The critical importance of your online profile

The age of the internet is typified by a whole new vocabulary – Twitter, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, podcasts, YouTube. How many of these words are now in everyday use, whereas barely a couple of years ago they were unknown?

The online world is transforming our lives and in the context of real estate has already transformed the lives of buyers / investors – remember that those starting out on the property ladder today can’t really understand the need for a fax machine. They also had an email address and mobile number long before they were allowed out at night on their own!

Into this new brave world every real estate professional needs to tread – carefully, methodically and with due caution, but also with a sense of Carpe Diem!

Let me strip down some of the components and look specifically at this fairly new phenomenon of social media – the world of blogs, profiles and social networking.

The important thing to keep in mind in terms of social media is that it is just a form of conversation. Conversations are an everyday part of the real estate process and that is why social media is so natural for this industry to embrace.

Every person in the real estate business relies upon and sets out to build a network – a group of people through whom they can seek new business opportunities to secure the chance to act on behalf of a client to sell a property. The judgement people make of your ability will be based on your experience, your expertise and your personality – matched naturally to the professional reputation of your company. All of these 3 facets are something that you build and develop over time. The big challenge is how to share with potential clients your experience, your expertise and your personality as sadly in today’s world, attention spans and free time is a scarce resource. How can you, as people become more and more cynical of traditional advertising communicate with the right audience to make an impression and convey your message with sincerity and honesty?

The first rule is going to come as a shock to some – don’t get “in their face”! Today, people trust people who they find and who they are referred to. They tend to trust less those people who try and get “in their face”. This is not to say that face-to-face contact is not relevant – far from it, in this industry it is critical, but only when you have been “invited” to meet.

So how can the web and the power of social media help you to establish trust and get referred?

First of all the greatest power of the web is that everyone and every business on the web is effectively treated equally – that is because your single web page can be read as easily as any single web page from IBM or Britney Spears! The only thing that actually differentiates you from IBM and Britney is how easy is it to find your page and whether you have something worth reading?

I believe every person in real estate has something worth reading about – local knowledge of the property market, local knowledge of the community, local insight into who is doing what and where. Local information about developments and improvements to your community – schools, parks, shops, transport; as well as valuable facts about what is selling, who is buying. This is the kind of information that you will in past have shared – maybe in a weekly printed newsletter sent to your database, a piece in the local community paper or a regular email newsletter. The weakness of this form of communication; or thinking about it another way, the missed opportunity, is that these communications only reach a limited number of people and end up disappearing within a week as a deleted emails or that newspaper in the bin. How much better it would be to have those words, that insight stored, accessible, read and reviewed by people everyday anywhere in the world.

Imagine for a minute how more credible you would be seen by a prospective client if they could read and review a series of articles on the local community, rather than just this week’s one. They would certainly form a stronger appreciation of your experience, knowledge and credibility and most importantly of all a sense of your true personality.

So given you have this local knowledge and insight what should you do to establish through it trust and credibility? – the ultimate way is to write a blog. Now some people run a mile when a blog is mentioned – fears about what to write, fears of technology, fears of being attacked (verbally)! The fact is that when writing a blog on the web, whilst potentially it could be read by hundreds of millions of people – it won’t be, after all how many people want to read about your local community? Not many; but every one of them could be future client that is the key thing.

Just for clarification a blog is a webpage. It is just a type of webpage that allows you easily (with no great computer skills) to add articles and stories and allow anyone to write a reply or comment to you about what you wrote which can be read by anyone as part of a conversation. To help real estate professionals offers a free blog service. It is called “Voices” – real estate voices, you will find the logo for it on the home page of the website – click on it and start to read how to set up a blog – it is free and you can join over 130 other agents from around the country who sense an opportunity to build their profile and generate new business.

There are some key pieces of advice in relation to blogging – be regular and be open. It is best to write something on your blog each week, it does not need to be an essay, more it can be a point of interest or more commonly an answer to a question posed to you over the past few days. The answer you gave at the time was valuable and therefore will be of value to others. Being open speaks to answering comments and also open to commenting on other people’s blogs – these comments are great for getting people back to your blog to read more about you.

Now blogging may not be for everyone – if you feel that you have neither the written skills or your don’t have the time then there is one thing every person in this industry must have. They must have a web page that can very simply provide a “picture” of what they do and who they are. That page needs to be “indexed” or put another way need to be seen on a Google search page. So imagine the situation – someone this week will search your name – they will search on Google looking to find out about you; because they will be meeting you this week for that appraisal meeting. You need to have a page that they find that provides them with a clear, open and professional view of who you, what skills you have and why they should be considering you in helping them sell their house.

That page could be your blog, it could be a page on your company website, it could be on Facebook. The only issue with your Facebook page is that it probably is more likely to be about your family and friends – what this person wants to find out about if the real estate professional. Again in an effort to help this industry build online profiles we have built on the website a place where you can have your own profile page – a place where you can write about who you are, what you do and what your expertise is. Because this new profile page is on the website it is then clear that this profile is about you and your role in real estate – it is also right next to your listings as well.

