Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher
 

Socially Awkward Networking

While the vast majority of REALTORS still don’t know that exists, there’s definitely a trend growing amongst “early adopters” to drive a stake in the heart of Web 2.0 world. Being first often creates a competitive advantage – such as being first to respond to a buyer’s inquiry on a property. On the other hand, being effective with technology requires something that too many REALTORS still need to learn:

We don’t care that you have just listed another overpriced property!

On the surface, social networking is the easiest technology for the industry’s Boomer-somethings to master. Unlike MLS systems, forms software, corporate intranets or the menus of not-so-smart-smartphones, social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn are mercifully straightforward. Simply fill in the blanks and you’re in the network. A box for your name, another another for your email and website. And don’t forget the box box for your high-school photo. Social networking is easier than taking an overpriced listing.

Or is it? With half a billion people doing it, real estate professionals might want to take a few minutes to study a few good profiles. Then copy them, link to them and learn. But don’t make assumptions that your online photo makes you an instant social celebrity: Unlike personal bragging sites, it takes more than a snazzy page to master this new medium. Great social networking is about how you interact with your sphere of influence online.

That’s the entire point, of course. Social networking isn’t advertising. It’s about managing an endless ‘online conversation’ where your friends, family and past/future business connections interact. With you, through you, and because of you. And that’s how you leverage Web 2.0 to build relationships online. To stay connected. Social networking is the ultimate solution to the “customer for life” problem in for any industry.

Which would be great news, if somehow the usual real estate “minimalist approach to technology” could be avoided.  So far, though, it seems like all the real estate industry has heard about social networking is: “Look! Another web site where I can slap up my personal bio, drip-out my photoless listings and copy-paste my classified ads!”

Alas, it’s simply awful. As usual, REALTORS are treating social networking like another e-substitute for postcards and their pathetic listing sheets. Too many status updates, wall-postings, share-a-links and the REALTOR-to-REALTOR discussions and nothing more than big, bland blather.

Oh! Who wants to send me a sale? Hey, I want referrals! Look! I’m online! Isn’t this cool?? No, it’s not. And click, you’re not my friend any more.

One can only thank the advertising gods that nobody has yet to figure out how to post real estate listings on toilet paper.

We wouldn’t act this way in “real life” social networking, so why do so online? Nobody networks like this at a party or restaurant. Do you move from handshake to listing sheet when you meet someone for the first time? Somewhere along the line, agents have completely missed the point: Social networking isn’t just another place to vomit your advertising.

The case in point came to me the other day, by “blast email” within my LinkedIn account. I went from being ” a friend I trust” to just being another address in a distribution list. Worse was the content of the message. It was – gasp, I can hardly say it – full of ABBREVIATIONS! The REALTOR simply cut-and-paste their NEWSPAPER CLASSIFIED AD into a mass-blasted email to their entire social network list.

Not hyperlink to the listing. No photo. Not even fully spelled out words. I nearly cried.

Aside from violating almost every online advertising rule, this mass-blast contravened the culture of social networks. Online social networks have rules, just like a golf club has a dress code. Each has a kind of culture. What is acceptable is slightly different in each, so there isn’t one set of rules. But it’s fairly certain that in most of the social networks, rampant advertising isn’t the norm.

Just as email has a certain kind of communications etiquette, structured networks like Facebook or LinkedIn, operate within behavioral norms. Consider them social networking manners that sit somewhere between red-light-websites and the buttoned-down-IRS website. Somewhere in between is a culture that defines how to get connected and interact in each social network.

Most importantly, perhaps critically, is that social networking isn’t a new space for “blast advertising.” In fact, you’ll notice that even the most “open” social network – MySpace – is very mild when it comes to integrated advertising, by both the site owners and the participants. In general, most social networking is a place where people interact: not a sales platform. It’s about building and maintaining relationships with people you know and people you’d like to meet. In a normal, not-in-your-face sort of way.

This doesn’t mean to say you can’t do “business” using social networks. It’s done all the time. But it’s done in the kind of way that says, “Hey, nice to see you again! Hope all is well. By the way…. ” Not WHAM! BAM! SPAM YOU, MA’AM! Not a torrent of advertising in every personal update, every shared link, every photo upload. It’s just not the social networking way.

Social networking isn’t traditional marketing.  It isn’t blast advertising. It isn’t a new distribution channel for your career. Yes, it’s about you – but the real you, the full you, the human you. It’s where people learn about you, and learn to trust you. It’s where they see who also knows you, likes you, and trusts you.

It’s where referrals come from – but aren’t demanded via spam. Where relationships matter – because people get to know more about the “whole you,” not just the “promotional you.” Where updates tell the story about the normal you, not just the client-testimonial you.

