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Added: June 16, 2010
Article rating: 4.25 (of 5) - 4 votes

5 Simple Steps to Get Started in Social Media, That Won't Cost a Dime!

[ by Greg E. Cook ]
I recently re-read for the first time the wonderful little book, "Who moved my Cheese" by Dr. Spencer Johnson. I say re-read for the first time because I had read it a few years ago and dismissed it. I was absolutely sure that I knew exactly where "my cheese" was.

In fact I did know where my cheese was, what I didn't know at the time was that overnight my cheese would get hijacked and I would be left with no cheese and not a lot of ideas where to find any.

Like Hem and Haw in the book I was convinced that my cheese was in the same place it had always been, but every time I went looking for it, NOTHING!

Eventually, I was starving and I realized I had to become more like Sniff and Scurry and find my new cheese before my 401k funds ran out.

Which brings us to this Free Report.

I decided my new cheese was to be found in learning social media and social networking well enough to start developing my own suspects/prospects/clients and then "paying forward" to help my Real Estate business partners who were struggling to find "their cheese".

I'm not here to sell you anything, but rather to share my experiences and hope they help you in your search for "your cheese".

There are hundreds of "experts" and honestly they know a lot more about this than I do. In fact I've paid money to most of them, as I'm sure many of you have. What I didn't know when I was shelling out all this money, was that there were things I had to do to establish an identity for my business before I would get the value the experts promised.

If you find value in this Free Report, feel free to share it with your colleagues. Just give them the email address from where you received your copy or have them call me.

Thanks and I hope it helps your business.

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." - Arthur Ashe

Step 1

Don't try to eat the elephant in one bite!

The world is divided into two groups of people:

Group 1 is those people who already, know, like and trust you.

Group 2 is those people who don't

Brilliant, right?

I like to think so, but the first step in social media is recognizing you need a different marketing message for Group 1 than Group 2.

Unless you're already a rock start in your market, chances are your Group 2 is significantly larger than your Group 1.

Think about using social media as a tool to move more people from Group 2 to Group 1 by growing the number of people who "know, like and trust" you.

Which brings us to the elephant. If you noticed the picture on the title page, you can see that the world of social networking is very convoluted and can lead you in so many directions you're likely to end up where you started.

Rule #1 Start Simple

There are literally hundreds of "tools" in social media to help you grow your online reputation and business and most of them don't have practical business applications (yet!)

The world of social media and social networking can be overwhelming, when viewed as a whole but there are certain threads that run through each social platform. One of those threads is that social networking is about meeting and engaging people, not trying to sell them.

You've heard the "cocktail party" metaphor. Social networking is like a cocktail party, you meet people and engage them looking for commonalities and a potential basis for developing a conversation (relationship). You're not trying to marry the people you meet online, but rather to see if there is enough interest for a follow up "cup of coffee" so you can talk some more.

If you give the "Are you or anyone you know interested in buying or selling real estate?" at the on-line cocktail party, people will shut you out and ignore you very quickly.

Why, because they can and it's their cocktail party!

Social media and networking are not designed to replace your off line marketing strategies either. In fact they are the perfect complement to them. The more prospects you can engage on line and work them through your "marketing funnel" until you get the opportunity to meet them face-to-face the more prosperous your business will be.

To start you only need to focus on three platforms:

1. The search engines - Google, Yahoo and Bing, you have to make yourself visible to the search engines or you'll never get found by the people that don't already know you and even they might not have the patience to look too hard. Think page 1 "above the fold".

2. Facebook -
You have to be where your customers are and 450 MILLION people can't be wrong.

3. LinkedIn -
This is the social networking site of choice for professionals. According to a recent study the average income of LinkedIn users is $109,000/year. Don't know about you, but I need to know more of those kind of prospects.

If you're interested in referrals from other agents, they are most likely to come from here. This is your on-line resume and networking here is likely to provide quicker results. If being an REO agent is in your future it's very likely the asset managers will start their search on LinkedIn to select qualified agents.

Step 2

It's not about you!

This is the most difficult step for most veteran real estate agents.

