Are Your Social Media Efforts the Online Equivalent of a Comfort Call?

By Todd Carpenter, Social Media Manager, National Association of REALTORS®

When I first started originating mortgages in the early 1990s, the refinance market was booming. Because my sales manager wanted to assure my long-term career efforts, he used to make me perform a set number of sales calls to real estate agents before I could spend time on floor duty, working those refi leads.

Cold or warm, making sales calls is hard work. Especially in-person calls. I would get stood up, thrown out of offices, asked for a bribe, or blown off on a regular basis. Even the deals that lead to good business were often demanding and stressful. But every once in a while, some agents would welcome me into the office, offer me a cup of coffee, and talk to me like I was their best friend for as long as I wanted. These “Amiable Joes,” as I call them, were fun — a welcome respite from a typical day of sales calls.

But my sales manager called them comfort calls, and told me they’re a waste of time. He was right. Amiable Joes tend to have a lot of spare time on their hands to share with you because they are not very busy closing any business of their own. They had nothing to offer other than nice words and a cup of joe. Making comfort calls isn’t as ineffective as getting the car washed or picking up the dry cleaning, but if they are the highest level of business activity you do in a day, you really didn’t work.

Most of the activity I see from real estate pros on social networks can be classified as comfort calls. Liking your friend’s funny jokes, checking in at Starbucks on foursquare, commenting about last night’s episode of The Apprentice, or reminiscing about the conference you went to six months ago with a group of fellow practitioners may be critical to your value as a member of a larger community, but don’t call it work.

If building your sphere of influence online is your goal, you need to do this the same way you would offline. You need to identify people in your community and sphere who can be realistically expected to funnel business to you: local small business owners, accountants, life insurance agents, community leaders, and advocates of charitable causes, for starters. Find a way to introduce yourself to these people, and not just online. Then develop relationships with them by figuring out how you can help them. That kind of social networking often isn’t very fun, but it is effective.

The next time you find yourself on Facebook, take moment to think about why you’re there. Maybe it’s to have fun. That’s fine. I do that all the time. But if you want it to work for you, make sure you are doing real work. Spend too much time networking with Amiable Joes, and you’ll become one yourself.

Todd Carpenter

Todd Carpenter, Managing Director of the Data Analytics Group at NAR I'm a twenty year veteran of the real estate and mortgage industry, focusing on technology that fosters relationships between professionals and consumers. I am a subject matter expert in data analytics, online consumer trends, enterprise social media strategy, listing data, agent ratings, and public facing MLS portals.

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  1. I wish we could all get a do-over on Facebook. When I started I did push listings and the like. Of course now I know better, but I bet I’m still hidden on a lot of pages :/

  2. I try and conduct myself virtually as I did IRL when I attended so many industry and chamber networking events. Its all about establishing quality relationships were straight out ROI business may be a by-product as a result. I have always found that regardless of if it is a relationship that results in a client or one of personal or professional friendship what I get out of networking virtually or IRL is priceless.

    BTW-I never attended an IRL networking event handing out listing sheets and I don’t do it virtually either. I think people need to know and trust you before they care about what you sell.

  3. I would probably have to admit, I became victim to this in the past year, and am finding my way back to a bit more “middle ground.” I think Stephanie probably makes the point from the other perspective. I don’t think you can be always about work either. It’s finding that balance of productive fun work that produces results, that we are all trying to attain. Just more proof that things are still changing so quickly, & none of us are really experts at this stuff. Adapt and change, and have goals that you strive to accomplish. But I will also say, I’d rather be remembered for being slightly more amiable ultimately, than for being a workaholic. 😉

  4. Re-reading this again, the key point I see is introducing yourself in real life, and oferring to help. That in and of itself, is being amiable but also leads to a much higher rate of productivity. I have done pretty good at that. 🙂

  5. Very good article. What are you trying to accomplish? If you want to be considered an expert than you should protray yourself on all media as such. Using the information you get on these networks should and can be used to create relationships with your best leads.

  6. I have been blogging about my little farm I work part-time on Whidbey Island for the past two months on a regular basis. I have my real estate website linked but the blog has nothing to do with real estate. Over 400 hits last month and I picked up a cash buyer from it – which will close this month. Is this work I do – which is not necessary easy but is fun – like the “Comfort Call”? I think not. My goal is to show people out there that I am a real person, not just a salesperson. And, yes, it works.

  7. I think real estate professionals are still trying to figure out social media… It’s “potentially” a good lead resource, but how many leads are actually closed via these avenues? I think as we learn to better use these services, business will be positively impacted.