Wallflower or butterfly? How are your social networking skills?
The internet has taken networking to a whole new level. Gone are the days of dominated by BNI groups, brunch meetings and cocktail parties. People are now getting together online through social mediums like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn. You can keep your friends up to date on your current activities through Twitter. Or provide a more in-depth view of your thoughts and activities by posting a blog. So how are your social networking skills? Are you a wall flower or a butterfly?
One of the most popular means of interacting with others online is via a social platform such as MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn (and many others). Joining is easy. You just sign up by creating a user name and profile. Remember if your intention is networking for business purposes, avoid cutesy user names or ones that could be misinterpreted. Considering that you want people to know you're in real estate and be able to find you easily, it would probably be best to use your real name. Once you've created a profile, you can simply add friends by searching for those who are already a part of that system or by inviting people you know to join too and become part of your network. And don't be surprised at how many people will request to be your friends once you get started. I know it can be exciting to have all these people want to be your friend but do use a little discretion when accepting these requests. After all the purpose of networking is to develop relations (and possibly referrals), not a popularity contest. Be warned though, these types of networks can be addicting. You may find yourself instant messaging with several friends, taking little online quizzes, sending and receiving online hugs, joining various causes and just having a lot of fun and losing track of time.
Have you ever just wanted to let people know what you were doing or have some quick little bit of news you wanted to share but didn't want to make a bunch of phone calls? Just a quick little note to say "I'm holding an open house at 23 Main St. from 1-4:00 if anyone is interested in coming by. Yes I'm serving my famous double fudge brownies." Well then, you need to tweet. Twitter is an online program that allows you to post short notes (140 characters) which is then read by all your followers. And you are your followers? Why your friends of course. The ones you already have and the new ones you will make online. Twitter allows you to post from your mobile phone so you can tweet from anywhere. Think of Twitter as text messaging on a larger scale through the internet. But if you're one of those people who tend to be rather verbose and can't keep your message to 140 characters, you might need a different means of getting your message out there.
This brings us to blogging. A blog (short for Weblog) is like an online journal or diary. Or perhaps even an online editorial or column. Blogs can be very personal (people blog about whatever is on their minds or what's been happening in the lives). Or they can be audience or topic specific. Which of course brings us to real estate blogs. You can blog about your local market (i.e. "Peninsula January Home Sales Down 5%" or "New Home Site in Virginia Beach using Eco-Friendly Materials") or about real estate issues in general (i.e. "What is a Short Sale?" or "First Time Home Buyers Tax Credit").
Before you decide to blog you need to determine a few things. Who is your target audience? What is the general purpose of your blog? How often will you post? Think of your blog as a newspaper column you are writing. Is it a daily column? Weekly? Be sure you are willing to commit to writing on a regular basis. Once you've decided to take the plunge, you need to decide where you're going to post your blog. If you have your own website, you can create a standalone blog. Or you can try one of the various "free" blog platforms available such as Blogger or WordPress.
And now a word to the wise. The key word to remember in social networking is "SOCIAL". It's important to interact with people through the online mediums. Don't focus solely on real estate. Don't just post your listings. Do not SPAM the networks with real estate stuff. Make friends, exchange ideas, develop relationships. The business will come as a side effect of the socializing. The internet gives you a terrific opportunity to interact with people you know, re-connect with old friends and make new ones. So come out of your cocoon and try out your new online wings. Happy Networking!
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