Where is your audience? Not on Google+, Empire Avenue, or Klout!

My dear tech savvy agents, you may lambaste me for this but ask yourself where are your clients, customers, prospects? Unfortunately, as much as you may enjoy the techy avenues they are not on those sites. In fact, most of them aren’t even on Twitter.

Now am I saying don’t use the fancy new toys? No, have fun, learn them and be prepared for the “next big thing”. But take a breath and don’t forget about what is right in front of you. As much as I am an advocate, trainer and make my living off of social media it is not your silver bullet. In fact, it will never replace a face to face, good old-fashioned conversation. So, be where your audience is and use social media to actually get in front of people. That is the point right?

Most of the social media universe (almost 700 million) are still on Facebook and it is my prediction that it will take a LONG time for them to switch. In fact, it took long enough for my mom to get on Facebook and guess what I don’t think she will ever switch, she loves Facebook. It’s easy, intuitive and she already knows it. So if you want to communicate with other agents or tech geeks like myself find me on Google+ but when I want to communicate to the masses you will find me on Facebook and even LinkedIn.

Ps. Since you are reading this you found my blog too 🙂

For those of you who have yet to make the switch, take a breath it is ok. All this “you have to get on this and that” is getting exhausting. Take your time, work your business and sell some real estate. Google+ will still be there when you are ready.


Google+ Thoughts (very early thoughts)

So after being a few days behind on actually being able to get on Google+ I have some very early and initial thoughts on the most talked about new thing to hit the social media realm.

As far as I can tell Google+ has taken the very best of Facebook and Twitter put them together and added a few extras.

Like Twitter you do not need to “friend” a person. Users can add people to “Circles” even if he/she does not add you the user can still follow their public shares. To put it plainly, a “public share” on Google+ would be like a Twitter post, a share to a “Circle” would be more like a Facebook post as you have chosen whom to share with, i.e. which “Circle”.

Different from Facebook, Google+ seems to be more focused on who you share with. When you put something in the “Share what’s new” box Google+ asks you what “Circle” you want to share with.

Usability seems pretty intuitive. You can tag people similar to Facebook by just pushing the + button before a name. But right now access to Google+ is quite limited. Would-be users are having a hard time getting on Google+ and if Google doesn’t fix the invite problem soon it will become frustrating and interest may be lost. Early reports have said there are already 4.5 million people on Google+ so far that is a long way to go to match Facebook’s almost 7 billion.

Here’s the Google+ lingo you need to know:

Circles are like groups of friends. When you add someone to your Google+ network you put them in a “Circle”. This is an easy way to organize your friends. Groups or “Circles” can be formed by dragging the contact’s picture/photo over a “Circle”. You can even drag a group of people to a circle at one time.

Huddle seems similar to Facebook groups except it is mobile-friendly. Use a “Huddle” to have a group conversation or coordinate plans with many people at one time. Huddle allows many people to be part of the same conversation.

Stream is your NewsFeed. It can be organized by “Circles”.

+1 now makes sense. You can see what Google+ users have +1’d. This helps to serve as recommendations of what that user finds helpful, interesting or great online.

Sparks is the one thing that really separates Google+ from the pack. Sparks gives you want you want. It can pull in content from the Internet relating to your specific interests.

Hangouts is a video chat allows up to 10 users to see and talk to one another at the same time. This could be a huge for businesses and my be the future webinar.

So here are some initial thoughts. Google+ has a major advantage over Facebook with integration. So many people are already using existing Google online services and integrating these services into Google + will be a one stop shopping. Allowing users to monitor all Google+ searches, documents, events, emails etc. from one place may just be the hook Google+ needs.

If Google+ integrates its number one weapon, Google search into a Google+ live feed into Google Search, businesses will have an incentive to use Google+ Profiles. Google business profiles are in beta testing now and not available to the public but the opportunity to appear organically on a potential customer/client search query something at this point I can’t see Facebook matching this.

The jury is still out however as Facebook has such a hold on the social media market. We will just have to wait and see.

Still need a Google+ invite, let me know. Love to hear your thoughts on Google+.

How to Disable Facebook’s Facial Recognition Tagging

That face, that face, that beautiful face and now Facebook knows that face. Facebook has rolled out facial recognition tagging in the United States. This may seem harmless to some until you are tagged somewhere you may not supposed to be, with alcohol in your hands at a company function or with pictures of your children.

