How a new way to interact can bring you some real bottom line results

by Daniel Rothamel and Valerie Hubbard

Remember school dances? For many of us, there was a painful awkwardness at some point when we became paralyzed by the fear of having to dance with a classmate, the fear of being rejected or the fear of embarrassment – or all three at once?

Today’s internet environment can be a lot like that.

Let’s face it, if you are a real estate agent who is surveying the current internet landscape and trying to figure out what your next step is going to be, it can be easy to get confused and suffer that same dance-floor paralysis.

The internet provides an overwhelming number of marketing opportunities. Savvy consumers are increasingly taking advantage of new ways to communicate with one another, and REALTORS® must now choose to ignore, co-opt or dive into these new waters of interactivity.

But choose wisely, because consumers, who are growing accustomed to more interactive relationships from service providers, want to feel they are being heard and making an impact.

So sure, you may have your own personal website, complete with all the bells and whistles (content management, user registration, customized property search, lead generation, etc.), but now there are more dynamic ways to capture consumers. It’s no longer enough to have an online presence to move your business forward. But if you want to join the rest on the dance floor, choosing the right partner can be difficult.

Now what?

You’ve heard of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and blogs, just to name a few. The expansion of social media is the latest and greatest phase of the internet, and many Virginia REALTORS® are already leveraging these outlets to grow their business.

Since the social media options can be so overwhelming, we’ve assembled a basic primer on using some of these business-building sites. There are also strategies for realizing bottom-line benefits from social media.

We’ve even pulled together a list of the best blogs, and the stories of several Virginia REALTORS® who are using social media effectively to grow their business.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive review by any means, but it should be enough to put you on the road to maintaining meaningful relationships with clients, customers, prospects and other professionals you’ve made in the real world. And social media can help you expand your address book and grow your business in ways that were unfathomable even a year ago.

The heart of the internet: communicating

The first thing that you need to understand about the social media movement is that it is built around relationships. Social media sites exist to foster conversation between people. The people who use these sites want to engage with others, not just experience one-way communication.

The majority of traditional real estate marketing is one-way: look at my listings, read about my service, visit my website. Social media sites are different. The expectation of people who use these sites is that they will have a part in the conversation. It’s a good thing. It enables you to cultivate relationships with consumers. Rather than marketing to prospects, you can talk with them and build trust in a more natural and meaningful way.

Traditional internet marketing grabs your hand, drags you on to the floor and says, “dance with me!” Social media sites offer a hand and ask, “shall we dance?”