Use Facebook to Get Face Time

It's no secret that networking is crucial in the real estate business, and Facebook can be a great way to expand your sphere of influence and generate new business.

May 1, 2009

If you're relying on the old-fashioned “belly to belly” or “send a postcard” methods, you're missing out on the incredibly rich world of online social networking. And when it comes to cultivating business opportunities, one network stands out above the rest: Facebook, which currently boasts more than 175 million users.

This popular social networking site offers a quick and relatively simple way to grow your sphere of influence and stay connected to your clients.

The World’s Largest Sphere

Facebook, one of the biggest and most popular social networks, costs nothing to join. It’s easy to become Facebook “friends” with real-life friends, associates and new acquaintances. It’s also a quick way to move a current offline SOI to a much more interactive online world.

But this is just the start.

Your Facebook SOI can grow very quickly because of your connections among friends on the site. Every friend you add has their own friends who are now just one step away from becoming your friend. Not to mention, imagine inviting every prospect you meet to be your friend as well—you can see how your network can quickly grow!

However, just having a bunch of Facebook friends is not going to necessarily generate business for you. Like anything else, you have to work at it. (But not to worry, this “work” can actually be fun!)

Don’t Just Participate, Engage!

As a Facebook member, you essentially have three levels or “intensities” of involvement.

  1. Join: Some people just join Facebook and then do nothing, somehow expecting business and relationships to fall into their lap.
  2. Participate: This means you set up your profile and invite friends to join—a good start, but still not enough.
  3. Engage: This refers to actively connecting with new people, contacting friends, sharing information, responding to others, and networking.

Facebook gives you many different ways to engage your friends (and by extension, their friends too). Here are just a few:

  • Send messages: You can send messages privately to any of your friends or to your entire group of friends.
  • Share content: This includes photos, blogs, RSS feeds, videos, audio files and documents.
  • Start groups: You can start a group that focuses on a specific interest and invite friends to join. Note: This is being used more frequently by practitioners to connect with their peers about industry issues.
  • Promote events: You can invite people to register for events, either personal or business related. For example, open houses and informational sessions (e.g. live events, webinars or conference calls) are often advertised this way. Jon Cheplak, one of the top industry recruiting experts uses this feature to invite brokers to webinars that focus on how to use the Web for recruiting.
  • Birthday cards: You can automate the process of saying “Happy Birthday” to all your friends.

What NOT to Do on Facebook

There's a right way and a wrong way to use Facebook.

As real estate practitioner and avid Facebook user Tina Merritt, of Long & Foster Oceanfront, Virginia Beach, Va., says, “Facebook is like being part of a huge cocktail party where you can get to meet, greet, chat and share."

But one thing you would never do at a cocktail party is yell out, “Hey everybody, I’m a REALTOR®, does anyone here need to buy or sell real estate?”

Unfortunately, this is exactly what many sales associates do when they first get into social networking. What they quickly find, however, is that everyone in the “room” soon avoids them like the plague.

Remember, Facebook is a social network, not a business network like If you overtly try to sell your properties or services, you will be shunned so fast your digital head will spin!

Forget the sales pitch. You are in the people business, and Facebook is one of the richest people environments you can imagine. However, members can smell a sales pitch a mile away. If you use Facebook as a place for social networking and fun, the business will eventually come.

Be yourself. REALTOR® Nick Ratliff, of Keller Williams Bluegrass, Lexington, Ky., admits that he made the initial mistake of using Facebook as a prospecting tool, which, he says, didn’t work out very well. He now receives inquiries and has conversations about business because friends and friends of friends contact him. He says the best practice on Facebook is to just “be yourself” as a regular person, not a salesperson.

Be careful not to become obsessed with it. Before you know it, Facebook can easily end up eating away much of your productive business time (and probably a good chunk of your personal time as well). Merritt spends about 15 minutes a day on Facebook and is disciplined about not doing much more than that. Set your limits.

So Where's the Business?

While many practitioners say Facebook hasn't generated them a ton of new business so far, they do feel strongly that it is the ideal place to foster new relationships and nurture existing ones.

Merritt says that the primary way she receives business from Facebook is when her friends refer other friends to her that need real estate services. By simply staying engaged with her SOI, it makes it easy and natural for friends to refer business to her.

Heather Elias, of Century 21 Redwood Realty in Ashburn, Va., says that the Facebook environment “enhances and simplifies the referral process” for her business.

So while the real estate industry will always be a people business, you might not want to restrict yourself to just face-to-face encounters to build relationships. After all, Facebook can help you extend your friendship to hundreds—or even thousands—of people with just a few clicks of your mouse and it doesn’t even have to cost you a dime.

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.