SAN FRANCISCO — If there is one social network that real estate professionals cannot afford to ignore, it’s Facebook. The site announced it had reached 500 million users last month.

That’s "8 billion minutes spent on Facebook each month," said Derek Overbey of real estate search company Roost Inc.

Overbey was part of a panel during a social media presentation at Inman News’ Agent Reboot event Monday.

Facebook has introduced fairly recent changes in which a former "fan" page has now become a Facebook business page that users can "like" instead of "fan." If users "like" a page, they’ll see that page’s status updates show up on their news feed.

One aspect of the business pages that some agents may not be familiar with, however, is that business pages can be completely separate from personal profile pages so that someone who wants to get updates from a business page does not have to "friend" a person (ask for a friend confirmation) and agents can keep their personal and professional lives separate.

"I get ‘friend’ requests from Realtors I’ve never met before," said Dawn Thomas, a broker associate at Intero Real Estate Services. "I tell them thanks for the request to connect … Here’s a link to my business page. Please send me yours."

For agents who wish to set up a Facebook business page, the name of that page is important, precisely because of the hundreds of millions of users on the network. Facebook is beginning to function more and more like a search engine, panelists said, so agents should keep in mind keywords that will show up on traditional search engines like Google and Yahoo and direct consumers to their Facebook business pages.

They should also be wary of naming their page something too specialized, such as their name followed by "Real Estate."

Illustrating that point, Overbey spoke of a friend in Vancouver, Wash., who had a Facebook page named after him, followed by "Real Estate." After a year and a half, the friend had only gotten about 25 click-throughs from his Facebook page to his blog.

After noticing a trend in which some Facebook pages had been renamed "365 things to do in ‘X’ ", he renamed his page "365 things to do in Vancouver." Within two weeks, he’d gotten more than 2,400 click-throughs to his blog, Overbey said.

Thomas, who was one of the first to put up such a page — "365 things to do in Silicon Valley" — has a schedule for rotating cities and topics she writes about, with posts featuring children’s activities, great wineries, and other events and points of interest in the area. She uses keywords to direct people to her page and her blog. And there’s next to nothing about real estate in either.

Ultimately, the goal of social networking is "you want to go look at houses" with clients, said social media consultant Mike Mueller of

"Be a human being. Have the same attributes that make you a wonderful person, that make you great to work with," he said.

That means that the content you post on a blog or Facebook or Twitter or any other social network should not be all business, all the time.

"Officially, in Facebook profiles you can’t (publish commercial content). In the business pages you can publish commercial content, but that doesn’t mean that’s all you have to do," Mueller said.

The trick in generating leads is engagement, panelists said — not necessarily keeping up with the latest tools.

"There is no magic pill," Thomas said. She said she makes sure people know her as an expert in her community, and she posts content "so they keep coming back and that’s how I’m going to get them."

As a self-described "control freak" Thomas said she made sure to post only content that she herself owned. Facebook could change their terms of service at any time, she said, and she did not want to put herself in a position where her content was deleted.

Recently, a local publication named her "365" blog the best blog in Silicon Valley. It was published on a Sunday. By Monday she had a $1.6 million cash buyer calling her, she said. He’d seen the publication and researched her online, she said.

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