Think of the internet and social media/networking as part of the largest real estate shopping mall in the history of mankind. Everyday millions of shoppers head to this mall to search for some sort of information about real estate. Unfortunately there are millions of choices for them, fortunately they have a directory to help them find the store they are looking for. That directory is the search engines, Google, Yahoo, Bing and now even Facebook.

So, how do you get to be the one these shoppers find?

Since day one in the business you've been told about growing your brand. Traditional marketing channels like newspapers, homes magazines, marketing flyers were always about YOU!

The evolution of on-line marketing has changed that.

Since the day the first Realtor gave internet access to the MLS, the consumer had the "keys to the kingdom". The consumer is control and they like it that way. They can get the information with or without you.

It's how you add value that will determine your success.

I've posed this dilemma to a number of local real estate agents and have gotten the same response most of the time: "They don't need us anymore"

Absolutely incorrect!

They still need you, but not to search for houses. They can do that while watching "Dancing with the Stars" or on their wireless devices while driving through neighborhoods actually looking at their future dream home.

They need you to be the "resident genius"

They need you to tell them what's going on in the market.

They need you to tell them what's going on in the community.

They need you to tell them why particular subdivisions or neighborhoods are great places to live.

They need you to share with them the "insider secrets" to a successful real estate transaction.

In short, they need your expertise!

The consumer has the keys to the MLS kingdom and they're not giving them up, so you have to find a way to bring value to this budding relationship that is not entirely real estate related.

If you were having a conversation with someone you hadn't previously known, and they asked "Why should I do business with you?"

How would you respond?

You might say because "I'm a market expert", or "I'm the top producer in my office", or "Because I provide outstanding service and I put my client's interest first."

Those are all very good reasons, but that's what every Realtor® says.(It's called me-too marketing)

If everyone is saying the same thing how is the consumer going to hear YOU above all the noise?

You have to have a "WHY ME?" that will separate elevate you above the competition.

Your WHY ME? has to bring value to this relationship.

Never forget Rule #1 of relationships

The person that brings the most value to the relationship will control the relationship!

In the internet world consumers want to be educated (explains why there are millions of blogs) and entertained (YouTube!). They want to receive value.

They want you to give it to them!

Your WHY ME? has to be more than words, you have to show the skeptical consumer that you're different

better than your competition.

Think of yourself as the Mayor of your City/Neighborhood or the President of the local Chamber of Commerce, who happens to sell real estate.

The more time you spend promoting your city, community, or neighborhood. The more trusting consumers will be of you. Then, your real estate job gets a whole lot easier!

Step 3

You need the keys, to get the engine running!

For consumers that don't already know you, they have to be able to find you through the search engines.

How will they do that? They will "Google" what interests them.

Getting found on the internet, whether it be your web page or Facebook business page or even your Google local business listing revolves around keywords, so even if you already have a well established brand using your name, start thinking like your prospects and build your business around your "keywords".

Google Keyword Tool - you will need a Gmail account to access

Here's a exercise

Using the Google keyword tool, enter (your city) real estate or homes for sale in (your city), the keyword tool will give you the number of searches over the past month along with variations of those terms. You can also use the tool to measure how much competition you will have.

Now search by your name with Realtor or real estate agent and compare the number of searches.

If you want to where the fish are!

The more proficient you are with keywords, the greater the chance that someone searching for real estate in your local market will find you.

You should strive for a first page ranking on all the search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) for the target markets you have selected. The chances of being found drop dramatically once you get off the first page.

So, who are your target markets?

If you said, "anyone looking to buy or sell a home", you have almost NO chance of being found.

Why? Because that's the playground where the big kids play and it's very, very expensive to play there, you're competing with,, Zillow, Trulia, Movoto and all the other national listing websites. If you have enough money to compete with them, you probably don't need this information.

If you said, "first time home buyers looking to buy in (your city)" or "homeowners looking to stop foreclosure in (your farm area)" your chances of being found have increased dramatically.

Why? These are searches in your local market (hyper-local) and you will find a better quality lead. Research has shown that the closer a consumer gets to their buying decision, the more "granular" their searches get. They may start off searching by "homes for sale", but as they begin to focus on a particular city or neighborhood they're going to search for "(your city) homes for sale" or "(your city) real estate". Then as they identify particular neighborhoods, their searches might be "Paseo del Sol homes" or "Greer Ranch homes for sale".

