A group of real estate and technology executives with expertise in blogging and the use of social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are offering a "Certified Social Media Marketer" designation for professionals.

Founding partners of the Social Media Marketing Institute (SMMI) include Jeff Turner and Bill Leider of virtual tour provider Real Estate Shows, and real estate educator Bill Lublin. SMMI’s advisory board includes some prominent real estate bloggers, such as Dan Green, Ines Hegedus-Garcia and Inman News columnist Teresa Boardman.

The group’s goal is to help people use social media as a business tool to engage current and potential clients, while setting standards for "responsible, professional and ethical use of Web technologies."

In a recent blog post, Turner demonstrates how easy — and meaningless — it is to attract thousands of followers on Twitter. Turner recently created two fake Twitter profiles, holachick and jwmont, and then used third-party tools to automatically follow other users and generate random "tweets," or messages to other users.

By Friday — about a week after the profiles were created — holachick had nearly 3,000 followers, and jwmont more than 2,500. The fake profiles managed to generate large followings despite their random posts and several clues dropped by Turner, such as holachick’s profile: "I like Golf and my iPhone. And I really like golf on my iPhone."

The point of the exercise, Turner said, is that many Twitter users are too obsessed with the number of followers they have. It’s more important to have the right followers, and to engage with them, he said.

"It’s all about YEO — You Engaging Others," Turner said. "It is better to have 100 truly engaged, targeted followers, people who are listening to you, care about what you’re saying and are willing to act on your behalf, than 10,000 who wouldn’t notice if you changed your gender."

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