The current housing slump has proven to be a formidable challenge to Realtors recently. A poll conducted by Inman News in December of 2008 indicated “The number of Realtors in America is almost certain to drop by 20 percent or more by 2010.” I think most of us expect that number to be a lot higher in all honesty. That being said, in order for a Realtor to remain successful in these market conditions, some out of the box strategy is most certainly necessary. Luckily, the internet provides a countless number of tools that for the most part require little if any investment other than time to take advantage of. The following strategy is my personal recommendation to Realtors seeking to take advantage of social media, defined by three segments; Personal Networking, Self-Promotion, and Property Promotion.

Personal Networking:

Personal referrals are priceless commodities for anyone in sales, that’s pretty common knowledge. But after a time you may discover that you’ve made it amply clear to your personal contacts that you’re in the business of moving property and yet there are few leads in the pipeline.

At this point, it’s important to network with people a little further outside your personal network. It’s time to get in contact with all those acquaintances from high school, college, old jobs, etc. This may seem like a daunting task, but now it’s easier than ever through the use of popular social networking sites such as facebook and myspace. It’s not just a bunch of kids running the show anymore, people young and old are spending hours a day reconnecting with others on these networks- your mom included. All you need to do is create a profile and start seeking out people to reconnect with. You’d be surprised at how many people will gladly ‘friend’ you, ask you what you’re doing nowadays, even suggest you meet up for coffee to catch up.

This is of course a fantastic way to generate new leads and clients. I personally find facebook to be far superior than myspace or any other networking site for that matter. I would suggest joining and creating facebook groups and pages relevant to your location, making new friends, and sharing your newest listings on your profile. There’s really an enormous amount of potential for a Realtor with a proper facebook profile. I would also suggest looking into an application on facebook called ‘neighborhoods.’ It allows you to connect with people down to the development that they live in and list your own properties in the neighborhood as well. More about taking advantage of facebook.

There really are countless tools available on the internet for personal networking. I would recommend facebook as the most effective, but there are other niche sites that you may benefit from. Check out BlackWidowNetwork.com or ActiveRain.com for sites specific to Real Estate. Once you’ve mastered the social networking sites I would also suggest growing your network on twitter. Twitter can be a little confusing to get the hang of at first, if you’re not familiar with it feel free to browse an earlier article I’ve published that explains this popular medium in greater detail. Basically, twitter is a mix between instant messaging and blogging, you can follow updates from others and they can follow your updates to whatever you might be doing at the time. It’s a great way to find or share links, news, property listings, and whatever else you can think of.

Still hungry for ways to meet new people? Try joining your local young professionals organization, often they host regular socials, clubs, and sports leagues that are great for meeting new people. Another popular site that you may wish to make use of is Meetup.com. You’ll easily find any number of groups of people that are planning social events around a shared interest in your home town. The advantage of these types of social events is that you’ll often be the only Realtor at the monthly sushi meetup as opposed to the three dozen that have decided to show up at your local chamber of commerce mixer.

Self Promotion:

Credibility is king to a salesperson seeking to sell anything big or small, but especially big. Investing in a home is going to require that the buyer trust your experience. A fantastic place to showcase your skills online is LinkedIn.com. The site is similar to facebook, except that it’s entire demeanor is professional as opposed to social. With a LinkedIn profile you can post an online resume of your experience, accomplishments, and credentials. One of the most useful functions of LinkedIn to a Realtor is the Recommendation function; you can solicit any of your contacts to write a personal review of their experience with your services. LinkedIn also ranks high in google searches, allowing your curious clients an easy way to find out more about you online. More details about LinkedIn can be found in another previous post of mine.

If you’ve got a knack for writing and a good bit of expertise, consider publishing a column on a blog, community website, or local publication. Sharing a few secrets of the trade is a worthwhile trade for targeted advertising and public credibility.

Property Promotion:

Of course you’ll need to put your product in front of your purchasers. The internet offers the fastest and cheapest means of communication, and I would recommend taking advantage of the aforementioned social media sites such as twitter, facebook, and LinkedIn to share information to your online networks. Post pictures and ask your friends to help spread the word about your listings. I would also recommend posting video, it doesn’t take a professional producer to walk through a house with a camera and it gives tentative home buyers an easy way to check out your listing if they’re intimidated by or don’t have the time for a scheduled tour. This will of course require you to purchase a video camera, but not to worry, you can pick up a quality camera with 30 minutes of recording time for well under $100.

Blogging is as popular as ever and may also be worth giving a try. My favorite blogging platform is WordPress, but there are many others out there that are easy to use and completely free for a basic site. One thing to keep in mind is that blogs are not a very focused means of promotion, as most people on the internet will have little interest in your services for the simple fact that they live thousands of miles away. However, blogs are good means of credibility and can certainly help you promote yourself and your listings. Getting traffic to your blog can be a bit of a challenge if you’re new to the idea; you can read about my personal recommendations for increasing website traffic in a previous post if you’re interested.

Final Thoughts:

Social media and internet technologies are changing standard business practice whether you want to admit it or not. Especially in times such as these, it’s important to embrace and take advantage of new tools. If you don’t, someone else will. I hope that this article gives you a few ideas on how to increase your pipeline and fatten your deal flow, or at the very least survive as a Realtor. Please feel free to comment on my suggestions and leave your own if you feel I’ve missed something, I look forward to your thoughts!