Most real estate professionals know the power of websites like Realtor.com and many have used listing syndication sites like Craigslist.com. But, if you scratch your head when you hear words like Twitter, Facebook, or ActiveRain, you are not alone. Welcome to Web 2.0 and the explosion of social media and listing syndication sites.
Social media is the new craze and there are opportunities to cash in on it, if you know how. To give you an example of how big social media is, Facebook.com reports that they have over 300 million users, with over 50% logging in on any given day. Members spend an average of 8 billion minutes per day interacting on Facebook. Twitter, practically unknown a couple of years ago, is now ranked the 14th most visited website in the world, according to Alexa, a web trend tracking company.
In the past, social networking sites were used mainly by kids and teenagers, but that trend has changed dramatically. According to Facebook.com, the fastest growing demographic group is 35 and over. This means that many of your clients, potential clients and colleagues are already actively participating in this online community.
Before jumping on the bandwagon, there are a couple of things to consider. First, if you are worried about it being difficult, it's not. You do not have to have a strong technology background to utilize social media sites. Second and most important, keep in mind that in order to have social networking work for you, be prepared to devote some time to it. Regularly posting relevant information, local trends, and links that other users find interesting or helpful is critical. Several agents I spoke to that are using social media sites successfully spend up to 2 hours a day keeping up with their online duties.
If you are going to use social media sites, you can't fake it. People will see right through you and your time and effort will be in vain. Be yourself and let your true personality shine through. As an expert in your field, you can capture the attention of your online sphere of influence. Those that like your information and style will remember you when it's time for them to seek out a real estate professional for a particular need. Social media sites also make it easy for them to send you a message or ask a question without exposing any personal details (including an email address), unless they choose to do so.
You have to keep your messages short and concise. Twitter, for example, is a social media site that allows you to broadcast or "tweet" a text message to your online community or "followers". You have to pack your punch in 140 characters or less, which is not easy. Many users also post a "tinyurl" or shortened link in the message that allows the reader to click and view additional or expanded information on the Internet.
Jennifer Hudson, a personal friend and real estate agent in Toronto, often posts information on Facebook about her listings, rentals and properties that become available in highly desirable areas. She also serves up pertinent information about her local market and trends regularly. I sent her a note (on Facebook) about its effectiveness and got a response back within an hour.
In her response, she stated that she was on her way to meet a potential client that was a direct result of one of her listings that was posted on Facebook. She also started the group "Fans of Jennifer Hudson's Real Estate Services" (which I promptly joined after receiving the invite via email). On the fans page, her clients can post remarks about her excellent service, which is helping to drive her word of mouth referrals. According to Jennifer "It keeps people thinking about me synonymously with real estate and opens the lines of communication in a non-invasive, non-sales driven way". She concluded with "And, it's free".
If Facebook or Twitter is not your thing, check out ActiveRain.com. ActiveRain is an up and coming social media site that serves real estate industry. ActiveRain allows real estate professionals to interact, discuss marketing strategies, and new trends. It also can serve as a conduit for mutually beneficial referrals, real estate opportunities, and even listing syndication.
For those with no time or interest in getting involved with social media sites, you should at least take a look at the advantages of listing syndication sites. One of the easiest ways to get into the game is to post your real estate sales and rental listings on Craigslist.com and other listing syndication sites. It's easy and in most cases free. The main benefit is that there are probably more people searching real estate listings on sites like Craigslist.com, than viewing the classifieds ads in your local newspaper. Don't forget that potential out of state buyers are searching these sites too, thus expanding your reach beyond the local market.
As a company, we frequently post relevant information via Twitter, including promotions which have generated direct sales. We also created a Facebook page and regularly get "friended" by current and former customers. On a side note, the Oxford dictionary recognized "unfriend" as the 2009 word of the year. Unfriend is the kiss of death and basically means that you have been removed from someone's contact list and are irrelevant to their virtual social life.
Online trends can change, but social media and listing syndication sites looks like they are going to be around for the foreseeable future. Spend some time checking out the sites mentioned in this article as well as other sites and see what works best for you. You can always start slowly and watch how other users interact until you get the hang of it. Whatever you decide to do with social networking or listing syndication sites, don't get left behind. Your future commission checks may depend on it.
As the V.P. of Sales and Service for XL Technologies, we have to stay on top of our game as well. As you well know, our flagship product eCampaignPro ( http://www.ecampaignpros.com ) is an email marketing tool, designed solely for the real estate industry. Unlike social networking, the value of email marketing for real estate is well known. eCampaignPro is a tried and true real estate marketing tool and has made us and our customers very successful over the years.
Recently, with a few tweaks, we have added the ability to post our full page color email flyers to 6 listing syndication sites, plus Facebook and Twitter integration, to the rave reviews of our customers.
As a company, we frequently post relevant information via Twitter, including promotions which have generated direct sales. We also created a Facebook page and regularly get “friended” by current and former customers. On a side note, the Oxford dictionary recognized “unfriend” as the 2009 word of the year. Unfriend is the kiss of death and basically means that you have been removed from someone’s contact list and are irrelevant to their virtual social life.
Online trends can change, but social media and listing syndication sites looks like they are going to be around for the foreseeable future. Spend some time checking out the sites mentioned in this article as well as other sites and see what works best for you. You can always start slowly and watch how other users interact until you get the hang of it. Whatever you decide to do with social networking or listing syndication sites, don’t get left behind. Your future commission checks may depend on it.