Editor’s note: The rise of social media has come to define the new Internet, or Web 2.0, and many in the real estate industry are embracing it with open arms. The age of Internet participation and instant and widespread communication is here. In this three-part report, Inman News dives into the social media craze and uncovers what’s working, what’s not working and what’s just plain fun.

Editor’s note: The rise of social media has come to define the new Internet, or Web 2.0, and many in the real estate industry are embracing it with open arms. The age of Internet participation and instant and widespread communication is here. In this three-part report, Inman News dives into the social media craze and uncovers what’s working, what’s not working and what’s just plain fun. (Read Part 1 and Part 3.)

So far, blogs have emerged as the social media tool of choice in the real estate industry. But even if an agent chooses to start a blog, there are many social networking aspects of blogging that the agent will soon become familiar with in order to make it stick.

Many of the individuals interviewed for this series said they think sites like ActiveRain are great for networking, but they’re not sure how people are leveraging them for actual lead-generating business. That’s where blogs come in.

Savvy agent bloggers use ActiveRain to raise their search rankings on Google. The more agents blog about relevant topics at ActiveRain, the more credibility their content gets from search engines and the higher they show up when consumers conduct real estate keyword searches, according to Mary McKnight, who operates RSS Pieces, a blog about blogging and search engine optimization tactics.

McKnight says if you compare the success of ActiveRain in getting bloggers noticed with the smaller WannaNetwork — which launched around the same time as ActiveRain but hasn’t grown as large — the success comes from having the right content on the site. Whereas the agents using WannaNetwork “were using it to advertise and Google never trusted it because the quality of the content just isn’t there,” she said.

And with search engines, it all comes back to relevancy of content.

McKnight says that some agents have been really successful in using ActiveRain to boost their rankings, pointing out a Long Beach, Calif., Realtor whose site appears in the first 5-7 spots in Google search results for Long Beach real estate. “Laurie Manny is a good example of someone doing this. She’s able to diversify and leverage her online presence really well,” McKnight pointed out.

Many of the earliest real estate bloggers have used their own blogs to plug into a growing online community of other real estate bloggers, and some social networking tools have enabled them to do this.

Teresa Boardman, a Realtor and blogger based in St. Paul, Minn., has developed a network of colleagues and friends across the nation through her blog and tools such as MyBlogLog.

“It’s been fascinating because I’ve been able to get some really great advice, while also giving advice,” said Boardman, who maintains the St. Paul Real Estate Blog.

Boardman is one of the few agent bloggers who have been able to successfully incorporate blogging into their overall business. “All my business is coming from my blog — I develop relationships with my clients that way,” she said.

Networking with colleagues has its benefits too, even though there’s usually not a sale at the end of the conversation. Boardman, for instance, recently obtained her broker’s license and was considering what she should do with it so she e-mailed a group of close blogger friends from around the country and said she received a load of valuable advice.

“There’s an awful lot going on behind the scenes of my blog through e-mail and phone conversations,” she said. “There’s a whole separate world that my blog readers don’t see.”

Boardman spent a lot of time on ActiveRain when she first started blogging, but said that she has since left to spend most of her online time on her own blog.

Boardman said the downside of social networks is that they can be addictive. This worked out well for her in the fall when business was slow, she said, but now that spring buying season is here her time is more limited.

Many observers have pointed out the time issue; there are 24 hours in a day and hundreds of online communities to engage in.

But that’s not expected to curb social media usage, according to a report from Piper Jaffray analysts, who have dubbed the new trend as “communitainment,” meaning the combination of communication with entertainment and community. Instead, they predict that over the next 10 years, more than half of Internet usage will be “communitainment.”

The time spent on social media sites inevitably will cut into time spent with other media such as television. “The importance of this trend is that communitainment will partially replace other forms of content consumption, from television shows to magazines, as well as other types of Internet sites, as Internet content consumption fragments along the long tail,” the Piper Jaffray report states.

The type of social network that Boardman has formed through her blog and other blogs in real estate is exactly what Pat Kitano says it takes to make a successful business blog.

“What surprises a lot of new bloggers is that they didn’t realize the social networking aspect of blogging,” said Kitano, who coaches bloggers in the San Francisco Bay Area. “The second part to blogging is building a social network around the blog.”

Kitano thinks that ActiveRain is a good place for colleagues — and especially beginning bloggers — to interact with each other, but he has opted to blog more on his own site because he enjoys the benefits of developing his own online property that’s separate. Kitano also views his blog, Transparent Real Estate, as more of an idea-generator where he connects with others in a longer-format dialogue, whereas ActiveRain comments tend to be short and superficial.

“The real estate blogosphere is its own social networking group,” he said. “We tend to know almost everyone in our circle at this point.”

The challenge for newcomers going forward will be connecting with this pre-existing group, and that’s where social networks such as ActiveRain will take more prominence, he said.

“It’s perfect for new bloggers,” he said.

***

Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com, or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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