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 #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: #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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