Giving cool real estate products, tools and news a Big Encore

The official announcement/press conference from Apple is scheduled for 10am tomorrow. There hasn’t been much in the way of “leaks” yet, although it’s expected that official word on the iPhone 5 will be part of that conference. So, here’s a quick round-up of rumors and possible facts that have been flying around about this highly anticipated update:

- Supposedly the new iPhone will go on sale either September 21st or sometime in October. While the October date makes sense, given the fact that the last update was released in October of last year, it wouldn’t surprise me to have them release the phone sooner. Some media outlets are reporting that the phone will go on sale tomorrow, the same day as the press conference. It seems more likely that pre-orders will start tomorrow.

- The price will be the same. Expect to pay between $399 and $199 for the new iPhone 5, unless you want a non-contract phone, in which case, you could pay as much as $700.

- Micro USB plugs are rumored to be on either the sides or the bottom (or both!) of it. This is an upgrade over the standard USB-sized plugs included on previous iPhones.

- It will be 4G LTE, although the “LTE” is trademarked by Samsung, who are already planning a lawsuit over the use of the term.

- One of the more absurd rumors involves the “fact” that the new iPhone will be bendable in order for it to fit into pockets and handbags better. While one of the supposed pictures of it shows a slightly curved phone rather than the flat rectangle of prior models, it’s highly doubtful that it will actually bend.

- Other pictures show a slightly narrower and wider “iPhone” next to it’s predecessor, the iPhone 4S. It’s also supposed to have a two-tone back, unlike previous models that are all the same color.

As to what the new iPhone 5 will actually look like, which features and software it will include, and when it will actually be released, the world will have to wait until the official announcement tomorrow.

Your company’s website needs to be both well-designed and eye-catching in order to draw in the attention of potential clients. However, you cannot overlook the fact that it also needs to contain the information that home buyers and sellers are looking for. All of the beautiful graphics and expensive (not to mention complicated) design in the world won’t help your business grow if clients find your site hard to navigate and lacking basic information.

Here are the things that clients want to see on the first page of your site:

- Your contact information. How can they reach you? Your office and cell phone numbers, fax number and email address should be clearly listed. Don’t forget to include your office address and hours.

- Links to the properties for sale that you’re representing, as well as links to those in area that you aren’t. All of these links should be well-organized and labeled in a straightforward manner so that they can be easily found. Once they’re clicked on, pictures and a video of the property should be available, as well as the home’s address, square footage, average property tax amount and all of the basics.

- Success stories. Go beyond the average “I sold this home for this person” or “I found this one for this family” stories and break them down into case studies. Include how long it took to sell or find this particular house and a little background information on the person or people selling/buying it. Not only does this show potential clients what they may have to go through, but it provides an example of the whole process.

- Mortgage rates. Include a small box on the main page with basic rates from some of the most popular local banks. A calculator to show what payments would be at “this amount,” with “that amount down,” and at “this rate” are also helpful. Once a buyer knows what is in his or her budget, they can begin looking at the houses listed for sale on your site.

- Links to your social media accounts and your blog. Keep these small, but visible, and in a part of the page that gets a lot of traffic – for example, right beside or underneath your contact info.

- A picture of yourself. This way potential clients know who they will be working with. Make sure that you look friendly and approachable in your photo.

All of this may seem common sense and really simple — and that’s exactly the point. People want to see a nice, simple site with the information clearly displayed, not a complicated one covered in blinking graphics that hide this basic information. Make your site as approachable as you are. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

 

There are a number of online tutorials and training sessions springing up that are designed to help people figure out how to use social media to their advantage and design marketing programs around things like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. They can also show you how to turn a good video into a great one. However, is it necessary to take a course in social media marketing? It may not be. Here are some pros and cons, as well as a few questions to ask in order to determine whether or not a social media course would be a waste of your time.

 

Pros

You’ll learn a good deal about the various social media applications, including a few that you probably haven’t heard of.

The course will include ways to come up with an effective social media marketing plan.

There are many forms of online communication that must be learned, or else you could turn away new followers and fans.

In an instructor-led course, you can have your questions answered quickly and easily.

Cons

Any course will take up some of your precious time, even if it consists of only online videos.

An instructor-led course can be expensive.

The time and money that you put into the course may not be worth it if you don’t end up bringing in new clients and selling more properties.

Some of the things taught may be common sense.

 

Should you take a social media marketing course?

No, if:

If you already use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn successfully.

You already have a social media marketing plan in place.

You have hired someone to handle your social media.

 

 

Yes, if:

You have no idea where to begin when it comes to using social media.

You aren’t sure if using Twitter or Facebook will help your company or business.

You want to get rid of your social media person and do the work yourself in order to save money.

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.

 

 

Thanks to the technology in new smartphones, it’s possible to do away with a traditional camera altogether. It’s easy to take high quality pictures with your smartphone, then upload them immediately to your social media accounts in order to spread the news about the new house that you have for sale. However, before you start to upload those pictures to the web, make sure that they are the best representations of that property. Here are some tips.

