Today’s buyers and sellers are stalking agents online for as much as 18 months before they will feel comfortable enough to do business with an agent.

The question is: Once potential clients find you, how can you keep them engaged long enough that they will do business with you, especially when you don’t know who they are?

The challenge with relying on social media for your lead generation is how to shift from having social interactions with your friends and followers to having business interactions that result in closed business. When you befriend people on Facebook or link up with them on LinkedIn, you are relying on a connection with the individual or on a referral from someone you know. Furthermore, both parties must agree to the connection.

Today’s buyers and sellers are stalking agents online for as much as 18 months before they will feel comfortable enough to do business with an agent.

The question is: Once potential clients find you, how can you keep them engaged long enough that they will do business with you, especially when you don’t know who they are?

The challenge with relying on social media for your lead generation is how to shift from having social interactions with your friends and followers to having business interactions that result in closed business. When you befriend people on Facebook or link up with them on LinkedIn, you are relying on a connection with the individual or on a referral from someone you know. Furthermore, both parties must agree to the connection.

In contrast, Gen X and Gen Y clients want to remain anonymous until they decide the time is right to work with an agent. In fact, a recent study from Comscore revealed some very surprising statistics. Of the 6.3 million unique visitors to Trulia, 92 out of 100 do NOT visit Realtor.com.

A partial explanation for these results is that today’s buyers and sellers don’t want to have to register to receive property information. Nor do they want to reveal who they are to a Realtor who may "drip" them, call them, or pursue them about buying or selling before they are ready to proceed.

Blogging allows you to build your online presence. It also is an excellent way to attract potential clients who are wary about dealing with you directly until they have gotten to know you online. Blogging allows them to "stalk" you anonymously. The issue is how to keep them engaged, build their trust, and motivate them to work with you.

To attract Gen X and Gen Y clients, it’s important to understand their mindset. Our younger buyers have no use for "expertise." Instead, they believe in their ability to "do it themselves." They are information-hungry and will research multiple Web resources prior to contacting an agent.

In 2010, your blog, your website, and your social media strategy must work together. In terms of your website, make it a source rich with local information including market conditions, information about the steps in buying or selling a home, as well as a wealth of information about the local lifestyles in the market areas you serve.

In order to push your search-engine rankings, fresh content is a necessity. This is where having a blog is such a powerful tool. If you rely exclusively on your website, your potential client will read it once and then go on to another site. Like the search engines that only catalogue your site when there is new content, our younger clients are in a constant search for information that interests them.

Given that they start their search months before they intend to buy or sell, it’s important that you provide fresh content that will keep them coming back to your site repeatedly. Here are five ways to achieve this goal.

1. Market updates
Your web and blog visitors want to know what is happening in their area and price range. Regularly update market statistics including median sales prices, percentage that prices have increased or decreased since your last update, the number of months of inventory on the market, and the percentage of short sales and REOs (if you can locate the information.)

2. Questions posed by clients with your answers
Gen X in particular loves to ask questions primarily to understand the process. By sharing questions your clients ask along with your replies, you show potential clients that you are someone who will be comfortable with their questions. Boomers often assume that younger clients who ask "Why?" are being difficult. In most cases, their "why" questions are really about helping them understand the purchase or selling process.

3. Challenges the client may face in closing their transaction
Remember that Gen X in particular believes they know how to solve problems on their own. Gen Y believes that they can figure out problems with the help of their friends or "posse." A good way to engage their interest is to discuss actual issues that you faced in a transaction as well as how the issue was resolved. This shows your professional competence, educates the reader, and also opens their eyes to the fact that the real estate business is not quite as simple as they think it is.

4. Lifestyle posts
One of the best ways to get repeat visits to your blog is to do posts about the lifestyle in your area. This could include restaurant reviews, information about festivals or other local recreational events, best kept shopping secrets, etc. To make these really engaging, make a 60- to 90-second video. For many agents, shooting a quick video is much easier than writing. It also gets you better search engine ranking.

5. Just for fun
One of the best ways to engage people of all ages is to make them laugh. Nothing goes viral more quickly than a funny video or picture. When it comes to blogging, it’s more a matter of shifting where you engage your clients as opposed to doing something entirely new. Also, shooting pictures and video is fun for most people.

Best of all, these activities require very little financial investment and can help propel your business to the top for many years to come.

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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