NEW YORK — In the fast-changing world of the Web, real estate professionals are often at a loss for where they should start in order to get the most bang for their buck. There are two important steps to keep in mind: First, figure out who you are, and then go out and say it using different tools over and over again. That was the message in a series of panels Wednesday at the Real Estate Connect conference.
"If you go fishing with one pole, you get one lead. With 10 poles, you get 10 leads, and then convert seven or eight of them," said Paul Zweben, a broker for Prudential Douglas Elliman.
In a world where anyone can publish content for free and people want to hear only information that’s relevant to them, agents should ask themselves, "What do I know better than anyone else?" said Mark Josephson, CEO of hyperlocal media company Outside.in.
Once they’ve figured that out, starting a blog is essential. For those agents still on the fence, agent coach Tom Ferry had blunt words.
"(Start a blog) only if you want to be in business."
Blogs keep you relevant and keep your leads coming back for more, Ferry said. They answer the all-important question of why a potential client should pick you as their agent.
A good Web site has four buttons that answer key questions, Ferry said. The first is the blog. The second is "What’s for sale?" which is where your property search function lives. The third is "How much is my home worth?" and the fourth is "How’s the market?" which is where you display market analyses (Ferry recommends Altos Research).
"You have to produce a site that prospects will want to go to and where they’ll want to stay," said Krisstina Wise, broker for The Good Life Team brokerage.
One little-known tip is a technique called "skinning": it means peeling off a picture of your Web site and putting it over the top of another site — your blog on Posterous, for example — to give it the same look and feel. You’ll have to pay someone about $200 to do this, but it’ll be worth it, Ferry said. For an example, click here.
For those skittish about creating content, Ferry recommends starting small by taking cell phone photos of interesting features of a property and uploading them to an easy blogging platform like Posterous that will post your content not only to your blog, but also to Facebook, Twitter and flickr. Engage viewers with a question — I think this is a really interesting feature. What do you think? — and start a dialog, Ferry said.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to write, you can also hire inexpensive freelancers from sites such as Elance or iFreelance to write content about your neighborhood for you, he said. …CONTINUED
In order to drive traffic to your blog, use Facebook and Twitter; in a perfect world, agents would have 1,000 friends on each social network, Ferry said.
But navigating these networks means engaging with people as a whole person, not just as a business, panelists said.
On Twitter and Facebook, very few people actually care that you’re in real estate, Zweben said.
Zweben keeps to a 20/80 rule: 20 percent of his postings are business-related; the rest are personal. Follow people with mutual interests (food, wine, golf, etc.), he said; no one wants to friend someone who is constantly marketing to them. Content tips include posting inspirational quotes, interesting articles, songs, or just retweeting something interesting that someone else said.
And even though it might seem onerous, he recommended agents reach out to five or 10 past clients every day through e-mail, text, phone or a handwritten note — just for a personal hello, not business.
"Don’t let people forget about you," Zweben said.
And don’t forget about them. If you note that someone’s baby was born at 3 p.m. on Jan. 1 and you call them every year on that date just to check in, they will be your client for life, Zweben said.
Posting videos to your site is especially important to consumer engagement, panelists said. Videos featuring agents themselves help consumers feel as though they know the agents already, Wise said.
Videos are also a good way to stand out in crowd. For example, San Diego REO specialist Kim Drusch used a one-minute video to give her business a sense of exclusivity in "Kim’s Inner Circle."
And don’t forget the local experts in your area. Do brief interviews with local merchants that have some influence in your community. Make that Facebook business page the go-to place for your neighborhood, Ferry said.
"In order for an online community to grow, you can’t just take value from the market, you have to provide it as well," said Outside.in’s Josephson.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.