By LESLIE MLADINICH
Perhaps the only thing keeping the paper business card from going the way of the typewriter in your real estate business is the social media address on it where clients can find you.
A growing number of companies are joining this online networking migration — it is estimated that more than 1.5 million businesses participate in social networks.
Weeding through the online assault of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other icons on websites can be frazzling, though, and a new industry of technology firms has emerged to offer tools and services that can help companies manage and organize their presence on those networks, and to capture people and profits.
There are those that enable one login for multiple social networking sites; allow users to pre-schedule status updates, posts and tweets; organize and update client contacts; and link to other personalized sites.
1. Follr offers a virtual Social Card with links to your pages for each social media platform you use. To specialize for Realtors, follr.com is touting its Enhanced Real Estate Social Card that can integrate an agent’s property-search and other sites with identities on the online Social Card.
A feature called Team Platform gives corporations the ability to provide a uniform Social Card to employees and to monitor social card activity in one place. Individuals can also purchase a set of Social Cards to monitor others’ social media presence — for example, to find out what their competitors are saying.
The Team Platform could help employers to protect their brand by watching whether employees and others are praising or criticizing the company in their status updates or tweets.
Some, like cartoony NewPanda and the more staid fuzedagent, are leveraging Facebook.
2. NewPanda, the second generation of Property Source Network, is in a beta-testing stage on Facebook right now, meaning anyone who wants to join to test it out and add comments or criticisms need only to sign up on Facebook.
While Property Source Network was tailored for Realtors, NewPanda seeks a broader audience. Its applications are faster and more organized and e-marketing designs of newsletters and scheduling functions are slicker.
It also has an easy-to-use dashboard, and a nice primer on dos and don’ts in social networking etiquette.
Many are common sense. One warns:
"Don’t use 327 text colors in your message. They’re spammy!"
3. Fuzedagent offers one board that, like the others, can integrate all of your platforms. Blog on the board about the short sale scene in Minneapolis, for example, and send it off to a number of platforms. A customer resource management system on the board will launch in July.
4. Flowtown, launched in April, collects all your contacts’ e-mail addresses and generates a profile page for each one after foraging for information on social networking sites. This allows you to see the interests of your clients and tailor your messages to them.
The question is: What do the sites want from you?
In most cases, like some of the platforms they organize, these social media management sites are looking for you to join and use their free tools, and then hit you up for an upgrade fee when you want to do more.
Flowtown has a monthly or pay-as-you-go fee, with the most basic service the least expensive. Follr’s Enhanced Real Estate Social Card links to AgencyLogic, which has fee-based services. And Follr’s Team Platform account charges a minimum $500 for 15 Social Cards.
Leslie Mladinich is a freelance writer in Northern California.