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April 24, 2015

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Updated: 1 hour 7 min ago

The Biggest Social Media Fails in Real Estate

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 09:00

Bill Gassett

By Bill Gassett

It’s no secret that social media is a must in the world of real estate. Today’s buyers and sellers turn the to various platforms and make snap judgments on what you have to offer. You do get points for actually having accounts on all of the main platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest), but if you’re not seeing the results you had hoped for, chances are you’re making one or more of these common social media mistakes. These blunders not only cause you lose business, but you quickly gain a reputation as the person nobody wants to see when they log in.

Social Media as a Whole

Before I get into the social media fails in specific platforms, let’s talk about the main purpose of social media. I’ll give you a hint: It’s in the name. Yes, it’s about being social. Getting to know your audience, providing them with information that is useful, and building trust. If you are more focused on promoting yourself than you are about genuinely helping your followers, then it’s no surprise nobody wants to do business with you.

What many agents fail to understand is that social media is not about direct selling. If this is what you are doing, it’s no wonder you’re not getting anywhere! Just like having a top real estate blog, your attention should be focused on helping others and answering their questions. When you do this, sales will naturally come your way.

@Mlphoto, 2014. Morguefile

Twitter Turmoils

It’s a fast-moving, hashtag-loving, 140-character-limiting social media site, and it’s a must-use for all real estate pros. However, you better not be making these mistakes:

  • Blast your message directly to people – This is not something you should do. This is akin to receiving a spam email. Nobody wants to receive sales pitch notifications in their stream from someone they don’t know.
  • Ignore notifications – Just because there’s not a direct feed under every tweet, doesn’t mean you don’t need to reply. Make sure to review your notifications regularly to see if anyone has re-tweeted something, replied to you, or mentioned you. If they have, say something back, or better yet, re-tweet their content. This is one of the best ways to say thank you. Reciprocation wins big time in real estate social media. Learn how to use Twitter for real estate in this handy guide. Build an engaged audience by following the simple tips.
  • Blast nothing but listings – Hello? Can you say annoying? Folks, people do not go to Twitter to buy houses! If all you do is post listings – and they are not owned by the rich and famous – you will command nothing buy yawns from your followers.
  • Use random hashtags – Hashtags are a must for Twitter because they put tweets in a relevant context and make your tweets more searchable. However, you better be sure that your hashtag is what you think it is. If you just choose whatever sounds good, you may end up accidentally aligning yourself with something that can hurt your reputation. Use hastags that are connected to the business like #realestate.
Facebook Faults

This giant social media platform is undoubtedly the most popular, so you would think real estate agents would have the strategy for this site perfected by now. Unfortunately, these errors are seen all too often:

  • Post at the wrong times – It’s true that Facebook posts do have longer staying power than Twitter, but posts are usually surfaced in the news feed with the most recent first (unless it makes it into your friends’ news feed “top stories.”) So if you post late at night, by the time your audience wakes up, there is a high chance they won’t even scroll long enough to see what you had to say.
  • Skip follow through – If you post something, stick around long enough to see if anyone has anything to say about it. And if you must go, don’t forget to check back in and reply to any comments made.

    ©Bill Gassett, 2015

  • Use only a personal page – If you don’t have a designated business page for your real estate business, you better fix it now. Not only is it technically against Facebook’s rules, it puts limits on how many people can find you and follow you, and it’s just not considerate to your friends.
  • Skip the foolish event invites – One of the most silly mistakes made by real estate agents is not inviting appropriate people to events. When you have an event you want your contacts to know about don’t check off your entire list of friends. Pick people who are local that will want to attend your event. There is nothing more annoying than getting real estate agent Mary’s invite to her kid’s bar mitzvah. Mary, you live in Texas. I live in Massachusetts. Other than a few Facebook posts, I really don’t know you personally. Sorry, I won’t make it. Maybe next time…NOT!
Pinterest Problems

No, this site is not just for housewives; it’s a huge marketing tool that every real estate agent should be taking advantage of. When you do, just avoid these errors:

  • Pin in bulk – The site is addicting, which often results in an abundance of pins in a short amount of time. This is fine, as long as you are organizing them on boards accordingly, but you can’t just disappear for a week or two afterwards. A better option is to pin to a secret board, and then slowly unveil them to the public over several days. When you have a lot of pins to share, a better strategy is to post them every 60 minutes instead of all at once. You won’t annoy your followers, and you’ll spread out your presence over the course of the day. This simple trick can lead to more followers. See how to use Pinterest for real estate exposure. Keep in mind that Pinterest has the longest shelf life of a link shared than any other platform.
  • Skip descriptions – Whether it’s a re-pin or an original, you need to take the time to write a description. It should be precise and engaging and let your followers know exactly why you think it will benefit them. Use appropriate keywords so your posting has a better chance of showing up in search.
LinkedIn Lapses

While LinkedIn is great for job hunting and recruiting, there is a lot more to it. Essentially, it’s a place where you can grow networks and increase profits, as long as you aren’t making these errors:

  • Connect only with personal contacts – Anyone on LinkedIn is fair game, you absolutely do not have to know them from the real world. Think of the six degrees of separation!
  • Overlook the feed – Yes, LinkedIn has a news feed just like Facebook. Read it, respond to it, and throw in a post or two yourself on occasion.
  • ©Bill Gassett, 2015

    Post your listings into groups – Most real estate groups on Linkedin are for discussing relevant topics. They are NOT for sharing your latest listing on Nobody Cares Street USA. So many real estate agents make clueless mistakes like this that make them look foolish in front of their peers. See how to use Linkedin for real estate for great tips on how to use this social channel properly.

  • Forget about keywords – People use the search feature on LinkedIn more than on any other platform. You need to make sure your profile and company pages are keyword rich so that you get found.
Google+ Goof Ups

Google+ is very much still in the game, and if you aren’t getting any traction from it, perhaps you are a victim of one of these common oversights:

  • Forget the public circle – Every post you make should include the green circle, meaning everyone can see it. If you skip it, only those in the designated circles will see your posts.
  • Use plain text – Google+ is the only platform that allows you to bold and italicize your posts, so you need to be using these tools to make your posts stand out.
  • Write short leads – On Facebook, you are only supposed to write a sentence or two before you share a link or photo; however, Google+ users expect more of the story. It’s not uncommon to include quotes from the article, a short summary, or questions to the reader asking for their input.
  • Misuse the email function – One of the more common problems with newbies or marketers on Google+ is using the email function improperly. For those that don’t know you can email those you have put into a circle. The problem is the people you have in a circle are people YOU follow not the other way around. So when you email your latest and greatest post to someone who doesn’t know you and has never had any dialog with you, it can be pretty frustrating. In fact, it is no different than getting email spam. See how not to share a post on Google Plus for a complete explanation.

There you have it; all of the worst mistakes made by real estate agents. If you can tweak your social media strategy accordingly, you will soon see what all the hype is about. Think of social media as a place to build relationships with people and not where you will make your next sale.

Bill Gassett is a nationally-recognized real estate leader and one of the top RE/MAX salespeople in New England. See all his real estate articles at www.maxrealestateexposure.com.

Are You a Real Estate Misfit?

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 09:00

Lee Davenport

By Lee Davenport

Are you on a hunt for more leads? Whether you’re new to real estate sales or a veteran interested in reinventing your lead generation strategy to keep your sales pipeline full, if you said yes, then you may be interested in hearing how top producers are leading the pack.

One sales leader suggests using Instagram and advertising on Facebook. You try the exact steps given but you don’t see the same results. Then another leading sales agent encourages you to go back to sending postcards and having open houses.  Your results after several months are still less than noteworthy. Others propose methods that have been “tried and true” for them, but you still do not see the same level of closings.

What is going wrong? Are you just not cut out to sell real estate in today’s marketplace?

Answer: You probably are not using lead generating tactics that complement your natural behavioral tendencies and personality. In other words, the suggested prospecting activities are personally awkward for you and it shows in your sales (or lack thereof). As a result, you are a misfit in real estate – but there is help available.

Of course, there can be issues if you do not give a lead generating approach enough time to work (i.e. you have to try it more than twice), your work ethic is lackluster or the “winning” technique inadvertently is “missing” a few of the critical steps (hopefully that was not purposeful but there can be stiff competition in sales). If those are not your qualms, then check to see if you are working against how you are wired to sell.

Have you ever seen a toddler try to place a square peg into a round hole?  The toddler persists to the point of frustration (i.e. a temper tantrum) and then may move on to another toy, never to again return to the peg and hole. Or, the toddler may force the peg to fit, not realizing that the toy may become inoperable. Unfortunately, I have seen agents do the same with lead generation: They either force it to fit but it just does not work properly, or they walk away from it never to return. Both scenarios end in nerve-wracking, career-altering, confidence-shaking frustration.