 

 

 

 

Some things that your pictures shouldn’t be:

  • Blurry
  • Under lit
  • Over lit

 

 

 

 

 

What your pictures should be:

  • Clear and crisp
  • Colorful

 

 

 

How to get them that way?

1) Be aware of the limitations of your phone. Does it have a flash? If not, you shouldn’t take pictures at night or when the sky is overcast. How powerful is the zoom function? If it isn’t very strong, you’ll have to take your pictures from closer up than you planned. Does is automatically adjust for shakiness? If not, you’ll have to hold your hand very still when taking the picture, or you’ll end up with a blurry mess.

2) Check the lighting and shadows. The best pictures are taken outdoors when the sun is shining, but that isn’t always possible. Look at the shadows to make sure that they aren’t obscuring important details, and take note of how windows and other shiny objects reflect the camera flash. Paying attention to the smallest lighting issues and using them to your advantage will help a great deal.

3) Take more than one picture. Sometimes the slightest change of angle will turn a mediocre picture into a fantastic one. Take a picture from your original angle, then turn slightly to the left or right, taking pictures from those angles as well. Compare the three before choosing the best one.

4) Don’t go overboard on the special effects. Sure, it’s cool that your newest photo app can turn your ordinary picture into a replica of a faded Polaroid from the 1970′s, but will it help you sell that house? More than likely not. Save the special affects for your personal photos.

5) Change your camera settings. It’s nice to know that you can take a picture that measures 4000 by 3000 pixels, but that is way too large to pass around on social media. Set your smartphone camera so that it takes pictures of a reasonable size — around half to one-quarter the amount of pixels will do. This also helps if your camera has a smaller amount of megapixels; the lower your number, the grainier a larger picture will be.

6) Understand that your smartphone will never be a digital SLR. While smartphones are handy and make an excellent substitute for smaller point and shoot cameras, the quality of their pictures will never rival that of an expensive multi-lensed digital camera that has not only more settings, but also more megapixels. You’re trading convenience for the best quality, and while that’s fine in most cases, you need to be aware of it.

 

Since the demise of Flip, realtors, as well as everyone else, have had to switch to other handheld video cameras to make their promotional videos. Here’s a quick run-down comparison of the specs on dedicated handheld video cameras (those that only shoot video and do nothing else) versus those included in some of the more popular cell phones:

Dedicated Video Cameras

Kodak Playsport ZX5

Does it shoot in HD? – Yes, 1080P

Memory – Uses SD and SDHD cards up to 32GB

Zoom – 4X digital

Still photos – 5MP

Extras – Video can be manipulated to be in black and white, sepia and several other options

Connects to computer via  a micro USB port

 

Sony Bloggie Live

Does it shoot in HD? – Yes

Memory -Internal only, 8GB

Zoom – 4X Digital

Still photos – 12.8MP

Extras – automatic white balance

Connects to computer via a USB port

 

Samsung W200

Does it shoot in HD? – Yes

Memory – Uses Micro SD cards

Zoom – 1X Optical, 3X Digital

Still photos -5.5MP

Extras – Waterproof

Connects to computer via a USB port

 

Cell Phones That Shoot Video

Apple iPhone 4S

Does it shoot in HD? – Yes, 1080P

Memory – Internal, 16GB – although that depends on the phone

Zoom – Yes

Still photos – 8MP rear

Extras – One camera on the front of the phone, one camera on the back

Connects to computer via the Cloud

 

Samsung Galaxy S III 4G

Does it shoot in HD? Yes, 720P

Memory -  16GB internal, supports micro SD cards up to 64GB

Zoom – Yes

Still photos – 8MP rear/1.9MP front

Extras – Excellent sound quality, uses AAC

Connects to computer via USB port

 

HTC Evo

Does it shoot in HD? – Yes, 720P

Memory – Uses Micro SD cards

Zoom – Yes

Still photos – 5MP front/1.3 rear

Extras – A portion of the back pulls out to become a kickstand

Connects to computer via USB port

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Online videos are the key to adding on your customer base and watching your number of sales (or loans) go up. People want to know everything about a house before they set foot in it for the very first time, and they also want to know more about you before making that first phone call. While you can place videos on your website and your YouTube account, as well as cross-link them amongst all of your other social media accounts, there is another platform available that many people have not heard of — WellcomeMat.

 

 

WellcomeMat specializes in real estate videos, and having an account allows you to not only upload videos, but also place them on your website and social media accounts. It can also connect you with professional videographers in your area, just in case you feel like your video-making skills aren’t good enough, or if you simply don’t have the time to film every house that you have for sale yourself.

Part of WellcomeMat functions like a social media account. You have an online profile to fill out, and can connect with other professionals. You will be given your own “channel” similar to YouTube, and will be assigned a point value, based on how many videos you have uploaded and the traffic coming in to them. WellcomeMat also submits your videos to search engines, and is compatible with all MLS requirements.

The only downfall to WellcomeMat is the price. A 30-day Pro Membership is free, but after that, there is a charge to use the service.