Blogger, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn…if you’re not familiar with these Web 2.0 technologies, it’s time to learn. These networking sites aren’t around just for the kiddies. They’re free tools that can help get your business out in front of potential customers, drive traffic to your existing website, and build a network of contacts with a personal approach. It’s also just as important to know which sites will fit your business the best, so you won’t waste your precious time.
The focus of both social networking and marketing is people. If you’re concentrating efforts on your product/service for profit only, you’ll miss the mark. There are lots of ways to grow your business but in this visual, viral age, anything that can give you an edge over the competition is worth it. And since most social networking sites are free, there’s no better time (or economy) to experiment with some sites that might help your business grow.
Social Networks for Real Estate Agents
There are a large number of industry-specific social networks on the internet. Two of the most common real estate-based sites are Active Rain and My Agent Book. They can help agents create business relationships within the industry and with the consumer through blogs, profiles and connections. The trick to using it effectively is to contribute relevant content to the network--not just advertising your business name.
Three years ago, the word “blog” had officially been added to the dictionary. And by now, you should know a lot about what blogging is. In terms of business, think of a blog as a daily journal to post news about your company, the industry and your products & services. Blogs require a large amount of time and attention in order to be effective at driving traffic to your existing website. They must be updated regularly and contain relevant content. There are many free blogging platforms out there, and all it takes is a little exploring.
Online photo albums are a great way to organize and visually share your business/product to customers. Flickr is a popular photo management and sharing web application that’s more than just an online photo album. With Flickr you can organize, tag, describe, comment on, blog, and map your photos. Buyers rely on photos to browse a property virtually before even stepping into it. With Flickr, you can create notes within photos and add additional information about the property, including links to detailed listing information. Other applications include showcasing properties, agents, and brokers. As a bonus, you can also order prints and create personalized items such as calendars via Flickr's partners. Other photo-sharing sites include: Photobucket, Shutterfly, Snapfish, and Picasa.
Myspace and Facebook
Myspace and Facebook are two of the most popular social networking sites and are great places to create profiles to help you gain visibility right away. There are several ways REALTORS® can use these sites. First of all, as real estate is so often about building connections and contacts, it’s a great way to network. Not only can you connect with friends, past clients and peers, the ability to actively participate in specific real estate groups can help expand your group of contacts. With Facebook, users also have the ability to add third-party programs (called apps) to their profile. This includes the ability to list properties through apps like LivePads or Cribfinder or become the "local expert" through active participation in apps like Neighborhoods. Facebook also allows members to create online marketing “flyers” for targeted distribution through networks. The cost can be based either by the number of times the ad is served to users (cost per impression) or on the number of click-throughs the ad receives (cost per click).
Like most social networking tools however, these types of sites are not for the passive user. Building up a list of friends, becoming active in various groups and sharing information and connections takes time and effort. REALTORS® who already see a value in this new wave of communication will benefit the most.
LinkedIn is the business-professional version of MySpace or Facebook. It allows industry professionals to connect with past colleagues, find new jobs and business opportunities, and to communicate with people within their own industry. Below are a few reasons to consider creating a profile:
- Searchable. You should fill out your profile like a company bio--include past companies, education, and affiliations. When you have around 20-40 connections, it will increase the likelihood that people will see your profile first when they’re searching for someone to hire. And people would much rather work with someone who their friends know and trust.
- Improve your Google PageRank. LinkedIn allows you to make your profile information available for search engines to index, and LinkedIn profiles receive a fairly high ranking with Google. To do this, create a public profile and select “Full View.” Also, instead of using the default URL, customize your public profile’s URL to be your actual name. To strengthen the visibility of this page in search engines, use this link in various places on the web. For example, when you comment in a blog, include a link to your profile in your signature.
- Enhance your search engine results. Your LinkedIn profile allows you to publicize websites. There are a few pre-selected categories like “My Website,” “My Company,” etc. If you select “Other” you can modify the name of the link. If you’re linking to your website, include descriptive terms in the link, and you’ll have instant search-engine optimization for your site.
Twitter is a micro-blogging site that is quickly becoming a popular tool to help support your brand. It allows you to post quick 140 character messages, called “tweets” and is a great way to post a new listing or open house. Other ideas for using Twitter for business include: press releases, special offers or promotions, event updates, links to your website, and new blog posts or web update announcements. You may also be able to install Twitter on your blog’s sidebar to show your latest tweets and give your blog a more interactive feel. With a compelling business profile, posting brief topics related to your company, and by nurturing your network of followers, over time your Twitter account can turn into a strong advocate of your brand. What’s also great about Twitter is that it’s not as time-consuming as other networking tools. It’s very easy to post, whether it’s through Twitter’s website, by IM, or even by sending text messages from your phone.
Do you YouTube?
YouTube is an excellent resource for uploading, sharing and tagging fun and/or informative videos. Information on topics such as final walk-throughs, selling in a slow market, or the effects of pools on property values can all be shared via YouTube to reach buyers, sellers, or other REALTORS®. YouTube allows real estate professionals to reach out to a new generation of home buyers and sellers, to be creative, and to gain wider exposure on the web by advertising their knowledge, insights, and websites. And it’s free! Other video-sharing sites include: Real Estate Channel, Blip.tv, Metacafe and Revver.
Social networking and Search Engine Optimization
One of the biggest reasons for using any or all of these social networking tools is to drive traffic to your website. Millions of people use social networking sites on a daily basis. When you add a link to your website, it not only can send some targeted traffic but it also helps your existing website rank higher in the search engines. Social networking sites are also constantly checked by search engines, which ensure that your sites are quickly indexed.
One of the most important aspects of search engine optimization is building backlinks (links to your website that appear in content found on other websites). In the search engine optimization (SEO) world, the number of backlinks is one indication of the popularity or importance of that website. Using backlinks is something that social networking allows you to easily do.