Erica has a great blog on how to use Active Rain to your advantage!
WARNING: LONG, HARD CORE BLOG TALK! This is my 1000th post.
I wanted to write something significant and meaningful about my 3-year journey on ActiveRain.
I have been blogging for a few years now, and can directly attribute blogging hre on ActiveRain and on several other platforms– and using social media in general – for a good chunk of my new business since then. It is the most important part of my marketing mix right now, and I devote at least an hour or two a day to it. Some may walk past my office and see me writing a blog and think I'm just “messing around” or wasting time on the internet, but done correctly and consistently, social media marketing WORKS.
I started blogging in 2007, when I stumbled upon ActiveRain. I don't remember how I originally found that website, but when I did sign on originally I immediately saw its potential to draw people to my own website. Back then nobody else from my region had discovered this site, so I quickly created a profile and wrote a handful of blog posts about Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, and our region in general. I realized any consumers who landed on ActiveRain (or Localism) would see my profile and hopefully call me for their real estate needs. If someone searched for a real estate broker or agent, they'd find me first.
I didn't post many blogs in the beginning, maybe two or three a month, but I spent a lot of time reading other blog posts and getting to know the other people who were very active and successful on the site. I read their posts, commented, and got a feel for how it worked. I picked up speed about six months after joining the network, and started blogging weekly, which then snowballed into a daily routine.
When I write a post, it is either aimed at the public (my outside blog) or to other real estate agents (the members of ActiveRain).
My outside blog, Schuylkill County Real Estate (www.EricaRamus.com), is hosted through ActiveRain, but there are many other ways you could put up a blog. I also have several other blog sites -- one on real estate books (www.EricaRamus.wordpress.com) and a 2nd one on Schuylkill County Real Estate (www.SchuylkillRE.wordpress.com).
The types of posts I write for my outside blog vary greatly. I publish my listings there, for the public to see, making sure to send copies of my blog link to my sellers so they can see the marketing. If you do it right, and title and keyword your blog posts correctly for maximum google indexing, this will also help buyers find your properties. For example, if I have a listing in Swatara Village (a 55+ community), I will make sure to write a post about this listing, highlighting the property's address, the community's name, and provide information about the area. I will write about the house specifically, and also give neighborhood and community information. That way, if someone googles “Swatara Village, Pine Grove” my listing will be placed in front of them.
I write very basic posts about how to buy or sell real estate to educate the public and draw them in. These educational posts are very important as they create instant credibility in the consumer's eye. If someone googles, “Schuylkill Parcel Locator” for example (which is the name of our county's public website with information on every parcel of land in our area), my blog post about how to use this site comes up second, just below the county's own website. Of the top six results in that search, three of the six lead you to my blog. One leads you to my ActiveRain blog, one to my Localism post, and the third to my outside blog. Pretty amazing, eh?
Okay, so what? So I rank high on google if someone is searching for that particular term. Big deal, right?
It is a HUGE deal. Schuylkill Parcel Locator is a frequently searched term, both by the public and by real estate professionals in my area. The website address is long and convoluted and nobody can remember it. If you don't bookmark it, you're constantly googling it. How is this useful to me and my marketing?
I was in a competitor's real estate office recently, discussing a deal with one of their agents, and one of the newer agents sitting at a computer nearby interrupted us to ask how to find this website. He could not remember the address and was asking his colleague to read it off to him. I replied, “Just google it.”
He did, and said really loud, “Hey, why does your website come up when I search for Parcel Locator?” The whole office heard this. He had mistakenly clicked through to the number two link (my site) instead of the county's site. But in my blog I have a hotlink to the site he wanted, and so he found what he was looking for – and was impressed by my site as well.
The office I was in that day is extremely backwards in technology. After that visit, I actually recruited one of the agents there who specifically said her move to our office was because she was looking for a high tech office that could offer agents websites and help with technology.
