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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:

 

 

Pros

- 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.

Cons

- 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:

Social Networking

33% of agents say that they are extremely comfortable with social networking, and another 30% are “comfortable”

of these,

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

 

Lead Generation

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.

 

Email

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!

Believe it or not, the content that you put up on your Facebook Fan Page is far more important than you think. A properly run fan page will bring in more business, generate leads and do wonder your business’ bottom line. On the other hand, an improperly run page can make you look sloppy, lazy, and turn away more sales than it brings in.

The most important thing to consider when putting together a content plan for your business’ Facebook fan page is the image that you want projected. Things to take into consideration are what your real estate company stands for, what your customers “take away” from your business after buying or selling a house, and what you, as a person, have to do with your brand. Come up with several words that describe the image that you want your business to have, and then find a way to use them as inspiration for your Facebook Fan Page content.

If all of this talk about content leaves you feeling lost, check out these suggestions. They’ll help steer you in the right direction!

Newsletter Promotion

Facebook marketing opens up your business to hundreds of new customers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking them to click on a link that allows them to sign up for your mailing list. Depending on their privacy settings, you may not have access to the email and street addresses of people who click on the “like” button that graces the top of your page, so offer them something to get them to voluntarily give you their information.

Alternate Content

Find something hilarious or clever on YouTube?  Stumble over a thought-provoking article on Stumbleupon? Put a link to it on your Facebook fan page. Let your customers and fans read or watch it, then post their own opinions or even place a link to it on their personal pages. You’ll spread the word about your real estate business slowly but surely as their friends ask where they received the information.

Ask Away

Use the Facebook Questions feature or create a poll on an alternate website and link to it on your Facebook business page. This is a great way to generate conversation while receiving some free market research. Find out who your main customer or “fan” group is made up of and you’ll be able to target them directly.

Cross Promote

This goes hand in hand with having your fans sign up for your newsletter. Be sure to link to your business’ website, its blog or Tumblr page and your Twitter feed from your Facebook Fan Page. Also, make sure that you place links to your Facebook Fan Page from all of your social media accounts, as well as your main website.

 

 

If keeping up with your social media accounts has left you completely overwhelmed, then it’s time to try a social media program/app that allows you to combine all of them into one simple to use platform. Although there are several programs that handle this, one of the most popular by far is HootSuite.

There are three different levels of HootSuite memberships, with the cheapest being free and the most expensive being the Enterprise level. In between the two is the $9.99 a month Pro level. The difference lies in the number of social media accounts that can be utilized and the amount of users and extras. A free level membership lets you link 5 social media accounts and 2 RSS feeds, while the next level up (Pro) gives you access for two users, unlimited social media accounts, an enhanced analytics report and several other goodies.

Some of the many social media accounts that can be linked together in HootSuite include the ever-popular Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and WordPress, although the entire list runs into the dozens. Even Instagram, YouTube, FourSquare, Tumblr and Constant Contacts can be added to your HootSuite dashboard.

On top of all of this, HootSuite has a number of cell phone apps that can be downloaded in order for you to share updates on the go. You can have HootSuite on your office and home computers, your cell phone, iPad and more. Here’s the full list:

 

HootSuite Web App
HootSuite iPhone
HootSuite iPad
HootSuite Android
HootSuite BlackBerry
HootSuite App Directory
HootSuite Archives
(Formerly TwapperKeeper)
HootBar
(Formerly TwitterBar)

 

When you combine all of these options with the extreme handiness of being able to update both your Facebook page and your Twitter account at the same time, how can you resist?

 

Last week we compared the strengths of Twitter and Facebook Fan Pages; this week, it’s time to compare LinkedIn and Facebook Fan Pages in the Social Media Showdown:

 

 

 

 

Facebook

Facebook is huge. There are millions of users of all ages, so setting up a fan page opens your business up to thousands of networking possibilities and new clients. The only downfall is that it’s easy for your real estate business or mortgage brokerage to get lost in the crowd.

