Editor’s note: In the early days of the Web, not many people were adding content on their own. But that is quickly changing with more community-focused and social networking sites popping up and more people writing blogs. In this three-part report we explore how more people are adding their own real estate content and discussions onto the Internet, what they are talking about and what’s motivating them.

Editor’s note: In the early days of the Web, not many people were adding content on their own. But that is quickly changing with more community-focused and social networking sites popping up and more people writing blogs. In this three-part report we explore how more people are adding their own real estate content and discussions onto the Internet, what they are talking about and what’s motivating them. (Read Part 1 and Part 2.)

Atlanta Realtor Rachel Watson, a self-described “artsy person” who belongs to Tribe.net, says about 20 percent of her real estate business in 2005 came from the social networking site.

“It’s a way I can advertise my listings to a community that is interested in that kind of property,” Watson said.

Watson belongs to real estate, yoga, belly dance, sign language and arts-oriented discussion groups on Tribe. She mentions her real estate listings on whichever of those groups seems most appropriate.

“For example, I’m an artsy person myself, so I participate in arts-oriented groups. I will put it out there that I have a three-bedroom, two-bath house with a detached space for an artist or a craftswoman and I’ll give the list price and say if anybody’s interested to contact me,” Watson said.

Social networking sites with user-generated content like Tribe.net and MySpace.com can afford real estate professionals a special opportunity to establish invaluable contacts that can blossom into sales over time. It’s a subtle, but tremendously effective, approach to marketing.

“Any professional who needs to connect with people beyond his or her daily F2F (face-to-face) circle can use online networks and communities to expand their networks,” said Nancy White, an online marketing consultant and president of Seattle-based communications consultancy Full Circle Associates.

“The ability to ethically and effectively do this is becoming a required professional competency,” White said.

With online communities like Tribe, it’s important for users to establish themselves as participants first and then mention their services, White and Watson emphasized. “I do get involved in the conversations in the tribe and it’s certainly not all about business,” Watson said.

In fact, when she joined Tribe a few years ago, Watson was not yet a Realtor. She became a Realtor in 2005. Since she already had so many relationships going on Tribe, Watson decided to capitalize on them.

Watson joined Tribe because friends of hers invited her to do so.

“I’m a member of a group outside the Internet world that had their own tribe and they invited me to get on there (Tribe) to find updates about that community,” Watson said. “I found it easy to join in the conversation and then I found myself joining other groups I’m interested in and meeting people with similar interests.”

Not all the groups – which can be accessed by visiting http://www.tribe.net/, a free site – allow Watson to advertise her listings by mentioning them in the discussions, and she respects this. “I’m not there to push anything,” she said.

Watson said fellow Tribe members often approach her for advice or asking for representation. “You can see it (her Realtor status) in my profile,” she said, referring to the online profile that registered members of the site can create. Sometimes other Tribe.net members refer friends or associates to her, she said.

Brooke Cardenas, a Northern California-based loan consultant for Fidelity National Title, says fully 50 percent of the loans she captured in 2005 came from MySpace.com, the social networking site she joined three years ago.

Like Watson, Cardenas joined because a friend belonged. Also like Watson, the outgoing Cardenas took to it immediately, enjoying the conversation and opportunity to make contacts.

She started a real estate networking group – “one of the first,” she claims – a couple of years ago on the site. When the group began, there were between five and 10 people in the group.

Now, three years later, 5,831 people participate in the group.

“I was trying to get lenders’ attention to do business with them,” Cardenas said.

Echoing Watson, Cardenas said it’s important to join in as an individual. “Approach it like you’re a member first and whatever deals you might want to make come second,” she said. Cardenas finds lenders who are making real estate deals and refers them to her team at Fidelity to do the escrow and title search for the lenders.

Cardenas puts a lot of time into monitoring her real estate group.

“I check in in the morning, then after a lunch appointment,” Cardenas said. “When I get home, I’m on for about two hours. It’s a total of three hours a day on weekdays, four hours a day on weekends.”

MySpace, the leader of the social-networking sites with a reported 54 million users, attracted media attention lately as parents have voiced concern over their teenagers’ participation and possible vulnerability to predatory adults.

For her part, Cardenas says, “You have to be careful. There are people who get on my site and post whatever. If it doesn’t have to do with real estate, I take them off. Someone will come and post their nude photos and I ban them.”

Despite the worrisome side of this and other networking sites, Cardenas said people mainly are professional and well behaved and she has received a huge number of referrals from the site.

“I met one loan officer on MySpace who has yet to give me an order, but he is a lifelong relationship, he gives me referrals and from those referrals I get orders. I meet with him about once a month and he gives me 10 business cards. It’s a good deal,” Cardenas said.

Cardenas’ approach of dedicated, long-term participation has paid off for her, and consultant White says it can pay off for other professionals.

“My advice to anyone is put value into the network and you will get value – probably not on a 1-2-1 reciprocal value with an individual, but eventually out of the network,” White said.

“So if a real estate agent offers free advice, good leads to others and develops a reputation and identity as knowledgeable and ethical, they will attract leads, sources and partners. Without a doubt,” White said.

“But invest in your networks. Don’t be a taker only,” she said.

***

Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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