OK, so your daughter came back from her first semester at university and set up a Facebook account for you. But now that you have it what are you going to do with it? Well, if you’re a REALTOR, you could start by connecting with your family, friends and colleagues that also have profiles. And then you might want to try to use it to sell some real estate.
Social networking isn’t just for kids. There are more than 60 million active users on Facebook alone with the over 25 age group being the fastest growing demographic this year. Everyone and their mom is on there now, literally. Not bad for a site built by a college student less than five years ago. Originally designed for university students at Harvard, the online tool has since expanded to include professionals, corporations and high school students. Charging ahead in a typical trail blazing style, REALTORS are learning through trial and error how to make this social networking site work for them.
Application: Cocktail Party
Evidence of the real estate industry’s presence on Facebook can be seen in the handful of applications that have been developed strictly for Facebook REALTORS. Individuals and groups can use these mini-programs to advertise events, courses, seminars and invent excuses to throw real estate-related cocktail parties. Though encouraging, applications like these will never be able to compete with the fun times delivered by the likes of the „Scrabulous“ or quiz applications which may explain why their use has not really taken off. A better indicator of REALTOR involvement in the Facebook world might be the 500+ groups that categorize themselves as a „Business – Real Estate“ group. A quick glance down the list reveals that it’s a real hodge podge with everything from a group entitled: „accountants, real estate & finance peeps“ weighing in at 1278 members, to a group called „I own real estate in BC and all I can afford to eat is mac and cheese.“ Certainly, if you hit on the right topic and make the right connections it’s not hard to get people to join your group. Once formed, REALTOR groups can hook up with other groups and members can connect with financial professionals, buyers sellers, past and future clients.
But does all this virtual networking actually result in sales?
Yes and no. Just like anything, some virtual networking works, and some doesn’t. The trick is to do what works and stay away from what doesn’t. A quick survey will reveal that most of the real estate group bulletin boards and comment walls are overflowing with spam and self promotion. Is this likely to result in client conversion? Of course not. It will however, allow you connect with other folks in the field and that never hurts.
It’s well known that 80% of home buyers start their home search online. And why wouldn’t they? These days, 80% of everything most people do is started online. Facebook profiles can now be spidered and you can make your profile visible to the world if you wish. Please do. Allow yourself to be found. Invite new clients to look you up whenever you want them to get an idea of who you are. When you join a social networking site and present yourself as an ethical professional with a good reputation and knowledge of the industry, this will naturally build into sales over time. All you have to do is get out there and participate in the online culture.
Leave the hard sell at the login screen
The key to success here is simple. If you want social networking to work for you, keep it fun, keep it real and stop selling. The heavy-handed hard sell simply doesn’t work on the Internet. This is a medium where users can control the time spent on a site entirely independently of the site itself. It’s not like TV where you’ve got 30 seconds to slam them with whatever product or idea you may have. Social networking works on a far more subtle level. Your internet presence is not a brochure either. An active profile is something much greater and potentially more powerful. It’s a living testimonial that places you as a professional in a social context.
With the above in mind, just get started. Over time, your comfort level and expertise with the medium will increase. Some ideas to get you started:
- Engage your audience by starting a group for „fans“ ie: your mom and childhood friends who want to see you succeed. Get people to join you in a real estate related game.
- Join existing groups that interest you
- If you join one of the big real estate groups, engage your colleagues by opening a discussion. Start at least one fire on the message boards by asking an intelligent real estate question that people are compelled to answer.
- Don’t blow hot air, post notes that clearly show your expertise.
- Some Realtors offer gift certificates and rebates for referrals that result in a closed sale, you may want to experiment with this
- Include links to your blog and website
- Check your profile settings and make sure your profile can be indexed by search engines
- Make sure to tell people you are a REALTOR
Now go about your business: say hi to your mom, post pictures of your trip to Nunavit, share funny stories, shine like the star you really are.