Strengths:

The fan page itself. There are a lot of ways to customize a Facebook fan page. You can add your company logo and identifying information (address, phone number, email address) and that’s just the beginning. You can also add links to your other social media sites and cross-link posts to your blogs, plus upload entire albums of pictures.

Easy follower interaction. Once one your followers click on the “like” button or comments on one of your posts, it gets added to their personal news feed. Their friends on the site see the update, easily quadrupling your audience.

Follow and interact with other businesses. Facebook makes it easy to interact with other business directly online. Your fan page can follow other businesses, so you can keep in direct contact with your competition.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is great at attracting people who’ll post their resumes, but it’s under-utilized as a social media networking spot. In order to take advantage of its many options, you first have to build up a profile full of keywords that search engines will zero in on. You also need to make sure that your profile is completely updated, and join and participate in various industry-related groups to get the most out of it.

Strengths:

Simple profile set up. The main portion of your business profile consists of your logo, basic information and a list of your employees, if any. You can also add a sales page and cross-link to your Twitter feed and blog. It’s fairly simple to set up a business page, and there really isn’t any way to set it up wrong, as long as you include every detail possible.

Have people recommend you. You can have your clients recommend you on LinkedIn. Their comments are added to your profile page for the world to see, giving you and your company professional clout. This is something that many other social media sites don’t offer, so make sure to take advantage of it.

Show off your authority. Make sure that your profile (and that of your employees) is kept up-to-date. Add links to what you’ve accomplished, especially awards. This shows that your company knows what it is doing and is a leader in your industry. The more information that you can include, the better you will look.

Although the best thing that you can possibly do is join the largest social media sites and use each aspect of them as best you can, sometimes it’s impossible to do everything. If you had to choose between using Twitter or Facebook to promote your real estate business or mortgage  brokerage, which would you go with? Here a few strengths of each to help you decide:

 

 

 

Twitter Strengths

How Quickly Things Go Viral

A tweet sent at noon can end up on the evening news that same day. That’s how quickly things go viral on Twitter. If you want a lot of exposure in a hurry, Twitter is the way to go.  Because of this, you also have to watch what you Tweet. A mean-spirited comment may get you a lot of attention, but it could very well end up being the wrong kind of attention. You don’t want to lose clients because of something that you wrote.

Ease of Set Up

Because of the simplicity of a Twitter profile, you can be up and running within around twenty minutes, possibly sooner. In order to set up a good Facebook Fan Page, you’ll need to spend several  hours that could be put to better use.

Search Functions

You can easily search Twitter for information. There are many options available: from location-based Tweets to hashtags used by your fellow Twitter members. If something is happening in a certain place in the world that could affect your business and you want details, Twitter will have information faster than most news channels and websites.

 

Facebook Strengths

Facebook Advertising Network

On Facebook you can purchase ads that target an extremely specific audience. This is possible thanks to the statistics that users enter into their profiles.  Once you purchase an ad on Facebook, you can designate your audience: age group, male or female and location are only some of the settings that you can choose from. This allows your ad to reach exactly who you want it to.

Profile Options

You can set up a business profile, a personal one, and a Facebook Fan Page, and then have them all link together, or you can keep them all separate. Facebook allows you to make that choice, which is what makes this social media option so useful. Your personal opinions can be expressed to your friends and family, while your business stays out of it, preventing potential public relations nightmares. On the other hand, if you want your business “fans” to see what you do outside of work, you can allow them to.

Express Your Personality

Facebook is more personal than Twitter. Both allow you to post pictures and updates, but that’s where the similarities end. Twitter only allows you short description of yourself or your business that goes under your profile photo or logo, and a link to your company website. With Facebook, your profile is more detailed and you can customize certain options. This allows you to show more personality, which can be vital when your clients are comparing you to a competitor.

