Navigating Your Social Media
Sixty-six percent of all U.S. adult Internet users are also registered users of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, according to a 2011 study by the Pew Research Center ("Why Americans Use Social Media," Nov. 15, 2011).
To successfully tap into this wellspring of potential clients, many real estate practitioners maintain an active presence on these platforms:
But just being there isn't a guaranteed ticket to new business. You also need to be able to navigate each platform's particular ins and outs. So whether setting up an account for the first time or seeking to improve your social media dexterity, read on.
- Sign up. Creating a Facebook fan page is easy. All you need to register is your e-mail account and your name. Once you've created your page, grab the custom address of your choice (e.g. facebook.com/MyRealEstatePage) and send this URL to friends and clients so they can "like" it.
- Add a profile and cover photo. Using a recent photograph of yourself as your default picture adds that all-important personalized touch. Don't forget to upload a striking cover photo — that's the image that runs across the top of your timeline — that's in line with your personal brand.
- Develop your profile. While a Facebook page is fast becoming ubiquitous, you can still make sure your individuality shines through. "Keep your profile yourprofile," says Lauren Mitrick of Jameson Real Estate in Chicago, a past honoree of REALTOR® Magazine's 30 under 30.
- Be creative with your content. Mitrick suggests fun ways to diversify your content: a caption writing contests (featuring prizes for winning entries); invitations to local events; and posts about business information.A mixture of soft and hard industry news, combined with a balance of professional and personal (but not too personal) postings, will keep fans interested and engaged.
- Don't overmarket. Pili Meyer, author of Monday Marketing Tips, warns against continually pushing listings on your Facebook page. Instead, find subtle ways to promote a for-sale property. For example, you could conduct weekly "guess where this photo is" challenges, where fans guess the property or its location. The challenge presents you with an opportunity to interact with any fans who weigh in.
- Let your fans get to know you. Regarding personal posts, they're a great way for potential customers to discover a little more about you and connect with you on a deeper level. Post funny photos (as long as they're appropriate) or status updates about your hobbies and interests.
TIP: While it's easy to consolidate social media accounts, be sure not to duplicate status entries too often across different platforms. Frequent duplication may cause follower fatigue. Instead of always posting the same message on Twitter that fans are seeing on Facebook, tailor your content to each site. Post edgy, filtered images of properties to your Instagram account. Use Twitter to start or engage in conversations about your community. Save Facebook for alerting fans about local events or creating invitations to neighborhood gatherings.
- Sign up. Signing up for Twitter is just as simple as creating a Facebook page. Type in your name, e-mail address, and desired password, and the site will prompt you to create your unique Twitter handle.
- Choose a handle. A Twitter handle should be easily identifiable, not overly complicated — REALTOR® Magazine uses realtormag — and tie in to your personal marketing style. Think of your Twitter name as an extension of a consistent brand identity.
- Add a photo. Add a current photo to your page along with a background picture that keeps to your particular marketing theme and strategy. Be sure to include a link to your Web site at the top of your profile page. (Once you've logged in, this can be added using the profile tab to the right of the main page.)
- Add a Twitter button or feed to your Web site. It's easy to add the Twitter button of your choice to your Web site or blog. Search Google, and you'll find hundreds of sites offering Twitter buttons free of charge. It's just as easy to add a widget to your site, a component that displays the latest updates to your Twitter feed. This process will enable you to begin "building a Twitter farm," says Jeremy Williams, of Keller Williams Realty NE in Kingwood, Texas.
- Know the lingo. There are several key terms to know when using Twitter. Here are a few:
- To tweet is to send out a new status update.
- To retweet is to repost in your Twitter feed what someone else has already tweeted. (While there is now a retweet button below every tweet sent, some Twitter users prefer to use "RT" before quoting another user, which is shorthand for retweet.)
- Hashtags (the "#" symbol in front of words or phrases) enable you to view a page where various users who have discussed a topic tagged in the same way. For instance, if you tweet: "Nice sunny day for house hunting in this #TexasSummer," once you send the tweet, the phrase "TexasSummer" will form a link to a new page where you can see if others have recently used this hashtag. Hashtags are a nice way to keep track of what's being talked about (and what's not) or to start discussions about topics of interest. Be aware of hashtags that have already been created for popular topics. You can also create a hashtag topic, such as #HotListings, that you tweet about regularly. You might just start a trend.
- Trending topics are the topics (usually derived from hashtags) that appear on the right side of the Twitter home page. Trending topics change moment to moment and are usually a reaction to what's being talked about now.You can customize your trending topics to show what's being talking about in your region (e.g. Chicago Trending Topics) or view them on a national or international scale. Peruse the topics in your area and engage users with relevant tweets.
