Marketing our real estate services, marketing any business for that matter, is a lot like a decorating a cake. You can put all the cherries and chocolate sprinkles in the world on top but if the cake itself sucks, no one is going to want any.

Seth Godin wrote back in July 2005: "Please understand that book publishing is an organized hobby, not a business. The return on equity and return on time for authors and for publishers is horrendous. If you’re doing it for the money, you’re going to be disappointed.

"On the other hand, a book gives you leverage to spread an idea and a brand far and wide. There’s a worldview that’s quite common that says that people who write books know what they are talking about and that a book confers some sort of authority."

Today, you can substitute "blog" or even "social network" for the word "book," and if in building either you are focused solely on the money, you are going to be disappointed.

Where blogging and other types of social networking are concerned, the return on investment is, in fact, horrendous. These activities take time — a lot of it — and many will derive about as much enjoyment from the exercise as they would from serving jury duty. So, to these people, I say don’t.

Some people enjoy tending to a garden. It just happens that I like to write. Are there days it is a chore? Absolutely, much like there are days you might not feel like pruning the rose bushes. But if gardening is your thing, you will grab your shears anyway because you ultimately find the effort satisfying. So it goes for me with writing.

Sometimes I think we should be more myopic in the way we view all those little things we do to market our business, forgetting the big picture that everyone has painted for us. The little things are each ultimately about leveraging a brand; they are not in themselves the end game.

If you are not naturally social, you will not enjoy participating in your neighborhood Bunko group. So don’t join, because the return on investment will be dismal. Forget that your mentors have told you this is a great networking opportunity, a way to build your sphere of influence and your business. Playing games with your friends will not earn you business. It is just one of thousands of ways to draw attention to your business.

If, on the other hand, you are a joiner by nature because you just love the interaction, embrace it for what it is — a game involving rolls of the dice — and have some fun. Be social for the personal, nonmonetary rewards. The business may follow, or it may not. The answer will ultimately depend not on how many times you won at this game but on how you excel at that other thing — your job. …CONTINUED

To build a brand requires that you have something to offer the customer in the first place. Having the best blog or the most followers on Twitter will not help you if you don’t know your business. Conversely, you may be the best agent or broker or Web designer in the Delta Quadrant, but simply having a blog or a Facebook page, or even joining a bowling team, will not enhance your business if everyone is left with the impression that you really hate being there.

At each conference I have attended where social media was the topic du jour, there is one question I have heard asked most often: "How much business do you get from your blog?" And I have yet to hear anyone give the simple, honest answer — the right answer. The answer is: none.

Blogs do not make clients magically materialize. No social networking endeavor can in itself establish credibility or reputation and deliver us unto success. I "get" business because of the business I have done over the years, because of the brand I have built and because of the experience I have gained and ultimately demonstrated.

Blogging is simply a medium through which I can spread the word. It has enhanced my business, but it is not the business. It is the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. Mostly, though, it is a hobby, albeit an organized one. And, if no one ever reads a word I write or receives a single message I deliver, that’s fine. I’m having fun, and the minute it stops being fun, it will show. It will stop being an effective topping, and I will stop doing it.

When I was young, my grandfather and I would play this game. He would wash the dishes, and I would dry them, and it was always a race to see who could finish first. The lesson I learned over time (granted, I was a little slow) was that I could never win. There was a natural order. Success at one endeavor was predicated on another, and I first needed the raw materials.

You can’t dry the dishes before they have been washed, and you can’t frost a cake before you have baked one.

Social media — it’s kind of like that.

Kris Berg is broker-owner of San Diego Castles Realty. She also writes a consumer-focused real estate blog, The San Diego Home Blog.


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