The facial recognition tagging can only happen among Facebook friends and is not automatic. Instead it automates tagging so Facebook friends don’t have to manually tag instead they can answer a yes or no question.

But you can put a stop to this.

1. From your Home page, click Account. Choose Privacy Settings then click the link Customize Settings.

2. Choose Suggest Photos of Me to Friends, and select Edit Settings. Select Disable from the drop down menu.

If you don’t mind being tagged in every photo don’t do a thing. The settings currently default to allow this feature.

Fun and Free Tech Tools for Real Estate

I love free! I love fun! I love cool tech tools too. So tech tools that are fun, free and help real estate professionals be more efficient is the best of both worlds. Here are some of my top picks.

Google Voice is a one stop shopping for all your phone needs. Google Voice lets you have one phone number where you can forward your calls to multiple phones or choose certain phones. You can even designate what phone the call comes to based on who is calling you. Voicemails can be viewed in text form either on your phone or your computer and you can reposnd in text too. So stop handing out your cell phone number and get a Google Voice account.

Google’s Chrome browser is a faster, smaller program. The searches are a much simpler and best of all it doesn’t crash. The Chrome Web store is full of free time-saving gadgets and Chrome browser extensions.

Pixlr allows you to edit photos right in your browser. It is available on Google Chrome and Firefox. Pixlr is comparable to the to pricey Photoshop and can even be used to create graphics. You may also want to try Pixler Express for quick edits and Pixlr Grabber for editing screen shots.

Google Calendar allows you to manage your life from anywhere. You can even sync it with your Outlook. I use Google Calendar on my iPad and iPhone and sync it to Outlook. Now Microsoft and Apple are getting along in my world anyway. If you use Gmail than Google Calendar lets you add events from an email, and display upcoming events and appointments next to your email. You can even set up custom reminder systems for text messages, email and pop ups.

Mailchimp is a direct email marketing campaign that helps you design email newsletters, share them on social networks, and track your results with Google Analytics integration for instant ROI results.

Eyejot sends video emails to your clients or SOI. All you need is a webcam. There is no software to download or install. Just login to your account, record and hit send. It is easy for the recipient to open the message too. They can watch it with a single click.

Animoto turns still pictures into fast-moving videos set to music. Think modern-day virtual tour. Animoto syncs with Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket, and SmugMug to get your images in a snap. Add text and emphasize specific images with the touch of a button.

Instapaper lets you easily save articles on the internet. I am always finding articles that I just don’t have time to read now but want to read later. Instapaper lets you organize the articles into folders. The “read later” bookmark can be installed into any browser you can even use it on iPad’s Safari browser. There is an iPad/iPhone app that stores articles so they can be read later, even without Internet access.

Xpenser lets you keep track of all your expenses in the cloud. If you are on the run and need to keep track of expenses quickly Xpenser takes voice input from applications like Dragon Dictation.

Mighty Meeting stores presentations or documents in the cloud and allows you share them on any device. I use this to create a presentation in Powerpoint and share it as a slide show on my iPad. It is too difficult to create presentations on Keynote from my iPad and since I operate on a PC this gives me great flexibility.

Evernote lets you update and manage your documents from anywhere and from any device including an iPad/iPhone with the app. Evernote also helps in searching for information. It can search within PDF files and also uses OCR to search text in the messages. Use Evernote to snap a photo of a business card with your phone, and have an easy way to store and access contacts.

What are some if your favorite free tools?

Social Media NOT Your Silver Bullet

It seems like every day there is a new, great thing that is the silver bullet to real estate success. Let me be clear there is NO silver bullet. You can spend all the money, hire all the experts and attend every seminar, webinar, course etc. but there is no silver bullet. Hard work and consistent prospecting is your silver bullet. Social media however can make all that hard work just a bit easier.

In my business, I teach agents to leverage social media to generate leads, build their brand and make more money. Can this be done? Yes! But social media is NOT your silver bullet. It will never replace a phone call, a handshake, lunch with a client in other words that belly to belly personal connection.

