How to Be Social

So you have a blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Great! You’re already doing better than the majority of agents, who have yet to leverage the power of social media to promote their real estate business. But now that you’re actively participating in social media, you should keep in mind that there’s a reason it’s called “social” media – you should be social! Even if in real life you’re an introvert and don’t particularly enjoy socializing, you should view social media as your opportunity to develop an alter ego and be much more social than you are in real life. Here are a few tips on how to be social.

So you have a blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Great! You’re already doing better than the majority of agents, who have yet to leverage the power of social media to promote their real estate business. But now that you’re actively participating in social media, you should keep in mind that there’s a reason it’s called “social” media – you should be social! Even if in real life you’re an introvert and don’t particularly enjoy socializing, you should view social media as your opportunity to develop an alter ego and be much more social than you are in real life. Here are a few tips on how to be social.

Be Active

A blog, or a Twitter account that never gets updated could actually hurt your brand. If you have social media accounts, be social by being active on them and updating them frequently. Social media is not the place to be shy or quiet! Get yourself out there and TALK.

Listen to Others, then Respond

Another golden rule of being social that applies both to real life and to social media: listen to what others have to say – truly listen – then respond. To be social, it’s not enough to talk and spread your own agenda and ideas. You need to have real conversations with others.

Be Helpful

You could call it Karma, or you could call it “tit for tat,” but whatever you call it, it works. If you help others in social media, linking to them from your blog, retweeting their tweets on Twitter, sharing their facebook postings with your own network, in many cases (although not always) it will come back to you in the form of others promoting YOUR content. It’s a win-win, really, so be generous.

Be Polite

We’ve mentioned it before – one of the golden rules of social media is that you must respect others and treat them the way you would want to be treated. Sounds familiar? Yes it does, because this golden rule applies outside of social media too! The most important thing to remember is that even though you’re interacting via a computer screen, you are talking with real people who have very real emotions and reactions. Be mindful and respectful of that.

Agent Safety

Internet Safety Tips: How To Avoid Phishing

I don’t know if it’s the recession, but spammers seem to be getting more and more aggressive recently. I’ve been getting lots of spam email and – even worse – phishing email. The problem: many of those emails seem completely legitimate at first, and can be sent out from email addresses that you trust.

Agent Safety

I don’t know if it’s the recession, but spammers seem to be getting more and more aggressive recently. I’ve been getting lots of spam email and – even worse – phishing email. The problem: many of those emails seem completely legitimate at first, and can be sent out from email addresses that you trust.

Spam is the unlawful, unsolicited sending of bulk email for commercial purposes. Phishing is the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as user names, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Many phishing emails masquerade as being sent from your bank, and ask you to click on a link. Once you click on the link, you arrive at a site that looks like your bank’s site, where you are asked to enter your user name and password, but in fact this is a phishing site that will use the information you enter to gain entry into your bank account.

So how do you protect yourself from Internet based fraud? Follow these simple tips:

Never Click on Links Embedded in Emails

It used to be that you could trust email from people you know, but these days, hackers can get into your friends’ emails and use them to send out spam and phishing emails that would bypass your spam filter. Click on links within emails only if you are 100% sure they are legitimate.

Guard Your Sensitive Information

Your bank, the IRS or any other reputable institution will never embed a link in an email that leads you to a page where you’re asked to provide sensitive information such as a user name, a password, your social security number, date of birth or any other information that can be used to break into your accounts or steal your identity. The phishing sites will do their best to scare you into giving out those details (“Or your account will be deactivated.”) Ignore these threats. You can always call the bank to ask if they had sent that email.

Make Sure The Site is Secure

Legitimate financial sites use the encrypted https instead of the regular http, and will have a lock symbol on the bottom right of your browser window. Phishing sites don’t.

Learn to Recognize Spam

Spam and phishing emails are often filled with spelling and grammatical errors and generally are not as sleek and professional as real emails from legitimate institutions.

Protect Your Computer

Protect your computer with effective anti-virus and anti-spam software, and set up firewalls. ZoneAlarm is a good free firewall and AVG is a good, free anti-virus software.  Make sure your operating system and browsers are updated  regularly. Always install security patches.

Use Passwords of At Least 12 Characters

Brute-force attacks are now much more of a threat to short passwords, given the increasing computational prowess of computers. According to researchers, length is a major factor to protect against brute force approaches.

If You’re A Victim, Act Immediately

If you provided account numbers or passwords to a phisher, notify the companies with whom you have the accounts right away. Place a fraud alert on your files at the credit reporting bureaus and file a police report with your local police station. Even if you didn’t fall for the phishing scam, it’s important to report phishing to the company  that the phisher was impersonating.

