By Petra Jones
Real estate agents are being encouraged by marketing experts to start a blog, but when it comes to practical advice on writing it, there’s little guidance on what to include and what form your blog should take.
It’s easy for the line between websites and blogs to become blurred – both offer Internet-based real estate information. Blogs are essentially regular bulletins providing a mixture of real estate news, opinions, how-to guides and information. Their purpose is not to replicate real estate listings or other information already published on your website, but to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise, and present a friendly human face to your real estate agency. Blogs can be used to develop the rapport that is so necessary in building relationships with potential new clients.
It’s important to keep your blogs reasonably informal – remember, people should enjoy reading them and find them thought-provoking or interesting. Let your personality and passion for real estate shine through as well as your knowledge. Blogs are meant to be personal and readers are as interested in the humour and opinions of the real estate agent as they are in factual information.
Here are a few more tips:
Statistics – If you’re going to include statistics in your blog posts, try not to bombard the reader with data. Intersperse tables and charts with large paragraphs of text and avoid the more complex forms of line graph, stacked bar or pie charts. Keep things simple – any trend illustrated by a chart should be immediately obvious and easily understood. Avoid successive blog posts all based around statistics – readers are interested in a wide range of topics, from news about local developments to information on local infrastructure and transport, through to the opinions of locals on what’s it’s like to live in the neighbourhood.
Size – Readers aren’t looking for real estate essays but manageable bite-size blogs. It’s better to write smaller blogs regularly (perhaps once or twice a week) than enormous blogs once every month. It may be worth trying to keep your blogs around the same length by splitting longer blogs into several parts, saving some of the content for another blog. Holding a blog in reserve can also be useful for those weeks when you simply haven’t the time to write a new blog.
Goals – Have a clear goal in mind for every blog entry you post. What are you trying to achieve? Blogs can be used to forge stronger relationships with existing clients, to seek out new ones in new markets or offer insights into particular aspects of your area, market and business. Ideas for blogs can be based around questions that property buyers frequently have – where are the local schools and which ones are best, how can I commute/get around, what sort of job opportunities are there?
Margaret Scheben-Edey, broker at Re/Max Four Seasons Realty, is the author of The Collingwood – Blue Mountain Real Estate Blog. “The blog has attracted the attention of potential buyers who live outside of our area. They tell me that it becomes a lifeline for them as they try to plan a life in a new community,” she says. “The content of my posts lets them know that I am an area expert as well as a real estate professional. The frequency (of my blog) also lets them know I am committed to the process of sharing and caring about my clients and my community. I know myself that when I hit on a blog that hasn’t been updated in weeks or months, I move on.”
Scheben-Edey’s blog is a member of a number of rings (groups of blogs that deal with real estate or a particular geographical area) and blog directories. Importantly, her blog also makes use of buttons for readers to “share this link” with others, spreading the word about her blog. It makes full use of tags (keywords summarizing blog content that are picked up by search engines) and subject categories.
Consider setting up a Twitter account to build up a sense of community (a social networking website that allows real estate agents to post brief updates about everything from new listings and property images to blogs). Followers on Twitter can subscribe to your posts and you can even include your latest Twitter posts as part of most blogs.
Scheben-Edey says the benefits of blogging have “been in search engine optimization ranking and in some cases, relationship building with people I’ve ‘met’ through the process.” She says, “What I think is important is to link to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. They have become our new virtual communities or spheres of influence and our new, younger clientele coming into the market use these with ease. I get a fair amount of traffic from Twitter by feeding my blog to it. I also think cross posting to sites such as Active Rain or commenting on other blogs are important traffic generators that also lead to new relationships, referrals, information and knowledge building.”
Be careful not to limit yourself to blogs written solely in plain text format. Keep things interesting by including images, graphs, short presentations and occasionally even multimedia such as video and audio when you have time. The prospect of recording and editing your own video can be daunting but there are lots of tutorials on the web (see below) and places like YouTube, and with inexpensive webcams available, it may not be as difficult as you think.
It’s easy to think of blogs as just another kind of newsletter, but their potential for two-way dialogue is tremendous. Blogs are a great tool for building relationships and communicating with real estate clients.