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How to Plug Your Real Estate Career into the Power of Social Marketing: Part 1

The landscape of real estate marketing is changing fast. And, if you want to be ready to take advantage of the market as it starts its recovery process, you have to tap into the power of social marketing. Unfortunately, so many experienced and established agents keep telling me they don’t understand the value of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, so they don’t bother setting up a free account. Or if they do, they turn their MySpace page into a boring sales pitch for their real estate services, which is even worse than doing nothing at all.

Today, you must understand social networking on the web, because it is changing the rules of the real estate game in significant ways. Don’t think that social networking is just for the under-35 crowd. In fact, the second-fastest growing segment in social networking is people 65 and over, and the gap between these two groups will continue to shrink quickly.

The Evolution of Social Networking

First, you need to understand how social networking has emerged over the years. We all got started using the Internet, smart phones and instant messaging in an effort to make our lives easier and more efficient. What we did not count on was that having access to so much information would make us want to do even more stuff and make our already busy lives even busier. In the process, we ended up spending less time quality time with friends and family, leaving us with the feeling of being isolated and alone. But magically, through social networking sites, we were able to strike up relationships with other people because we both read and posted on the same blogs and chatrooms. We started making powerful connections and realized that all this technology could help us connect to those few people who are just like us–people who share the same interests, passions, values, etc. But with so many people online, the problem became finding a better way to wade through the millions of people on the Internet to find the ones with which we connect.

Sites that allow you to make connections have since sprouted up all over the Internet. Online interfaces like MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and many others started enabling you to search through millions of people and find the ones that share a common interest, passion, point of view or hobby. It has proven to be a great way to build a network–an extended family, if you will. And as a plus, your Aunt Darlene can easily find out what’s new with you without making you feel guilty for not making the time to call her.

Then, it evolved even further. Someone would tell their network about a cool new product, and everyone would go out and buy one. People started to see the business opportunity of social networking and soon social marketing was born. Many people jumped in trying to use the marketing knowledge they had in print, TV, direct mail and even online advertising. Most failed, but every now and then someone created a huge success that showed the world the massive potential of social marketing. Today, the rules of social marketing are just starting to emerge–and are still being written–but the rules that have emerged are very strong and if you break them you will not succeed.

Rule #1: Connect First, Sell Later

The first and foremost rule of social marketing you need to understand is that you must build a relationship first, before you start trying to sell something. The people that don’t get this fundamental understanding will never succeed in social networking. What makes social networking so powerful is that you are able to establish a common bond or connection first. This connection is what gives you a voice in the community. If you just try to sell, you will fail. I recommend that 80% of the content on your social networking site be dedicated to making connections and only 20% be about selling your services. Remember the rule to connect first and sell only after you have made the connection.

Rule #2: Be True to Yourself

The second rule of social marketing is that you need to have an authentic voice. Let’s say you are an agent that wants to build your business, so you create pages on Facebook, MySpace, etc. You decide to connect through your passion for family and desire to be the best mom you can be. Well, you better have pictures of your kids, posts about parenting, recommended parenting books and stories about your own struggles as a parent. Somewhere in there, you can casually mention that you’re a Realtor® who specializes in helping families find homes. Also, when they press the link to your website it should further convey the family message. Otherwise, they will quickly realize that this is not who you really are and that it was just a marketing ploy. The key to remember is that everyone is connected on the Internet, so you have no secrets and everyone will find out everything very quickly–both the good and the bad. Remember, word of mouth works both ways.

Rule #3: Share Your Passion

The third rule of social networking is that the more passionate you are about the issue you’re connecting on, the more powerful your ability is to turn that connection into sales. This is the very heart of social networking. Whatever your point of view is, express it strongly and without apology. Yes, it will not appeal to everyone, but for those who share the same convictions it is a powerful way to connect. Remember, it’s the relationship and connection that matter, not how good you are as a real estate agent. We have heard the old adage that when all things are equal, people prefer to do business with people they like. Today, people will more likely do business with people they share a connection with. Agents always ask me, “Greg, if I express a strong point of view, won’t that turn some people off?” Yes, but that will more effectively attract and connect you to the people who share your point of view.

Taking the First Steps

So how should you get started? First, think about what voice you want to have online. It should be a reflection of your personal brand and something that you are passionate about. Sign up for at least MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. Each of these networking sites has their own advantages, and having a presence on them all will help you build your credibility as a social networker. Make sure that on each one you put links to your website, as this will help increase your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

On Twitter, start following a few public figures that you like or have something in common with, and watch their posts for a few weeks. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter, as well. Remember, posts are very short on Twitter so start getting in the habit of making at least one post every day. Share things that give insight into who you are as a person, the things you are doing and the issues that you care about. Let your natural personality come out and do not try to be something that you are not.  Check back here for Part 2 on social marketing, and I will walk you through the next steps you need to take to start building your social network. (Part 2  of this article is available here.)

I would love your feedback about this article. Did you find it helpful? Did you follow my suggestions and start your social network? If you have a great social networking story I would love to hear it. Please register with this blog and leave a comment below!

(To read part two of this article, Please click here.)