It’s amazing how much has changed in the past 4 years. It’s truly staggering actually.
When I launched this blog in early 2011 Social Media was considered a new thing to Real Estate. No one knew much about it. People were excited about Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. There were industry talks on how to improve SEO, how to blog, and how to build followers. But soon Realtors began to learn that likes and followers were vanity metrics and they weren’t translating into more business.
Today Realtors are far more sophisticated. Expectations have changed and it’s no longer enough to just have a new idea.
With that in mind I will be relaunching this blog. Instead of releasing writing weekly posts or having guest authors, like I once did, I will be writing a new post about once per month. The topic will be to feature new and old technologies that are effective and are helping Realtors succeed in today’s digital and real world market place.
Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. It should be a good one.
The newest wave of tablet computers use the most up-to-date operating systems, come complete with plenty of memory (or are easily expandable if they don’t) and are very light — around 1 pound or less! Here’s a quick run-down of three of the hottest models for each operating system:
Apple iPad Mini Wi-Fi:
Memory: 64 GB
Cameras: 5.0 MP iSight camera with 1080p HD video; FaceTime HD
Operating System: iOS 6
Extras: iCloud, USB power adapted, Apple iTunes App store
Samsung – Galaxy Note Tablet
Memory: 16 GB – expandable thanks to included microSD card slot
Cameras: 1.9MP front-facing; 5.0MP with flash and autofocus
Operating System: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
Extras: Bluetooth, Pre-loaded apps like Google Play and YouTube
Asus – VivoTab RT Tablet
Memory: 32 GB
Cameras: 2.0MP webcam
Operating System: Windows 8
Extras: Bluetooth, Pre-loaded apps like SuperNote, Calendar and Messaging
Microsoft’s Windows 8 has hit the market recently, and it has received mixed reviews from both computer professionals and consumers, notably due to its unique interface and lack of a start button. However, it does some cool interactive things that will make social media easier, especially if you are a real estate professional trying to market your business and keep in touch with clients.
The main screen for Windows 8 looks a lot like the one on a smart phone. It consists of a series of colorful boxes (dubbed “tiles”), each with a program, special application or feature. You can pull up the weather by clicking on the weather box, check out your Netflix account by scrolling over and clicking on the app for it, and switch all of the tiles around so that the ones that you use the most are closest to the front.
And if you want to switch back over a more traditional interface, one that looks a lot like Windows 7 (minus the start button, of course) is included, so you can flip between the two as you see fit. Here are a few of the other things that Windows 8 has:
- Pictures. The pictures tile has not only all of the pictures that you’ve uploaded to your computer, but also all of the ones from your social media accounts. For example, you will be able to locate a picture of yourself (or a property) that you posted to Facebook from your cell phone without having to physically right-click and download that picture to your computer.
- Contacts. The contacts tile is a listing of all of your email contacts, as well as all of your social media ones. You won’t have to log into your Facebook account and search for a particular email address or phone number, since they will be right on your fingertips, almost literally, if you upgrade to a tablet PC running the software.
- Social Media. The social media tile makes it easy to update all of your account at once, and allows you to keep tabs on all of your followers and friends. While there are programs out there that do this very thing (like HootSuite) it’s nice to have this option included.
- Skydrive. One of the most useful things included in Windows 8 is Skydrive. Yes, Microsoft has finally caught on to the “cloud” concept and has created a place where you can save everything, without having to resort to your hard drive alone.
While Windows 8 seems to be designed for a tablet computer, it does run on non-touch-screen laptops, and there are a number of them available for sale. It does take some practice in order to use this operating system to its full capabilities, so we suggest playing with it in the store before deciding whether or not to upgrade.
Google + Local has gone through several name changes, but one thing has stayed the same — the websites’ approach to combining both internet marketing and social media. Related to Google’s social media site, aptly named Google +, this site may prove to be a very important piece of your online marketing efforts.
But, as with just about everything, there are a number of pros and cons to Google + Local. Here are a few of them:
- A Google + Local profile is easy to set up, and allows you to enter keywords to bring in your target audience.
- You can link your business’ profile to your Google AdWords account.
- Your Google + Local profile will automatically come in near the top of a Google search for your specified keywords.