So why use social media? Social media is just another way of using the prospecting skills you already have. The skills the Floyd Wickman’s and Zig Ziglar’s of the world taught us. Write personal notes, make phone calls, get belly to belly with people, follow-up, stay top-of-mind and create value. This is nothing new. The only thing that is new is using social media to do some of these good work habits.

I remember about six years back I took this real estate class that was supposed to make you GREAT. In fact, during the class I was GREAT. I was making SOI calls, handing out business cards and writing personal notes (a skill I still do today) but something always felt off. I was repeating the mantra the course had given me to say about referrals religiously. It wasn’t the course that made me GREAT it was the effort I put in to making personal connections.

I know that every sales trainer since the dawn of time has said you need to call your sphere of influence and you do. I don’t disagree. What I always struggled with was the awkwardness of it all. It never seemed like a natural phone call to my SOI, to “just check in”. Of course, it was a sales call. I knew it, they knew it. So instead agents find other busy things to do. It goes like this. Enter office, chat with agent at updesk, go to desk, think about making SOI calls, find distraction, think about making SOI calls, time for lunch, think about making SOI calls, need to make copies of listing flyers, chat at the copy machine, it’s getting late I gotta go home. I’ll make my SOI calls tomorrow. Rinse and repeat.

The beauty of social media is that You can CONNECT with people on a personal, genuine and the buzz word authentic level. Social media gives you an unprecedented window into people’s lives. They will tell you when they are getting married, lost their job, got a new job, having a baby,and when the kids are going off to college. These are reasons why people buy and sell houses. More importantly it gives you a reason to call. Calling to say hi, I saw on Facebook it was your birthday or heard you got a new job is a much easier (authentic) way to initiate a conversation.

Social media is full of conversation starters. Birthdays, anniversaries, books they’ve read, hobbies they enjoy, and places they visited are all things you can talk to your clients about. The real estate conversation will come. You know the question, how’s the market? Now the door is open for you to ask for business or referrals. Most of all you made a genuine connection and your past client, friend or business associate doesn’t feel sold to.

This is how social media is most effective. It’s still you being you. So, is social media a silver bullet? No but it does make the conversation easier, faster, cheaper and instantaneous.

10 Tips on How to Be an Effective Blogger

Becoming an effective blogger is a journey. Think of more as a marathon than a sprint. It takes time, discipline and some creativity. A great blog doesn’t happen by accident.

1. Be Goal Oriented

You will want to create a road map of sorts for your blog. Make a plan, a written plan usually works best. Answer questions like who is your audience? What do they want to talk about? Read about? Where is your blog headed? How many readers would you like to have after one month? Six months? A year? How often and when will you blog?

2. Be Strategic

Having a blog that has followers does not happen by accident. How will your blog stand out from the crowd? How will you attract readers? This is not an easy task as competition for attention on the internet is increasing every day.

Blog about what you know. You make want to pick a niche or specific topic. For example, a blog on foreclosures in your area would most likely drive you a lot of traffic. Traffic is one thing, converting the lead another. According to the National Association of Realtors a very high percentage of buyers said they wanted to buy a foreclosure in 2010. I don’t need to tell you this. You already know this from being out in the field. Very few of those buyers actually buy a foreclosure after they ether see a few or find out about some of the pitfalls. You know that fact too. Having a blog focusing on foreclosures in your marketplace will bring you readers and leads if you leverage it correctly. Your blog must have an opt-in to a newsletter, property finder, a guide or some way to get the readers contact information. Visits to your blog don’t mean much if you don’t have a way of getting back in touch.

3. Be a Planner

Writer’s block happens. Sit down with a calendar and plan out your blog posts or make a list. Create drafts whenever you think of something or see article that sparks an idea. Drafts even if they have just a few sentences will get you going, sometimes getting started is the hardest part.

4. Be Consistent

The key to an effective blog is consistency. There is nothing worse than a blog that sits dormant. Blogging on a consistent basis will help you as the writer form a blogging habit but also help the reader build expectations on frequent blog posts. Set a schedule and stick to it. Most experts recommend 2-3 times a week.

5. Be a Good Listener

Listen before you write. Often listening will help you determine what you should blog about, many times if you listen your audience will give your blog posts. Keep an eye on the niches or topics that you blog about and try to anticipate where they are headed next. Watch for emerging trends. Be out in front of the changes happening around you, your readers will look for you to be the expert.