Understanding your behavioral personality (I like using DiSC for this, but there are others) and the lead generating activities that support your natural inclinations can be like finding the square hole in which to place the square peg.

Do you think you are currently a real estate misfit or match? Take my short three-question survey below to weigh in and discover how you can best profit with your personality:

If you are the steady type (meaning you are introverted but someone who is very dependable and oriented towards people instead of tasks), you are doing a disservice to your business if you are cold-calling, which is more appropriate for those with dominant or influencer as their prominent traits. Instead, as a steady type, you should look to cultivate one-on-one relationships with people from your sphere of influence, social media networks, past clients, vendors, and even other agents (who can refer business in times of illness, bereavement, travel, holiday, you name it).

Those with dominant traits who are extroverted and task-driven should focus on prospecting that allows them to track, quantify, and share results (e.g. cold calling, door-knocking, online ads, buying leads like with SmartZip, sharing monthly market updates through social media, mailings, or email campaigns).

Influencers, like our beloved Chatty Cathys who are extroverted and people-focused, should seek lead generating activities that allow them to socialize. Some ideas include vlogging about their community, having open houses, hosting community fair booths (with titles like, Are You Ready to Sell?, How Much House Can You Afford?, etc.), throwing client appreciation parties, and so forth.

The conscientious folks (those who are introverted and task-driven, get the job done well but are put-off by crowds) would best serve their time by focusing on written marketing endeavors such as blogging, mailing postcards, or writing buying and selling guides to post on your website or mail.

Tip: Keep in mind that many of us exhibit all four of the DiSC personality traits, but the key is to focus on the lead generating activities that mesh with your most prevalent characteristic. No matter your DiSC profile results, be sure to always ask for business. And as your business grows, hire staff and recruit team members who have different strengths/personality profiles, which will maximize the amount of lead generating your growing team can accomplish. Also, check out my upcoming free webinar series where I will discuss this further.

In the coming months, be on the lookout for my scientific study and white paper that will provide a more in depth examination of the correlation between sales success and lead generating activities that complement one’s behavioral profile.

By the way, follow me on Google Plus and Facebook for more tips and techniques. Here’s to your success!

Lee Davenport is a licensed real estate broker, business doctoral student, trainer and coach.  Learn more about the training and 1-on-1 coaching programs that she offers by visiting www.AgentsAroundAtlanta.com.

Always Be Delivering Magic

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 14:25

Alyssa Hellman

By Alyssa Hellman

In real estate, agents are constantly trying to find new ways to standout in their market. Will this gadget make me look techie? Will that car magnet attract business? Should I advertise on this portal or that? But when you take away all the gadgets and hoopla, real estate is rather simple. The purchase or sale of shelter is an indispensable need for the public. We are a valuable asset. The real question is, are you conveying that value to build your business?

Sure, a home is the largest investment that most people will make throughout their life, but a home is so much more than the windows and walls that complete the structure. A home is about the people within those walls and their stories that weave the fiber of a home. Think on this for a moment…people tend to buy or sell homes during big moments in life – getting married, having kids, starting a new job, downsizing as children move on, and that’s just to name a few. As agents, our ability to understand the life events of our clients is without a shadow of a doubt the most valuable asset we have.

@violetdragonfly, 2015. Morguefile

There are a lot of surveys that talk about what buyers and sellers want in a home, but what those surveys don’t always say is that buyers and sellers want  someone who they trust to be one their side as they navigate this next stage of their life. In my personal real estate business, I always called this “delivering magic.” At Go Realty, we define it like this: “What raises the eyebrows, waters the eyes, and makes the lungs draw air?” It’s magic.

Throughout the transaction, there are a million little ways to find and deliver magic. Find those. Show up at your clients work to deliver flowers and news that they are under contract. Surprise them on moving day with dinner from their favorite restaurant. Send their kids a birthday card. When you deliver magic, your business card is unnecessary because the moment is remembered. Closing a transaction is the expectation, delivering magic is remarkable. So, find a way to deliver magic to your clients. Heck, find a way to deliver magic to the people who haven’t yet done a transaction with you. Because if there’s one thing people value, it’s the unexpected moments of unforgettable experiences.

