(This is Part 2 of a two-part series. Read Part 1, "Social networking pays off.")

Social networking may be the most important new strategy to add to your business, especially if want to reach Gen X and Gen Y. Are you ready to start networking and connecting in your business?

Last week’s article looked at the various types of social networking opportunities. The question is where to begin and whether the activity really is worthwhile in terms of your business.

1. LinkedIn
A logical place for you to begin social networking is through LinkedIn. This is a business-to-business site. There is a robust free version of the site as well as a paid version. When you post your profile, you also post the other places that you have worked as well as where you attended college. Based upon this information, the system automatically makes suggestions of people you may know. The beauty of the system is that you can easily send out invitations to join your network to contacts in your current address book. Once someone agrees to be in your network, you can then view all the members of their network.

This is a powerful tool for building referrals. For example, when you first start working with a client, invite them to join. If the client is already a member, you will then have access to his or her LinkedIn network. If there is someone that you would like to meet on your client’s network, all you have to do is to ask for an introduction. A slightly different application is to invite your preferred vendors to join your LinkedIn network. Inform your clients that only your best resources are on your LinkedIn network.

2. ActiveRain.com and RealTown.com
These are currently two of the most frequently visited social networking sites in the real estate business. Until recently, ActiveRain was primarily a social network where real estate agents could connect with each other to discuss issues of mutual interest as well as to exchange referrals. ActiveRain is now expanding to be consumer-facing. RealTown was an expansion of the discussion boards from Internet Crusade. This site is not only a great place to connect with other agents, but it also provides content for consumers. RealTown is a place where you can obtain answers about difficult situations from other agents or just have fun staying in contact with agents from other places in the country.

3. Facebook.com and MySpace.com
If you’re serving the first-time-buyer market, these two sites have a tremendous amount of Gen X and Gen Y traffic. They are not real estate-specific. In fact, Facebook recently banned the regular uploading of open houses on its site. Because you can search by geographical area, you can make posts to your profile about your local area as a way to establish credibility as an agent. The key point to remember, however, is to participate in the community conversation. Pushing your real estate listings or marketing yourself will cause you to lose "friends" instantaneously.

4. Blogs
There are several reasons to have a blog. Blogs help your search-engine placement and are an excellent way to share detailed information about your listings as well as the lifestyle in your area. Blogging is fairly simple. Instead of answering clients via e-mail, post your response on your blog. If you’re not a good writer, use a voice-to-text service such as Jott.com to leave a telephone message that the system converts to text and can be easily uploaded. Carry your camera and take plenty of pictures. If you create fun and interesting content, you’ll have visitors that will soon become clients.

5. Twitter
Some people have likened Twitter to a mini-blog. You post what you’re doing throughout the day so your friends/clients can stay in touch. Most of what is on Twitter is "Hi! Here’s what I’m doing — bye!" Nevertheless, it is becoming an important way for people to share information and stay in contact. For example, assume that you’re out previewing open houses and you see one that is perfect for two of your clients. You could send them a "tweet" to come see the house while it was open.

6. Profiles on major real estate sites such as Trulia and Zillow
For those who are not comfortable with writing blog posts several times per week, an entirely different approach is to complete a profile on Trulia and Zillow. Once your profile is complete, both companies have discussion forums where you can answer questions posed by visitors. If you answer only one question each week, at the end of the six months you will have 26 posts on those sites. This creates strong credibility as being an expert in a specific market.

If you plan to be in business for the long term, social networking is a trend that you cannot afford to ignore.

Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of Realestatecoach.com, is the author of "Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters" and "Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?" Both are available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com or visit her blog at www.LuxuryClues.com.

Ross will speak at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco, July 23-25, 2008. Register today.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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