6. Be a Good Communicator

Blogs are first and foremost a communication tool. Either know how to write or make a good vlog (video blog). Take the time to do some research on how readers learn, read and interpret information. This will help you communicate more effectively into a well received message.

7. Be Creative

What makes your bog stand out? There are millions of blogs so what is attractive and different to your readers? You will want to think about meeting the needs of your readers. Those needs may be for information, entertainment or even community.

Many bloggers used recycled content. You can get creative with this too. Make sure you have something to add. Give the reader something unique, insightful or information in addition to the recycled content.

8. Be Disciplined

Successful bloggers are in it for the long haul. Blogs take hard work over a period of time, they don’t become successful overnight. Being a successful blogger means being disciplined enough to put in the time not only to write but to read and do the research required. You will also need to be self disciplined enough to put aside a regular time each week to create, research and write posts.

9. Be a Collaborator

Play nice in the sandbox and work with others. It does have not have to be a formal partnership. Simple things likes linking to other blog posts can be a great way to increase your readership and gain credibility in the blogosphere. You may also arrange a more formal partnership as an effective way to get your blog noticed.

10. Be Positive

Don’t Give Up! It won’t always be an easy road. There will be ups and downs. Success often comes when the going gets tough and you are forced to come up with new ideas and strategies.

What are your tips for effective blogging?

Niche Marketing Game Plan

A few days ago I posted Niche Social Media Marketing it’s for YOU! This is a great way to generate leads, build your brand and position yourself as the go-to agent. As promised here is the step by step game plan on how to use social media to create a niche market.

Every agent wants that status, to be the agent that owns that neighborhood, or that niche market. It used to be that the same agent sold homes in the same neighborhood but as the world got smaller our marketplaces became bigger. Remember old-fashioned farming? I am not suggesting anything different except to make the old new again.

Step 1 Pick a Niche Market

This may be a neighborhood, a condo development, lake front homes whatever works in your area. But wait! Don’t just pick any niche market consider the turnover rate. You will want to make sure you can make money here before you waste your time, energy and money.

To check the turnover rate, pull the market stats for that target market in your MLS. The turnover rate is the percentage of total units in the niche market divided by the number of total homes sold in the niche market that year. For example, if you have a neighborhood of 300 homes and on average 25 homes sell each year, the turnover rate is 12%. You can also measure how often homeowners in that neighborhood sell, or how long the average homeownership is by doing the inverse (1/12%). The average length of home ownership is 12 years.

This information will help you determine if this is a market worth targeting.

Step 2 Create a Social Media Campaign.

It may be more beneficial to you to create a social media campaign around a smaller market than to focus on a bigger and more competitive marketplace.

For this example lets call our niche market Farmview Estates.

Set up a Facebook business page, make the theme of the page around the niche market. So, we would name the Facebook business page Farmview Estates or Fabulous Farmview Estates.

Create a landing page with a lead capture form. A landing page can be created to welcome non fans to your Facebook page and encourages them to like the page.

This is an example of a real estate Facebook landing page.

If you would like to get this landing page there is great company RLS2000 that can create one for you for a very reasonable price. Click here to contact RLS2000

Create a blog and name it the same thing as your Facebook business page, so for our example Farmview Estates.

Make sure your blog and Facebook business page have an IDX solution so that visitors can search for property on your site. If you have an IDX solution for your website you may want to call your current provider or RLS200 has a WordPress plug-in and Facebook app that contains a property search. Click here to find out more.

Note:At this time the Facebook app and the WordPress plug-in from RLS2000 only work in New England.

Step 3 Create Content that Matters to your Niche

Homeowners in Farmview Estates are looking for a central place to connect, get information and share information that is where your niche marketing campaign comes in.

You can be the content generator and conduit of that information. You are a valuable resource and the expert.

Content Ideas for Farmview Estates

Market updates
New listings, sales in niche
School information
Local businesses
Local services
Kids sports sign ups
Parade routes and times
Let others contribute content (yard sales, neighborhood block parties, things for sale etc)

Step 4 Go Offline

Now its time to use the old tried and true methods to get the word out. First, email every contact you have in the niche market and get them the link to the Facebook page and the blog. Make sure to tell them to “like” the page. That may seem understood but for many it is not.

