As the summer real estate season draws to a close and we move into fall, a raft of conferences are on my schedule, including: California Association of Realtors, REBlogWorld and the National Association of Realtors annual conference, to name a few.

And there are at least several RE BarCamps and WordCamps I wish I could fit in.

It’s one of those times of year when the online world starts to smash headlong into the offline world.

One of the tech tools that’s pretty useful for blending the offline world and the online world: Plancast.

I’ve heard Plancast described as "Twitter for the future." Which I suppose is a pretty accurate description.

The basic outline of what you do with Plancast: You know you’re going to go to something — a conference, a party, an event, whatever — and you enter it into your profile. You can import and connect with your current friends from Facebook and Twitter as well as find new people to connect with.

In this way, the social object of Plancast is your future plans. All of the data that is relevant to Plancast and the people using Plancast is about where you’re going to be or what you’re going to be doing sometime in the future.

Why your future plans might be useful for marketing real estate.

So why will using Plancast help you with your real estate business? Who really needs yet another profile (YAP) and thing to manage … I mean isn’t Facebook and everything else really enough? Maybe.

Since most real estate decisions still happen in the world where human beings can shake hands, tools that help bridge the gap from YAP to handshake are worth looking over. Plancast offers a potential conduit for bridging the YAP gap.

E-mail, or Facebook messaging, or Twitter direct messaging and replies offer potential for actively setting up a meeting with someone in the real world. Once you’ve established some kind of relationship and the time is right, you zip off the message and hope for the best.

Plancast doesn’t replace this active form of messaging and setting up appointments.

Plancast does, however, offer a new, passive channel to provide opportunities to meet in person. Since Plancast serves as a repository of your future plans, someone who might be too shy to indicate directly that they want to meet you in person could do the whole Internet stalking thing and show up at the same event.

So people could choose to be in the same place you are without you having to explicitly ask them — opening potential opportunity.

Another way in which having your future plans available via Plancast is that you can show that you’re involved in your community and industry. By demonstrating that you take part in real world conversations relevant to real estate, you can help keep your image of an industry expert shined and buffed.

A third way that using Plancast might be useful is, as with all social activity, the most important: listening.

By seeing what events your contacts are attending, you can learn more about what they think is important. Or maybe you do a little Internet stalking of your own and use other people’s plans to help inform what events you want to go to.

An important thing to remember is that the events people attend probably mean a lot more to them than whether or not they "like" a Web page or your company brand.

When people decide to spend the time and resources to travel to something and actually physically be there, the commitment to that idea or event is pretty strong.

So, for your real estate practice, Plancast offers three potential uses:

  • Provide passive opportunities to meet people who follow you or are also already attending the same event.
  • Demonstrate your involvement in your community and industry.
  • Listening: seeing what your contacts find is valuable enough that they will go in person.

Setting up Plancast

Hopefully by now you have a sense of how you might use Plancast or whether you want to use it in the first place.

To get started using Plancast, you visit the website. You’ll find that the site has a frustratingly low amount of information on how to use Plancast, unless you’re already a member, so don’t waste your time looking for the "About" page or the "Why you should use Plancast" page. You either are ready to use it or you aren’t, I guess.

You can log in with your Facebook or Twitter account. This will allow you to start following people on Plancast that you already follow on Twitter or Facebook — it’s a good way to get jump-started with a social network on Plancast.

Also, it will pre-populate some of your profile, easing the burden of dealing with that hassle.

In your settings, you can control which services have access to your Plancast and also change the e-mail settings.

One of the handy features, if you are using Plancast to listen, is the ability to be alerted whenever someone shares a new plan (or get that in a daily digest form if you prefer).

This way you know when your Plancast contacts are doing things. Useful.

You can also set your Plancast as private if you only intend to use Plancast to listen to others. There is also an option to block users. It’s pretty basic privacy stuff, and probably fairly weak.

As with anything online — if you don’t want people to know, don’t put it in a computer.

So that takes care of your setup. The next thing is to share a plan. Before setting up a new plan to share, if you’re planning to go to something big, use the "Search people and plans" option to find out if someone’s already entered the data.

For example, if you’re going to REBlogWorld, there’s no point in re-entering all the data. And you want to be in the same loop as everyone who is going anyway — it’s the social part of social media.

If you happen to be the first person planning to go to something, then you enter in the data and you’re off. There are handy share buttons that you can use to help promote your event. But I’ve found the messages they use to be pretty generic.

You’re better off writing something on your own and then sending it out via Twitter or Facebook or another network.

So hopefully you can find some good uses for Plancast in merging the digital and real world. Or maybe you’ve learned enough to know that you don’t want to mess with it and can now safely ignore it for awhile.

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