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A Realtor’s Guide to Getting Started on Twitter

For a concept that is amazingly simple, Twitter can be rather confusing for real estate agents to understand and difficult to figure out how to turn this social media tool into a valuable relationship-building and marketing vehicle. In fact, the simplicity of Twitter can actually be a barrier in the beginning, because there’s not much available to help a new user see the big picture. To help agents get up to speed on Twitter, I’ve put together a list of some of the basic concepts helpful to understanding how to tap into its power. This is just a basic guide, but it will get you headed in the right direction. Twitter is truly an amazing tool for your real estate business.

A simple, but powerful step is to add a custom page background.

A simple, but powerful step is to add a custom page background.

When you open your Twitter account, one of the first things you must do is fill out your biography completely, upload your picture and upload a background image that communicates your personal brand so that you look like a professional agent. This must be done before you start to build your network and making posts. Otherwise you will lose your credibility and it will work against you. Don’t let this stop you from moving forward. Every day you wait to start building your network, you are falling a day further behind your competition. Using social media is not something you can pass on and hope to stay in business for the long term. Social marketing is changing the face of real estate and you have to change along with it. I know that in the end you will also enjoy and benefit from the experience.

The Tweet
A tweet is a short message that is limited to 140 characters that users post in Twitter on their computer or through their cell phone. Posting by cell phone is one of the reasons that Twitter has gained so much popularity. You can be out doing things and make quick posts to your Twitter page. Each tweet shows up (is posted) on the Twitter stream of everyone who is following you. Your Twitter stream is the real time collection of all the posts made by the people you are following. The key is to scan your stream for things that catch your attention and respond. The power of Twitter is that it is a great way to start a conversation and, over time, build relationships with people. Twitter users use the word tweet both as a noun and as a verb. As a verb, it used to talk about a person posting something on Twitter. For example, “He tweeted that he was going to attend a closing today with absolutely wonderful clients.” When used as a noun, it refers to an individual Twitter post. For example, “She posted a tweet that included links, her website and her hot new listing.”

Sample Twitter Post

The powerful thing about Twitter is that your posts are public, which allows outside services to scan the information and send you an email every time keywords are used in a tweet. This allows you to find out about the things you care about and to jump into the conversation on the topics that you can provide value in. The key with social networking is to remember that you have to give first. This builds up your good will and over time, you will receive.

Who to Follow
The first thing you need to figure out is who to follow. This, more than anything else, will determine how useful Twitter becomes for you. For Realtors, the best people to follow are the people who fall into the segment or niche of the marketplace that you specialize in and that you can provide useful information to. I would include all of your past clients, active clients and your sphere of influence.

Do not follow everyone who follows you. People hawking get rich schemes follow everyone and sell incessantly. This will kill the relationship with your target market. The people you follow and whom you want to follow are the potential clients that you can truly provide useful local information too. Don’t get caught up in the size of your network. If you have 200 people in your network and each of them has 200 people in theirs, your potential network size is 40,000 people. For real estate, it’s the quality of your network, not the size of your network that matters.

I recommend that you also put your friends and family into your Twitter group. This is the group of people that will post comments and respond to your personal posts giving prospects an insight into the person you are. The only exception is friends whom you think might post stuff that you would rather keep out of the public domain. For your prospecting group, you’ll want to follow everyone that fits your niche. You can search your local zip codes for people that fit into your niche with sites like Twellow.

Once you start feeling comfortable with Twitter, I recommend that you create a second Twitter account that you can use to connect with other real estate agents, both locally and nationally, and to connect with thought leaders in real estate, marketing and other related fields. You can use this account to gather information and build your influence in your local real estate community. For this group, don’t be afraid to follow new people. Give them a try. However, if they post useless stuff, simply unfollow them. You should regularly unfollow people who simply don’t provide much value. This is part of the regular rhythm of Twitter, because Twitter makes it very easy to follow and unfollow people.

ReTweeting (RT)
The “retweet” (often shortened to “RT”) is something that was not originally designed by the Twitter team, but Twitter users invented it in order to re-post something really interesting from another Twitter user. For example, if you posted some breaking real estate news or information on Twitter, one of your clients might quickly take your post and re-post it. The reason they would post something like this is so that all the people who follow them can see the information. Having your posts ReTweeted is usually an indication that your clients find your post important and interesting enough to share with their network of friends. It’s the social networking version of word-of-mouth. When you are ReTweeted, people in your friends network are exposed to you and if you post interesting valuable things, your network will grow. There are sites like Klout that rate the influence you have with your network. Being ReTweeted is one the things that will give you more influence and expand your connection base, because it shows that what you are saying is worth repeating.

