Build your business, but not your life, online

Broker Notebook

Social connections image via Shutterstock.Social connections image via Shutterstock.

I have a love-hate relationship with social media.

I love it because I have met so many people through the various social channels. I hate it because it is such a distraction. I feel as though I spend too much time looking at computer screens and the little screens on mobile devices.

My real estate blog has a strong local readership that includes members of the local media. It has more than 2,900 posts and brings in enough business to keep me motivated to continue publishing it — even after being told that blogging doesn’t work, or that I am doing it all wrong.

Blogs are what I love about social media. I am a publisher and can publish my own content, my own way.

There are people who follow me on Twitter who have told me that I seem to be everywhere, and that I seem to know everyone. I am not everywhere, but I do manage to make it to events that are important to the community, like our Local Art Crawl and the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.

I also go places that I would call “iconic,” like parks, lakes, rivers, museums, historic buildings, ballparks, arenas and popular eateries.

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I make sure I tweet anytime I am doing anything remotely interesting, and I make sure that I don’t tweet when I am doing something that isn’t fun. I make sure that I make at least one business-related public comment every day.

There are people who have a lot of friends inside their computer, and those relationships are very real. In some ways they are better than our relationships outside of cyberspace.

It’s wonderful to be able to choose what to share about myself and what not to share, and I have watched others do the same. A newly-licensed real estate agent with no business can give the impression of being a top producer selling houses right and left. We all know that our clients are attracted to successful agents.

When I attend an event, I can make it look like I am having fun or learning new things even if I am not enjoying it. In fact, I am an expert at appearing to have a good time. I can turn it on and off at will.

If I am having a bad day I can use social media to give the impression that I am having a great day. When I am out goofing off, I can share pictures of buildings and parks on Instagram and it looks like I am busy working.

When business is slow I can use my blog to create the impression that I am a busy real estate agent selling a lot of houses. Social media is a great tool for anyone who wants to fake it until they make it. I have watched agents act like successful agents until they become successful.

What I like about social media and the Internet is that I can be anyone I want to be. I can show people the very best parts of myself and hide most of the rest.

What I don’t like about social media and the Internet is that everyone else can do that, too. I see an online world of always-happy, healthy people that just doesn’t reflect the world that I see offline.

There are a lot of people who think what they see in pictures or on Facebook and Twitter is more real than it is. They see happy successful beautiful people everywhere. They go on Facebook where they see perfect families with perfect children. It is easy to get sucked into a world that really doesn’t exist. It is easy to compare ourselves to the lives we see only through the Internet and come up short.

What we see on Facebook can be mostly real but it is usually just part of the picture and only an edited an embellished version. We can’t see the mountain of credit card debt in the picture of the nice family vacation. We just see the smiling faces and the beautiful blue ocean and the sandy white beach.

There are people who have a lot of friends inside their computer, and those relationships are very real. In some ways they are better than our relationships outside of cyberspace. Online, we tend to surround ourselves with like-minded people who agree with us and praise our ideas and give us a steady supply of positive feedback. We seek approval, which is why there is a “like” button on Facebook but no “dislike” button.

If you don’t believe me, try disagreeing even in a mild way with what someone you consider a friend posts on a social site. I have watched people I thought I knew become total strangers when I have left comments expressing a different point of view.

There is a whole world offline where we can see people in person. If we are lucky they will look away from their phones, right at us.

My business is built on social media and on the Internet because that is where potential clients are looking for me. But I don’t want my life to be built on the Internet, because it isn’t where I want to live. I want to live in the real world, without always having a screen between myself and others.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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