Last week, I wrote about reasons to keep your blog going even though you hear the siren call of other social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

This week, I’ll work the other direction: Reasons why you might consider expanding your marketing efforts to social media platforms that are outside of your control.

Real estate broker and blogger Jay Thompson, in a comment on last week’s article, noted that blogging is social media. So what’s the difference between blogging and using existing social media platforms (aside from, as noted last week, a lack of control)?

The most commonly used communication formats in most social media platforms tend to be very short. Twitter posts, Facebook status and wall notes and LinkedIn status are all limited in the number of characters allowed. So no lengthy dissertations.

This is great for those who don’t want or need to use a lot of words to explain their thoughts. Many platforms facilitate longer communications via messaging systems that function like de facto e-mail inboxes. But you’ll find that status updates make up the bulk of communication.

Another characteristic of communication on social media platforms is that the rate of communication tends to be quicker than blogging. Someone might post to Twitter five to 10 times a day (or much, much more). This makes social media platforms particularly effective when you can tie your message into breaking news.

The biggest difference between your blog and social media platforms is in the intent of the audience. A recent San Diego State University study found that 57 percent of Generation Y uses social networking for self-promotion. This supports the common wisdom that when people go to social media platform sites they are more focused on themselves than on your message.

Sure, we’ve all gotten a few bits of comment spam now and then, but you know from your own analytics that there are people who are visiting but not leaving comments. Those folks are surely not at your blog for their own self-promotion.

If I had to sum up all of these ideas on the Twitter social media platform (which allows only 140 characters per post) I would post it like this: "Social media platforms tend to encourage brief, frequent communications about oneself. Please RT." (I’d add the "Please RT" — Twitter-speak for a repost or "retweet" of my original comment — as a way to encourage others to spread my message.)

Let’s dig into how social media platforms can help you with online marketing. This is just an assemblage of some things you might use to drive your social media strategy, not specific tactics for implementation (feel free to give your tips in the comments).

1. Expand your reach

The nature of social media platforms is to attract as many users as possible. Most of them are funding themselves via advertising so their features are likely designed to increase the number of ad views.

As a result, all of your friends and acquaintances are being asked to join a social media platform and may already be there. Using social media platforms well will enable you to keep your message in the background for all of those friends and acquaintances. When someone is looking for a real estate professional then you’ll hopefully be remembered.

Also, on some social media platforms there are built-in search features. For example, on LinkedIn you can search their members by name, location and profession. If someone were looking for a social-media-aware real estate professional to list their house, they might use the search feature of LinkedIn instead of Bing or some other generic search. …CONTINUED

This allows you to reach an audience you might not have been able to reach before. It’s also the stub of developing a simple profile marketing strategy (aka a poor man’s social media strategy).

2. Reach a specific audience

When blogging, you’re creating content for the whole "Webosphere." On social media platforms, you’re creating content for a specific subset that uses that platform. Being able to connect directly on a specific topic increases your ability to be engaging.

If you expand beyond the "Big Three" social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you might find very specific platforms that align with your goals. For example, in Burlington, Vt., we have an awesome forum system called Front Porch Forum. This platform is highly targeted by neighborhood and operates via (wait for it …) e-mail.

Not what you might think of when you think super-new-cool technology. But FPF is a highly valued resource in our town. About 40 percent of the local population are members (and this is a college town). The neighbors talk about the neighborhood. Pretty relevant for a real estate professional.

Spending the time to locate active social media platforms that are topic-focused — to round out your me-focused Facebook-LinkedIn-Twitter participation — is a good idea.

3. Increase your listening opportunities

This one is specifically for those who are afraid that they’ll make more enemies than friends if they start using social media. You can always just use it to listen. Set up your account and take the time to use the search features of the social media platform to see what people are saying, doing and thinking about.

You should be able to learn a lot about what is happening in the minds of your potential customers this way. The brief-and-frequent format of social media platform communication really helps you keep a tab on the current pulse. Listening to what people are communicating about is also a great way to come up with blog topics.

Social media platforms aren’t for everyone

Just like blogging isn’t for everyone, social media platforms aren’t, either. There are plenty of opportunities to come across like a bull in a china shop and overpromote yourself.

The frequency of communication may be overwhelming (though you are in control of how much information you receive, if you’re getting overwhelmed then dial it back). You may not be comfortable communicating in bite-sized chunks. There are lots of reasons to stay away from social media platforms.

But if you can manage it, using platforms to increase your listening can at the very least be a rewarding addition to your online marketing.

Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt. He’s a frequent speaker on applying analytics and data to creative marketing endeavors.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor.

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