Every time you try to turn social networking into blatant advertising space, you’re going to rub the online culture the wrong way. Maybe even look silly – or desperate. One dimensional. Generation X and Y could care less about your marketing message anyway: They don’t believe it, and they don’t trust it. And if that’s all there is on your social networking page, they won’t hug you for it. Not even Generation Y.

And they certainly won’t hire you.

If you’re not careful, awkward social networking can result in the exact opposite of your desired outcomes. Instead of becoming someone people seek out, trust, and refer to each other, you could become someone they disconnect from, delete or simply filter out.

  • Many real estate industry professionals don’t get it! Social networking is about “networking” not stating they are the best real estate agent so send me business. If you aren’t going to take the time and participate in the discussions and add something meaningful, you shouldn’t participate.

  • Many real estate industry professionals don’t get it! Social networking is about “networking” not stating they are the best real estate agent so send me business. If you aren’t going to take the time and participate in the discussions and add something meaningful, you shouldn’t participate.

  • Hi Matthew.

    I couldn’t agree more with your article! Todd Costigan from Marketlinx sent it to me today to get my thoughts. Our AnnounceMyListing powered by AnnounceMyMove.com marketing tool for REALTORS was launched in November 2008. It interfaces with Facebook and other social networking sites and addresses this issue is the appropriate way…as your article suggests. I will be traveling for business until February 9th. If you would like to see the back end of this product, I would be happy to show you what we are doing with MLS’s and RealBiz30, out technology partner. We have three MLS contracts that will be launched in February with our new AnnounceMyListing tool. Shoot me an email, and I we can set up an appointment.

    I plan to share your article with the CRS speakers next week in San Francisco at the Sell-a-bration event. They are speaking on this topic at their “Prospecting With Technology” session.

    Janelle Odishoo, Co-Founder of AnnounceMyMove.com
    VP of Marketing and Business Development

  • Hi Matthew.

    I couldn’t agree more with your article! Todd Costigan from Marketlinx sent it to me today to get my thoughts. Our AnnounceMyListing powered by AnnounceMyMove.com marketing tool for REALTORS was launched in November 2008. It interfaces with Facebook and other social networking sites and addresses this issue is the appropriate way…as your article suggests. I will be traveling for business until February 9th. If you would like to see the back end of this product, I would be happy to show you what we are doing with MLS’s and RealBiz30, out technology partner. We have three MLS contracts that will be launched in February with our new AnnounceMyListing tool. Shoot me an email, and I we can set up an appointment.

    I plan to share your article with the CRS speakers next week in San Francisco at the Sell-a-bration event. They are speaking on this topic at their “Prospecting With Technology” session.

    Janelle Odishoo, Co-Founder of AnnounceMyMove.com
    VP of Marketing and Business Development

  • Whoa! you are really venting now – Its frustrating I agree I hate seeing the thick gushy “I am always working” on the social sites ( I may be guilty of some of the minor stuff myself).

    So, I figured I’d get to the end of the article where you would have some guidelines on what ‘TO” do…. ? or, did this work just the way you expected and here I am at your site 😉

  • Whoa! you are really venting now – Its frustrating I agree I hate seeing the thick gushy “I am always working” on the social sites ( I may be guilty of some of the minor stuff myself).

    So, I figured I’d get to the end of the article where you would have some guidelines on what ‘TO” do…. ? or, did this work just the way you expected and here I am at your site 😉

  • Matthew ~

    Great article!

    I have posted this as my message to my fellow Brother & Sister REALTORS as my Ping.fm status update… of course, giving credit to the real author!

    I thank you for all you do to help my profession get better!

    Keith Kreuer
    Richmond, VA

  • Matthew ~

    Great article!

    I have posted this as my message to my fellow Brother & Sister REALTORS as my Ping.fm status update… of course, giving credit to the real author!

    I thank you for all you do to help my profession get better!

    Keith Kreuer
    Richmond, VA

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Tony: – Yes, it’s time for us to do more than “ego” work on our web sites! Thanks for the comment!

    Janelle: Feel free to share it with everyone you wish; Sounds like an exciting new system – drop me a line once it’s running and I’d be happy to learn more.

    Christy: Maybe I’ll write a follow up on more “DOs” and a few more Don’t’s and that will bring you back for another visit to the site? GRIN! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    Keith: Thanks for your comments – keep up the good work!

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Tony: – Yes, it’s time for us to do more than “ego” work on our web sites! Thanks for the comment!

    Janelle: Feel free to share it with everyone you wish; Sounds like an exciting new system – drop me a line once it’s running and I’d be happy to learn more.

    Christy: Maybe I’ll write a follow up on more “DOs” and a few more Don’t’s and that will bring you back for another visit to the site? GRIN! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    Keith: Thanks for your comments – keep up the good work!

  • Nice article. For somebody starting over in the real estate business (closed my company and I’m back in sales), these sites have been very helpful in reconnecting with old friends. This information hopefully will help me to build and retain the connections that I have on Linkedin and Facebook. Thanks.

