I started my real estate career in Santa Rosa at the end of June in 1986 with Merrill Lynch Realty’s Waterfall Towers office. I had completed the 3 week new agent training program offered by Merrill Lynch and had even completed all of the courses required to obtain a Broker’s license, although I only held a Salespersons license.
All of that training lead me to believe that I was prepared to do what it took to become successful in the business. But, I was totally mistaken. I was prepared to actually do the business, but only if I had some business to do.
And there was the problem. I had only lived in Santa Rosa a few years and had no network of friends, past business associates, family or school associates to draw upon for business. Consequently, I didn’t see my first commission check until 6 months had gone by.
The reason for that length of time is that I had to create a network of people that I could ask for business and it had to be large enough to actually be a source of business. In those days, as it is now, the larger the network that a real estate agent can draw upon, the greater the chances of creating business.
I used a combination of open houses, door knocking, direct mail (just listed and eventually just sold postcards), and FSBO and Expired Listings to build my network. Frankly, I didn’t enjoy any of those methods and always longed for a method that would allow me to reach many more people in a shorter period of time. Advertising in the local paper and real estate magazines promised this, but the return on the investment never really justified that as an option for me.
Once I had settled into a method of growing my network that was repeatable, sustainable and delivered results, my business took off and as they say, the rest was history.
Fast forward 22, almost 23 years, and we find that nothing really has changed in that we still need to have a large network of people to draw upon to have enough transactions to complete. The difference is that today we have the method that I longed for of reaching a large number of people in a short period of time. It’s called Social Media, Social Networking or Web 2.0. Regardless of what you call it, the basic premise of it is people talking to people without the friction of actually being face to face at the same point in time or space to do so.
If I could have designed the perfect real estate tool to advance my business, this would have been it Today’s social tools allow the real estate agent to connect with people and to further connect with the people that they know. Today I can put some useful information out on a blog or a Facebook page and have it seen by countless numbers of people often instantaneously, and know that it will be there for people to see going far forward into the future. I can do it for pennies, not dollars. And it takes minutes, not the hours that it used to take to distribute flyers around town.
Even though consumers can get property and sales information online, they still need your help to make their way through the transaction. Both CAR and NAR have published the results of surveys that they have done last year that report on the activities done by both buyers and sellers as they navigate through the process of buying and selling a home. It’s a universally accepted fact that both buyers and sellers use the Internet in some fashion during the process. We KNOW that we need to be found in the online space. And because of that we have web sites. What we don’t yet grasp is that we need to engage the consumers online. We need to give them reasons to come back and spend time with our online presence. Sadly, most visits to real estate agent’s online presences are only one time events.
The new social media tools give us the opportunity to engage the consumer who is already online, while they are online. We can engage them through our blogs or our Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter accounts. We can engage them with information about the things that are important to any one wanting to live in our areas, but that are hard to find online.
And, the tools allow us to reach a much wider audience than we could in the past. To prove that, have you ever forwarded an email to others you know because you felt that they could use or enjoy the content? Of course you have. Now, have you ever received a post card in the mail, taken it down to Kinkos made copies and then mailed it out to your friends? Of course not. But one comment on your blog, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter account has the potential to circle the globe as people either forward it or the link to the content. It can go “viral” as they say.
So, why don’t we just get involved with social media? I hear these reasons frequently, maybe even from you! “There are too many tools to choose from. How do I know where to start?” or “I don’t get this stuff. I am too old.”
This is typical of generational communications gaps. There will always be new tools coming on to the market and there will always be gaps in the way that generations communicate. At issue today is the fact that the younger generations are already using these tools and have the expectation that the real estate professional that they work with will also use them. If you don’t use them you become invisible to the person who is looking for their service providers via social media. Its also fact that all generations are adopting these tools, perhaps even your clients.
And then I hear “I am not a techie.” When I hear this I think that the person saying it is missing the point. Social media is NOT technology. It is relationships between people. And this is where we excel. We create and nurture relationships. These tools were developed for the express purpose of helping people create and nurture relationships.
You didn’t have to understand the internal combustion engine (or hybrid engines today) to drive a car. But, you did have to learn how to drive one. You don’t have to understand the technology behind social media, but you do need to learn how to use it.
It’s not about the technology anymore. It’s about you and me and the consumers. Talking with each other. Getting real with each other.
Is everything that is said on social media useful or even relevant? Of course not. Is every thing that we say or do in the course of a day useful or relevant to business? Of course not.
But, every thing said by you on social media increases your exposure and through that exposure you get increased opportunities to meet new people and do more business.
Are you in or are you out?