How effective is social media for marketing? People who ask me that question are asking the wrong question.

Social networking sites are about meeting people and making connections, and people are more likely to do business with people they know.

How effective is social media for marketing? People who ask me that question are asking the wrong question.

Social networking sites are about meeting people and making connections, and people are more likely to do business with people they know.

Last week I introduced a lender and a local Web developer. It turned out that the Web developer had some clients who could use some of my photos on their Web sites. The Web developer found out about my photos through the lender. Selling photos does not pay nearly as well as selling real estate, but it is likely that the photos will introduce me to the Web developer’s local clients.

Why would I want to know the Web developer’s local clients? Because some of them may need real estate services and others might know people who need real estate services. They will know that I am a Realtor as soon as they see one of my online profiles or get an e-mail from me, and that could lead them to ask me questions about the real estate market.

The real estate business is relationship-based. I try to expand my circle of contacts every day by meeting people in some meaningful way.

The people who ask the question about social media and marketing might be using the wrong approach. It doesn’t work to take a tool like Twitter and start sending out messages about listings or open houses. That would be an abuse of the tool. The better way to use Twitter is to ask people questions and engage them in those micro conversations.

Most of us have had the experience of going to a party and ending up with a listing or buyers, often through a friend of a friend. Using social networks on the Internet works the same way except it can be done in pajamas instead of a little black dress.

It works the same way with blogs. People ask me how effective my blog is for marketing my services. It is very effective as long as I refrain from marketing my services. I instead provide information about the local real estate market, a little humor, and pictures of the ordinary. It isn’t some kind of soft sell — it has more to do with attraction and meeting people.

The questions people who are interested in social media on the Internet should be asking are: How can I meet people and when I do will they want to do business with me? Can I build so much credibility with strangers over the Internet that they pick up the phone or send an e-mail asking me to be their Realtor?

If I do get some business from my online contacts, will I be able to do such a good job that they will recommend me to everyone who they know who needs a Realtor? This is where the word "marketing" comes in, because they will market my services.

The above two questions are the only ones that really matter. Please don’t use social media tools for marketing; use them for meeting people who know people.

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

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