- You can add pictures to your profile in order to promote your listings.
- People can review your business, and you can respond publically to their comments, just like on your Facebook page.
- It can be tricky to set up your account, since Google needs to first mail you a postcard to ensure that your business is A) located where you say it is and B) truly exists. Why do they do this? To eliminate scammers and make sure that every listing is correct.
- Google +, the social media site linked to Google + Local, does not yet have the popularity (and therefore the audience) of sites like Facebook and Twitter.
- The multiple name changes can throw people off. The site was once known as Google Places, Google Local and Google Local Plus, before finally becoming (for now) Google + Local.
According to the National Association of Realtors 2011 Technology Survey, most realtors (35%) prefer a smartphone using the Android operating system over the iPhone (28%). Here are some interesting stats:
33% of agents say that they are extremely comfortable with social networking, and another 30% are “comfortable”
79% use Facebook
67% use LinkedIn
YouTube, Twitter, Blogs, Google+ and “my own blog” are all used by between 20 and 30% of realtors and brokers
48% of realtors list their properties on Facebook in order to generate leads
The most popular listing sites are:
Realtor.com – 87%
Broker-based sites – 78%
Trulia – 73%
and Zillow – 71%
But only 28% of agents are happy with the amount leads that they receive from their own business website.
The most-used email clients by far are Outlook (27%) and Gmail (26%) with Yahoo coming in third with 12%
And when it comes to future technology purposes,
38% of those surveyed plan on buying a smartphone within the next 12 months
29% plan on purchasing an iPad
17% a digital camera
16% a laptop using the Windows operating system
and 8% a digital camera
How will things have changed between last year and this one? We’ll have to wait to find out!
Smart phones are like mini computers. You can compose documents, check your email, update your social media accounts and even play complicated mini-versions of full scale video games on them. And, just like you would install and continuously update antivirus software on your computer, you would do the same for your smart phone, right?
In fact, many antivirus companies are selling package deals, or multi-versions of their software. This means that you can purchase one for your computer, and receive a code to use on the smart phone app version of the same program. But the real question is, do you really need an antivirus program for your own, or is it all just a way for antivirus software companies to make extra money?
Actual statistics are hard to find, but the most recent ones (from 2010) show that there was a 46% rise in viruses, trojan horses and worms worldwide. Most alarmingly, the same people who are making and sending the viruses for computers have started turning their attentions toward smart phones like the iPhone or those running Android software.
Here are some things to consider:
Do you do banking on your smart phone?
Do you have an Android phone?
Are you indiscriminate when choosing which apps to purchase and download?
Do you have sensitive work related (or even personal) information on your smart phone?
If something should happen to your smart phone, will your business collapse?
If you’ve answered yes to several of these, then you should install the software, just to be on the safe side. However, if you’re extremely careful about which apps you download and which website you surf with your phone, have an iPhone (these are harder to target with viruses), and keep everything secure with the recommended interesting and lengthy passwords, then you should be okay without it.
But, if you wanted to install one just to be on the safe side, no one will argue!
Sending out an e-newsletter can be a lot of work. Not only do you have to write-up the information that you want to share, you also need to format it in a logical, easy to follow manner. Then you have to find a way to send it out to the clients on your mailing list without having to spend half of a day copying and pasting their email addresses into one giant mass email. The best way to manage your mailing list, create your e-newsletter, and then send it out in an efficient manner is by utilizing a service or computer program that was created for this specific purpose. The four listed below (3 services, 1 software program) are not free, but they will help you create and send a professional-looking e-newsletter that will get your company the attention that it deserves.
1) Constant Contact – Constant Contact is one of the most popular e-newsletter options. They have a customizable “sign up” widget that can be added to your website or blog in order to allow people to easily sign up for your mailing list. They also offer physical classes in many areas that focus on marketing techniques, and their e-newsletter software is easy to use and customize.
2) eNewsletterPro – Technically, eNewsletterPro isn’t a service. It’s a type of software that must be purchased and then installed on your computer. However, it functions in a similar way as the other e-newsletter services listed here. You can pick a template, customize it, add your information and manage your mailing list all within in the same program.
