Lola Audu, CRS, GRI, is associate broker and owner of Audu Real Estate in Grand Rapids, Mich. She is currently the president of the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS®.
Social Media—For Good
Your business isn’t the only thing that can benefit from a smart Web presence and savvy social networking.
July 1, 2011
You never know where a simple mouse click will take you.
When I joined the ActiveRain blogging network in 2006, my main goal was to connect with other real estate agents and expand my sphere of influence. And indeed, the platform exposed me to a broad array of bloggers with varied backgrounds and interests. But one thing I never anticipated was to find a new outlet for my charity work.
Not long after I joined the network, I came across the blog of Racquel “Rocky” Turner from Santa Clarita, Calif. Unlike most members of ActiveRain, Rocky doesn’t make a living in real estate. But she is very connected to the industry through her husband, real estate tech blogger Jeff Turner. Rocky’s Web site, “Mothers Fighting for Others,” highlighted a charity project called Underwear for Africa. I wanted to learn more.
To be honest, I expected to be infuriated by the project. As an African American who grew up in West Africa, I am tired of the misconceptions that many people seem to have about the continent due to the disproportionate media focus on the most dire aspects of African life. However, when I finished reading Rocky’s post, I realized this woman was not one of those people. She was focused on finding solutions to real problems. Rocky was collecting new clothing to distribute to children in Kenyan refugee camps. These children were ravaged by civil wars, and the simple dignity of a clean pair of underwear was an unaffordable luxury.
My initial contribution was small. I sent $50 to help transport the clothing and wrote a few posts on my ActiveRain blog (activerain.com/blogs/auduhomes) encouraging others to contribute to this cause. I also asked my readers to get involved in other charity efforts, including a campaign to dig wells for clean water in Kenya. My first blog post about the Clean Water Project in December 2007 prompted nine comments. It also raised money, including a donation of $1,000. I was flabbergasted. I had no idea that my blog post would bring such an immediate result.
Not long after, I used Twitter to help raise $12,000 in 24 hours to send 12 young Kenyan women to school for a year. I sent my requests for money in a prescheduled tweet to my growing list of followers every four hours for one whole day. This was a turning point for me, as I came to see the power that comes from using social media to connect with others around a shared vision and passion.
It didn’t occur to me at the start of my online service work that reaching out to help others could also have a significant business benefit. But as I interspersed real estate–related posts with other posts about charitable giving and service, I found that I was increasingly connecting with agents and others with a desire to help. My readership exploded over the subsequent months, and by the end of 2008, I had more than 1 million hits on ActiveRain.
My blog continues to be one of my most important sources of new business. My online activity now generates leads worth at least $2 million in sales annually.
This business included referrals from agents in other parts of the country. I found that many readers were active visitors for several months before making a contact. In fact for some individuals, my blog became the equivalent of an online interview, providing a window into who I was as an individual.
It’s an awesome feeling to know you can make a difference at the same time you’re working on critical business-building activities. Think about how you can use your social media sphere of influence to create a deeper conversation on topics you care about. It’s time to engage our online networks in ways that create positive change. It’s good for business and, more important, it’s the right thing to do.
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Updated: August 11, 2022