Twitter had a birthday this week and is now 5 years old. I have been using it for four of those five years. Twitter is a part of my business and a part of my life, and it all seems so basic that it is hard to remember life before Twitter.
I am thankful that I learned how to use it before the "How to Use Twitter" classes for real estate professionals became popular. There was no such class when I first signed up and started tweeting.
Most of the people who teach it today were not using it four or five years ago. It does not take long to learn the mechanics of using Twitter, and no formal training is needed. It takes longer to understand Twitter and how to leverage it for business or personal use. The first time people are exposed to potential real estate uses for Twitter, a typical reaction is, "I don’t get it."
Some of the large real estate brokerages are providing social media training for their agents. I can tell which offices or groups of agents have had their Twitter training. The agents set up accounts and then follow other agents.
Most stop using it within the first month, but some hang in there — and some of those agents obnoxiously promote their open houses before giving up after a few months because there are still only three people attending the open houses and no one seems to want to follow them.
Twitter has a high abandon rate. It’s been reported that about 60 percent of all users abandon it during the first month, which is another reason why I question the value of having Twitter classes at all.
After five years Twitter is still misunderstood even though it is now so mainstream that it is referenced on prime-time television and on those drive-time radio shows. Twitter isn’t for everyone.
Real estate agents would get more value from Twitter if they followed people in their own community who do not have real estate licenses instead of following other agents.
There is value in meeting agents in other states, but there is even more value in meeting neighbors, small-business owners and community leaders. And there are no referral fees if they decide they need our services.
It is through Twitter that I learned about a local social media breakfast. A group of social media enthusiasts meet every six weeks, and there is always a wonderful speaker and plenty of opportunities for in-person networking.
There is also a social group that meets once a month for a "tweetup." We all know each other from the Internet and decided that it would be fun to meet in person, and we were right.
Twitter is a great way to follow news stories. I follow the local news media, and as a result I usually know what is going on in my community long before it is on the evening news. I also follow some national news and real estate news.
Those who are interested in using Twitter or trying it again should try looking at it as a communication tool. Don’t use it for the kind of direct marketing that works best on bus benches and newspaper ads.
Use it to meet people in your community and use it to listen to what is going on in your area. Use it to connect with someone else and to share information and ideas or just have a conversation.
Learning the mechanics of how to use Twitter is easy: Visit the Twitter website or watch one of the many videos on YouTube. There are books on the subject, too. Some are for amateurs and some highlight business uses.
A great way to understand Twitter, beyond the mechanics of how it works, is to lurk on the site and read the tweets. I cannot recommend any Twitter classes for real estate agents. To date, the classes I have seen have been spectacularly useless.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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