There was a lot of information about social networking at the Inman Real Estate Connect conference last week. Many of us who attended the conference participate in online social networks. Several speakers mentioned LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook as must-haves for real estate pros.

What I find interesting about social networking among real estate pros is that there seems to be a lot of connecting with other real estate pros. There is a whole world outside of the real estate industry. I have found some of it by using TwitterLocal. With TwitterLocal I can put in my ZIP code and connect with twitter users located within a 1-to-20-mile radius. So far none that I have met are Realtors.

There are several social networking sites that are built around real estate, and there are real estate Web sites with social networking components built in. I have not been using those sites much because they are not good social networking sites for meeting people in my community. There are too many Realtors on them talking to each other, and if I am in my car when a consumer has a question there isn’t any way for me to be the first to answer. With my Web sites I can respond almost instantly, no matter what I am doing. Consumers don’t seem to use their real names as often on the real estate social networks as they do on the other sites either.

People who talk to Realtors through real estate social networking sites tend to use the sites for brief periods while they are interested in real estate, and many already have agents. Some are looking for agents, and some are just looking for free advice and second opinions. They don’t seem to stay around long enough to network with anyone. It is possible that real estate is not the best basis for a social network, but I keep finding more sites.

The non-real-estate social networks are different. Members have interests in common that go beyond real estate and are more likely to want to connect with each other. The conversations are easy and a great way to get to know people. My favorite site for meeting people in my community is Flickr, a photography site.

For agents who would like to try some additional social networks, think outside the real estate box. There are so many social networks out there I can’t list them all. Some local newspapers have Web sites where readers can set up profiles and interact. They are a great way to get involved, get the news and meet people. Check out TwitterLocal — it may be a better way to use Twitter. Many colleges, universities and high schools have social networks made up of alumni — these networks can be a great way to reconnect with old friends.

Anyone can start a social network of their own on NING. The world may not revolve around real estate. LinkedIn provides the opportunity to find co-workers from previous jobs, and Facebook has groups in most every city, and is a great way to meet neighbors.

We have all heard about the agent who goes to the grocery store with her real estate company nametag on and ends up with a new buyer or seller. Social networks seem to work the same way. People talk to real estate pros on social networks, and then they notice the profile, which is just like a nametag except better when it has a link to a blog.

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

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