It is obvious to everyone in the real estate business by now that the future of marketing revolves around the internet... and websites. And the "Yester-tech" of a static website isn't going to cut it. The days of "My broker provides me with a website at www.myname.brokerage.com" are gone. And honestly, the days of a site coded purely in html are pretty toasted as well... The new paradigm is what are referred to as Dynamic Websites. Dynamic sites are exemplified by blogs, web magazines and other sites that are continually updated and interactive.
Back in "the day", a website was little more than a flyer or brochure that was available on the internet, rather than mailed out. It might have had as few as one page and as many as five or six pages. There usually wasn't a search capability built in, and it was only updated infrequently... if at all.
Todays websites have all sorts of cool things to draw the consumer's attention, and to hold it. Search is a BIG part of that. Blogs, updated weekly, daily or even more, are another part. Twitter feeds for breaking news can be included, as can Flickr feeds for new pictures and YouTube feeds for videos. There might even be links or widgets displaying other blogs or sites... The possibilities are almost endless.
In short, they provide a new experience each time a consumer visits. Why go back to the website if it is only displaying something that you've previously seen or read?
Which leads us to some options...
This is Active Rain. And so it THIS. Obviously the blog you are looking at is part of Active Rain. It says so right at the top of the page. But the link to GwinnettGarageGuy.com is also linking to an Active Rain blog. It is referred to as an "Outside Blog" or RainMaker Blog. It has a custom URL and only a very discreet logo in the upper left corner.
There are some tremendous advantages to Active Rain RainMaker Blogs. To begin with, they offer built in traffic and "Google Juice" (search engine strength). The traffic comes from the 170,000 members here in the Rain. They provide a sense of community, as well as feedback and support. In short, there is a LOT to learn at Active Rain, and being part of the community enriches the experience.
Another great advantage of Active Rain's RainMaker blogs is ease... It is SO easy to get rolling. Build a profile, type up a post and publish... you are GOING. Of course there are plenty of things to learn after that to tweak the performance of your marketing, but you can learn that here in the Rain as well... and a lot of it is free... and of course there are RainCamps to take it to another level.
The drawbacks of the RainMaker Blogs are few... It costs $29/month. They aren't as customizable as the other platforms.
In the world of the web, $29 isn't that much. There are a lot of agents paying WAY more money for platforms that don't deliver these results... But, $29 is $29.
Almost everyone has heard of WordPress. Here is a WordPress site... and another one. Notice that they look NOTHING alike? That is part of the beauty of WordPress. Sites can be themed VERY differently and not look at all like "the next site"... or the agent up the street. Full-on branding. Every part of the site is customizable and extensible. There are thousands of widgets and plug-ins to alter the site experience. Almost anything you can imagine can be accomplished in WordPress.
However, while the platform is free, hosting it isn't (expect to spend about $100/year). Also, there are many free themes, but the best ones cost a little money (expect to spend between $30 and $100). Just a note, don't bother with WordPress.com... you'll spend at least as much to get it up to speed as you would with Active Rain, and not have the flexibility of a self-hosted WordPress blog (sometimes called WordPress.org).
Another drawback of WordPress is all of the flexibility... there are too many choices for some people. There are thousands of themes and thousands of plug-ins and you can do almost anything with it...
And then there is Joomla. Only the fairly hardcore know about Joomla!. Here is a Joomla site... and another one. There are competitors, like Drupal... but Joomla! is the one with the most support. And much of what I just said about WordPress applies to Joomla. It is free, but hosting isn't. there are free themes, but the cool ones cost money. There are loads of extensions... and some of them cost a little bit.
But Joomla is WAY more involved and WAY WAY more powerful that WordPress. Using most good hosts, setting up either is easy. One click in Simple Scripts and the site is live... but after theming and content creation, Joomla requires a structure be thought out in the way content is arranged. WordPress organizes content more "on the fly". Joomla takes a little time to set up BEFORE content starts to flow... it can be done later, but it is much easier to start out with the structure.
Since Joomla was designed as a Content Management System, that is what it does best. It can be a news magazine. It can be a search portal. It can be a blog. Honestly, being a blog for Joomla is like driving a Corvette ZR1 as a golf cart... you can do it, but that isn't really using the power. But incorporating a blog into Joomla is pretty easy...
In fact, using my theme provider, theming a WordPress blog and a Joomla site to look like family is pretty easy. So, for the consumer, the experience of moving back and forth between the joomla CMS and the WordPress blog is almost seamless... even if they have different domians. LaneBailey.com and GarageHomesUSA.com are completely different sites and different platforms. They could even be with different hosts...
FaceBook and Posterous
FaceBook is becoming THE destination for millions of web surfers. Maintaining a storefront there will become as necessary as having a website. Your personal profile isn't the place to do business... get a Fan Page, they are free and you can even get a vanity URL. Mike Mueller here on Active Rain is "THE Dude" when it comes to FB Fan Pages.
Posterous is a different kind of beast. I have written about it a few times, and it is certainly worth investigating. There are more ways to leverage Posterous than anyone could possibly imagine on thier own. Brad and Bobby Carroll (Dakno) are "THE Dudes" when it comes to tweaking out Posterous pages.