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Ready or not, here comes Facebook video chat

Some say new features could prove useful for real estate agents

Facebook’s announcement that it’s partnered with Skype to bring video chat to the social network may have left some commentators feeling underwhelmed, but some tech-savvy real estate agents and brokers seem ready to make the most of the new capability.

"Video chat has been around for years now, but it’s still not an everyday activity for most people," Facebook engineer Philip Su acknowledged in a blog post today. "Sometimes it’s too difficult to set up, or the friends you want to talk to are on different services."

Facebook chat doesn’t require a separate account, meaning the company’s claim that it’s bringing video chat capabilities to more than 750 million people may be only slightly overblown (Although Su said Facebook will make video chat available in more than 70 languages, users without webcams or some kind of audio/visual interface won’t be able to participate).

Russell Haskins, integrated marketing specialist for Homes & Land Media, says a Facebook presence is a must for agents who want to convince younger clients of their online marketing prowess, and that Facebook video chats will become a powerful tool for landing new clients.

"I guarantee you people will be interviewing agents using this new tool, whether they (agents) like it or not," Haskins said. "If you’re not ready, they can click on another agent and call (that agent). I think this is another (tool) separating tech-savvy agents versus those who are timid."

Jackie Reid, leader of the Jackie Reid Team in Vancouver, Canada, said she’s been on Facebook longer than she can remember, and gets most of her business from the site.

"I’m so excited about it I’m almost speechless," Reid said.

She said her team has done videoconferencing with overseas clients, and "it’s just so great to be able to see their facial expressions, and see if they understand what you’re talking about. It’s just one step down from being right there with them."

Reid’s not worried about losing business to competitors if she’s not online when a potential client wants to chat.

"Because I have a team of people, if we’re all on the Facebook page someone’s going to be there to (answer) it," she said. "I think it’s going to be very powerful. There are some older clients who aren’t on Facebook, but what an efficient way to interview and give people information."

Haskins said that while video chat may prompt some doubters to embrace Facebook, they won’t get much out of it if they don’t follow through.

"I’ve seen a number of agents just get on Facebook and create a page because they want to be there, and never do anything with it," Haskins said. "I’d say that will probably happen more now that (agents) hear about this new feature. It’s kind of pointless."

Before younger buyers and sellers settle on an agent to represent them, Haskins said they may check out what the agent is doing on Facebook as an indication of their marketing skills.

Reid said she, too has noticed agents who have Facebook pages but don’t update them.

Updating your Facebook page "gives people a sense of who you are, personally, and your professional acumen, before they even get to know you," she said. Making yourself available via Facebook’s video chat adds another dimension.

"I think younger clients will find it really extraordinary that we’re grabbing on to the newest technology. For those who want to know you’re out there with social media, and using to its fullest extent, I think it’s going to give them confidence that you really know how to market well."

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