If you aren't in, you're way out

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  • | 12:00 p.m. July 14, 2009
  • Realty Builder
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Have you joined the world? If not, the world might be leaving you out.

What started as a way for kids to communicate has become a way for grown-ups to do business. The kids still use it — listen closely and you’ll hear their tweets — and it’s as popular as video games. But, unlike the cartoon games, this pastime is a way to help you sell real estate.

It once was called only “social networking.” That term is still around but the practice has evolved into an area dear to everyone in the real estate and construction industries: “business networking.”

You’ve surely heard of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, to name what seems to be the three most popular networking sites.

Are you part of any or all? If not, you’re losing ground in an industry where every piece of turf can be vital.

“These networking sites are becoming very useful,” said Jeff Evans of Colliers Dickinson. “You can reach a broad audience and connect with people you have not seen in years. This is a great way to network.”

Says agent Janna Thomas of Buck & Buck: “These types of social mediums are simply the next evolutionary step to staying in touch and can be just as addictive as text messaging.

“While on Facebook, I share real moment times, such as when I’m available to show properties to buy or to rent. Sharing real estate successes and offering real estate information to friends, family, past customers and other real estate professionals is an informative and expressive way to stay connected to potential customers.” 

Another big cheerleader is Eden Jordan of Vanguard GMAC

“I definitely have used social networking for my business, since I do 90 percent referral business. This is a Godsend for me. I have grown up in Orange Park, and my age group is very active on Facebook. I have (I am embarrassed to say) 475 friends and these are people who I actually know from high school, college, my kids friends’ parents, my past customers and other agents,” she said.

“It is such a great way to softly connect and to get a response.

“I have just listed two houses and I will sell another off of a guy I went to school with that I did not really know that well. He saw me on Facebook and called me.

“I can honestly say that this year, I have indirectly sold four homes from people I would not have had contact with if it were not for social networking.”

One broker uses multiple sites, but has a specific use for each.

“I use LinkedIn as my primary business credibility tool. It’s a serious reflection of my business persona with almost 450 connections and 42 recommendations,” said Paul Gruenther of Florida Homes Realty. “I use it to introduce myself in a variety of business situations.

“I use Facebook as a social/family networking tool. It’s my casual reflection with 156 family and friends. It’s a relaxed place for fun, decent commentary and photos.”

“I’m on Twitter with 230 followers, but I’m mostly an observer.”

It’s all portable, too.

“I use Facebook and ActiveRain plus LinkedIn and have them programmed to my Blackberry so that I have immediate response,” said Maureen Dunn of GMAC Vanguard.

“I love Facebook,” said Lori Nelson of Assist2Sell. “It’s what I call ‘Crackbook.’ It’s addicting. 

“Not only do we use it personally, we use it to promote our business and services. People are reconnecting from all over the world. Friends have found us from as far back as 1968.

“I post personal funny things and mix them up with house listings and market information. Since using Facebook, I have been able to use that as a medium for promoting properties.  

“It is a great tool if you use it as a low key method to promote the business.” 

An industry leader says to choose carefully.

“There are many other great social networks, blogs and digital communities to explore out there within almost every niche you can imagine,” said Tim Hamby of Renaissance Creative. “A little investigation can help you find the ones that are most helpful and appealing for you. Date around before you get married!”

When you talk with people in the real estate industry about social networking, you get a variety of uses. But all see the need for information sharing, even if it isn’t solely aimed at home-selling.

“I find social media fascinating,” said Stephanie S. White, a broker who runs an agent-training program. “I am learning and joining multiple networks to see what results I get. I post information about classes I am teaching and courses I have been approved to teach. Currently, I am gathering data for teaching a class on this very subject. It is interesting to see the different results people get.

“I can say that I have made good business contacts and found multiple opportunities using this venue. It is also good for planning a class reunion!”

Of a half-hundred who replied to an email Realty/Builder Connection survey about social and business networks, only one person said he didn’t use any. In an informal survey of five offices, the receptionists all said that almost all its agents were using the networks in one form or another.

“Welcome to the future!” said Realtor Jorge Nunez. “Social events have always been there as network sites — however, as the new generations further their positioning in our society, these have also become automated. In the ‘90s I could attend maybe two social events per week. Today, I attend nine social events per week thanks to Webinars, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Trulia and ActiveRain. Improvise, Adapt and Survive.”

Which one — or ones — to use?

Whatever you find helpful, it seems. And some use different sites for different purposes.

Caroline Petrey of Standard Pacific gave her uses of the three major sites:

“Twitter: work (it’s the water cooler)

“Facebook: personal (back yard barbeque)

“LinkedIn: work, but not so much.”

Realtor Kathy Garland has decided on only one site.

“I have signed up for all three, but I think Twitter is ridiculous and will never go on and use it again. Once was enough. I didn’t really know what the premise was when I signed up for it and think it’s the stupidest thing ever!

“I use Facebook and like it very much. In fact, I have reconnected with some friends on Facebook which has been great.

“I don’t really have an opinion about LinkedIn yet. There’s just not enough hours in the day for everything, so Facebook is the one I like the best and use the most and it’s probably the one I’ll keep using. Twitter and LinkedIn will probably go unused for the most part.”

Kizzy Van Tine of the RMG Mortgage Group has her favorite: “Facebook has a larger presence and is a more relaxed forum so you can be social and get your name out there.”

“I use all of them, but most frequently Facebook,” said Chrissy Wallis of Watson Realty. “I find it’s the easiest way to keep in touch with hundreds of people at once. I update my listings to all the sites, post pictures, and I love getting comments on them.

“Because of it, I’ve had friends go out of their way to contact me to ask questions about the subject property that I had recently posted, or to ask general real estate questions. Don’t know how I was able to keep up with everyone without it!”

Jon Singleton of Watson says he uses Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

“I use Facebook extensively, and have over 500 friends. I use Twitter somewhat, and have about 25 followers. I’m starting to use LinkedIn more, and have about 150 contacts,” he said.

“I’ve had pretty good luck using them to communicate with friends, customers and other Realtors. 

“The main application is as an alternate means of informal communication regarding personal and professional activities, which in turn fosters relationship building. As a secondary function, it provides low-impact advertising opportunities, which are more effective if not a direct demand for business. 

“I think social networking sites allow us to showcase our knowledge and experience with our customer base and networks, particularly when used in combination with other traditional advertising. 

“I have had some very successful open houses recently (including one which produced a sale) and attribute part of the success to social networking.”

And it’s not just for sales or passing housing information.

Sheron D. Willson, the Broker/Director of Training at the Prudential Network Realty, says it helps in her area.

“I use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as well as others for networking our business,” she said. “I use sites to promote office listings, offer support, and recruiting. I also network with other trainers and coaches in the real estate industry to share ideas and information. Social networking is important to our business and a great way to drive business to our business websites.”

Regina M. Sooey of Watson is a fan, but warns that agents shouldn’t forget the other avenues that Realtors must continue to take to sell homes.

“I think it is a useful tool, as ONE of your lead generation techniques, and I have gotten a few leads from it,” she said. “However, it is no substitute for other activities such as getting out there in front of your COI, calling past customers, working your farm, sending letters to FSBOs and Expireds. 

“If you waste too much time on the Internet, it can take away from these other activities.”

And, Buck & Buck’s Thomas added that she’s always looking for new ways to handle the networking: “As our technology continues to move at the speed of light, we must move along with it!”