What's the return on your investments?
After attending, the SABOR Town Hall Meeting and listening to Sean Wood and Rich Teplitsky of KGBTexas speak on the topic of social media, I've been doing a lot of thinking about some of the things I noticed while I was there as well as some of the snippets of conversation that my ears overheard from other people's small groups as they were gathering and getting ready to go. Some of the audience was there to get an idea of what social media was, some were there to get more out of it, some where there just to see what the craze is all about.
Return on investment (ROI), is the ratio of gain or loss on an investment relative to the money invested. In real estate, you often hear the term ROI being referred to around the hours and/or money we spend on any particular activity in order to generate business. In terms of social media, I have heard many people question what the ROI is on it. Whether it be blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, or even ActiveRain itself, social media is all around us, but there has been some serious conflicts over the quantifying of the actual returns of using it based on the investment you put into it. There are plenty of success stories of transactions closed thanks to the many different forms of social media, but I think there's something else to look at.
As agents we spend much of our time looking to get in front of people. To talk to them, to share our experiences, to tell them what we do, and to hopefully make them our clients (or at least a great referral source). Agents are doing this all day long. The girl at the grocery store, the guy pumping gas, the small business owner that you know through BNI - no matter where we go, we're interacting and building relationships which we work to turn into business. Occasionally, the business falls in our lap - "You're a Realtor®? I have a house I need to sell, can you stop over tomorrow?" Other days, it takes a growth process of going from "that agent guy" to "my Realtor®." We hear the word cultivation a lot when referring to the people we meet. Cultivate the relationship, build the trust, get the business.
Social media is really no different. Strangers will talk to you, friends will tell others about you, and building a sphere of influence is the name of the game. As many people discuss over and over again, the trick is not to sell. I definitely believe this to be the case, but this is not the point of this post.
So what is the ROI on social media?
First off, most social media activities is free. So let's toss out the money part of the equation. Let's talk about time. Most people dabble in social media for a few minutes a day and get a little something out of it here and there. Others dive in head first and are the proud flag-bearers of the "new wave" of the web 2.0 world. I see why people get discouraged when the jump into social media. You jump in say "hello world" and no one answers back. Not at first at least. It is a slow growth process that requires a little more time than showing up at the latest mixer and handing out your business card.
The difference between the mixer and social media? The mixer ends at 8PM, social media never sleeps. When you start putting those conversations out into the cyber-world they last - in many cases for eternity. You might do something at 8AM, but someone may not interact with you on it until 10PM the next day. It allows for a conversation to last, to stick around, and to be discovered by others at any given time. Your conversation doesn't end when you get in your car and drive home.
Let's look at an example.
Let's talk Twitter for a few moments. Some of you love it, some of you hate it, and some don't get it. I try to get on Twitter quite a bit. I use it for a couple of different purposes as well. I have conversations with locals, agents, and friends all over the world, but I also use it as a news source, a feed reader of sorts, and a way to track stories I want to know more about. I've also used it to get direct access to information about specific posts I'd like to make (if your local news is on Twitter, make friends with them - best source for Localism posts ever). It serves me well, but I'd like to give a few specific examples:
Getting to know your neighbors - I have got to know quite a few of my local San Antonio neighbors. And in getting to know them, I have built friendships (and everyone remembers their friends a bit more than a stranger, right?). I have built a source of contacts from several different industries. Need a programmer who runs circles around my head? I know a few. Want nutrition and fitness advice and training? If my guy can't do it, no one can. Need PR/advertising? I got the guy for you. Need a roofer? Got him. Want to know what restaurant has the best beer in town (and some awesome food)? I can give your directions and tell you who to ask for when you get there. Much like many of us maintain some sort business to business directory, Twitter is just that for me. Expect I know these people and talk with them about normal everyday things too. They're my friends, not just names in a database.
Becoming the "go to" for people - Although it's always difficult to tread the boundaries of what you can and can't say to someone who is not your client, you'll find you become a great referral source for information. I often get questions asked that I have written posts about or recently had a conversation online about. I can easily point someone in the right direction. If I haven't done it, I probably know someone who has spoken about it - so I become an informational referral source. And what does that do? It creates a sense of trust and value.
Knowledge. Plain and simple - I entered the real estate business on the down side. Instead of twiddling my thumbs, I dove into blogs and conversations and learned as much as I could. I asked questions and got answers. Agents are much more eager to help a new agent than I ever dreamed. I have learned some great bits and pieces from people I think are the best and brightest.
Want to see your name in lights? - Ok, you may not get your name on the marquee at Madison Square Garden, but the internet does provide a certain level of fame. Think of some of the names in real estate you see everyday on the internet. The other great way to "get noticed" is by the press. As I've witnessed first hand, the press and our associations are out there and they're watching and reading. To tie two examples together, a guy I know only via Twitter once recommended me to the local news who had put out a tweet looking for agents for a piece they were putting together. I didn't get the spot, because they had already found someone, but a guy I've never met tried to get my name out there for me. Powerful, right?
Recurring Online Interaction.
That's my new way of viewing ROI. Everyday a conversation starts that I can be a part of or not. Everyday, snippets from a conversation I had a few days ago comes back to me and we pick it up from there. The interactions begins to build who you are, not just what you do. Last night I answered a tweet of someone I've spoken to here and there. It wasn't real estate related at all, but within a few tweets, she made a joke about me finding her a "cheap" home. Soon we were discussing the thought behind it. I have never said "hello, I'm a real estate agent" to her, but she knows and made the reference to it in our conversation. Will she buy a house with someday? I sure hope so, but in the meantime, I think she's funny, interesting, and a nice few moments of conversation once in awhile. What I know for a fact though, is that she knows what I do, enjoys talking to me, and would probably think of me for her real estate needs...because I am there all the time. In front of her, on her screen, and top of mind. I don't have to send her a fridge magnet once a month to remind her that I'm out here. She already knows it.