 

 

 

Starting a Facebook fan page for your real estate or mortgage broker business and linking to it from your website is the easy part. Keeping your fans happy is where it becomes tricky. There are ways to make your page (and business) popular without going overboard and spending 40 hours a week updating it. Here are five tips for running a successful fan page:

1) Add fresh content on a weekly basis. Ideally, you’ll want to update your Facebook fan page almost daily, but adding new items at least once a week will work. Make sure that any entries made to your company blog are cross-posted to the Facebook page and that any changes in content on the main website are pointed out in your Facebook update stream.

 

 

 

2) While you’re updating your content, check the business information that you have posted. Make sure that your links work properly and that your address and phone number are correct. Also, check everything for typos. Having a slew of misspelled words makes your business look sloppy.

 

 

 

3) Make some of the content unique. Although you will want most of the same information on your Facebook fan page, blog and website, adding a few different things will give your fans a reason to come back on a regular basis. Special items like behind-the-scenes photos, product previews and even contests for free merchandise can make being one of your Facebook fans worthwhile.

 

 

4) Respond to comments left on your page. Get used to interacting with your fans. Many internet businesses never have a chance to match their customers’ names with their faces. Now you do, so take advantage of it. The interaction doesn’t have to be overly detailed. If a customer or client gives you a compliment, thank them. If they have a complaint, do your best to resolve it out in the open.

 

 

 

5) Treat your Facebook fan page as if it were a public relations officer, only less formal. Don’t let your guard down or disparage similar companies on your page. Use it as a forum to release information about new products or re-releases of old ones. While a good P.R. rep will get your company featured in newspapers and magazines to bring in new customers, the ones on your fan page already are customers. They will buy what you’re selling, as long as they know about it first.

 

 

Running a successful Facebook fan page does require time and effort. Make sure that you set aside an hour a day or a few hours during the week to welcome new fans and answer any questions sent your way. You also need time to update your fan page content with new photos or information. A neglected fan page will reflect poorly on your business. After all, if you neglect one part of it, what else are you cutting corners on?

Social media can be intimidating. One false step and you’ll lose your followers, which in this case, are either your clients or your potential clients. In order to make the most of your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, follow these simple tips:

1) Your Facebook Fan Page needs to be worthy of the “like” button. Your profile needs to be fully filled out and your content needs to be thoughtful and informative. Think of the “like” button as an Olympic Gold medal. Clicks on it must be earned through hard work and dedication.

 

 

 

2)  Stop #Hashtag stuffing. One per Tweet is fine. Two is pushing it, and three should never be attempted. Not only will you run out of space and end up sending out Tweets that consist of nothing but hashtags (and therefore, no content), but you’ll begin to annoy your followers.

 

 

 

3) Cross-link, cross-link, cross-link. It cannot be emphasized enough. In order for a social media campaign to be successful, you need to link your accounts together.

 

 

 

 

4) Stick to what you know, and use your blog posts to explain issues and problems that deal with your industry. It’s all about showing, rather than telling. You can put up blog post after blog post stating what you do, while one post explaining a major nationwide issue from the perspective of your company can explain far more.

 

 

5) Don’t be afraid to confess if you made a mistake. An ill-timed Tweet or hacked account can have major consequences, so don’t be too shy to apologize and admit that you screwed up or were hacked. However, you can’t blame everything on hackers, and accusing them for your mistakes on a daily basis will make your followers think that you don’t know how to create a proper password.

 

 

 

6) Stick your business hours when solving problems and dealing with customer service issues. It may be tempting to help that client out at midnight, especially if you’re still awake and have your smart phone in front of you, but keep in mind that you need time to yourself. That problem can wait until the morning.

 

 

 

7) Mind your manners. Just because you can’t see who is following your social media accounts or reading your blogs, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t human beings with feelings. Be just as polite online as you would in the real world.

