I really want to understand how real estate agents are thinking about social networking sites and brand building. How do you think about your interactions on the tool and what do you think are your lead generation and brand building goals? What tools do you use within these sites to achieve your goals and how much time do you spend working the network?
Let me take a minute to start the conversation by sharing my perspective. Social Networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn have taken off, mostly, I believe, because they are so closely similar to how we live in the “real world”. Essentially, social relationships can be broken into three major categories – Friends, Acquaintances and Strangers. When I think about Social Networking and brand building, these three categories become the critical construct.
Friends – When I think about the core of my referral network I think about my friends. In a work sense, these are the people who know me and know my style the best. I trust them and they trust me. When I seek a recommendation, I turn to my friends. I have many ways to communicate with my friends, including email, telephone and text – but I use the social networking sites as an easy way to stay up-to-date on their activities. By using these technology tools, I can stay closer to my friends with less total effort than ever before.
In a brand sense, my closest friends embody my personal brand message. They are truly my best voice into the market, they send me the best leads, and when they praise me it is heartfelt and sincere. With my integrated marketing programs, this core set of influencers receive all of my brand building communications both offline and online with the understanding that given a chance to promote me to their friends in need of my services they will do just that. When I think about our products, this is a perfect group to receive Home by Design (https://www.homebydesign.com/index_content.html) or Your Home and Lifestyle (https://www.yourhomeandlifestyle.com/home.html).
Acquaintances – These are my broader contacts in my network. I rarely directly call, text or email them, but I am curious to know about what they are doing. We run into each other at industry functions and ask about each others kids. The social networking technology has let me participate in their lives in an effortless way. Professionally, they are a great referral network, generating business for me and visa-versa. For integrated marketing, some acquaintances get my offline brand-building products and some only get my online messages. These decisions are based on the relative strength of their networks. For influencers in the community, I include them in all of my communications including the magazines listed above.
Strangers – While I do not personally know the people in this group, there is a good chance that my friends and acquaintances do. This is where communicating to the network has so much benefit. Your offline and online listing marketing helps you to develop a brand and generate leads primarily from strangers – people you have yet to meet. Your social networking and integrated marketing activities help when strangers are looking to be referred to a top-notch agent.
There is nothing new to any this schema, nor to this approach other than the tools themselves. Don’t think of these sites like cheap lead sources or even farming – but rather opportunities to develop and expand your brand with friends and acquaintances.