Online community building expert, Chris Brogan wrote an interesting article last week on what he would do if he was a REALTOR®. I disagree with his strategy not to talk about work, but that’s another post for another day. What I really like about his post is its focus on building online communities hosted by a REALTOR®
I’ve often been quoted from a presentation I did at SPARKt a year ago with regard to the rules of participating on social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I compared them to church. Why do you go to church? Is it to play bingo? Do you go for the free crackers? Do you go so you can talk with your friends about football? What about this: Do you go to sell real estate? If you said yes to any of the above, you’re going to hell. You go to church to worship. If all that other stuff happens secondary to worshiping, great! But worshiping is why you’re there.
Online social networks are like any other social network (church, the Rotary or an Elk’s Club…). The key is to identify the rules for that network and work within them.
Consumers don’t turn to Facebook to find a new home. They might use it to find an agent. But if you did your job outside of the sales cycle, that consumer will already be connecting with you on your own social network when they’re ready to buy a home.
The most important social network to participate on is your own.
You make the rules on your own social network. You decide how many times you will ask for their business. You decide how much or little you will talk about work. On your own social network, you don’t just participate in conversations, you shape them.
Do you have your own social network? I see some people using Facebook pages as their own network. I see agents using hosted services like Active Rain and RealTown as their own network as well. But who makes the rules on those networks? Who creates and manages the TOS? Who establishes the unwritten rules? Think about it. It’s probably not you.
Building you own network online.
Blogging is the original gangster of online social networking. Yes, it takes a lot more work and expense than a Facebook page. Yes, it takes a lot more work to draw readers to an independent blog, than it does on a hosted network like Active Rain. But on your own blog, YOU make the rules. In my personal opinion, independent real estate agents using a self-hosted blogging platform to create their own social network are the ones most likely to succeed in social media marketing.
Their are several good platforms for this, but WordPress is fast becoming the standard. You can start blogging for free, easily move to a more robust self-hosted platform, and eventually integrate tools like an IDX or education.com API’s into your site. There’s no practical limit to what you can do with the platform, and most important, you make the rules. WordPress powers this blog. We used an affordable predesigned theme from Brian Gardner, who also designs WordPress real estate blog themes.
As you develop your social networking strategy, concern yourself less with the latest tools like posterous, or Facebook fan pages, and concentrate on developing a strategy where all of your efforts on other social networks eventually lead consumers to your own.
Todd Carpenter, Senior Manager of Industry Engagement at Trulia
Previously the Director of Digital Engagement for The National Association of REALTORS®, overseeing the association’s communication strategy on its social media channels. He's also been a real estate and mortgage professional since 1992 and created the first broker-focused mortgage blog in 2005. Todd is an industry pioneer in leveraging the social web.