With the help of a marketing professional with a doctorate in psychology, I am gradually overcoming what I thought was an incurable disease: socialmediaphobia.
I fear what I don’t understand, and I have not understood exactly what social media I needed, why I needed it or what it would cost.
Fortunately, thanks to LinkedIn, a social media site known for its business contacts, I met someone who could help.
Barbara Lemaire, owner of Social Media Made Simple.info, invited me to connect with her on LinkedIn. When I saw that she was a Ph.D. with a website that said she was "first and foremost a marketing professional," I practically blurted out my concern about social media and its cost to operate.
"What does a fundamental social media program for real estate agents look like and what does it cost? I keep reading about social media, but no one ever mentions price. Tell me, in order of importance, what you think, please."
Lemaire said this:
"They need, in order of importance, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google and they need to be willing to spend 15 minutes a day working in their social media community. There are only a few tasks they need to do.
"This is your business. This is not a function that can be delegated to an administrative assistant or Internet company, in most cases.
"This why I go on the student’s computer and lead them step by step through the process for each medium, so they are comfortable posting and making connections. If I charged a monthly fee, they would tend not to learn what they need to do and say."
Here’s her take on each tool in the social media package:
LinkedIn is the most important.
Prospects don’t just visit the agent’s website. Many potential sellers and buyers will Google an agent’s name to find out more about them. Because LinkedIn is indexed by Google, their LinkedIn profile will come up in that search.
LinkedIn is an agent’s professional profile — their resume, if you will. Potential clients will read the agent’s profile and get a sense of how they present themselves in a business environment.
"This is one reason I spend two hours on the LinkedIn site helping them create their profile, a company page, contact settings, deciding what groups to join, how to create quality posts, and badges," she said.
According to Lemaire, Facebook is a critical tool because so many people spend a lot of time on the site, and people value their friends’ opinions.
A strong aspect of the psychology of social networking is that you can make real connections online. There is an interesting phenomenon that takes place when you regularly "see" someone, whether it is on TV, in magazines or on you favorite social networking site.
"You begin to feel as if you know them. This familiarity works in your favor to build a relationship and feel comfortable doing business together."
Agents learn how to join the online community and add value by providing important information in the form of articles, blog posts, comments and maybe point out a great buy.
This is how an agent can become a trusted adviser and also stay top of mind.
Lemaire said that the basic strategy of Twitter, from a business standpoint, is to follow the leaders in your industry. See what they are tweeting about, and check out the links they recommend. Also follow your local news media — many journalists use twitter to come up with story ideas. Perhaps they will use you as a trusted source.
"Twitter is a great place for research, an agent can search Twitter using keywords and also to get a pulse on what is happening in the marketplace," Lemaire said.
She charges $450 for the six-hour initial package. Clients can get additional help in two-hour segments for $150. These sessions can include setting up Google profile and business page, Pinterest, You Tube, Foursquare, a Blog and email marketing.
Frankly, I don’t know if her fees are good or bad. I do know that for the first time I found a source that could tell me exactly what I would get for what amount of money.
At my request, Lemaire shared these 10 marketing tips.
1. Your website is the hub of your social media marketing so spread your testimonies throughout your site, rather than all on one page.
2. Place your email address and phone number on every page. Contact forms are cold and not inviting.
3. Don’t depend on your website to do your prospecting. Network as much as possible in person, and use email and social media to drive traffic to you website.
4. Research in your own field. Follow links to third and fourth levels because many times there is news you can pass along in your newsletters and blogs that your prospects need to see.
5. When writing about yourself, make it conversational. No one wants to read business speak — people do business with real people.
6. Always put the price on the house. Prospects cannot make a decision to see the house until they sees the price, so why make them work to see it? We both agreed this is probably not a big issue.
7. Although you can keep your time in social media to 15 minutes a day, spend time at least once a week to go deeper into conversations and make new connections.
8. If you like to write and can stick to a schedule, then blog. If you hate writing or do not have the time or the discipline, spend time in discussions in groups on LinkedIn.
9. Use videos on your website, and post on YouTube. They don’t need to be professionally produced. Talk for two minutes or less about something you feel people need to know when buying or selling a house. Practice a few times, and then just talk to the video camera — you can even use your cell phone. You know this stuff, just act as if you are talking to a client.
10. Take photos and post them on Facebook. In fact, whenever you are posting, try to include a photo or graphic. Your post will be read more often.
If we seriously expect to draw prospects to our website with social media, we need to understand the tools and the real cost. It’s not only good business. It could be fun.
Or, do you think I am running a fever?