The interesting part of this search process is that Google has a memory, and as they recognize an individual's searching patterns with particular keywords, they will try to match those searches with relevant content and those pages will rank higher for that consumer.

You can also try "Wonder Wheel"- Watch Wonder Wheel video - which simplifies the keyword search process by giving you the ability to branch off in a number of directions in your search and perhaps find other niche markets.

Step 4

Write a killer profile

"A Google Profile is simply how you represent yourself on Google products - it lets you tell others a bit more about who you are and what you're all about. You control what goes into your Google Profile, sharing as much (or as little) as you'd like."

Even if you don't have a website or a Facebook business page, or a LinkedIn account, you can still be found on the internet by consumers who don't know you, by writing a "killer profile".

A killer profile is one that sounds more like a press release than a bio. Strategic use of keywords in your profile(s) enables consumers to find you based on their searches (Step 3). When you write your profile try to be as keyword rich as possible.

Back to the Google keyword tool and look for more keyword terms that are easily included in your profile.

As much as possible (don't make it weird) refer to yourself in the third person because there will be people who know you or are checking up on you and you want to make sure they can find you as well.

A great source of ideas for a "killer profile" is ActiveRain. Search Realtors in your local area and check out their profiles. You will soon see the difference between a "killer profile" and a "me too" profile.

You only have to write one profile. Create a word or Google document, then just copy and paste to your selected sites.

As you search for other niche markets, update your profile with keywords related to that market.

Your profile only has one purpose! Help people find you!

Just like your profile might be for an on-line dating service, your business profile's purpose is to generate enough interest to have a first date, then you can let the relationship grow from there,

How will you know if it works?

Upload your profiles to each of the search engines, to your Facebook business page, and to LinkedIn .

Give it a couple days, then Google your name. You should see dramatic improvement.

Maintaining your search engine ranking is not a "set it and forget it" strategy. Too many agents have spent a lot of time building their ranking only to lose it 30 days later because they didn't keep the contact fresh.

Your online visibility all starts with your keyword rich profile. Take the time to write a "killer profile" and you should see improvement quickly.

Step 5

Do it!

The only bad on-line strategy is the one you don't do!

Remember, you have competition out there and it's not limited to just your MLS board. Think about how many Realtors in Southern California have access to your MLS listings. That is how much competition you have.

To beat your competition you will have to be:

1) Creative - Take a look at what your competition is doing and do something different. Just because they're doing it doesn't mean it's working. Think like your prospects, how can you educate, entertain, or enrich?

2) Patient - Like all relationships, on-line relationships take a while to develop. Don't expect immediate results. Treat your on-line platforms with the same diligence you use for your off-line marketing. Be consistent. If you feel a relationship is getting stale, get creative and try something new, if that doesn't work try something else.

The only thing constant in internet marketing is change. The technology is changing at a dramatic pace and in a year even these suggestions may be out of date.

You have to be committed to invest the time and effort to develop your on-line reputation.

Perhaps the worst thing that can happen to you is you find a qualified prospect and when they go on-line to "check you out" (and they will!) they can't find you, but instead find another agent who has taken the time to build an "on-line brand".


About the Author:

Greg Cook is a real estate veteran having entered the market at a time when interest rates were within shouting distance of 20%. Greg has experienced every market and has learned the only constant in all the markets in the last 30 years is the change.

Building an on-line reputation will be critical for real estate agents now and in the future but getting started is the most difficult task.

This article is designed to teach "baby steps" to the Realtor just beginning their journey down the internet super highway.

Greg Cook

Your opinion is the key to delivering valuable content. Please rate this article.

Current rating: 4.25 (of 5) - 4 votes
  • Linda Palmer June 18, 2010
    Great article, easy to read and easy to understand and implement; especially for us more mature agents.
  • John Conway June 17, 2010
    Breaks down the steps very well. Easy read & "doable".
  • Mickey Ferrell June 17, 2010
    I learned a lot!!! Thanks for explaining in such a way that a 77 year old Broker feels she can understand how to begin!!
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