Sometime this past summer I unplugged. That’s not to say that I booked a one-way trip to someplace isolated and lonely — like a Tibetan monastery or my kitchen. Rather, I put my job description on a diet.
I was feeling a little overwhelmed. It was the perfect storm of "overextended." On the home front, "Chez Berg" had been transformed seemingly overnight into a two-bit motor lodge with a really bad room-service menu — a halfway house for the migrating, college-bound.
They came, they left, came back and left again. And somewhere in between, my soon-to-be-empty nest overfloweth; I am pretty sure Bed Bath & Beyond threw up its entire line of dorm-room essentials in my living room.
And then there was that job thing. Between broker duties, agent responsibilities, social media "obligations," including a neglected blog that was screaming, "Loser!" in 12-point font, not to mention a little writing gig here, I began to lose steam.
It’s a paralysis that sets in when an otherwise well-oiled business plan threatens to become a pixelated mess of competing demands.
Time to clean house.
I threw caution to the wind. I hit the rewind button. I learned to say no — to the real-life "opportunities" and to the voices in my head. And to my surprise, my business thrived.
The issue for me was an identity crisis of sorts. My oldest daughter doesn’t have this problem. She knows she is a writer. Yet, she recently wrote an article titled " ‘Virtual’ appearances can result in identity crisis" in which she stated the following:
The popular film "The Social Network" has dared us all to think about our identities in terms of how we appear to others virtually, instead of physically or emotionally. It’s like life, but with real-life interaction sold separately.
And, much in this spirit, I found myself questioning all of the self-inflicted appointments on my calendar. I had too many quick steps on my dance card. What matters, what doesn’t, and what matters but just a little bit and the world won’t end if I opt out? Mostly, I questioned the ”why." Why was I doing these things?
Over the past several months, I stopped greeting each day by staring at a blank screen and waiting for words to materialize. Instead, I wrote when I had something to say or simply something to get off my chest. I wrote infrequently, I wrote for amusement, I wrote for myself and I didn’t confuse writing with my day job.
During the past several months, I skipped the webinar and conference guest-speaking "opportunities." And I watched my Twitter stream as the hashtags for the BarCamps, the blogging camps, the Reboots and the Realtor conventions scrolled by with nary an "@krisberg" in sight.
Occasionally, I would muster an insightful tweet — something like "Go Mizzou!" or "I made meatloaf" — but those were strictly of a personal nature and lacking any of the requisite purposeful composition that might take my business to the next level.
And my business thrived.
Why, then, all the ado about social media?
An agent forwarded an e-mail to me that he received from a "trainer" offering his how-to blogging services in which he quoted one of his happy clients.
"I received my first listing lead yesterday, already set up for a meeting. Today will be my 10th blog posting. Love the blogging."
Yep, that’s about how it goes. Just 10 blog posts are standing between you and "Top Producer" status. Only, this is the stuff of fiction. And tweeting your fingers bloody is not going to pay the rent.
True, there are agents out there who have had success with placing social media squarely in the center ring of their business development plan, but they number far fewer than we might like to think.
Which leads me to the revelation — and it’s not so much a revelation, but rather something I’ve wanted to say for a long time. The agents who have made hay with social media do exist, but for them it has been a long, relentless, labor-intensive process. It has taken them years.
And I have had some success over the years in this virtual space, but only some of my business came as a result; without my blog or my Twitter account, I would still be solvent.
There are far more people wanting to teach you how to have an effective social media strategy than there are folks accomplishing it themselves.
The people I see on my own Twitter stream tend to fall into three categories: Those wanting to sell agents products or services; those wanting to capitalize on the perceived A-list status of their "friends" in order to spread the word about products or services; and agents who are there because they were told they must be in order to stay relevant and succeed in business.
Actually, there is a fourth category. This is the category I began to fall victim to: people who let ego get in the way and who began defining themselves a little too much by their online persona or by finding validation in how they appear to others virtually.
Social media relationships take time, the coaches remind us. That, they do. Interesting, though, how quickly they vaporize when one becomes a little lower profile or can’t be found on the speakers’ or "Top 100" lists.
My daughter wrote:
And in the spirit of being hip and now, my generation doesn’t mind being defined by a profile picture. We happily subscribe to the dogma that, in the age of the Internet, we are what we blog.
Even if bit-based existentialism is a little extreme, I’ve been told time and again — ever since my mom accidentally figured out how to use WordPress — that Internet branding is of the utmost importance. I believed it, too.
Yet, in spite of the impeccable online image I have meticulously crafted for myself (read: a Facebook with a bunch of awkward high school photos), I don’t feel overexposed or violated or even noticed by the Internet. In fact, I feel ignored.
Call it ignored, or call it life on the B-list, but once you get past the ego part, you might realize that your clients don’t care. It’s nothing personal, this virtual existence.
And, personally, I won’t be turning in my avatar anytime soon, nor should agents discount our new ways of engaging as just so much bunk. Rather, engage because you enjoy it or engage because you see value and are willing to commit the time and effort to social media recognizing it is just one component of a well-rounded business plan.
But unless your business is social media, remember that it isn’t. Your business is representing clients in real estate transactions. And, trust me — you can do that quite handily, in relative anonymity, from the B-list.