Internet fraud is a real threat that can wreak havoc on your life. “Better safe than sorry” has never been more true. It’s sad that we can’t be trusting anymore, not even when we get an email from a friend, but the reality is, we just can’t. It’s better to accept this and to act accordingly than to become a victim.

Why Twitter?

Twitter is a fascinating phenomenon. When it just started, many were wondering, “What’s the appeal?” You’re basically limited to posting VERY short messages (140 characters including spaces is NOT a lot!) and it’s not as rich as Facebook – you can only post text, although there are tools that enable posting richer media such as photos to Twitter.

Twitter is a fascinating phenomenon. When it just started, many were wondering, “What’s the appeal?” You’re basically limited to posting VERY short messages (140 characters including spaces is NOT a lot!) and it’s not as rich as Facebook – you can only post text, although there are tools that enable posting richer media such as photos to Twitter.

Twitter’s Power: Its Simplicity

But Twitter has become a hugely popular social media service, and people LOVE it. We think that the ultra-short messages are actually part of the appeal – people today have a very short attention span, especially on the Internet, and the way Twitter is built is just perfect for that. It’s a constant stream of information and messages, and you just dip in and out of the Twitter stream throughout your day, posting short updates and responding to tweets made by others.

In other words, Twitter’s power is in its simplicity. While other social media channels are rich and complex, Twitter is such a bare bone service , that it really brings the focus into the content of what people are saying – there are no annoying apps or silly games like you have in Facebook, for example.

Following People

Another big advantage of Twitter over other social networks is how easy it is to find and follow new people on Twitter. There are several tools available to find new people to follow based on their bio, keywords they use in their tweets, and there are also thousands of Twitter Lists, created by users, that make it very easy to follow people in a particular space. Not everyone you follow will follow you back, but you can periodically clean out your account from people who haven’t followed you back using tools such as buzzom.com.

Finding Local People

As an agent, it’s important to you to find people on Twitter who are from your own city. This is easy with Twitter advanced Search – you can search for tweets from a specific location, mentioning specific keywords, and you can also subscribe to this search and get daily results into your inbox.

Will Twitter Last?

While most in the social media space are fairly certain that Facebook is here to stay, some feel less comfortable with investing a lot of time into Twitter, saying that they’re not sure Twitter will still be here 5 years from now. Perhaps, but it’s here now, and can be very useful to agents.  Just make sure you don’t spend more than 10-15 minutes per day on Twitter – that’s all it takes to create a vibrant, effective Twitter account. Give it 6 months, and if you decide that Twitter is not working for you after all,  then just delete your account – at least you’ll know you gave it a try.

Find Us On Twitter!

Here’s our own Twitter account – would love to have you follow us!

Real Inventive on Twitter

How Can People Trust You As Their Agent When They’ve Never Met You?

“Trust is a function of two things: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, your motive, your intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, your skills, your results, your track record. And both are vital.”

Being able to build trust with clients has always been an important skill-set for agents because we normally start on the back foot due to the perception that we are only one step above used cars salespeople.

Every time an agent meets or speaks with a new client they generally have to focus a certain amount of their efforts on building rapport quickly and doing what they can to build likeability and trustworthiness to help overcome those pre-conceived ideas people have about real estate agents.

Over the internet, real estate agents don’t have the benefit of seeing non-verbal communication or hearing the tone in a voice. They also don’t have the luxury of being able to demonstrate some of their well rehearsed scripts & dialogues and put their negotiation skills to full use.

The nature of the internet has also changed the way agents show property. It’s now extremely rare to have clients in the car traveling around for hours at a time seeing the homes the agent decides to show them. Nowadays, most people simply meet the agent at one property at a scheduled time or they attend an Open For Inspection.

The whole demographic of client interaction has been changed forever.

What can you do about it?

I recently read this book ‘The Speed of Trust – The One Thing That Changes Everything’ and in it Steven M. R. Covey said:-

“Trust is a function of two things: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, your motive, your intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, your skills, your results, your track record. And both are vital.”

With the internet providing transparency and insights into the marketing framework of most agencies, your Character can be interpreted in the way you present your listings for sale and the script within your website, articles, etc.

Plus, when it comes to Competence, it has now become a lot easier for consumers to identify the IT savvy agencies over the pretenders. A real estate agencies competency or lack of competency online can have a resounding impact on their overall success.

People are now making decisions about you and your company over the web. That’s the transparent nature of the web.

Are lots of clients calling you in for an appraisal because they like what you’re doing over the internet? OR on the other hand are the vast majority of them not calling you and are you losing business to your competitors because the potential clients don’t think your online marketing is up to scratch?

Does your online marketing need to be looked at professionally, from a different point of view?

