How can you convert more leads from the Web? What do you have to do to build a social media presence that will generate leads? The answers may surprise you.

As Web 2.0 continues to mature and Web analytics become more common, a series of best social media practices are beginning to emerge. Here are some of the themes that appeared repeatedly at the recent Real Estate Connect Conference in San Francisco.

1. Share openly and share often (from a presentation by Jeff Turner)
Vanity marketing is dead. The latest jargon for describing what is happening on places such as Facebook and Twitter is "Whuffie." This refers to social capital. In other words, the way you succeed with Web 2.0 and the social media is by helping others. The more you help others, the more help you will receive in return.

Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a three-part series. Read Part 2 and Part 3.

How can you convert more leads from the Web? What do you have to do to build a social media presence that will generate leads? The answers may surprise you.

As Web 2.0 continues to mature and Web analytics become more common, a series of best social media practices are beginning to emerge. Here are some of the themes that appeared repeatedly at the recent Real Estate Connect Conference in San Francisco.

1. Share openly and share often (from a presentation by Jeff Turner).
Vanity marketing is dead. The latest jargon for describing what is happening on places such as Facebook and Twitter is "Whuffie." This refers to social capital. In other words, the way you succeed with Web 2.0 and the social media is by helping others. The more you help others, the more help you will receive in return.

2. Shift your print marketing.
Even with the shift to Web marketing, many agents still use print marketing as a prime lead-generation source. In today’s Web 2.0 environment, print still plays an important role, but how you use it must shift. Print marketing works best when you use it to drive potential clients to your Web site, or as a number of speakers suggested, to your Facebook page. You also need to change what you put on your business card. Instead of listing several telephone numbers, list one phone number, your e-mail address, your Facebook address and your Twitter handle. This is particularly true for members of Gen X and Gen Y, who don’t like to talk on the phone and who prefer text-messaging to e-mail.

3. Don’t make me think.
Web 2.0, texting and social media are hit-and-run. You have the person’s attention for only a few seconds before they jump to the next post on Facebook or surf to another Web site. Consequently, the words you use must be crystal clear. You must also be as literal as possible.

For example, rather than saying "featured homes," say "homes for sale." Instead of saying "search for listings," say "property search." Avoid hype. Instead, focus on clear headlines and bullet points. Reducing confusion increases conversion.

4. If you’re going to engage in social media, be social.
If you accept a friend request on Facebook or from any other social network, don’t just click on the "accept button." Instead, take the time to look at the person’s profile and to send a reply to their request. The reply can be as simple as saying "thank you." A better approach is to reference something on their profile such as where they live or what they like to do. The person then knows that your response came from you rather than from some impersonal autoresponder. Personally responding also builds Whuffie, which generates more business.  …CONTINUED

5. Treat your readers like dogs (from a presentation by Sonia Simone).
When it comes to blogging or any type of social media, reward readers with great content. This means speaking specifically to their needs by knowing not only about where they live, but everything about their lifestyle as well.

6. Hazy, heinous don’ts (from a presentation by Nicole Nicolay).
When people first start tweeting, they often pick up bad habits because so many other people engage in them. One of the worst is blatant self-promotion. It’s particularly obnoxious when someone agrees to be your friend on Facebook or decides to follow you on Twitter and you send them a message that says, "Visit my Web site to get my great services and my really great stuff now." This also applies if you answer consumer questions on social networking sites.

Any agent who posts a response that says, "For more information, please visit my Web site," will probably be inundated with a barrage of angry consumer responses. If someone wants to contact you, they will click through to view your profile page. Consequently, make sure that your profile page is as complete as possible.

7. Limit reruns.
Chain e-mails have been replaced by chain "retweets" on Twitter. While it’s great to resend interesting information to your database, if that’s all you do you will lose many of your friends and followers. For example, a number of people on Twitter only repeat what others have posted. Others only send out inspirational quotations.

There’s another group that does nothing but suggest that you follow other Twitter members. (Their goal appears to be to increase the number of their followers.) In each case, their failure to engage on a personal level prevents them from being genuinely involved in the social conversation. To connect using social media, you must show up as a person, not a continuous rerun of other people’s stuff.

8. Technology doesn’t change who you are.
If you have a bad business model, a blog isn’t going to help you. If you’re not good at networking in person, you probably won’t be good at it online either.

Next: Need more best practices from Real Estate Connect? See Part 2 of this series next week.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com and find her on Twitter: @bross.

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