3)iContact – Your e-newsletters can be made ahead of time and scheduled to send at a certain time, the responses to them can be tracked, and you can update your social media accounts with the information contained in your e-newletters all with an iContact account. This is on top of the standard customizable templates and list management available through this service.
4) Vertical Response – On top of their over 700 customizable templates, easy mailing list management and social media marketing tools, Vertical Response is one the cheapest services available. Depending on the size of your mailing list, you could end up paying as little as 1 cent an email, although, if your list is huge, the $8.50 unlimited plan is a better deal.
There are a number of things that clients would like to see on a realtor’s website, including pictures of properties, information about the area and a handy mortgage calculator. While most of these things are fairly easy to set up, some require a little help from a website design service. However, you can do some them yourself with the widgets and tools available on the Trulia Business Solutions website.
On top of being a place where you can add your listings to publicize them further and to help them sell, the Trulia site also offers free website add-ons. All that you need to do is customize their widgets, then copy and place the code onto your site. Here are a few of the widgets that they offer:
Mortgage Calculator: This is pretty straightforward, your client enters the cost of the home that they are looking at, along with other pertinent information, and the calculator tells them what their projected monthly mortgage will be.
Market Trends Chart: Wondering how much the average home listing price is in your area? This chart will tell you and your clients, after adding it your website.
Map: The map shows all of your listings in a particular area, not all of the ones listed on Trulia, so it narrows down the search quite a bit.
Search Box: The only potential downfall to the search box is that it searches all of the homes in a given area that are listed on the Trulia website, not just the ones that you’re representing for sale. However, the clients searching it are already on your website, so they will more than likely contact you once they find one that they like.
Carousel: The carousel is kind of like the search box, only the listings come with photos and other pertinent information attached, so it’s more visual than the standard “text only” search.
While you should go somewhat easy on the widgets and not place them all on the same page of your website, integrating a good number of them not only makes your website (and you) look more professional, but it gives your potential clients a chance to see what is for sale in the area.
Besides social media, another great marketing tool that can be utilized by both realtors and mortgage brokers is an email newsletter. Sending out a monthly, bi-weekly or weekly newsletter filled with tips, mortgage rates, schedules of open houses and other pertinent information is an excellent way to keep your clients engaged and updated on your business and the housing market. However, for an email campaign to be successful, it must be done correctly. Here are five tips to get you started:
1) Get people to sign up for it. (This is where crosslinking comes in handy.) There’s no point in creating an email newsletter if you don’t have any one to send it to. This is where your social media sites come in handy. Publicize your newsletter on your Facebook fan page, Tweet about it, put up a blog post, and, most importantly – put a sign up link on the home page of your website. It even helps if you offer your future clients something in exchange for signing up, for example, a short e-book about the home sales process.
2) Make sure that your content is what your clientele is looking for. Since you’re in real estate, chances are, your clients are coming to you for this reason only. If you write about random things on your newsletter that are completely unrelated to the real estate business, it undermines your authority and makes the people on your mailing list wonder why signed up in the first place.
3) Include information in your newsletters that people can’t get anywhere else. One good example of this: if you’re planning an open house, inform the people on your e-newsletter mailing list first, before you publicize it anywhere else. This makes them feel like they’ve received something special in exchange for signing up to receive it. Once they’ve been notified, wait a few days before announcing it on the rest of your social media sites.
4) Don’t neglect the overall design of your e-newsletters. Consider your e-newsletter to be an extension of your website. Stick with a similar color scheme, and don’t make it too busy. It needs to be easily legible and your content should be clearly picked out. A confusing set-up, too many graphics, and un-readable fonts will result in a mess of a newsletter that will just get deleted.
5) Don’t send them too often. The general rule of thumb is to send an email newsletter either weekly or bi-weekly. Depending on your content, you might even be able to get away with sending one monthly. However, you don’t want to overwhelm the people on your mailing list with daily updates. That’s a great way to lose clients and have your newsletter sent straight to their e-trashcan before it’s read. There’s one exception to this: it’s okay to send out a quick update now and then in between your standard newsletters if you have something important to announce, for example, if a local home or hot property has just hit the market and you know that it’ll be of interest to your clients. But this should be a rare occurrence.