Hacker Connect January 16 in New York
An event for and by the real estate tech community

Don’t want to blog? Would you like an innovative way to reach the next generation of buyers and sellers? If so, it may be time to take up "tweeting" on Twitter.

In case you haven’t visited Twitter.com, it would be smart to take a hard look at what this seemingly simple tool can do for your business. On the surface, Twitter looks like a series of unrelated text messages known as "tweets." A better explanation is that Twitter is a series of mini blog posts that are limited to 140 characters — the perfect length for reading on a cell phone.

Once you subscribe to Twitter, you will then decide whose tweets you would like to follow. You’re not just limited to following friends. On Twitter, you can follow posts from authors, bloggers, tech experts, and a host of other interesting people. These tweets appear in real time on the Twitter platform. You also have the option of posting your own tweets that others can follow as well. The question is how to best use this powerful tool to develop business.

1. The difference between Twitter and Google
Although Twitter will never replace Google, it is more effective in several respects. A good example is the recent U.S. Airways crash in the Hudson River. Google only changes its rankings when it locates fresh data. It then determines the relevance of the information using a mathematical formula known as an algorithm. As a result, the information about the crash didn’t appear on Google until several hours later. In contrast, a passenger on the ferry that rescued the crash victims was tweeting about the event in real time. The information was relayed across the "twitterverse" instantaneously. It was then "retweeted" (resent) to other Twitter users who immediately began following the real-time tweets describing the rescue. Perhaps the most important difference, however, is that humans are better than algorithms at identifying what matters most to them. Twitter provides an interesting look at what really matters to your clients, friends and family.

2. A great alternative to blogging
Maintaining a blog takes effort. Blogging can be a burdensome chore that keeps you from being face-to-face with clients. In contrast, because of Twitter’s limited length for posts, it’s easy to post a quick comment when you have a moment between showings. You can also post pictures, videos, links to your blog, or links to other Web resources. Because most links are quite long, the Twitter site automatically converts them to a "tiny URL" (i.e. a shortened URL) that takes the reader back to the original source. If you are blogging, Twitter is also one of the best ways to let others know about your blog post. Do a one-sentence synopsis. If you have an interesting and/or useful post, others will retweet it.

3. Personal tweets
Twitter has multiple uses. Many use Twitter to keep up with friends and family when they are apart. For example, people often lose contact with friends from high school and college. If you reconnect at a reunion, you can keep in touch with each other by posting what you’re doing once or twice a day. While your friends may not care about the fact that you need more coffee to get through your day, they will be interested in knowing about special events or the shared interests that were the basis for your friendship in the first place.

4. Business tweets
Are personal tweets relevant for the business use of Twitter? The answer is, "It depends." Gen X and Gen Y want to get to know you as a person before they will do business with you. Do you lead an interesting life? Do you share similar interests? Establishing an online persona that accurately reflects who you are in person is critical. If you present yourself one way online and are different in person, the disconnect will cause potential clients to go elsewhere. To use personal tweets more effectively, give a useful tip, share an interesting picture, or share a passion you may have for a local sports team or other recreational activity.

5. What does and doesn’t work
If you use Twitter to broadcast marketing messages, your followers will quickly "unfollow" you. Twitter is about having a conversation, much as you would if you were at a picnic. People want to see and experience the real you or derive some benefit from reading your tweets. Allow your followers to get to know you through what you do for fun, but also show them your business side. Post interesting pictures that illustrate the lifestyle in your area. When you see an article that has good news about the real estate market, post the link on Twitter. If there is an important city council meeting that has consequences for your market area, attend the meeting and tweet about it in real time. The idea is to stay focused on providing value without constantly promoting the fact that you’re in real estate.

No matter what type of social media you use, there’s one other very important caveat: Never say anything disrespectful or negative about anyone. Remember, when you tweet, keep it short and sweet.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com.

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