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

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!

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.

Every real estate agent and mortgage broker already knows that owning a cell phone or two is necessary in order to do business. Being able to answer questions when out of the office is an absolute must, especially when it’s a buyers market. But which smart phone should you go with?

The main two to choose from are the iPhone in all of its iterations, and those that use the Android operating system. There is also a Blackberry apps market and Windows phones, but those are not overly popular, since most people use one of the other two. Here’s a quick breakdown of the real estate apps available for the iPhone and Android phones:

iPhone: There are plenty of apps available for the iPhone that can benefit both agents and buyers. Some are related to popular websites, like Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com and Homes.com. Others are aimed at buyers and contain specific information about real estate, as well as breakdowns by state and location. Some larger realty companies also have their own apps, for example Coldwell Banker and Century 21. One in particular, entitled Real Estate Math is dually handy, since agents and mortgage brokers can do the math quickly and easily from anywhere — just in case a client needs a monthly mortgage estimate. On top of that, there are bunch of social media apps so that your Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn status can be updated from anywhere.

 

Android: While the number of real estate related apps is high, most of them are geared toward the buyer. Some realty companies (and even a few individual agents) have their own apps available, and some are designed with a specific state or location in mind. There are also apps containing information about investing, vocabulary, and more than a few titled along the lines of “Real Estate 101″ but, again, those are geared more towards buyers than realtors. That said, the MLS listing app could come in handy for sellers and brokers as well as buyers, and there are the ubiquitous Twitter and Facebook apps to make updating your social media accounts easy.

Klout is one of the hottest social media apps out there right now. But does it really matter if you’re only running a real estate business or mortgage brokerage? It’s one thing if you’re working for a P.R. company and trying to get press for your clients, but if your goal is running a successful real estate business, is your Klout score going to attract the right kind of clients? Or are they only interested in what you’re selling, not how much Klout you possess?

If you haven’t heard of Klout yet, here’s a quick run down: instead of the traditional social media habit of running independently and making you fill out a ton of information to get started, all that you have to do is allow Klout access to your Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social media accounts. It then runs an algorithm and comes up with your Klout score. The score ranges from 0  to 100 and is based on your interactions with your Twitter followers and Facebook fans and friends. It also tells you what you’re influential in. People with a Klout score that’s above 50 get access to cool freebies and perks. These perks range from a free one-day rental of a luxury car to something as small as a $5 gift card to Starbucks. It all depends on how much Klout you have. But does that translate into the real world?

While people have been passed over for jobs due to a low Klout score, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your clients are going to check yours out before deciding to attend your open house or apply for a mortgage in your office. A high Klout score could be something to brag about that may attract clients (think of it as showing off your expertise, for example, “Look at my Klout score and my list of houses for sale, doesn’t that mean that I’m awesome at what I do?”) but other than that, your score is irrelevant.

On top of that, getting and holding a high Klout score is a lot of work. It takes a lot of Twitter interaction and Facebook posts in order to get that above-50 score, and in order to keep it that high, you’ll have to spend a good part of each day on your social media sites. That’s time that could be better spent meeting with clients and setting up open houses. Sure, the perks are great, but are they worth it? Not really.

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Continuing with the theme of how to run a proper real estate or mortgage broker blog, here are some tips on how to make yours easy on the eyes…

Many blog hosting platforms (like WordPress and Blogger) offer a number of pre-designed layouts to choose from that can be further customized to suit your needs. But, just like you don’t want an under-designed blog, you also don’t want yours to be over-designed either. After all, the entire point is to have a quick-loading site that’s extremely readable. Here are five quick suggestions to move you in the right direction:

Change the background color from simple white or black. Most templates start out with one of these two. By going into the “design options” section of your blog hosting platform, you’ll be able to change this. You can either upload a repeating logo or pattern, or change the color to something that matches well with your overall color scheme. This gives your blog some personality and helps it stand out from the crowd.

Set a text block color that contrasts. Once you choose a color for the background, make sure that your text blocks, where the type will go, are white, and your type font is set as black. These will float over the background, and you want them to be as readable as possible. You could also go with a black text block and white type font, but these can sometimes be hard to read, especially on older computers. You have to remember that your blog will be read by people with all types of computers, not just newer ones with fancy graphics cards.

