BELLEVUE, Wash. — Consumers want to feel part of a community before they buy a home. And agents should arm themselves with the right social media tools to provide local information, said expert panelists at Wednesday’s Agent Reboot event in Seattle.

"People don’t look for real estate every day," said Michael McClure, CEO for Professional One Realtors. "But they will have dinner every day. They are going to do a variety of different things every day. Then one day, they are going to remember that the guy who told them something important about the community also sells real estate."

McClure was one of several social media specialists presenting at the one-day marketing and technology seminar, the third leg of a national series sponsored by Inman News. Nine more Agent Reboot conferences are scheduled throughout the United States.

Dale Chumbley, an agent with Prudential NW Properties in Vancouver, Wash., who credits social media for generating 40 percent of his business, told attendees that his Facebook page is directly responsible for four current deals in his sales pipeline.

His "365 Things to Do in Vancouver, Washington" blog series offers basic information about the Vancouver area without attempting to sell anything.

Chumbley said one of the most popular features on his page was a random photograph asking visitors: "What Is It?"

"It simply got people interested, and I listened," Chumbley said. "It was a way for them to participate. For me, it could eventually become a way to meet a person face to face. That’s my goal with all social media — to eventually set up a face-to-face meeting."

Scott Smith, who moved from Microsoft’s HomeAdvisor to HouseValues (now Market Leader) 11 years ago, said agents need to be "found, available and involved." In a session entitled "3 Secrets to Turning Internet Leads into Transactions," Smith said an agent’s online strategy should be dictated by budget, time and knowledge.

The time component is essential, panelists said. Aubree Hazel, an agent with Coldwell Banker Bain in nearby Redmond, Wash., said she "spends her money online and her time in the field."

"I preview homes that my online customers are previewing," said Hazel, 27. "I also need to know their time frame for buying so that I can talk with them in that context. Some of them might not be buying for months, but I have come to peace with that. It was something that took me a long time to realize."

T.S. McCann, CEO of Gist Inc., a Seattle-based aggregator of social and business networks, said social media is about listening to customers, amplifying that message, and then contributing a post that is beneficial to a specific person or category.

Gist automatically updates news, blog posts, and tweets for anyone in a professional network. Think LinkedIn on demand — with everybody else you know included.

"To create great content, you have to listen a tremendous amount of the time," McCann said. "You have to know more about who you know."

Social media, according to McClure, is a marathon — not a sprint. Too many agents go hard for two months and then fade away.

"It’s all about consistent content creation," McClure said. "It’s about relationships, not the transaction. And that’s coming from a guy who thought Twitter was the dumbest, most narcissistic thing ever invented."

Sherry Chris, the CEO of Better Homes and Gardens and one of the better communicators of the need for "lifestyle branding," reinforced the notion that connecting with today’s consumer is a new adventure.

"Most of the traditional marketing methods no longer work because we haven’t stayed in touch," Chris said.

"It is still important to focus on neighborhoods, but 15 years ago it was door-knocking and fliers. Today, there’s a different way of doing things and it’s important to embrace your demographic and how it prefers to receive information."

Chris Smith, co-creator of Tech Savvy Agent, suggested 10 mobile applications during a "Mobile Mojo" session — among them was Slydial, a free voice-messaging service that ensures a call goes to directly to mobile voicemail.

"Let’s say it’s a Friday afternoon and you need to leave someone a message — especially someone you don’t really want to talk to on the phone," Smith said. "You can Slydial them and not have to talk to them. Like my stepmom."

Upcoming Agent Reboot events:
San Diego: Aug. 25
Denver: Sept. 8
Las Vegas: Sept. 15
Portland: Sept. 22
Houston: Sept. 28
Chicago: Oct. 6
Boston: Oct. 13
Ft. Lauderdale: Oct. 20
Washington, D.C.: Oct. 27

Tom Kelly is an Inman News columnist. His book "Cashing In on a Second Home in Mexico: How to Buy, Rent and Profit from Property South of the Border" was written with Mitch Creekmore,  senior vice president of Stewart International. The book is available in retail stores, on and on

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