Online Community: People Connecting With People

Social networking can help you pave the way to face-to-face meetings.

January 1, 2009

Web 2.0 has created a lot of buzz in the real estate industry in the past several years. Although there's a lot of debate about what Web 2.0 means, it really all boils down to being part of an online community. Within that community, you can interact with prospects, clients, other sales professionals, or sometimes, just other like-minded people.

Whether it's general-interest social network sites such as Facebook, MySpace, or LinkedIn or real estate–specific sites such as ActiveRain and RealTown, social media is a great way to connect and build relationships. But how do you take this online connection to the next step and meet in person? 

Sure, you can follow all the strategies you've learned about gradually building rapport and waiting for the consumer to contact you. But in the ever-evolving online world, there's also a new way.

'Use the Internet to Get Off the Internet'

That rather pithy tag line belongs to a free online service called Meetup. Meetup helps you find, join, and even create groups consisting of people with similar interests in the same geographical area as you. 

But unlike more traditional social networking sites, where in-person connections may come later or not at all, Meetup connects people whose goal is to meet in person. There are groups with just about any kind of interest you can imagine—from Chihuahau owners to gamers, from Italian speakers to entrepreneurs. Meetup makes it a snap to find out in just seconds whether there's a group for you in your area. You can search by city, a wide range of interests, or even group size. 

Real estate investing is a big category, with more than 67,000 members among 11,770 groups. Meetup is also a great tool for relocation specialists. If your out-of-state buyers are looking for a kids' playgroup or a serious bridge game, the connection's on this site.

You don't have to join a real estate interest group to generate new business, however. Jay Thompson of Thompson's Realty in Gilbert, Ariz., is a very active online real estate professional. 

In addition to maintaining a blog, The Phoenix Real Estate Guy, which produces some 90 percent of his business, Thompson recently joined a Meetup group devoted to local fans of the Denver Broncos. He's also considering groups for chess and photography.

"I wasn't initially looking for a way to meet someone in real estate. In fact, I was looking for a way to expand my interest beyond real estate," says Thompson, who worked in semiconductors for 20 years before launching his real estate career in 2004. 

It didn't take long, though, before Thompson saw the networking possibilities. He has no intentions of prospecting his fellow Broncos fans—a quick way to get banned from a group—but he does think the subject will come up. "In any human interaction, one of the first things you ask is what someone does. The conversations will just go there," he says.

 The explosive growth of social networks, online communities, and now "online-enabled" meeting groups are testaments to the connectivity of the Internet. If you truly want to be in the people business, it just doesn't get any better than this.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.