Let’s face it, you can be the greatest agent at scripts and dialogues or be the best negotiator in the business but if the potential client doesn’t like what they see about you over the internet then in the majority of circumstances you won’t even get the chance to present to them.

As the internet keeps evolving and expanding into new, exciting areas, for some the changes to the web will act like an accelerator for their business BUT for others it will act like ‘the brake’.

Is the internet working effectively for you or not? Do you get many people subscribing automatically to receive information from you or are you still manually entering in most of your customers into your database?

Are you getting called into enough market appraisals? Have you implemented an effective online lead generation strategy? Are you embracing the online world and using the power of Social Media to help build trust faster through online recommendations?

Finally, within the heading of this article, I posed the following question “How Can People Trust You As Their Agent When They’ve Never Met You?”

Please take some time to think about some answers to that question because if you can come up with a few answers to it, you’ll be well on your way to achieving some incredible success in your real estate career.

Please feel welcome to ask any questions or share your thoughts and ideas within the comments section below.

How Agents Can Use SMS Marketing More Effectively

Most CRM systems for the real estate industry now include Bulk SMS functionality and many agents are now using this service quite effectively to keep in touch with their database en masse via bulk text messaging out to their customers’ mobile device.

The number of people who are using their mobile devices for browsing the internet is growing rapidly and it only looks like continuing to increase dramatically into the future.

Most CRM systems for the real estate industry now include Bulk SMS functionality and many agents are now using this service quite effectively to keep in touch with their database en masse via bulk text messaging out to their customers’ mobile device.

However, I’ve also noticed that some of the trainers and/or suppliers of CRM’s don’t seem to embrace the user functionality that now comes as almost a standard within mobile phone technology and embrace the fact that the internet is now accessible via the iPhone, Android, Smart Phones, etc.

One of the reasons why I say this is that so far within the standard SMS templates that I have seen uploaded within these systems, I haven’t come across anyone who has suggested that the SMS message should contain a website URL within the body of the text message.

This seems unusual because when you send an SMS which includes the full URL of a website, the link normally becomes hyperlinked on the mobile device which makes it very easy for people to press their finger onto the hyperlink on their screen and visit the website via the mobile internet browser within their hand-held device.

It helps to build your profile and reinforce your branding.

Doing this could not only help to drive lots more traffic to your website, but it could also help to remind the people of who you are and help keep your company branding message top of mind.

Providing a link also makes it easy for the customer to visit your site and identify who you are and maybe read more about you and your company while they are out and about.

To create a link to a URL within a text message is really easy, you simply include the website address within the body of the text.

But it’s important to note that whenever you insert a URL into an SMS make sure you insert the full website address, including the http:// or www. prefix. If you don’t then the mobile device wont identify it as a website address and won’t hyperlink the URL.

If you don’t include the full website address and the URL doesn’t become hyperlinked, the SMS recipient would then need to write down the URL and type it into their browser, which will then reduce your click-thru rate dramatically.

Use a short URL within your text message.

The only real issue with inserting a URL is the length of the domain name. Most mobile providers only allow 160 characters per SMS and the last thing you want to do is send out 2 separated text messages, because it will increase your unsubscribe rate.

Some agents will want to send people across to one of their latest listings or a property that they have just sold, but normally the website address for these listings can often be coded in such a way that the URL is actually longer than the 160 characters allowed.

So the solution is to either use a URL shortening service like TinyURL.com, bit.ly or alternatively you could insert the website address of an Individual Property Website (eg. www.555AnySt.com).

To demonstrate the difference in the URL’s, here’s a live example of a property.

The URL on ZILLOW is http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/2603-Stallions-Ln-Celina-TX-75009/83732918_zpid/

The URL on TRULIA is http://www.trulia.com/property/1047635093-2603-Stallions-Ln-Celina-TX-75009

The URL via ListingDomains.com is 2603Stallions.com

So, for instance in the www.2603Stallions.com example, if the agent wants to send out an SMS about the property, the web address has only 21 characters (just over 10% of the characters allowed within an SMS message) which leaves plenty of room within the SMS for the rest of the message.

Sending out an SMS about your Individual Property Websites will not only help you to drive more visitors to your listings, but it will also show prospective clients the unique way that you can now showcase their home ‘exclusively’ over the internet, which could be just the innovation that helps you to win their listing over the competition.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can easily and affordably create an Individual Property Website for your clients, visit ListingDomains.com – its where a HOME gets a WEBSITE of its own.

Note: I have included the link to the ‘Live’ example listing appearing on Zillow and Trulia only as a reference. I don’t recommend sending links out that direct traffic across to your listings appearing on the major portals because it can lead to sending potential clients across to your competitors listings.