A

Marketing Listings

3

Postlets

28-Feb

B

Communications

1

Blogger

7-Mar

B

Communications

2

Listing presentation facelift

14-Mar

C

Customer Mgt

1

Frequent-touch program

21-Mar

C

Customer Mgt

2

Post-closing gift program

28-Mar

C

Customer Mgt

3

Referral requests

4-Apr

C

Customer Mgt

4

Quality survey

11-Apr

D

Prospecting

1

Generation-X focus

18-Apr

D

Prospecting

2

Expired listing campaign

Important:  Do have fun using the new tools and techniques that are available to you.  Enjoy both learning how to use them and seeing your business take on new life because you have implemented them.

Previous post:  #5  Build Local Vendor Partnerships
Forthcoming post#7  Work with a Partner 

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Ten Things a Real Estate Professional Can Do in a “Down” Economy #4

June 23, 2009 by  
Filed under Robin's Ruminations

#4  Get Some Training (fourth in a series)

blogicon1It always seems difficult to fit professional development activities into a busy work life.  And required training, such as Ethics or Fair Housing, may use up as much time as you believe you can spare.  However, now, when you are a little less busy, is a great time to invest in your professional development—learn a new skill, expand into a niche market, or earn a designation.

Learn a New Skill

Is there a tool or technique that you’ve been wishing you had time to learn?  Perhaps you’d like to become proficient in PhotoShop, so that you can enhance the photos and illustrations on your website or in your marketing pieces.  You might wish that you could create short, effective videos about your services and your listings, for posting on YouTube.  Or, you could be ready to try building a comprehensive website, using a tool such as WordPress.  The links I’ve included take you to some free online tutorials, but you can undoubtedly find onsite, “hands-on” training in a neighborhood community college or adult school, if you prefer that format for technical training.

    Learn About a Niche Market

    An effective way to build your real estate business is to specialize in one or two small market segments, or niches.  Examples of niche markets include accessible housing, retirement communities, and vacation properties.  You may already be working in a niche market like that.  If you would like to strengthen your skills and knowledge in a new niche market, this is a good time to seek out the specialists who provide training and coaching in that area.

      Earn a Designation

      Real estate marketing methods have changed a lot, in the past decade, as has the housing market, itself.  National Association of REALTORS (NAR) and other providers, such as Social Media Marketing Institute (SMMI) and RealtyU, offer a variety of designations on such topics as “green” housing, effective Internet marketing, and working with sellers.  Take advantage of any lull in your business to differentiate yourself from the competition, and to increase your value to consumers, by earning a designation.

        Just as you create a formal business plan and marketing plan, so you should create a formal professional development plan.  A slower market offers you the opportunity to put that plan into action.  Do it now!

        Previous post: #3 Retool Your Presentations & Marketing Pieces

        Subsequent post#5 Build Local Vendor Partnerships

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        Ten Things a Real Estate Professional Can Do in a “Down” Economy #3

        June 8, 2009 by  
        Filed under Robin's Ruminations

        #3  Retool Your Presentations & Marketing Pieces (third in a series)

        blogicon1

        While you’re waiting for your local market to turn around, invest time in updating your presentations and marketing pieces.  This is a great opportunity to give them a fresh look, which will help distinguish you as a real estate professional.

        If your company provides starter templates for you, be sure to use the latest version or, if you use PhotoShop, you can create your own background designs.  Many of us would prefer to download a simple, appealing background from the Internet.  For example, I purchased a really nice background from Dreamstime.com, and Microsoft Office Online offers many free real estate templates.

        Here are some key design guidelines to keep in mind, when choosing a template.  Be sure the template

        • can incorporate your company’s logo
        • is uncluttered, so it won’t detract from the information
        • reflects your company’s color scheme (or you can change the colors to do so).

        Now that you have created a new design for your presentations and marketing pieces, turn your attention to the content:

        1. Update your company information with the latest data
        2. Update your personal information, including recent achievements
        3. Use an recent professional photo of yourself, in every presentation or marketing piece
        4. Update all of the statistics, verifying them with company, census, and MLS sources
        5. Demonstrate your savviness in using today’s marketing techniques
        6. Replace clip art with high-quality photographs
        7. Plan to include photos of a prospect’s home in your Listing Presentation and photos of your marketplace in your Buyer’s Presentation
        8. Include current information about your marketplace, and the vendors with whom you work.

        You will find that just knowing you have verified current information and a modern design will increase your confidence in making presentations to prospects.  It will also renew your enthusiasm for distributing your marketing materials and newsletters.

        Previous post:  #2 Enhance Your Online Presence
        Subsequent post:  #4 Get Some Training

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        Ten Things a Real Estate Professional Can Do in a “Down” Economy: #2

        May 6, 2009 by  
        Filed under Robin's Ruminations

        #2 Enhance Your Online Presence (second in a series)

        blogicon1

        In today’s market, having a strong online presence is essential.  You probably already know that!  Unfortunately, many (most?) of us tend to set up our websites, then ignore them for weeks or even months at a time.

        An effective online presence requires continuous “care and feeding.”  Without that, your websites will stagnate, lose visitors, and eventually drop out of sight.

        So, during this slower economy, set aside a day or two, to burnish your online image and spruce up your websites.  Here are a few ideas that you might find helpful.

        Overall Impression

        Look at each wesite with a critical eye.  Is it neat, or cluttered?  Is it modern, or old fashioned?  Does it use too many colors?  Are your name and company’s name lost in the array of information?  Are you adhering to your company’s branding guidelines?  Using a fresh look / template for your website will attract more consumers.  Limiting the number of colors to 2 (in addition to black and white) will make the website easier to read.

