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Tech Makeover: Improve Your Social Media Presence Today

by Matthew Ferrara

Matthew Ferrara Lady_phone_apps

In our latest social media makeover, we spent some time chatting with Darcy Wendt, GRI, of PMZ Real Estate in Modesto, CA. Like many real estate professionals, Darcy has been working her way through the social media space, piecing together a sensible and sustainable strategy for leveraging social media in her marketing. And like many agents, Darcy has discovered the need to tailor her approach to her personal style and maintain her momentum to create opportunities.

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Here are a few pieces from our conversation that can help our readers improve their strategy for social media success as well.

It was clear early on in our conversation that Darcy has tried what many others have when it comes to social media. She's put a lot of toes in a lot of waters. 

She's started lots of profiles in all the usual spaces, but only a few have remained part of her daily efforts. Not surprisingly, Facebook gets the most of her attention for a couple of reasons. First, it's easy to maintain while on the go: Darcy does most of her postings using her smartphone. 

Second, Darcy's Facebook experience has already led to some measurable business opportunities. She has re-connected with old friends with children just starting the first home purchase process, which is an experience many agents have when they start out in social media. 

The real test of online success, however, always comes when we exhaust the easy opportunities and have to sustain a long-term prospecting effort within our sphere of influence.

That's why Darcy recognizes the greater opportunities that exist if she can duplicate these patterns with more contacts or in other social networks. It's a big task, keeping it organized and maintaining fresh content in many environments. So we offered Darcy some specific steps to expand her success online.

Fewer, deeper, better. 
The first suggestion is to stop trying to be everywhere online. Joining more social sites doesn't necessarily mean you'll reach more people. It does mean, however, you'll have more profiles to maintain (or run the risk of looking like an abandoned profile, which is even worse from a PR perspective). 

Social media isn't mass marketing; it's personal networking. So find a couple of venues where your sphere of influence already participates, and get deeply involved in the conversation. In Darcy's case, we suggested she stop trying to revive old profiles on sites mostly frequented by other real estate agents and double-down on sites where clients were already connected, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

By contributing more to three sites, she could balance the time commitment without sacrificing quality. Her interactions with prospective and past clients could be richer without becoming unmanageable.

Divide, then connect. Our second suggestion was to divide her connections in each platform into groups so she could target her messages more specifically by audience. In Facebook, this means using "lists" to subdivide friends into audiences such as business, personal, REALTOR®, vendor or other descriptive types. 

This will let Darcy target postings to the right audience, using the targeting tool in the update box. She can also control her privacy better, delimiting which groups can see certain parts of her profile, such as personal info or pictures. 

Similar features exist in other platforms. LinkedIn offers "tags" for contacts in your address book, which enable searches and direct messaging, although you cannot target updates to tagged groups. After dividing your networks into groups where possible, consider interconnecting them to save time reaching multiple audiences in different platforms. 

For example, you can use a Facebook application to connect your LinkedIn profile, which automatically re-posts Facebook updates to your LinkedIn status. Similarly, LinkedIn connects to Twitter profiles, automatically reposting your status updates there. Without the need for any other software, Darcy can cascade one status update to three networks.

Content farming. Our third suggestion for Darcy helped her tackle one of the toughest issues in effective social networking: What do you say when you've run out of the obvious and don’t want to discuss the weather? 

This is where a good RSS farm is handy. An RSS farm is a collection of Web site feeds, or syndication updates, that are aggregated into an easy reader. This lets you skim and share the headlines of many sites at once to locate content quickly. One of the easiest RSS readers is Google Reader, which is Web-based, so you can scan feeds from any Web appliance. 

Adding RSS feeds is easy: click the RSS symbol at the top of almost any Web site, and your browser will offer to subscribe directly or connect it to your Google (or other) reader. Add feeds from lots of different sources – not just real estate topics, but also lifestyle, technology, local events and especially video. Anything that might be of interest to your sphere of influence is useful as a daily contribution item, as long as it will make friends think positively about your interactions. 

Remember, you're going to be social networking far more frequently than traditional mailings, so you need a lot of content. With an RSS farm, quickly reviewing interesting content and then sharing it to your social media presence is streamlined.

Mobilize everything. Darcy was already using her smartphone to manage her Facebook presence, so mobilizing her entire social network strategy should be an easy improvement. 

Searching, sharing and monitoring on a handheld can often be challenging, depending upon your technology. Darcy uses a Blackberry, so our immediate suggestion was to download Viigo to gather her RSS feeds into a mobile application designed for smaller screens and fewer clicks. Similar apps are available for most mobile operating systems. 

Also, we suggested Darcy learn her "direct" e-mail and texting addresses for the popular platforms. She can text a status update to Facebook rather than launch the application or Web site. Likewise, Darcy can SMS a tweet using her Twitter profile's "short code" stored in her phone’s address book. All of these techniques will help Darcy keep connected while keeping on the go.

Join the group. Our last suggestion for Darcy was to consider ways she can use social media as a listen-and-learn tool. Some of the most powerful opportunities occur simply by joining a conversation and listening to people explore ideas, share stories and offer perspectives. 

This is where the professional networks like LinkedIn really shine. The LinkedIn Groups function lets users join others in discussions and sharing spaces on like-minded topics. In addition to real estate groups, she should consider groups focused on topics she's passionate about – hobbies, interests, activities – because they offer great ways to learn and meet people who might someday need her services.

By the end of our conversation, Darcy was clearly on her way to implementing some simple and sensible techniques that will help her maximize her business online. With a few tweaks and tools to help her consistently contribute to the online discussion, Darcy should have no trouble making social media a source of growth for her career this year.

Matthew Ferrara is CEO of Matthew Ferrara & Company, an international real estate consulting, management, strategy and sales organization. For more than two decades, Ferrara has been helping top-performing brokerages to transform their marketing, technology and customer service strategies to create loyal clients and lead the competition in the next generation of real estate business. Learn more at www.matthewferrara.com.

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