Associations, REALTORS® Connecting Online

Social media isn't about technology; it's about connecting with people in new ways.

May 1, 2009

While attending the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ AE Institute in late March, I had the opportunity to spend time with about 1,000 executives from state and local REALTOR® associations from all over the country.

The Institute—held in Colorado Springs, Colo., this year—is an annual event that brings together leaders from state and local associations to learn about the latest trends in the real estate business and association management. It was clear from the tone of this year’s Institute that associations are very aware of the impact today’s economy is having on REALTORS®, and they want to do all they can to help.

To encourage AEs to attend the Institute at a time when many associations are cutting costs, NAR offered a $1,000 tuition credit as part of its Right Tools, Right Now program. The initiative worked; several of the attendees I spoke with said they wouldn’t have been there if it weren’t for the credit. "Our members are tightening their belts, and so are we," said one association leader.

Throughout the Institute there was a sharp focus on how association staff can help members survive and thrive through current market conditions. There were education sessions on staying upbeat, developing new business models, and creating a positive relationship with news media. But perhaps the hottest topic was social media—and how to leverage it to connect more effectively with members and consumers.

Attendees packed into standing-room-only sessions on using RSS feeds, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other tools. It was a recognition of social media’s explosive growth; Facebook now has more than 175 million subscribers. And Twitter has seen its usage grow by a whopping 1,300 percent over the last year. When done right, social media can be an effective way to expand your sphere and build your reputation, without spending a dime.

As social media expert Jeff Turner explained at the conference, connecting successfully with people online is all about being engaging, sharing information others need, and seeking to be helpful. Sounds like something real estate pros already do well in the "real world," doesn’t it? In fact, a consistent message from all the social media experts at AE Institute was this: Social media isn’t about technology; it’s about connecting with people in new ways. Watch for your association to use social networking as an effective way to better serve you, just as you’re using these tools to connect with the people you serve.

Pamela Geurds Kabati is the former publisher of REALTOR® Magazine and senior vice president of communications for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.