        Organization

        How easy or difficult is it for consumers to locate information in your website?  Do you have tabs or a navigational sidebar?  How many sections are there?  Research shows that 7 ± 2 is an appropriate number of items for any kind of list.  You can help consumers locate information through the overall redesign, by renaming sections, by reordering sections, and by keeping the number of sections near 7.

        Biographical Information

        How stale is your biography / “about me” section?  When is the last time you updated it?  Have you accomplished anything at all, since you wrote the existing copy, that would make a good addition to your biography?  Does your biography truly reflect who you are, now, or is it dated?  If you were a consumer, would your biography instill confidence and trust in you?  This is one place where good friends may be of help.  Ask your friends why they think you’re a good real estate professional, and why they would recommend you to their acquaintances.  Then, weave their reasons into your biography.  Warning: You may find that you have to start “from scratch”!

        Images

        If you have used clip art on your website, remove it.  If you believe that the page must have an image, then use a high-quality photograph.  Photos of your marketplace are the best, but you can purchase photos, relatively inexpensively, from services like Dreamstime, iStockphoto, and others.

        Blogs

        You should be updating every blog at least once each week.  This is particularly critical for the blog on your main website.  That’s where consumers will look for your marketplace information.  Don’t neglect your independent blogs, either.  If well done, and updated regularly, they will drive consumers to your main website. If you don’t yet have a blog that is independent of your website, I would recommend using Blogger, which is hosted by Google.  It is a very easy-to-use platform, offers a variety of attractive templates, and facilitates including a number of useful widgets in your blog’s sidebar.  If you are more comfortable with technology and know some HTML, then WordPress provides an excellent blogging platform.  You can also apply to have your independent blogs listed on a local or industry aggregator website.

        Listings

        Do I really need to talk about listings on your website?  Well, yes, unfortunately.  You may not be guilty of this particular crime, but some real estate professionals do a terrible job presenting their listings online.  What do consumers want?  Information and pictures – lots of both.  So, every single listing you have should include as many good-quality, well-conceived images as you can fit into your template, a virtual tour, detailed information about the rooms and features of the property, a floorplan, a map showing the property’s location, and links to other information, such as nearby schools.

        Consumer Information

        If you’re like most real estate professionals, you include helpful information for consumers on your website.  You may include information about the buying and selling processes, financing a purchase, community resources, up-coming events, and vendors / service providers you recommend.  Information like this is valuable, but it can very quickly become obsolete – especially an events section.  Mentally “flag” this part of your website for a thorough review, at least once a month, to ensure that all of the links still work, and the information is current.

        Social Media

        After you have updated your primary real estate websites, apply the same analysis to each of your social media sites.  And, if you’re not participating in, at least, these social networking forums, sign up!

          • LinkedIn
          • Twitter
          • TwitPic
          • Facebook
          • Flickr
          • ActiveRain
          • BrokerAgentSocial.

          When you have completed these tasks, and are pleased with the look and functionality of your websites, do not just pat yourself on your back and walk away.  Before you break out the celebratory sparkling wine, create a plan to ensure that your online presence never again becomes stale.

          You can do a lot in just 15–30 minutes a day, by selecting one website or one type of task for special focus.  Make a list of website components that should be updated regularly (for example, listings, blogs, financial information, community information, images, and so on), and simply cycle through them, day by day.

          Now, you’re ready to celebrate!

          Previous post: #1 Become Reacquainted with Former Clients and Customers

          Subsequent post: #3 Retool Your Presentations & Marketing Pieces

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          Ten Things a Real Estate Professional Can Do in a “Down” Economy: #1

          March 24, 2009 by  
          Filed under Robin's Ruminations

          #1 Become Reacquainted with Former Clients and Customers (first in a series)

          blogicon1

          You know that it is important to keep in touch with former clients and customers.  You worked hard to get them; you don’t want to lose them. You’ve also seen the NAR statistics about consumers who liked their real estate agent, but can’t remember the agent’s name.  (Definitely don’t want to be part of that group!)

          So, what else, besides your usual continual-contact system, might you be doing?

          Now is the time to get out and “socialize” with those people who have brought you business in the past!  Call them on the phone (you’ve got an established business relationship with them, so that’s fair), and set up an appointment for a chat.  The reason you’re suggesting an in-person visit?  Because, given what has happened to their other investments, and what they’re reading in the newspapers and hearing on TV and radio, people are likely concerned about the value of their current home.  You will provide them with an update on what’s really going on in your marketplace—and help them sleep better.

          On the day of the meeting, take along some information that you can leave behind.  I would suggest including your business card, the latest market “snapshot,” and a printed copy of your latest newsletter and/or blog post.  You may have other items that would also be of value.

          While you are there, do update all of the customer’s information, including e-mail addresses.  (You may not have collected that information, when you closed the last deal with them.)  Reaffirm your plan to continue to provide them with relevant information about the real estate market, and the community at large.

          Also, find out what’s been happening with their family (you’re an old friend, now, so that’s a natural question), and make a note of what you learn.  They may impart news about life events that could lead to a near-future real estate need—empty nest, parent moving in, another child expected, retirement, and so on.  If so, then you’ll want to include this contact in the appropriate Prospects list.

          Don’t overstay your welcome!  Plan to stay no more than 20-30 minutes.  Leave them wishing for more conversation with you.

          Finally, be sure to follow up, right away.  Send a hand-written thank you note, confirming your intention to keep in touch.

          Subsequent post: #2  Enhance Your Online Presence

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