Did you know that you can have a successful real estate transaction with someone who you met through Twitter even though you never mention the words "real estate" or Realtor?

Did you know that you can start a Facebook page and people will "like" it without ever sending out a note inviting people to become fans?

Last week, as I was going through my e-mail I found a message that was sent through Flickr asking me if I could help someone buy a home. Flickr is a huge noncommercial social network where people share photos.

My profile on the site mentions what I do for a living but my photos are like everyone else’s — they are just photos. I don’t advertise anything on Flickr because that is not why I am on Flickr, and it is against the community guidelines.

Flickr also serves as a social network, and it may be among the few that that has not been taken over by marketers. The guidelines don’t allow members to advertise anything, and I have never gotten spam through Flickr mail or spam comments on my photos. That is why it is my favorite social network.

I don’t have a Flickr strategy that goes beyond posting photos and participating in the community.

I don’t have a Twitter strategy either, and I rarely mention real estate yet I have won clients through Twitter and I have met some amazing people. This has led to opportunities that usually involve meeting more people.

My strategy is to use the sites as purely social networks, and to share content and ideas.

My blog taught me something important years ago, and it has to do with how to get the most out of social media. What I learned is that social media isn’t for marketing.

People don’t use social media for shopping or to find marketing or branding messages. I have yet to meet anyone who wants to be marketed to — they are not on social media to listen to my message.

Putting content on Flickr attracts people. We talk to each other and share ideas and techniques. Sometimes we become friends and meet in person or we see each other as we stand on the same bridge photographing the sunset.

When they are looking for a Realtor, sometimes I am the only one they know. They contact me and ask for help even though I never put it out on Flickr that I am a Realtor. Any business that I get through Flickr is a byproduct of belonging to and participating in a wonderful social network.

Blogs work the same way. I keep meeting people through my blogs, and some have been reading for years. They never left a comment and I never asked them to read it or even told them about it. I don’t have my face and a smiling couple holding a set of house keys standing next to a house with a sold sign on it.

There is no lead-capture system built in because I don’t capture — I attract. I write about the local real estate market and about St. Paul, and sometimes I write about socks, batteries, chocolate or coffee.

Even though there are more than 1,700 posts, none of them say that I can sell a house. Yet people call or write and ask me to sell theirs.

One of my blogs is a hobby blog and nothing more, yet the readership continues to grow. The blog has no purpose other than to give me a place to post my extra photos that I don’t know what to do with.

I never said the photos are for sale — they are not for sale and I never intended to sell any of them. I never did anything to give anyone the impression that I sell photos, yet people contact me and ask to buy them. I take their money, and business from the blog continues to grow.

The blog has no price list, no branding, no logo, no personal marketing, doesn’t accept credit cards and has short posts with a photo and a sentence or two.

There is no strategy, and some of the photos are of valves, water faucets, parking ramps and boiler rooms. The blog is more evidence that content attracts people and that it can lead to business.

The idea of social media marketing is a sound one, except it seems to work the best when we focus on generating content that will start a conversation and interacting with others rather than on selling.

Marketing isn’t the point of social media or social networks. Getting business through social networks is a byproduct of meeting and getting to know people. Both business and social interaction are just a normal part of everyday life.

I like to think of my blog posts as free samples that people can look at. If they like the sample they come back for more, and if they need a Realtor they contact me.

If I have a strategy it is to continue to connect with and meet people in my community and start a conversation with them through content generation.

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