What is “social networking”? A social network is, to be technical, a social structure of individuals or organizations (we call these nodes), connected by interdependencies (which we call ties). All of which means that people can be “tied” to other people or organizations by things like family, faith, knowledge, financial transactions and work (to name just a few). You are “tied” to C21, just like every other agent in this office, but some of you may be also tied to each other through church or school, neighborhood or sports club. Social networks are formed by two or more people who have something in common; strong relationships and networks are formed when those people have something in common that they are passionate about, that connects them as individuals. Social networking is when those individuals interact with each other. Social Networking is a verb. It’s a doing word. If you’re not doing you’re not networking.
We all have trust issues. The Nielsen Company, which compiles TV viewing figures, also compiles a biannual “Trust, Value and Engagement in Advertising” report. The 2009 report shows that 90% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, 61% trust tv advertising, and only 41% trust online ads that appear in web-search results. The same report tells us that in North America, 72% of consumers believe that by providing information, advertising allows them to make better choices; while humor makes the most engaging form of online video ads. Probably the most interesting piece of information in the report is, as we’ve already seen, that 90% of people trust recommendations from their friends. As a Realtor, you already know the importance of this fact, and how it can be used to generate referrals. When you pair that with the consumer’s need for information, and you can see that the most powerful way to grow referrals is to provide information that makes them want to tell their friends about you. You can see the report at www.nielsen.com
Where Do We Meet People Face-to-Face Our social networks are everywhere. Church choir? Social network. Softball team? Social network. CE Classes? Those, too. Anywhere where two people come together with a common purpose is a social network. Think of all the places where you meet people – from the coffee place on the way to the office, to the gas station, to the office, to the line at the lunch spot you go to every day, and the mall store you stop at on the way home. All of these places are opportunities for interactions, to talk to people about anything. Anything but real estate. The moment you make the conversation about real estate, you’re selling your services, and the rest of your relationship with that person will always be a realtor/client relationship. Make the conversation about them, about your shared experience, and your relationship will be defined by what you have in common. If you behave like the wolf in those Looney Tunes cartoons and your eyes turn to $ signs when your new friend mentions real estate, they may be uncomfortable recommending you to their social network.
Where Do We Meet People Online Do you like knitting? Or the TV show, Lost? Or maybe cuckoo clocks are your thing. Simply go to your preferred web browser, google, for example, and type in “cuckoo clock” and then add the word “forum”. I just did it, and there are 68,800 webpages devoted to cuckoo clocks. The first link takes you to www.cuckooclocks.com That forum has subjects like News, Product Sales, Product Service, Customers Comments. If you go to the customer comments you can get involved in a conversation about cuckoo clocks. Being part of those conversations is being part of a social network. Being a contributor in those discussions is social networking, providing information to other users makes you a valuable resource that users will refer their friends to. Go to Digg, GoodReads or MyItThings and you’ll find a whole lot of people who want to recommend things to you. Of course, you already have a social network – people you went to school with, worked with, and people who you sold a house to or for. Many of those people are already signed up to some of the most popular social networking sites. FaceBook. LinkedIn. Twitter. Right now these are three of the biggest social networking destinations, and they are the cutting edge of Web 2.0
What is Web 2.0? Imagine that the way you interact with the internet is evolving. Yahoo and Google were Web 1.0. The first real websites that let you share information with other people online. About ten years ago, when Google first came on the scene, we were all using Yahoo to find things online. Today, 63% of all online searches are made with Google – it’s even become a verb, people don’t search, they google. Surprisingly, Yahoo has slipped to third (as of August 2009), replaced by YouTube, the video-sharing website. Then, a few years ago, internet users changed the way they interact with each other. They began putting photo albums, home movies, personal diaries on sites that allowed them to upload those files. And Web 2.0 was born. Web 2.0 is focused on the user’s needs for a simple interface that is easy to use and gets them the results they want. It’s much more community and service oriented. If Web 1.0 was the equivalent of standing in the town square yelling that you’re a realtor, Web 2.0 is the equivalent of handing a stack of business cards to all of your friends so they can hand them out, while you produce a newspaper and a tv show about the current state of the real estate market.
How Are People Interacting in Web 2.0 As you’ve seen so far, people are talking about anything and everything. They’re posting blogs (online journals), creating wikis (user created encyclopedia), uploading video to YouTube and streaming audio from their favorite radio station’s website. On February 4th 2004, to little fanfare, Mark Zuckerberg’s website, FaceBook.com was made available to his fellow Harvard college students to keep in touch with each other’s social lives. Sixty six months later, and Zuckerberg is a college dropout, a CEO, millionaire…and still only 26. He turned down a $1billion check from Yahoo, convinced FaceBook could become the most popular networking site on the internet. And he was right. In the next couple of years, FaceBook will be introducing a search engine, like Google, that doesn’t just return webpages that might be useful, it will return results that your friends have found useful. And lots of them are using it. There are over 150 million active FaceBook users, and the number of users over 35 years old is doubling every quarter, so it’s not just for students anymore.
Netiquette DO Proofread what you’re about to post before you submit it. Typos are forgivable, spelling and grammatical errors are a sign of carelessness. Be polite and give credit where it’s due. Keep on the forum’s subject. Hijacking the topic of conversation isn’t the best way to show you care about the forum’s subject. Learn abbreviations like LOL, IMHO, etc. DON’T Put anything out there that would be embarrassing to you, your family, friends, now or in the future. Sound like a big responsibility? Good, it is, and you should take it seriously. Get into arguments in an online forum. They can make you look petty and hostile. Comment if you have nothing to say about the subject. Especially don’t comment if you’re just asking for business. Obviously, don’t use profanity.
Web 2.0 for Real Estate Okay, here’s what you really need to know. Get a LinkedIn account, connect to current and former co-workers. LinkedIn is a business to business networking tool, and you can only add people you don’t know to your network if you get introduced by a mutual friend. Get a FaceBook account. Make it private. Connect to friends and family and anyone else you can think of. Keep up to date with everyone, participate in their updates, give information when that’s appropriate, and get recognized by everyone as the expert that you are! Get another FaceBook account. Make it public. Add Realtors and clients. Do not connect it to your personal account, and direct any friend requests that are not business contacts to your personal account. Mixing your business profile and your personal profile can lead to clients finding out all kinds of personal information about you that you wish they didn’t know. Get a user account on Zillow. Become a local expert by answering real estate questions from home owners, sellers and buyers in your area.