Next, set up a snail mail campaign letting all the households know about the page and tell them why they should go there!

You will want to make sure you have a custom url for your Facebook page. A custom Facebook url will give a great way to promote your page. To get one, you must have at least 25 likes (or fans) on your business page. To get your custom url go to www.facebook.com/username.

I would also buy a domain name and point it to your blog. You can do that from a site like Go Daddy. So we should have http://www.FarmviewEsates.com for our blog or http://www.FarmviewEsatesblog.com and http://www.facebook.com/Farmviewestates (These urls are just for demonstration purposes).

The urls make it much easier to promote the page. Send out postcards to all the homeowners with the urls. You can also put the urls on listing flyers and even yard signs.

Step 5 Get Belly to Belly

Here is the one thing that will remain constant in relationship sales, getting belly to belly with people. You will never be able to duplicate the power of that interaction. So get out in your own Farmview Estates and press the flesh, talk to people, go to the yard sales posted on the Facebook page and offer to help out in the neighborhood block party.

Niche Social Media Marketing its for You!

So lately I have been seeing and hearing a lot of agents out there trying to be and do it all. The unfortunate ending to the saying “Jack of all trades” is “master of none”. That is what is happening in real estate marketing today.

I have worked with thousands of agents creating social media campaigns. The first question I ask, What is your market? They look at me confused, bewildered and often answer, “Massachusetts, I have my Rhode Island license too”. Last week, an internet marketing authority who shall rename nameless as he is too big to even mention asked me to look at an agent’s website. She had all kinds of nice links to tips for sellers etc. but when I asked him what her market was he said seasonal, luxury rentals. Huh? Great market for her area but nowhere did I see anything about seasonal rentals on her website. Why isn’t she targeting this market on her web page or through social media. If this is her market then why is featuring links to tips for Sellers? I would guess because that’s what all agents do. She is trying to be that Jack of all trades.

A few weeks ago I was in a meeting with a Broker from Boston, we were 40 miles out of the city in the suburbs. I asked him, “What is your market?”. His reply, “Anywhere”. Really? Anywhere? How could you sell a home on Cape Cod from Boston? Or provide good service to a Buyer looking to buy in an area you are unfamiliar with?

I know, I know I may get a lot of flack from agents for this. Think back to the last time you had a listing and the out of area agent brought the buyer and either disappeared or didn’t know enough to represent that buyer they way they deserved. I don’t need you to answer. I already know how many of those deals go, been there done that.

I digress a little here. I am really talking about effective marketing strategies. You want to have a target market or niche market and focus on delivering good, quality service to this demographic and focus your marketing efforts here.

Let’s say I have a real estate blog, which you should all have. Read The Case for Blogging in your Real Estate Business to find out why. Having a broad topic like Texas Real Estate is too much ground to cover. My marketplace may be near Forth Worth for example and many of my buyers and sellers serve in the military. First, thank them for that. Second, they have special needs. They also need special marketing.

Think of the concerns of a military family. In fact, I googled “real estate help military family”. You know what I found? I found FSBO sites, and military generated sites. Not until I went to the second page of a Google search did I find an agent who had two lines on her website saying she specialized in military families. No where on her site did I see information about relocating, moving with kids, or links to organizations that help military families. Creating and maintaining a blog about the needs, concerns and things that are important to military families would help drive military families to this agent plus she could also position herself as the go-to military agent.

Think of it this way, your niche market may be smaller but it is usually more lucrative. Would you rather be the agent that scrambles to sell 25 homes in your town or the agent that OWNS a neighborhood of 300 with a 8% turnover rate? Think both sides here too, not just the list side. That could be 48 deals! Being that go-to, own the neighborhood agent is a a lot easier these days, you can even dethrone the one that is there now. So instead of focusing all of your social media efforts around your name or a large territory drill down to a smaller but more lucrative goal.

This is no different from the old farming a neighborhood plan, be the expert, provide the information. create a community and they will come!

Check back tomorrow, I will lay a plan on how to target a neighborhood and become THAT agent. If you have any examples of target marketing please share them with us.