Decide on a two or three column layout. Some pre-designed layouts come with one or the other, but others allow you to choose. Before deciding, think of how much information that you want displayed at once. A three column layout allows you to have one column of sales listings, one column of important information (“contact me” buttons, a tag cloud, listing of categories,etc) and one wider column for the blog content itself. For a simpler look, choose a two-column design, but keep in mind that this limits the number of allowable widgets. Speaking of which…

Limit your widgets. These are the gizmos that go in the sidebar(s) of your blog. While you do need some important ones, keep in mind that too many will cause the page to load slowly, causing you to lose some readers before they even get to see your content.  Before deciding which ones to use, examine a few of the blogs that you read every day. Make note of which widgets they use, then come up with a list of the ones that you absolutely need.

Add a logo. Every good blog has a logo of some sort. Whether it’s simply your business logo or a complicated graphic-artist commissioned piece, you need to have something permanently at the top page of your blog announcing what your blog is about to your readers.

Setting up a blog in order to help promote your business (and connect with your clients) is important. However, deciding which blog platform to use can be crucial and is one of the biggest decisions that you’ll have to make, as far as blogging is concerned. Finding a user-friendly platform is just the first step. Here are some details on the top four blog platforms, plus some pros and cons on each:

WordPress.com – This is the beginner version of WordPress. It’s easy to set up a blog on this platform — all that you need to do is create an account and name your blog. You then pick out which template you want to use and then choose your widgets. The downfall to this site is that your choice of templates is limited, since the site won’t allow you to program your own or mess with the HTML. Your blog is also hosted by WordPress, so there are limitations as far as uploaded media space is concerned, although you can purchase upgrades.

 

WordPress.org – This version of WordPress requires you buy your own domain name and hosting service. There is no limit to the number of add-ons available (the all-in-one SEO pack is a great example of this) and you can customize just about every aspect. This version is a bit pricier, since you do have to pay for hosting and server storage space, but you can use any template that you want. The main set up can be a bit confusing if you don’t go with one of WordPress’ recommended blog hosts, but once your blog is set up, the sky’s the limit.

 

Typepad – This blog host is the proverbial black sheep of the blogging world. Although it’s easy to set up your blog using Typepad, for some reason it doesn’t get the accolades it deserves.  You can set up your own domain name and customize the template of your choice, but your blog will always be hosted on Typepad’s servers. There are two different options available: a free account, with your blog name as part of your your-blog-name.typepad.com address, or you can purchase a hosting account directly through them for so much per month. With the free version, you’re limited to their templates, but with the paid hosting you get your own domain name and mapping, and you can upload and use any template that you want.

Blogger – Blogger was one of the first web log (blog) platforms. It’s integrated with Google, making it easy to submit to search engines. Basic hosting of your blog is free, and your main templates are limited, but can be customized, and you can always upload one of your choice. Also, you can purchase a domain name through them or from a different provider and set up free mapping on your blog. It’s fairly easy to set up a blog through blogger, but it is difficult to wade through the many help desk options if you end up getting stuck.

All of the social media promotion and cross-linking in the world won’t help if you can’t draw in readers, fans and potential clients with your blog content. Sure, you do need to write about your real estate business or mortgage brokerage, but at the same time, you don’t want to fill your blog with the same kind of posts over and over. If you need some inspiration, here are five types of posts to include on your blog:

Photos. Picture posts are quick and painless. Find an interesting picture of something that relates to your business and design a post around it. It can be of a house that you were just contracted to sell, one that you’ve just arranged a mortgage on, or something completely different altogether. Think creatively!

News. Any breaking news or local feature that relates to your business makes for easy content. It doesn’t even have to be directly about something that you’ve posted in the past – as long as you can relate it to what you do; you’re good to go.

Lists. This one is easy. Make a list about anything that goes along with your other content. Whether you want to list the top ten local housing trends, five ways to make sure that a house sells quickly  or even your top three favorite HGTV shows, anything goes.

Surveys. Ask your readers for their opinion on something related to your business. This is not only a great way to see what your readers are interested in, but it’s also a sneaky way of seeing how many of those daily views are from people who like your blog enough to participate.

Humorous items. If you find it funny, write something about it. The humorous category can be expanded to include cartoons that relate to your company, or anything else that is guaranteed to get a laugh out of your target audience. You do want to be careful here, as some people are easily insulted, so be cautious when posting items that fall into this category.