I remember when e-mail first hit the real estate office I was in. Most of the agents did not have computers in their offices — they used the shared machines in the resource rooms.
They needed help and training to learn what most of us already knew from years of using e-mail as a part of everyday life.
It wasn’t unusual for agents to check their e-mail once a week. Those of us who brought laptops into the office were met with suspicion as we read our e-mail and worked with consumers on the Internet. We were considered "techies," and techies, in their view, were not as good as salespeople.
We were told to get away from the computer and go out and sell. Yet we won business by responding to the e-mail inquiries that other agents didn’t see until they were a week old, and we were often asked by our peers to help them log in to the office’s computer.
Just 10 years later, an agent website and e-mail account are a given, and agents don’t get funny looks from their brokers for answering e-mail or spending time online.
Most real estate brokerages give agents a website and e-mail address and expect them to respond to e-mail inquiries.
The real estate industry did not invent websites or e-mail. It followed a major trend and shift in the way people conduct business. Some practitioners embraced the change and learned how to exploit it.
Others decided that being a good Realtor wasn’t about responding to e-mail. They thought they had a choice.
There are agents who claim that spending time on social networks is a waste of time. For them it may be a waste of time. They assume that because it doesn’t work for them it doesn’t work for anyone, or that it can’t work. They try it for a week or a month and then give up.
Others may adopt a perception that they are failing because they spend too much time on the Internet.
With the economy the way it is, many businesses are not doing as well as they did last year or the year before.
I could probably graph a five-year trend of rising social media adaptation, and on the same chart show home sales and prices falling at an equally rapid pace, yet I seriously doubt that the use of social media caused the housing market to crash.
I smile when I read blog posts or articles written by people who have decided that they need to go back to the basics, and that the basics are not on the Internet.
What they are really doing is going back in time and ignoring the way business and the world have changed. Fewer people have the time to meet face-to-face — they are too busy on the Internet, and even if they still have a home phone they are on the Do Not Call list.
Most of us have filters in place to shield ourselves from the kind of interruption-based marketing that many successful real estate businesses were built on in the ’80s and ’90s.
The basics have changed with the times, and digging back in time — and adopting an attitude of superiority because of it — isn’t going to work any better than ignoring e-mail worked 10 years ago.
We didn’t invent Facebook, and if we don’t like it we can ignore it, but in doing so we are ignoring business opportunities. How to exploit Facebook is another matter, and it is a shame that there are so many experts on the subject who don’t seem to have a clue.
It is the same with Twitter. No one is going to get rich by following a bunch of Realtors or by spending the day tweeting or getting on those top-50 lists.
If you think you have a choice about using the Internet in new ways to win business, I think you are wrong. It isn’t just Realtors who have added online social networking, blogs and Facebook pages to their businesses.
Huge corporations have integrated social media into their businesses, and so has the corner bar. They have invested time and money in an effort to exploit the shift in how people shop and make purchases.
When changes come along, some people meet them with anger and denial. I see it in their faces at some of the conferences I attend.
They ridicule their peers who have adjusted to the change as if to say they are superior in some way because they can ignore the massive social and cultural shifts and their business thrives because they are that good.
We don’t get to decide how the world works or what trends are going to change the way we do business. Resistance to change is futile. If your online efforts are not paying off, it might not be because it doesn’t work — it could be that you don’t know how to work it yet.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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