Not only are real estate professionals going to see my sites, but consumers looking for Schuylkill Parcel Locator stumble across my sites all the time. In fact, some of them even call my office for help in using Schuylkill Parcel Locator. They think they're calling the courthouse, or tech support, and they're actually calling in to our office! Usually they are surprised at first, but then I help them navigate the site, and they usually tell me why they're searching and what they need. This opens to door to a conversation and may help convert a consumer to a client.
On the site you can find maps of the parcels, and sales data. One woman I helped was calling in to see what her neighbor's house had sold for earlier in the year. She told me she was considering selling her home, and needed to know how to find her neighbor's parcel and what the buyer had paid for it. I actually knew the house, and I offered to email her the data she needed, along with the detailed info from our MLS system. She was thrilled! And I had a new prospect. She gave me her email address, and I asked a few questions about her home, pulling her info up on Schuylkill Parcel Locator as we talked. I emailed her the info she needed, and also included newer comparable sales in her neighborhood. The next night, I listed her house.
Would she have called my office to sell eventually? Maybe. But maybe not! Maybe she would have found the data she needed and called someone from the phonebook, and gotten the agent on duty. Maybe she would have listed with the person who sold her neighbor's house, if she remembered who that was. But by being the SOURCE of information, asking questions, and directing her to the answer she sought – and more – she trusted me to sell her house.
Having a blog that is filled with information that the public wants/needs, you set yourself up as the local expert. I have gotten listings specifically because someone found my blog, started reading, and either recommended me to a friend or relative, or called me directly for help. I track every one of my leads to see where they found me. Last year I listed and sold over $2 million that I can track back to my blog posts.
On one deal, the seller's relative found my blog, started reading, and was impressed with my site and marketing. He directed me to his sister, who was considering hiring an agent who was more local (the property was about 25 minutes from my office and I had to drive past at least 5 other firms to get to her property). The brother was afraid the closer agents would not have the marketing experience and ability to get it out on the internet as widely. Our average sale in Schuylkill County is about $90,000. This was a $350,000 farmette and chances were good the buyer would be found outside our immediate area. I not only listed it, but I sold it as well, because an out-of-town buyer found it on the internet and called me directly.
Besides educational posts, I blog about local events, festivals, and stores. Since I've been doing this a while many groups now send me their press releases and ask me to help them promote their events. This is good! Not only am I providing useful information on Localism and my own blog, but people in town recognize that I can help them get the word out. One of my specialties is working with professionals, especially business owners. I am heavily involved in the local chamber of commerce and Rotary Club, and get scores of leads from these two sources. So when I blog about a local business, the publicity is much appreciated. When they google their business name and up comes a blog post I wrote about them – they are thrilled.
Sometimes being the local expert has its annoying side, as well. Our office gets calls from my blog posts where people mistakenly think I am in charge of an event or a fundraiser that I publicize on my blog. I am helping market and get information out to the public by promoting local events or groups, and some readers think that means I am directly involved in something that I am not. But I usually have the proper phone number or contact information for the person who is in charge, so it's not that much of an inconvenience.
Networking With Other Agents
Besides blogging for the public, I post blogs on ActiveRain aimed at other agents and brokers. Sometimes I post something about a question or problem I am having, and am never disappointed with the number of or quality of the replies. Perhaps it's no coincidence that I started blogging the very same time I left a major franchise and opened my own office.
I went from working in a large office with dozens of agents, to out on my own. Some of my earliest members-only posts were asking questions about setting up my office to how to recruit other agents. Online I found the camaraderie and networking that I no longer had in a large office. I was surprised at first at how willing others were to give advice and guidance. I never would have felt comfortable calling another broker in town and asking for help, but online advice came from all over the country. I learned what other brokers were doing, and made contacts I could call on the phone to ask questions.
I also learned how great is is to vent (rant) online, and get your frustrations out to a group of people who probably understand just what you're going through, and who can sympathize. Sometimes you just need to blow off steam and your spouse is not always the best recipient of your ranting and raving.
