Now that you understand what a social network is, the real question is: “How do I become a player?” In the social networking realm, people (or brands) that have a high visibility and are followed by large numbers of subscribers are called influencers. Obviously, being popular on social networks to the point where people interested in real estate routinely go to you for advice, information, and entertainment is an enviable position. That puts you in the drivers seat to deliver your marketing message, and leverage your social connections for business purposes. Quite often, business relationships are built through this level of communication.
Okay, so you’re sold on the value of these social networks… but it’s not as easy as just saying you want to be an influencer. Becoming an influencer something you have to achieve, and as with most things in life, there are no guarantees of success. One thing is for certain, however: you first have to know how to successfully participate in a social network in order to become an influencer. Here are some guidelines to follow when beginning your social networking campaign.
Establish A Social Networking Brand
This can be as simple as deciding what your profile name is going to be across all social networks and running with that, or planning out an elaborate branding strategy which includes custom graphics and copywriting for each social networking site. Either way, having some consistency between your various profiles will make it easier for people to connect the dots and track you across these different channels. It also gives you the opportunity to help phrase the conversation in a space that you have carefully created, and that gives off a more professional appearance to potential new friends (and prospects). So take the time and effort to come up with a branding theme that fits your business and personality. It’s an important first step!
Choose Your Networks
You should think very strategically about which social networks to opt into. Which networks are most likely to cater to the demographic you are trying to capture? An extreme example: you wouldn’t want to routinely post real estate related content on Technorati because no one there will care (unless all of your content has a heavy tech-industry slant to it).
Before you even think about signing up and creating a profile on a social networking site, consider this: Have you spent some time browsing the network; reading the content and the comments, learning about popular sources and players? Do you understand how the site works and the niche it serves? If so, is the site for you?
While all socially driven sites have the same basic elements (reading, submitting, voting, and commenting) not all of them function the same way and they definitely aren’t as friendly to real estate professionals. If you don’t invest time in determining whether a site is right for you from the start, all your subsequent hard work likely won’t pay off.
Also, before you click the “sign up” button, consider this: You’ve looked at the site and determined that you would be a good fit among the other community members, but have you thought about your goals? Why do you want to sign up with the site and what will you accomplish by doing so? Consider the needs of other users. Sure, it’s a social site and every community member is supposed to share content he or she finds interesting, create their own content, etc; but don’t forget that you also have to take into account the interests of the masses. A singular opinion that has no crowd-backing will never be successful on a social networking site. Keep your business interests in mind, but judge them within the context of the community’s interests and opt into only networks where you think you have something significant (valuable) to offer that could also receive good traction within the community.
Complete Your Profile
A successful profile usually has a lot of information in it. And it all starts with the profile name. Make sure that you choose a name that is easy and memorable. This goes back to your branding. You want people to be able to say your name aloud and recognize it instantly at a glance. You also want something easy to remember so that people can find your profile through the site’s search feature or by just adding it to the end of the domain in the browser window. The easier you make it for people to find you again, the better off you’ll be…
Profiles are something you should really put the time and thought into doing correctly. Many social community users will review profiles before choosing to “friend you” or instead avoid you like the plague. So the more time and care you take in filling in all the available fields, the more your visitors will be able to know about you. Also, many fields in social networking profiles are searchable (through both the site itself and the search engines), meaning that if you don’t fill out all the fields, you might be missing from the search results when otherwise you would be found by someone.
Also make sure to add some unique, interesting content to your profile, along with some quality images that reinforce your branding. If you can upload professional audio and video to the profile, it would be worthwhile to take the time to do that as well. Even if your video is just something relevant you found on YouTube, it’s always better to have something stimulating on your profile page than an empty box.
Finally, something to consider when setting up your profile is how are people who are having success with real estate configuring their profiles? Do some research. There might be a setting on their profile that you wouldn’t have thought to configure the same way, and it could help make a difference as well.
Choose Who To Engage
The follow up to choosing which networks to participate in is choosing the right people to communicate with within those networks. Since you are a real estate professional, you are going to want to concentrate on locating other people in the industry. Additionally, targeting people who fit a particular demographic for adding as friends can also be helpful in ensuring that the majority of people you communicate with are potential partners and/or clients down the road.
That’s not to say you need to start being a snob and rejecting people who don’t fit your vision of what an ideal listing client is, for example. But avoiding communication with those who are obviously spam profiles or simply don’t fit the description of anyone you’d befriend in real life is just a healthy part of establishing your own specific niche in the larger social community. You’ll find that by adding too many friends who aren’t on the same page as you, you will dilute the conversation that takes place on your profile with irrelevant messages from people you don’t really know or care to hear from on a regular basis. And chances are if you are turned off by their posts, the people who you really want to communicate in a meaningful fashion with will be as well.
These social networking sites don’t cost anything to participate in, and they give you a golden opportunity to draw people into your profile and content through your personality. So put your people skills to work! Show that you’re a person, not a business-minded, tech-savvy real estate professional. I you have a hobby you’re passionate about, or just have a great sense of humor, don’t be afraid to tap into those aspects of yourself through your communications on social networking sites. Respond to status updates of your friends in a genuine manner. The best responses are often received from posts and comments that use humor as the main thing that draws people’s attention. And sharing your life passions with the larger community can also be rewarding; people who share your favorite hobbies will appreciate that, may contact you based on that commonality alone, and will definitely be more interested in interacting with you as a result.
You have to contribute content to succeed in a social network. So this means you must be a creator as well as a participant. And you’ll find that more often than not, you’ll need to take initiative to reach out to others in the community. Recommended activities include searching for new friends, sending personal messages along with friend requests, commenting on items your friends post, updating your status and profile, posting new content items yourself, and moderating your profile’s comments.