- Mentions or "@ replies" indicate that another user has "mentioned" you in his or her tweet or has responded to your tweet (e.g., Thanks @realtormag for the follow!). Twitter enables you to easily mention or reply to followers and other users.
- "Follow Friday" (or #FollowFriday as it is known in the Twitter world,) refers to the one day each week — Friday — when users suggest other users to follow. Take a Follow Friday opportunity to send gratitude to new clients or to engage with potential customers.
TIP: Heavy twitter users recommend tweeting and retweeting often in order to ensure followers find your content in their stream, which is constantly updating. Include a mix of unique content as well as pertinent information from other sources.
LinkedIn is the most business-minded of the popular social media sites, but it is no less useful for forging social ties. Stacy Stateham, Nextage Professionals Realty in Rockford, Ill. says she'd have a "dartboard chance" of finding referral agents in other markets without the connections she's made on Linkedin.
- Sign up. LinkedIn's sign up is a bit more involved than that of other social media platforms. After you provide your name, e-mail, and desired password, you'll be sent to a page where you must fill out your ZIP code, employment status, current job title, and company. Then you'll will be shuffled through several more pages to provide additional information about your business experience.
- Get recommendations. Stateham recommends amassing as many LinkedIn recommendations as possible. LinkedIn itself reports that user accounts with recommendations are more likely to get inquiries from search results.
- Join industry-specific LinkedIn groups. Doing so gives you easy connections with other professionals outside of your geographic area. (There's a NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® group with more than 50,000 members.) If you're feeling bold, start a LinkedIn group of your own. But just joining or starting a group isn't sufficient for building business through LinkedIn. To build strong connections, you need to engage in and add value to the conversations that are taking place there.
- Experiment with LinkedIn applications. Some allow you to link your Wordpress blog into your LinkedIn account while others make it easy to find professional events in your area. There's even a real estate app that gives you to access local brokers and tracks property listings. To stay competitive is to stay knowledgeable.
- Be careful where you click. LinkedIn is one of the few social media sites that allows users to see when you have viewed their profile. (You can opt out of this under "Settings," but you'll no longer be able to see who has viewed your profile.)
- Achieve expert status. You do that by providing the best answer to an industry insider's question. You can also ask open questions as a way to engage others and gain insight from those also in the know.
- Promote events. Through LinkedIn's event system you can alert other users about client appreciation parties, local charity events, networking meetings, open houses, and training sessions.
- Stay up to date. Like Twitter, LinkedIn makes it easy for you to stay on top of the latest discussions. LinkedIn's newest feature, LinkedIn Today, consolidates and aggregates information from the feeds of your connections and groups. So if you're well connected and a member of industry-relevant groups, you should find pertinent and interesting material.
Like Twitter and Facebook before it, Instagram has become a fast-growing social media platform. This picture-posting app, recently purchased by Facebook for $1 billion, has exploded as the "it" social media place to see and be seen — all through the filtered lens of your mobile device, of course.
- Sign up. Signing up for Instagram is simple. Download the app to your smart phone or tablet and fill out the welcome page with your e-mail, password, and desired username.
- Link it up. Instagram is unique in that it doesn't stand on its own. (Just try going to the Web site, and you'll see how quickly you reach a dead end.) Under the "Settings" tab, link up Instagram to your Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare account. This will not automatically post your photos to these accounts, but it will alert any of your Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare friends who sign up for Instagram that you're also registered on the site.
- Take photos. Use Instagram to take pictures that you can then alter through several filters (such as the aptly named "1977"). You can also change the depth of field for any photograph so that it focuses on one particular area or section of the picture.
- Take filter selection seriously. Filter selection is crucial to the success and reception of your Instagram photos. Filters like "Sierra" will overlay your picture with a romantic mist while "Inkwell" will transform the image with retro shades of black and white. Know the profile of your market and niche, and tailor your images accordingly.
- Instagram for your image. Use the app for personal marketing by posting pictures that positively enhance your image as a real estate professional. Post a picture of your office (with employees hard at work!) Or, post a sephia-toned image of the T-shirts you're giving away at an event, or a black and white photo of a community service project you're involved with. So long as you're aware that whatever pictures you post are public domain, Instagram can be a fun and fruitful way to promote your personal brand.