One of my favorite stories involves a fellow ActiveRainer from the other side of the country. One Friday I had just a terible day. I went home and just poured my frustrations out into a blog. I hit SUBMIT and then headed to pour a glass of wine. Not five minutes later my cell phone rang. The caller says, “Erica, this is Ced Reynolds. I know you just had a horrible day, but I'm calling to tell you tomorrow will be better.” He didn't just reply to my post with a comment. I could not believe someone read my blog and bothered to pick up the phone to call me. He called me personally to brighten my day, and it worked.
That's the power of online networking. You start by reading other people's posts. You get to know things about them that go beyond their professional profiles. They post real estate related blogs, then you read something about their kids, or what they did last weekend, and you really feel like you know them.
The relationships I have made on ActiveRain and using other professional sites (LinkedIn, etc) are varied. I've received dozens of referrals from other agents. I've met like-minded folks who I do enjoy reading their posts and learn from their experiences. And I've cultivated a few close-knit relationships where I probably know more about their lives, their kids and their spouses than most of my neighbors. We have something in common and can find plenty to discuss/debate. We grow as agents and as people when we can bounce ideas off and learn from one another's experiences.
The same phenomenon happens on Facebook or Twitter. Before I started using Facebook, I had little contact with old classmates or past clients. Now I know when they're going on vacation, see photos of that vacation, and share short snippets of their current lives. It's strange. Some may say it's “too much information” but you can control how much you share in the social networking environment, and what you post about. Your friends will help you control the flow, too, as they respond to your posts (or not!).
For example, a while ago I was posting every new listing on Facebook, and posting status updates about my open houses and work-related stuff constantly. A friend gave me a gentle reminder that Facebook is about more than just work, that he wanted to read personal posts not just about new listings. So I created a Facebook business page and that's where I post most of my work-related info. I now go much lighter on the work and more on the personal status updates. It's all about learning who your target audience is, and why you're posting something.
Using social media correctly gives you Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA). When someone wants to buy or sell a home, frequently the lead goes to the person who last “touched” that person. I've gotten listing appointments by running into someone in the grocery store and been stopped in the post office by someone who saw my sign on a house.
It's no different using Facebook and Twitter and your blog. You “run into” people using your social media marketing, and gently remind them what you do for a living and that you're the expert! And by posting some personal status updates, or non-work info, you become more than just a name on a sign to that person.
I will update my Facebook status to say “Looking for a recipe to roast a really big chicken!” then the next one might be “I have a buyer in town who needs a 4-bedroom house in Pottsville. Anyone know of anything not on the MLS?” From that second post, I received three leads. Two were from friends, and one was from another area agent who knew of one she will be listing next week. Mission accomplished!
I do work on Twitter a little, but not Foursquare yet. There is only so much time in the day and I find being on these sites really sucks the time away from “real work.” Also, I just am not a fan of “Sipping coffee and blogging” tweets. That's nice. But do I need to know that? Probably not. I do need to know that I-78 has a huge accident and I should not take that road. Useful to know. I have a friend who was stranded at the airport this week and he updated his Facebook status to say “Stuck at Harrisburg Airport with no ride home” … and one of his pals read that and jumped in the car to go fetch him. Nice. But I think I could easily get sucked into spending all day checking my Tweetdeck and not accomplishing much work.
So that's the long version of why I spend an hour or two a day here on ActiveRain, and how it has brought me business -- and friendships -- in the process. I am looking forward to my next 1000 posts, and my next milestore: 400k points!
Erica Ramus is Broker/Owner of Realty Executives in Pottsville, PA.
If you're looking for a PROFESSIONAL to represent you in all of your Schuylkill County real estate needs, call Realty Executives at 570-622-6006.
We can meet all your buying / selling needs ... and will exceed your expectations. That's what being an EXECUTIVE is all about
Serving all of Schuylkill County ... Pottsville, Orwigsburg, Schuylkill Haven, Auburn, Pine Grove, Frackville, Minersville, Ashland, Shenandoah, Port Carbon, Palo Alto, St. Clair, Barnesville real estate. Click on the link above to search Pottsville PA homes for sale or any Schuylkill County homes for sale. We have all properties listed for sale in the Schuylkill MLS on our website -- free search!
We also operate Schuylkill Appraisal Services, for all your appraisal needs.