Replies and Mentions
A “reply” on Twitter is when you directly respond to a post from another user. For example, Realtor Robin Milonakis recently tweeted, “Back from previewing homes. Saw 12 homes, 9 bad 2 good and one great buy for $1.3 million.” A client replied, “@RobinMilonakis, how great of a buy is it? Where is it located.” As you can see, you start a reply with the @ symbol and then add the person’s Twitter username. The Twitter.com home page makes it easy to reply to a tweet by simply mousing over it and then clicking the reply arrow. It automatically populates @username in the posting field and then you fill in the rest.

Similar to a reply, is a “mention.” This is where you mention a person’s name and since that person is on Twitter, you identify the person by using their @twittername. For example, you might tweet something like, “Had lunch with @mylender to discuss how I can help clients with poor credit get a loan.” Every instance of an @username is turned into a clickable link that will take you to that user’s Twitter profile, where you can then choose to start following that person. Plus, on the Twitter home page, you’ll see your @username on the right column of the screen. When you click this, you’ll see all of the replies to your tweets and mentions of your username. This is useful because there may be times when people you don’t follow mention or reply to you, and this allows you to see those posts.

Direct Messages
There may also be times when you want to reply to someone on Twitter, but you don’t want it to appear to everyone in your network. In that case, you can send a “direct message.” To do this from Twitter.com, go to the person’s Twitter profile page and then go to the right column under Actions and the click the “message” link. This places a private direct message in the person’s Twitter page and sends them an email notification with your message, unless they have turned off this feature in their settings. Keep in mind that you can only send direct messages to people who follow you. This prevents spammers from abusing the direct message feature, which is a good thing.

The direct message feature can work like an instant message to get someone’s attention, if the person is a regular Twitter user. It can often be a quicker way to message someone than an e-mail, but less intrusive than a text message or instant message.

Desktop Clients

Tweetdeck is a favorite Twitter application that is now available for the iPhone. It's Free!

TweetDeck is a favorite desktop Twitter application that is now available for the iPhone. It's Free!

Most habitual Twitter users don’t spend much time on Twitter.com. Instead, they migrate most of their Twitter activities to downloadable applications or Apps. They use “desktop clients” while they are working from their desk and “smartphone clients” when they’re on the go. The most widely used desktop Twitter client is TweetDeck, although Seesmic and Thwirl are also popular. TweetDeck is an Adobe Air application that runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. It provides a columnized view of Twitter with columns for your main feed, your mentions, your direct messages, any #hashtag searches and more. One of the best parts of Tweetdeck is its ability to create groups. For example, I have groups for “Agents,” “Real Estate Managers,” and “Hobbs/Herder Team,” (my work colleagues), so that I can view them in separate columns. Another nice feature of Tweetdeck is that it automatically refreshes, so you can just leave it open and let it do its thing in real time. For those who prefer to stick with Twitter in the Web browser, Twitter.com is still not your only means of accessing the service. Tweetvisor is a powerful browser-based Twitter client that puts a lot more Twitter functionality at your fingertips than the standard Twitter homepage. There are also a variety of Firefox plugins that can ramp up the experience of Twitter in the browser, including PowerTwitter, TwitterFox and TwitBin.

Mobile Clients
You know you’re getting addicted to Twitter when you start using it from your smartphone, but this is also where you can start building some great relationships. You are interacting enough with your network that they start to feel connected with you. I know plenty of agents who use their iPhone as their primary method of accessing Twitter, and the desktop is really secondary. While you can use Twitter via SMS, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have an unlimited SMS plan. Plus, the Twitter mobile apps typically provide a much better experience by making it easier to reply, ReTweet, send a direct message, etc.

Posting Photos
Another interesting and useful thing to post on Twitter are photos taken from your smartphone. This can be especially useful when are out previewing property, and you want to show homes that might be of interest to your target market. The most popular tool for posting photos on Twitter is Twitpic, because you can use it from any cellphone with a camera. You simply take the photo with your phone and then email it to your customized Twitpic email address, and you type your Twitter message in the subject line of the email. The only challenge is that there’s no character count in the subject line of an email, so you have to be careful to not make your message too long. If it’s over 140 characters, it will simply get truncated. Flickr has also come up with a service that is virtually identical to Twitpic called Flickr2Twitter. So if you already have an active Flickr account, it makes sense to use Flickr rather than Twitpic, because then all of your mobile photos get added to your album rather than creating a separate album on Twitpic.

This should get you started. There is so much more that you can do, but that will come as you start to build your network. I would love your feedback about these concepts. Was this helpful? Are you going to start using Twitter? Follow me at: http://wwwTwitter.com/GregHerder I look forward to reading your posts. Greg.Herder@HobbsHerder.com.