Try and shoot for at least a couple of significant interactions with community members on your various social networking profiles a couple of times a day. That way, your profile will frequently be near the top of the queue of recent status updates when your friends log in and you will maintain high visibility. But just be careful; if you don’t have a reason to update your status, or people are turned off by your updates, then they might block your updates from showing in their queue. Or worse yet, “unfriend” you! As a small aside, you also know that if you lose one friend it isn’t the end of the world. These things happen as people’s interest drifts from one thing or person to another. You should, however, be alarmed if you post something and then notice the next day that a quarter of your friends are missing. That’s when it’s time to take a close look at your recent interactions and figure out what you might have done to prompt such a response from your community.
Have Fun With It
This one is quite simple. You can’t go into any social network to self-promote and expect to get good results. Learn to participate for fun and then the connections you make through them will help you achieve your marketing goals without trying. So for about the first time in recorded history, it pays off in the business world to routinely have a good time. Fun first, business second is a good rule of thumb with social networks. Just make sure not to get too goofy with your posts, unless you want people to think that you are also trying to be a standup comic.
Also Socialize With Quality
While having fun is a key component with social networks, it’s also important to not limit yourself to meaningless fluff. Try and engage community members on things that are important to them, as well as topics that are relevant to the real estate field. In order to do this regularly, you’ll need to surround yourself on the social network with friends who share your interest in real estate. That shouldn’t be very hard to do, considering millions of real estate professionals are online and eager to network.
There are also clever ways in which you can “bait” people who otherwise don’t take a great interest in your subject matter to participate in a meaningful fashion. Custom-created polls or quizzes (tools to create both can be found on Facebook and other sites) can be quickly made, distributed, taken, and the results discussed amongst the community. For example, you could make a quiz that asks “Do You Have What It Takes To Buy A Home?” The quiz could be full of questions that test the participants knowledge of the home buying process. If you were an influencer, you might even be able to get people to pre-qualify for you by asking questions about what their ideal home is, their price range, desired neighborhood, etc. This could yield you prospects, and also give you valuable marketing data. So that’s a way in which you can leverage your social profile for a quality, real estate-related interaction.
Be Mindful Of Grammar
Unless you are targeting a demographic that does not particularly value traditional English syntax, stick with regular spelling, grammar, and formatting in your social communications. Don’t use ALL CAPS in your post titles, or excessive special characters and punctuation. Make sure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors in your original content. This just gives your friends the impression that you are proud of your social presence, and make the effort to present yourself professionally. This will impress many people who are unaccustomed to seeing correct English writing in websites, blogs, email, and social networking profiles.
Use Relevant Resources
Don’t be afraid to take content that you find fun or stimulating and share it with your social community. YouTube videos are a perfect example of the kind of content that is frequently borrowed and shared amongst social network participants. If you are the first person in your community to share that content, regardless of whether you were the original creator or not, you can gain credibility with your community for being someone who knows where good content is. And that can lead people to be more interested in initiating communication with you, especially when they find something relevant to what you are known to share with the community. So go ahead, dig into the newswires and video websites to find yourself something worth sharing with your friends.
Engage Social Influencers
Since you aren’t a social influencer yet, you might as well see if you can learn something from interacting with one. Ideally, you want to immediately seek out who the influencers are in your community, and start communicating with all of them. Comment on their posts in a meaningful fashion, send them articles you think they might find interesting, ask them questions (people love to be viewed as an authority on matters). If you think they wouldn’t mind you asking, see if they will share some tips for using the site. The ultimate goal with this is to make yourself known in a positive light to all the influencers in your community so that down the road you can leverage those initial relationships into rewarding partnerships. You’ll know you’re gaining traction when influencers start mentioning you in their posts, or use your content as a resource.
Market Your Social Networking Profiles
Don’t forget to put your profile URLs on your website, blog, email sig file/stationary, and other profiles. Also put it on your mail stationary, business cards, postcards, flyers, business storefront, bumper stickers, calendars, pens, and any unique promotional items you regularly give out to support your real estate business. This will help drive new and interested parties to your profile who might not have otherwise thought to look you up on these social networks.
Advanced Social Networking Techniques
Those basic steps should really keep you busy for awhile. If you apply these techniques on a daily basis for six months, you’re certain to make significant headway towards becoming a social networking influencer. Once you start to gather a following, here are some things you can do to help put yourself over the top.
Tie Your Social Networks Together
This goes back to branding. If you have a presence on several social networks, see if there’s any way you can start to get the different networks you’re on to start interacting with each other. Make mention of exclusive original content on Facebook from LinkedIn, for example. These kinds of cross-promotions can get your connections even more involved with your brand. If you can successfully get a contact from one social network to also add you on another, that just doubled the potential opportunities for interaction with that person.
Partner With Other Influencers
Once you are close to becoming a social networking influencer, then you will be taken more seriously by established influencers. Potential partnerships with these users include content authoring (guest posting on another users profile who has influence), cross-promoting (where you both solicit your friends to befriend the other influencer), and specific promotional initiatives sponsored by both parties (like a graphic design contest set up and endorsed by both influencers).
Start Aggressively Marketing Your Social Networking Brand
This is the final stage. When your social networking presence is generating income, and you are ready to go after a much larger audience, the time has come to start exploring aggressive marketing options such as impression-based contextual advertising and cost-per-click based search and contextual advertising. You can even start working your social networking brand into radio, print, and television commercials to increase your profile readership.
So to summarize, these are some great things to keep in mind when you use social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, and other sites to connect with people who may be interested in your sevices now or at some point down the line. Please feel free to comment with any tips you’ve found useful, and your feedback (it’s always welcome with open arms here).
Additional Social Networking Resources
Here are some additional articles on building up your social networking sway that you might find helpful:
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