To build this page – just sign in to the Agent Pro page – you will find a link at the foot of every page on the website. All of course for free to help you build your profile.

The key message is to think of the web as a vital means for you to be advertising your skills 24 hours a day to as wide an audience as possible with a clear message that you are the most experienced, authoritative local expert – good luck and get online now to build your profile.

August 16 2009 | Blogs and Online marketing and Social Networking | No Comments »

Blogging – when to know that you are spending too much time on it

I sometimes think there will an emerging organisation “BA” in the same vein as “AA” – yes we (well I) could succumb to blogging overload and need a dose of therapy provided by Bloggers Anonymous!

But seriously the question is key – how much time should you spend blogging and when should you say enough. I blog because it drives traffic to and now to Zoodle. It is critical in search engine optimisation and establishing an audience who can respect and appreciate the conversations established on a blog. I also honestly love blogging, it is relaxing and satisfying.

But I am employed to run a website – it is different if you are an agent out there trying to juggle the roles of business advisor and online marketer. So to help you establish how much time to devote to blogging I would encourage you to read this great post by Teresa Boardman entitled “When blogging goes too far“.

Teresa is a highly respected blogger from St Paul, Minnesota – she is a realtor and balances the two roles magnificently. I have had the pleasure of attending the Inman Connect conferences which Teresa actively contributes to.

This article was published on the Inman News site, however it is only accessible to subscribers which I think is a shame – I have allowed you access to the full article as a pdf with due and appropriate attribution to both Teresa and Inman publishing – both of whom I have a huge respect for and as a subscriber to their website I hope they can appreciate my intent in sharing this with key readers of this blog across the NZ real estate industry.

Have a read and be inspired to add blogging to your marketing toolkit.

February 19 2009 | Blogs | No Comments »

What should not-so-busy real estate agents do?

This post is not intended to be flippant, it is just the question asked by one of the great marketeers in the world today – Seth Godin.

Seth is something of a maverick as typified by some of his book titles “Meatball Sundae” / “Small is the new big” / “All marketeers are liars” / “Purple Cow”. His views are classically very left field and personally I like what he suggests.

So with this inĀ  mind I would recommend a read of the blog of the same name “What should not-so-busy real estate brokers do?” – in it he recommends starting a newspaper. Strange as this may seem it is all about a real estate agent being the centre of local knowledge. As for the concept of a newspaper – Seth actually recommends an email version, for me – a blog is a the answer. So give it a go and use the Voices blog platform to start your local news feature.

As for a recommendation of Seth’s many books – read “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable” it is great.

January 22 2009 | Blogs and Online marketing | No Comments »

Blogging from Connect

I am now in San Francisco, here to attend the Real Estate Connect conference later this week. The format of the week is pre-conference unofficial blogger day session tomorrow organised organically by a group of 30 bloggers mainly from the US at something that has been called RE barcamp. Barcamps are a tech event held by geeks usually as an organic meeting exchange – so we had to have RE Barcamp!!

On Wednesday the conference starts with a Bloggers Connect session through till 3pm when the conference starts. That runs through the remainder of Wed, all of Thursday and half of Friday – as ever a jammed schedule of which you have to make trade-offs as to what to attend.

I have chosen this year to blog from the conference on 2 formats – rather than just one ! – this blog which is very much an internal blog within the industry I will use to share observations and insight into the US market and developments online – it will be a bit “bitty” but hopefully interesting and insightful.

I will use the Unconditional blog to post a couple of observations which will summarise the conference from the public’s perspective sharing what I think the trends observed at the conference and the new technology ideas.

Check out the schedule of the conference and let me know if there is anything here which may be of interest or question you have always wanted to know about the US market or online.

July 22 2008 | Blogs and News | 6 Comments »

Embracing the internet

I know that I have used the expression “real estate agents will not be replaced by technology, they will be replaced by agents with technology” quite a bit this year to highlight the fact that this industry needs to embrace the changes brought about by the internet.

This approach is most succinctly articulated in this blog post from Teresa Boardman on Inman News titled “Consider the internet an ally“. This is simply one of the best presented perspectives on the issue of the changing role of real estate professionals here in NZ and overseas. As one reader commented “If I ran a brokerage, this post would be mandatory reading for all my agents”.

She stresses that withholding information that today is so freely available is counter-productive; accept the fact that the world is typified by informed consumers who as buyers have just as much information as you have, but sell the fact that what you have is experience – unique and valuable experience to be able to interpret facts – not just to hoard facts.

The fact is that in the future agents that act as information brokers will be replaced by agents acting as professional advisors – a far more lucrative and respected role and profession

June 27 2008 | Blogs | 1 Comment »