Ten Blog Post Ideas for Your Real Estate Blog

So many times agents ask, “What shoud I blog about?” You already know what to blog about. The information is so close to you and ingrained in your head its hard for you to see it. Think of all the knowledge that you have gained as a real estate professional.

Before you begin, you may want to think about who your readers are and what they want to know. Ask yourself what kinds of questions people ask you and answer them in blog posts. You may also want to reshare relevant information provided by your real estate boards or even respected sources.

Here are several ideas depending on your goals.

Blog Posts to Attract New Buyers

You will want to think about what a Buyer needs to know and what is important to know about your marketplace. Think of the things Buyers search for online and then you will have a good idea how to capture them.

-School information
-Crime reports
-Sex offender information
-Mortgage rates
-Commuter information
-Town/Communitity activities
-Childcare options
-Information about local sports
-Tax information
-Steps in buying a home
-Tips on choosing a home
-Lead paint laws
-Why have a home inspection

Blog Posts to Attract Sellers

Take all the pieces of your listing presentation and break them into blog posts. Think of the ways you already prospect for sellers and turn them into blog posts.

-Tips on selling
-Staging information
-Market statistics
-Why list with you
-Marketing plans
-Help for FSBOs
-Help for expired listings
-What to expect
-The sales process

Blog Posts to Be the Expert

You are the expert. You are a professional. Whenever you run into someone they always ask, “How’s the market?’. People want to know. Don’t give broad market stats, drill down the stats in your MLS and find different pieces of information that affect the people in your specific marketplace, even think niche market here.

-Market statistics
-Hyper local statistics (think neighborhood, condo development)

Blog Posts to Maintain Your Current Sphere of Influence

This is where you want to be the community expert. What is it that people in your community want to know. How can you show the your are on top of the pulse of the community?

-Things to do
-Great places to walk
-Restaurant reviews
-School information
-Community happenings
-Town news
-School bus schedule
-Kids sports sign ups
-Recreation depot classes
-Trash/recycle schedule
-Local business news
-Market statistics
-Charity events
-Offer some of your own personal advice, stories, or musings

Remember, blogging doesn’t have to be hard. You are already an expert at what you do. You have the knowledge. Blogging is just a way to share it with others.

The Case for Blogging in your Real Estate Business

Everyone is talking about it but not everyone is doing it. The it: Blogging. If you want to get found online then you should be blogging. Hands down, blogging is one of the best ways to build a following, get found and build your brand online. In fact, only 10% of real estate agents have a blog, so chances are starting one now puts you far ahead of your competition.

Blogs are a unique and limitless marketing tool. Maybe in the past you have sent out newsletters or maybe you still do. If that works for you don’t stop but think of your blog as your online newsletter; a way to get out your message. The great thing about your blog it can be added to, updated at any time and from virtually anywhere. Plus, it is a no cost, no stamp, no folding,no filing or envelope stuffing way of sending a message to many people at one time.

Blogs don’t end up in the landfill like newsletters. They have a long shelf life. The content exists and is searchable on the internet for as long as the blog is posted. This means if you write a blog post about how to buy a foreclosure in Boston, Massachusetts years from now that content can be searched and found online. The reader looking to buy a foreclosure may just contact you.

Writing and maintaining a blog builds credibility. Readers come to blogs expecting to find frank and personal perspectives on topics they are interested in. Be passionate about the content of your blog, your readers and your credibility will go up.

Blogs are easy to syndicate, they are viral. Viral here is a good word. It means blogs can spread like wildfire. For example, let’s say every Thursday you maintain a community based blog. Most people from your community would be interested in reading about the goings on in their own community. People who read that blog may either comment on or even share your blog with their friends in the same community. Now your readers and your following thus your sphere of influence is growing. Back to the newsletter example, your newsletter went in the landfill, your blog stayed alive for people to search and now even share with their friends by simply clicking a button to share it on Facebook or forward as an email. More and more readers come to your blog each time you post because they are interested in what you have to say. They value your information and are giving you credibility as a community expert.

Blogs are the perfect solution for online business marketing. Nothing facilitates conversation, communication, community and credibility the way that blogging does. Blogs are not looked at a blatant advertisement nor are they viewed as spam. They are viewed as valued, respected and honest information sharing.

Think of what you are passionate about and start a blog today.

We would love for you to comment or share the link to your blog or blogs you love.