  • Nice article. For somebody starting over in the real estate business (closed my company and I’m back in sales), these sites have been very helpful in reconnecting with old friends. This information hopefully will help me to build and retain the connections that I have on Linkedin and Facebook. Thanks.

  • Robert Morey

    Matt,

    You’re 100% right. To many in our business are approaching this “Brave New World” with the same outdated ideas.

  • Robert Morey

    Matt,

    You’re 100% right. To many in our business are approaching this “Brave New World” with the same outdated ideas.

  • After reading your article I switched my photo on FACEBOOK. I deleted my “realtor” photo and posted a “real” photo. You made some really great points and I plan to forward the article to other agents.

  • After reading your article I switched my photo on FACEBOOK. I deleted my “realtor” photo and posted a “real” photo. You made some really great points and I plan to forward the article to other agents.

  • Laura

    Matt,
    I agree whole heartedly! Although, part of me says: let them keep doing it, then those who do use these platforms correctly will benefit; hence less competition!
    My nice side hopes that professionals will not read this but APPLY it. Thank you for shedding light to a misunderstood topic .

  • Laura

    Matt,
    I agree whole heartedly! Although, part of me says: let them keep doing it, then those who do use these platforms correctly will benefit; hence less competition!
    My nice side hopes that professionals will not read this but APPLY it. Thank you for shedding light to a misunderstood topic .

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Laura – ha ha! It’s amazing when we talk about “the competition” that it really doesn’t take too much to rise “above the bar…”

    Keep up the good work!
    Matthew

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Laura – ha ha! It’s amazing when we talk about “the competition” that it really doesn’t take too much to rise “above the bar…”

    Keep up the good work!
    Matthew

  • Matthew,

    Nice work. You hit the nail on the head with vey little foaming at the mouth!

  • Matthew,

    Nice work. You hit the nail on the head with vey little foaming at the mouth!

  • Mike McKenna

    Matthew,
    By far the best read on social networking for real estate agents I have come across. A follow up in definitly in order.

  • Mike McKenna

    Matthew,
    By far the best read on social networking for real estate agents I have come across. A follow up in definitly in order.

  • Guilty as charged! I every so often toss in an advetisement- it seems that I too have lost the message.

  • Guilty as charged! I every so often toss in an advetisement- it seems that I too have lost the message.

  • Darlene

    Matt, you are so funny! I love the way you get your point across. It really doesn’t take much to “get it” on these sites. I usually lurk a little to get the rules of the road and then dive in. Ok, I won’t mention manners, oops.

    Eventually, they’ll “get it” when they see that no one wants to comment on their postings….over and over again and realize that the postings with content and value do get attention.

    The big thing I learned from e-PRO was that the delete key can be your best friend. We’ll on Facebook, it’s IGNORE. I am happy to have options:)

    Darlene Sodano, GRI,CBR,SRES,e-PRO,LMC
    Licensed Broker in MA & NH

  • Darlene

    Matt, you are so funny! I love the way you get your point across. It really doesn’t take much to “get it” on these sites. I usually lurk a little to get the rules of the road and then dive in. Ok, I won’t mention manners, oops.

    Eventually, they’ll “get it” when they see that no one wants to comment on their postings….over and over again and realize that the postings with content and value do get attention.

    The big thing I learned from e-PRO was that the delete key can be your best friend. We’ll on Facebook, it’s IGNORE. I am happy to have options:)

    Darlene Sodano, GRI,CBR,SRES,e-PRO,LMC
    Licensed Broker in MA & NH

  • Mathew,

    Great post. It should be a must read for all realtors that venture into social networking. Loved the statement “Where relationships matter – because people get to know more about the

  • Mathew,

    Great post. It should be a must read for all realtors that venture into social networking. Loved the statement “Where relationships matter – because people get to know more about the

  • Guilty as charged! Somehow I got the idea from watching my friend’s postings that the idea was to remind everyone constantly that I’m a Realtor. Well I’ve never been accused of being subtle but I will certainly keep your points in mind.
    Mandy Loftis CRS, CSP, E-Pro, Green

  • Guilty as charged! Somehow I got the idea from watching my friend’s postings that the idea was to remind everyone constantly that I’m a Realtor. Well I’ve never been accused of being subtle but I will certainly keep your points in mind.
    Mandy Loftis CRS, CSP, E-Pro, Green

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Mandy:
    Ha ha – I know, it’s tempting, but glad you now see that your social network doesn’t need to be constantly reminded that – oh! you sell homes??? LOL!

    Have a super day!
    Matthew

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Mandy:
    Ha ha – I know, it’s tempting, but glad you now see that your social network doesn’t need to be constantly reminded that – oh! you sell homes??? LOL!

    Have a super day!
    Matthew

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