Let’s get digital

It’s time to cozy up to the computer and learn social media. Matthew Rathbun of Century 21 Classic Real Estate in Ruther Glen and Daniel Rothamel of Strong Team REALTORS® in Charlottesville offer these primers to get you started.

Blogging 101

A blog is a “web log.” It is online content that is updated on a regular basis with opinions and information. The best part is that the folks who offer this information so freely also allow you to comment on the material.

A blog is your own personal slice of the internet. On a blog, you can show people who you are and what you can accomplish for them. Use them to share your insights and expertise with people as often as you would like. At the most basic level, a blog gives people a way to meet you in their own environment before they ever meet you face-to-face.

Set aside any preconceived notions and fears about this form of communication and get ready to understand it, because if it hasn’t already, blogging is going to impact your business.

There are lots of blogs out there for REALTORS® to provide new marketing ideas and to keep you current in your everyday practice. Best of all, this information comes at no cost to you.

A great feature of blogs is the ability to subscribe using a “reader.” A reader, which is commonly known as RSS for Really Simple Syndication, is a single webpage that you can use to organize all blogs that you wish to read. This allows you to go to one webpage and see all the new articles of your favorite blogs. For a good instructional video on blogging and RSS go to YouTube.com and search for “RSS in Plain English” and “Blogs in Plain English”.

How to use your blog: Use it to talk with and inform your readers. Your goal should be to share with them your insights, opinions and experience is such a way that benefits them. After writing a few posts, and receiving a few comments, you will find that you will be learning just as much as you are sharing.

How not to use your blog: To advertise listings. There are plenty of other ways to do that. If you really want to use a blog for advertising your inventory, create a separate blog for such a purpose.

Facebook 101

Facebook was a website originally created as a way for college students to communicate with each other more easily. Originally the exclusive domain of colleges, the site has since been opened to anyone with an email address.

Joining the Facebook crowd is as simple as filling out a form. Go to Facebook.com and click on the “sign up” button. You’ll be asked to fill in information about you and your business. Presto, you’re a member of Facebook with your own profile page featuring as much or as little information as you desire with folks you designate as friends from the Facebook database. If you’re new to this media, you’ll be surprised by how many fellow REALTORS®, neighbors and clients you’ll find there.

What happens next is entirely up to you. As a social networking site, Facebook can also be a valuable business tool.

How to use Facebook: Use it to establish yourself as an expert in your community and build relationships with people you already know and also with potential clients. Join VAR’s Facebook group by going to www.VARealtor.com/Facebook. If you seek more great ways to use Facebook for business, you can find some at www.VARealtor.com/LinesFromLee and some real estate-specific possibilities at www.VARealtor.com/FutureOfRealEstateMarketing.

How not to use Facebook: Remember that if you are going to use one Facebook profile for both business and personal use, anything that you put in your profile should be appropriate. You may have had a great time at that party, but do you want your clients and prospects viewing that photo of you with a lampshade on your head?

LinkedIn 101

LinkedIn is like the big-business brother to Facebook. While Facebook is a personal social networking site that people use for business, the explicit purpose of LinkedIn is to foster business networking. The basic purpose of LinkedIn is to start a profile and link yourself to other professionals, thereby increasing your overall network by degrees. The networking potential is enormous.

How to use LinkedIn: If you already have a LinkedIn profile, go to www.VARealtor.com/LinkedIn to identify yourself as a VAR member. If you don’t already have one, sign up and build as detailed and creative a profile as you can. This will be your readers’ first impression of you. Answer as many questions as you can on the message boards as a way of making additional contact by sharing your experience and expertise. Who knows, you may even be able to leverage your network to create new business opportunities.

How not to use LinkedIn: Don’t spam people, and don’t use it to advertise your listings. Like all the others, LinkedIn is a networking site, not an advertising outlet. Engage people and become part of the conversation.

Twitter 101

Twitter is like a micro-blogging platform that works with the text messaging feature common on most cell phones. While many people use it just to publish status updates (telling people what they are doing at any given moment), the site presents infinite business possibilities for those who want to communicate instantly with clients. Increasingly, hard news breaks on Twitter, since posts can be published quickly and from anywhere you can send a text message. For example, a cameraman sends news from the White House press room. Twitter was used by citizen journalists to report breaking news during the 2007 California wildfires.

How to use Twitter: In a hot market, writing or tweeting about just-listed homes can help enable your buyer to offer the first contract. There are plenty of other innovative REALTOR® uses for Twitter yet to be discovered. Like any other form of communication, to build an attentive audience, you’ll need to provide relevant and compelling content.

How not to use Twitter: While the original purpose for Twitter was to answer the question, “what are you doing?” don’t get carried away. No one wants to know when you are going to grab a cold one from the fridge. If you are doing something that you think current and potential clients may fi nd interesting, then tweet away. A Tweet that says, “I just listed such and such house today,” does not qualify as interesting. Tweets or text entries are limited to 140 characters, so choose wisely.

It’s all about building relationships

Use only as many social media vehicles as you can effectively manage. The main thing to remember is that social media is about cultivating relationships. Maybe you start a blog and see how it goes. Maybe you build a Facebook profile and find some groups that interest you. But it’s definitely time to try.