By Richard Silver
 
At a recent MLS and Technology Council Forum, the focus was Web 2.0 and its place in the future of real estate. There were lots of great discussions about adapting agent, corporate and board/association products to Web 2.0, looking at consumer habits, how things were changing with social networking and whether organized real estate could adapt.  Are we losing our audience to third parties who are adapting quicker than we are? Is organized real estate able to change enough to communicate with the consumer in the manner that they want?
 
What is really new about Web 2.0.? Nothing.
 
Web 1.0 was really about advertising – putting the information and the photos on the Internet in a nice package. You told a story but no one answered or commented. Web 2.0 is engaging the consumer in dialogue. It is what Realtors have done for years, networking and communicating. It’s nothing new for us. For years our managers have pushed us out of the office, to the golf course, community centre, coffee shop and social events, and have said, “Get out there, let people know who you are and what you do, answer their questions and deal with their objections.”
 
There is no secret to social networking. It is a way of connecting online with groups that you might have had to work much harder to access in pre-Web 2.0 life. It is all about participating in the discussion, not trying to sell a property but letting people know that you are out there and that you do sell real estate. It is about growing your network and being the “go-to” person when it comes to their real estate needs. Sounds exactly like what we’ve been doing for years and adapting sooner will likely get a bigger piece of the pie.
 
As a recent but prolific blogger, I often get asked, “I don’t have the time and what would I blog about?”  We get asked questions by our clients every day. Blogging allows you to sit down and take those questions, organize them, put your personal spin on them and post them online. The next time you get asked, you can refer your client to your blog. You may also get what you long to hear: “I have been reading your blog and really enjoyed that article on The Best Time to Sell. When can you come by?”
 
Even in this down market, the visits to my website and blog have increased by over 20 per cent in the last few months because I have added content, and what’s even better, consumers are spending 20 per cent longer on the site. I get comments and feedback on the blog, so I know people are reading it and I’m finding out what interests them. Sometimes when comments are not positive, I realize that I have not made the case as I should have and I can go back in, alter the blog and clarify my position. Like listening to talk radio, it gives you the pulse of the consumer even when it is not what you might like to hear.
 
Where do you start? When you launch any new project, spend some time looking at what others are doing and be the consumer. Visit sites, make comments where necessary and dip your toes in the water. Look at sites like Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Dig, Stumbledupon, Del.icio.us, Reddit, and Technorati.  Look at the blogs that are out there, set up a blog yourself or look at the myriad of templates that you can use and just start writing content and finding ways to get it out there.
 
The great news about online networking is that it is easy to get information of the “how to” kind. Check out ActiveRain, Localism, Zolve, Wanna Network, Inman News, BrokerAgentSocial and if you are really committed to reinventing yourself as a blogger, check out The Real Estate Tomato.
 
Like every new project, there is a high time commitment at the beginning as you get comfortable with new tools. The good news, if it can be called that, is that we are in a downturn and you should have plenty of time to reinvent yourself. Age is not an excuse unless you are ready to retire. If you are, not using the years of building your personal brand into a future of referrals is short-sighted at best.
 
Don’t be afraid of social networking, blogging and Web 2.0. Those are just titles – it’s all just networking. As a Realtor, you have been an expert at it for years. Only the tools have changed. Walk into that electronic room and engage the consumer!
 
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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