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Essential Ingredients for Your Web Presence

by Melissa Riske

tech toolsGuilty of another e-newsletter touting the perks of refinancing, a Facebook post about the improving housing market or perhaps a Twitter page that hasn't seen a new Tweet in weeks? You also may be guilty of what Matthew Ferrara calls poor website manners. 

"If you restrict your web personality to pure statistics and reports then you are forgettable," according to Ferrara, creator of the Matthew Ferrara Learning Network. Through his seminars, website and blogs he aims to help individuals and businesses make improvements to increase sales and find better, effective ways of reaching clients. 

And when it comes to a website presence and using social media for marketing, he said real estate agents are often “stinky carp,” or in other words, spending too much time carping about themselves and missing prime opportunities to connect through a strong online presence. 

Matthew FerraraWhen it comes to developing the essential ingredients to a successful web presence the recipe calls for creativity, strong visual components, plenty of social media activity and a strong dose of personality.

Ferrara said people are dreamers. They are dreaming of their next home, whether it’s a bigger house in the suburbs or a condominium in the city. They are dreaming of a bigger kitchen, a spacious bathroom or perhaps a retirement getaway somewhere warm. 

And where do dreamers love to go? "Pinterest is great," Ferrara said. "I absolutely love Pinterest because it is a dream space." The website is gaining popularity as a place for sharing ideas, from crafts and recipes to dream kitchens, flourishing gardens and more. 

Robyn WalkerRobyn Walker, director of education and recruiting for Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel in Troy, MI, said she is using Pinterest and finding it is a great way to connect with people on the web. "People are visual and they like to see video, pictures," Walker said. "Pinterest is a nice network." She likes the idea of posting photos from luxury homes, a great idea for remodeling a room or sharing information about great products to use around the house.

While interest in Pinterest may be project-based, sharing photos about ideas for kitchen remodeling designs can lead to other conversations, the experts agree. 

Taking the visual interest from still photos to video, Ferrara said sites such as YouTube and WellcomeMat.com will be tremendous tools for real estate agents. Ferrara described how an agent used a 45-second video of a morning walk down by the beach in Boston that ended with a coffee cup on a table. He says this simple video engages the dreamer with the "I want to be there" desire.

What are other simple ways real estate agents can use video? Ferrara says turning a standard monthly e-newsletter into a short video is a start. Posting a clip from a local parade or other community activities and sites around town can be engaging. 

Amy ChorewAmy Chorew, vice president of platform development for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, uses blogging to communicate via the web, but she cautions it isn't for everyone. "Blogging takes skill, time and energy," Chorew said. "Blogging is not for the faint of heart."

Chorew said blogging is a niche, but for those with a talent for writing and a time to commit, it can be a great way to open dialogues and increase a web presence, especially when it comes to getting noticed through search engines.

Social media is another avenue that can be a strong tool when reaching out to a customer base. While Facebook and Twitter are perhaps the top sites to use, it isn't enough to create an account. 

Walker said she encourages agents to post to Facebook between five to eight times each week. She says the content should demonstrate how a REALTOR® is really an expert in the community. Sharing information about local farmers markets to festivals and even great spots in town to dine and shop.

"You want your customers and potential clients to see you as an important source of information about a community," Walker said. 

At a time when there is tremendous real estate content available on the web, customers who are searching for a good real estate agent want someone who knows the ins and outs of a neighborhood. And, it's not enough to simply post content, Walker said. "You must be present and engaging. Listen to what people are interested in and be aware."

That calls for a strong dose of personality. 

"My number one rule is the best web presence requires people to be themselves," Ferrara said. 'You're selling you. You want people to like you, to recommend you, to recognize you."

Ferrara said it's ok to share a joke or talk about a personal experience. It's ok to share a thought that will make someone smile, think or provide useful information about the community. "As you build your website presence, whether it's through Facebook, Twitter or another platform, make sure there is enough of you to make me want to like you," Ferrara said. 

Chorew uses social media to share her gardening adventures. "I am myself," she said. "I am convinced it's been really powerful for my business."

But while social media can be a great output for sharing, be careful not to let things get too personal. Chorew says one of the first steps she takes when considering new hires is to "Google" as a way to review a candidate's web footprint. Chorew suggests, before you dive in to social media, consider what you want to share, the image you want to project and the type of information you're comfortable publishing.

"Whatever you decide, stick with it and be the same person all of the time," she said. 

And, according to Walker, don't forget that social media is a two-way street; it's important to Tweet a thank-you or share a comment or two. 

"You need to engage," Walker said. "Listen to what people are interested in. When it comes to social media, you always need to be listening and be aware. It's not just enough to be there."

While Ferrara said social media, such as Facebook, doesn't offer a measureable return on investment, it can be a useful tool to keeping a simple presence to clients, customers and friends. And it’s just a matter of time before someone has a question and needs a referral. 

"The key is more talking and less selling," Walker says. "Put out information. Share pictures."

Whether it's a page on Google+ or a profile on LinkedIn, be sure to track and continually update those web pages to keep your contact information accurate. "If and when the consumer wants you, make sure they can find you," Walker said.

Melissa Riske is a freelance writer based in Chicago.  

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