By Denise Lones M.I.R.M., CSP
With so much of our world online, it’s a wonder agents don’t go crazy making decisions about “the best” online marketing for them. Blog sites. Social networking sites. Business networking sites. Video sites. It can feel overwhelming.
If you’re a recovering technophobe (like me), I’m here to tell you exactly what you should be spending your time on. Here are some key online tasks you need to do right now:
1. Custom website.
Please—please!—hire a web designer to create a custom site for you. The first thing I notice when critiquing agents’ sites is that it’s a template site. If you want to get more business, a template site will NOT do the job. It tells the world you’re not dedicated enough to your business to create an online presence that drips with professionalism.
Not to mention the fact that EVERYONE ELSE is using template sites. It’s possible that you might have the exact same site as your competitor across the street if you use a template site.
A custom site transmits your own look, feel, and content. It is an online extension of your own personality and needs to be unique. There is nothing else like it.
Search engines love custom sites, and properly designed custom sites will drive clients to you. Template sites? They are nothing more than online “brochures”! Search engines (such as Google) don’t like them, and you simply won’t receive the kinds of leads you need from template sites. Custom sites tell search engines that you are a serious professional, dedicated to improving your business. Search engines don’t get that message from a template site, regardless of whether you spent $9.95 or $995 for your template site.
Sadly, so many agents I talk to think they have a custom site, when they really have a template site. The fact that you got to pick the background color or design – or lay your navigation buttons out in a certain order – does not make your site custom!
2. Create a presence on social networking sites.
Yes, this means myspace and facebook. I know—your kids are on myspace and it seems like something that a real estate agent should avoid. But the truth is that people do use these sites. The more you participate, the more your name gets out there. (Believe it or not, myspace is the second most popular URL—only Google outranks it!)
Thousands of people create new myspace accounts DAILY. Its popularity is unbelievable. And it’s not just for kids. It reaches more prospects than you can imagine.
Your myspace page should be a professional page. It should be all about real estate and about real estate ONLY. And most importantly, it should link to your custom website.
Once you get it set up, go to facebook and ActiveRain and repeat. Facebook is the older, classier brother to myspace. ActiveRain is geared specifically toward real estate professionals.
All these sites work pretty much the same way. You create a page, put some pictures and descriptions up, link to your website, and post your thoughts and activities. You link to other pages within the community—friends, colleagues, and other businesses.
Something else to pay attention to with online communities is something called “democratic rankings”. Members of ActiveRain rank you higher the more you are an active part of the community. You receive points when you submit content or make a comment. Every time a member signs up, writes an article, or posts a thought, make sure you comment on it. You get rewarded with points on that site by the activity you put into it.
But be careful—once you start, it’s easy to become addicted to spending all your time in these online communities. Never forget that this is just one tool in your toolbox. Make sure you don’t end up chasing online business endlessly while missing out on opportunities in the real world.
One final thing: Make sure you’re posting valuable and relevant content on your pages. These sites are a great place to post your informative articles and other real estate “how-to” information.
Once you get your social networking up and running, it’s time to:
3. Put videos on YouTube.
I know some of you just groaned. The idea of creating a video sends some people to the emergency room. But in today’s world, it’s simpler than you can imagine. And with every kid making videos with their cell phones, finding someone to put one together for you is easier than ever.
I cannot tell you how powerful it is to get your listings posted on YouTube! It is very easy to create a video of every single one of your listings. (Don’t know how to do it? Send me an email at [email protected]. In three easy steps, I’ll tell you how to put a video together.)
Here’s a simple way to do it if you don’t like video: Take photos of your listings and have someone edit them together into a slideshow presentation. Voila! A video is done and ready for YouTube.
Once you get yourself online, you’ll find out how simple it is to keep your name out there—at virtually zero cost.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. There are some things you should NOT be doing.
Do not allow any hint of impropriety on myspace, facebook, ActiveRain, or YouTube. This could be damaging to your image as a real estate professional.
I’ll give you an example. Recently an agent told me he was thinking about moving to another office. I told him to check out a certain brokerage because I knew the broker. I thought he was a true professional.
I was stunned when the agent called me back and said, “Denise, you need to look at this!”
This particular broker had a myspace page with photos of him partying, drinking, and getting a little crazy. Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with “getting your groove on” every once in a while. But there IS something wrong with you posting those pictures on myspace if you consider yourself a professional and responsible member of your community.
My client was so flabbergasted at the pictures that he decided not to go to work for that broker. He was afraid of the image that clients might have if he were associated with that broker.
Seriously, this is stuff you need to think about! And it astounds me how many people don’t think about it. College seniors looking for jobs with Fortune 500 companies have put pictures of themselves passed out at frat parties online. This is career suicide! Really, I can’t believe some of the personal things people put online.
So again, I can’t emphasize it enough—be careful!
Online marketing is no longer the way of the future—it’s the here and NOW. And it can be effective, but only when done right. If you follow my guidelines you will attract an entire segment of clients that you never would have found any other way.