 

 

 

8) Always think of your target audience. It’s one thing to write about what you like, but another altogether to aim your Tweets, updates and blogs at your clients and other members of your target audience. Remember that it’s not all about you.

 

 

 

9) Carefully come up with a plan and follow it through. Sit down and seriously think about why you’re using social media. Is it to gain customers? Spread the word about your business? Share your knowledge? Treat your social media as part of your business plan, or as a separate plan altogether. The goal here is to have something in place that’s cohesive and makes sense in order to maximize your social media accounts.

 

 

10) Turn your knowledge and expertise into an eBook or two, then publicize it on your blog. Buying real estate and taking out a mortgage are two things that many people will do at least once in their life. There’s no better way to get their attention (and their clientele) than by sharing your knowledge.

 

 

 

Twitter is one of the most popular social networking apps out there, and can help your real estate or mortgage brokering business immensely, as long as you know how to set up your profile and use it properly.

There’s more to Twitter than following everyone in sight and hoping that they will return the favor. Successful Tweeting requires choosing your words and your followers carefully, or else everything may backfire and you’ll end up with either no publicity, or the kind of attention that you don’t want.

Choosing your Twitter handle (@your-company-here or something along those lines) is just the first step. Your Twitter handle is often the first thing that your potential clients will see, and should be something that you feel confident telling other people and printing on your business cards. While it’s okay to use something cutesy and attention getting, just make sure that it’s something that people will understand.

Make sure to personalize your page, including the font colors and background graphic. It might take a few extra minutes, but the results will be worth it. Also make sure that  your company logo is displayed someplace where it can be easily seen, and use  a picture of yourself as your profile pic. This lets everyone know that you are a real person and not a Twitter-spam bot.

Compose your Tweets as carefully as possible, and if you think that something is inappropriate to post, then it more than likely is. Also, you need to make sure to not spam your followers.  While it seems tempting, every Tweet that you send should not include a link back to your website. This will annoy more people than it will attract.

Although it may seem time consuming, it’s extremely important to add to the conversation on Twitter by Re-Tweeting interesting comments, joining in Twitter memes and commenting on things posted by your followers. However, do not send out new Tweets every few minutes of every day. This is not only time-consuming, but it will seem like you have nothing better to do, plus you don’t want your clients to think that you’ll be Tweeting while talking or meeting with them.

The most important thing that you need to realize is that even though Twitter is important, it is just another way to get in touch and keep up with people’s lives, so have fun with it!

 

 

 

Contrary to popular belief, LinkedIn can be used for social media purposes beyond that of a “virtual resume.” After all, if you do a Google search on your name, your LinkedIn profile is usually among the top ten results. What this means is that your real estate agency or mortgage brokerage can benefit from having its employees (or just yourself if you’re your own boss) sign up for and use this social media service on a regular basis.

Unsure of where to get started? Follow these four quick tips:

#1: Cross-link your profile and your blog feed

Not only is a blog the best way to promote yourself and your small business by showing what you’re capable of, but, by including its feed on your LinkedIn profile, you can attract new clients. Adding your blog’s feed to LinkedIn is pretty simple – just go through the steps on the site and it’ll be up and running in no time.

#2: Plan events and invite your network and clients

LinkedIn makes event planning — including open houses — easy. You can fill in your whole calendar so that you know what you have upcoming, or you can plan an event yourself. By making the event public, it will show up on your profile. Your clients will be aware of it, and you can even invite everyone in your network.

#3: Help Your Search Engine Optimization

Instead of filling in your profile the traditional way and using the included phrases, “My Blog” and “My Website,” choose “Other.” Then, fill in the blank with a keyword phrase that describes what you do. When someone searches on that keyword, your profile will pop up.

#4: Get Recommendations

One of the best things about LinkedIn is the ability to have others recommend you. Their recommendations show up on your profile and are seen by everyone who looks at it. Ask satisfied clients, as well as current and former co-workers to give you a big virtual thumb’s up.