Foursquare, a mobile app for "checking in" to local places and then sharing theses visits with your Foursquare connections, saw a 1,000 percent growth in 2011. To hop on the Foursquare train, simply "check in" to check out just how the location-base service works. The beauty of Foursquare, unlike the other sites mentioned, is that it can be an effective tool even if you never use it. Carmine Gallo, author of The Power of foursquare: 7 Innovative Ways To Get Your Customers To Check In Wherever They Are, says, "if the only thing you get out of this is that your clients and your peers see you as relevant, technically savvy, and socially aware, I don't think that's a bad thing."
- Sign up. Signing up for Foursquare is almost effortless. On the main page you can either log in with your e-mail or connect your Foursquare account to Facebook. As an important note, make sure to register yourself as a business and not just an individual so that you're able to offer deals through the site.
- Wherever you go, check in. To use Foursquare, hit the "Check In" button (usually at the bottom of your mobile or tablet screen) to view nearby places and deals. Once you've located the place you're at (or going to), simply click on the location, and Foursquare will record that you've checked in. You can also post a review, comment, or photograph along with your check in. Many check ins are accompanied with deals or specials provided by the vendor. For example, check in to a local cafe, and you may receive a free coffee. Once you're a registered business on Foursquare, you can offere deals yourself ("Come in and check out our latest listings. Check in on Foursquare, and we'll make you a free cappuccino!").
- Get Foursquare points. For each check in you complete, you're awarded a certain number of points. On your profile page you can see how your point total ranks against that of your friends. With each check in, Foursquare also gives you the opportunity to collect a badge (e.g., the "Newbie" badge for your first check in). Check in to one place more times than anyone else and become the "mayor" of that location. Additionally, you can use Foursquare to explore places in your neighborhood, view other friends' check ins, search for friends on the site, see your history of past check ins, or view your most explored categories.
- According to Foursquare, its user base just topped 20 million this past April, so there's a good chance you can find potential and current clients who are regularly checking in. These customers might check in to your business when they visit (which would cause their Foursquare friends to view their activity and thus your services,) or they might just stumble upon your page while perusing what's around. Either way, simply by putting yourself out there on Foursquare, you've opened up opportunities for marketing without ever having to do a thing.
- Expand your reach. Most Foursquare users hook their accounts to their Twitter and/or Facebook page. This means their check ins are sent not only to their foursquare friends but also to their Facebook fans and Twitter followers.
- Take safety into account. Be aware that each check in on Foursquare is geotagged. Geotagging is the process of adding geographic information — most often with alarming accuracy — to any media item you post (including pictures, videos, status updates, and even SMS messages.) You can turn off the geotagging feature on your smartphone or tablet, but because Foursquare is a site inherently based on geographic position, users will still be alerted to your current location. To avoid any problems, be smart when using Foursquare. For example, never check into your home or personal space, especially not with a comment such as "I'm home alone!"
Pinterest, the third largest social media site just behind Facebook and Twitter, is an online social "pin board" where you can attach anything with a URL or image file as a "pin" to one or several carefully organized and category-specific boards. The final result—your profile—provides viewers with a photographic journal highlighting the sights, sounds, and stories you have personally excavated from around the web. Here is how to get onboard with the site:
- Sign up. It's virtually painless to become a Pinterest member, all you need is an e-mail address to let the pinning begin. You can also log in using your Facebook or Twitter accounts to share your activity with followers, fan and friends.
- Create a board. To build a new board, click on the "Add+" link at the top of the main page and a pop up window will appear with options to "Add a Pin," "Upload a Pin," or "Create a Board." Click on Create a Board to start pinning.
- Always pin back to you. The entire point of Pinterest as a marketing tool is to drive more traffic to your site and create a heightened online presence for your personal brand. Therefore, it is essential to always include a link back to your Web site when appropriate. If you are pinning from your Web site, this happens automatically, but if you are getting pins from elsewhere, include a link to your site in the text box of the pin.
- Grow your female market. If you're looking to attract more female clients, Pinterest might be just the social media thing for you. According to digital advertising firm, Modea, 68 percent of Pinterest users are women.
- Remember that people like pictures. The data-confirmed reality of online behavior is that most people prefer to look at pictures over long blocks of text. Pinterest capitalizes on this concept with its picture-filled boards. So if you sign up for the site, make sure to post interesting images that will entice viewers—and potential clients—to click on your board and become a follower of your page.
Whether you choose Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare or the next hot social networking site (Pheed anyone?), remember that you should control your social media usage; it shouldn't control you. Don't get overwhelmed and think you need to sign up for every vaguely social site imaginable. Only register for sites you're comfortable using; only participate when you believe it will add to your personal brand and enhance your client interaction in a way that your regular old e-mail, Web site, or blog couldn't.