By Richard Silver
 
As social media gets more and more popular, many sales reps are jumping on the bandwagon, writing blogs, Twittering, and appearing on Linkedin and Facebook. While all of that is great, there are some questions you should be asking yourself before you head down what you might think is a shortcut on the Information Highway.
 
Have you established your brand? Do you have a personally branded website and email address? Many agents assume that being part of the broker brand is enough, but what if you should change brokerages or if your brokerage gets bought?
 
Establishing a personal brand means that you have become www.yourname.com and that your email address is [email protected] It means that you have used this URL and email address on all your advertising, signs and cards and have driven clients to your site as the place for expert information on you, your market and real estate issues. Your site or blog has become the location where the local guru, you, can answer all questions pertaining to real estate and the neighbourhood you work in. It is the reservoir of pertinent information about the kind of houses you sell and issues you deal with, as well as constantly updating market statistics.
 
How updated is your database? Over the past years, have you been growing your database so that it includes up-to-date email addresses? For some reasons, sales reps and their clients will update you about changes to their phone numbers but not their email addresses, even though more communication is occurring online. Most Internet users think that the answer to spam is changing their email addresses frequently, rather than installing firewalls and spam-filtering software.
 
Does your database break down your contacts in terms of spheres of influence – such as sales reps and brokers, buyers, sellers and service providers? Do you have a history of contacting all of these people by email? Have you culled your snail mail database, asking them if they would rather be contacted by email? Have you been sending out regular snail mail with market updates?
 
Are you attuned to the social media consumer? If you expect that you are going to get this consumer to give you 100 per cent undivided attention, you are going to be disappointed. This is the ADD generation, me included, so it is not just an age thing. We are used to “channel surfing” quickly until we find what interests us. We have gone from surfing TV to surfing the Internet, so you had better be concise, topical and easy to understand. Twitter messages are not longer than 140 characters. If you want to sell something, you have limited space and time to get the message out. You must be engaging to engage customers in today’s economy.
 
Are you really ready to be transparent? If you cannot let something be viewed in the public eye, maybe you should not be doing it. If your friends keep filling your Facebook photos with pictures of you after too many drinks, maybe they are trying a Facebook intervention. You do have some control over who can view your profiles on the social media sites, but if you are a person with a public persona, maybe table dancing at someone’s birthday party is not a good idea.
 
If you have strong views on any topic, make sure you can back them up with information and leave yourself open for input and discussion. The greatest thing about sharing views on the Internet is that as time passes and more information comes to light or your thoughts change, you can always revisit your posts, changing them and linking to supporting documentation, or even a mea culpa. Also, from time-to-time you will get comments from the public on a position that you may have taken and you realize from the comments left that you did not explain your position well and you can go back and further explain.
 
The next step? Social media is a great door to open, but once open you may not be able to close it. You may find that you have quite a need to say publicly what you have been telling clients privately for years. Don’t assume that you cannot write: you speak in an original manner and the great thing about this kind of communication is that you are best when you approach topics with your own thoughts and in your own voice.
 
Before you jump into the traffic, make sure that you have some of the basics down. Spend the time to develop your brand, remembering that your contacts are your best promoters. Be honest, giving succinct information and commentary that allows your true self to emerge.
You may find that underneath the Clark Kent/Lois Lane exterior lives a social media super star waiting to get out!
 
Richard Silver is “blogging-as-fast-as-I-can” at www.Torontoism.com. He is also a director-at-large of the Toronto Real Estate Board and on the MLS and Technology Council at CREA. Email [email protected].

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