Alyssa Hellman is the director of the Go School at Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate, Go Realty based in Cary, N.C., serving Raleigh-Durham and surrounding areas. You can find Alyssa on Twitter @AVHellman or visit her website, www.alyssahellman.com.

3 Real Estate Cliches That Stunt Growth

Tue, 04/07/2015 - 11:39

Sam DeBord

By Sam DeBord

We love to give advice as real estate professionals, and often that advice is to our professional associates. Over time, we accumulate catchy sayings that are supposed to sum up and answer other agents’ questions in short fashion.

Like in any industry, the advice can be good or bad. There are a lot of great coaches and advisors in the industry. Most new agents will benefit greatly by being trained by a serious, thoughtful mentor.

Unfortunately, there are also plenty of ego-driven personalities giving bad advice. The amount of misinformation new agents get from gurus, speakers, and “thought leaders” is staggering. Many are so caught up in having a great tagline that they’re willing to sacrifice good, thorough advice to the folks who are listening to them.

We spend a lot of time with our team pushing back against counterproductive one-liners that our agents hear so often. These are just a few of the clichés that new agents should avoid if they’re hoping to learn the business quickly, and get a head start on where it’s going:

“If they won’t sign a buyer agency agreement, they’re not worth my time.”

There’s a time and a place for buyer agency agreements. Relocation and referrals are often that place. Your first interaction with a potential client who contacted you via the Internet is not the place.

Many traditional agents will protest, but as a new agent, you need to learn to deliver some value to clients before you ask them to sign a contract for you. Asking Internet leads to sit down in your office and sign an agency agreement might make you feel like you’re only working with serious buyers, but in reality you’re only working with a tiny minority of the buyers who you could’ve been selling homes to.

This isn’t to say you should run out and show a property to an unknown person. Meet them at an office or a public place and verify their identity. Talk about the real estate process and how you get paid. Just don’t balk at showing them a few homes and letting them see the kind of service you can provide for them. Your job is to earn their business, not expect it.  Self-righteousness won’t fill up your bank account.

“If they don’t want to work with me, I don’t want to work with them.”

This classic cliché plays on the ego of the agent. It’s a perfect way of doing business for a seasoned agent who has a full book of business and wants to maintain a work/life balance.

For a new agent, it’s an excuse to avoid the more difficult parts of the job. It’s also often a misreading of the clients, a mistake that can be financially costly.

Anyone who has been in the business for a while has had some difficult clients. Even those who start out a transaction in good spirits can turn adversarial in the wrong circumstances. Of course, if a client is abusive or threatening there’s reason to end the relationship. Most of the time, though, working through a difficult transaction with clients who may not be your best friends is a learning experience that you’ll benefit from—and undoubtedly repeat later in your career.

You’ll be surprised at how many of today’s Internet-educated buyers and sellers start out in a standoffish manner, but become your friend by the end of the transaction. By giving them so much information online, we’ve trained them to think they know almost everything already. They often think, “I don’t really need an agent. I just need the door opened.”

Don’t blame them for that pervasive mindset. Get comfortable with that being a common misconception, and learn to work through it. It’s not that they don’t want to work with you, they just don’t know that they need you yet.

Show them what you know, and what you do, that no website can replace. Understand that your job is to provide the experience that changes their minds.

The Internet know-it-all is only going to become more prevalent in the future. Learning to work with these clients is essential to being prepared for a long-term career.

“I’m just going to be myself.”

@mconnors, 2010. Morguefile

This is a job. It can be a great, flexible career with plenty of room for individuality and differentiation. It’s still a job. Your ability to freely express yourself exists within the confines of acting and looking like the professional that the public expects. Outside that box, you “being yourself” equals smaller paychecks.

You don’t have to wear a suit and tie if that’s not appropriate for your market. You don’t have to stodgily rattle off statistical reports about your market if that’s not what your clients prefer. But if you’re not dressing up to the appropriate level, preparing yourself with research, speaking as if you’ve been trained for this job, and getting to your appointments on time, you’re just being lazy.

Dress up if you’re unsure. It doesn’t matter what you’re most comfortable in, it’s what your clients think that matters. If you’re in a denim shirt and pickup truck market, then don’t show up in your t-shirt just because you’re in a rush. If your clients work in a white collar office, show up in a jacket, suit, or something similar. You are your own boss, and you should hold yourself to some professional standards.

Your clients may say they don’t care what you wear, but subconsciously peoples’ perceptions of you are based on image. No one is going to fire you for being overdressed. If you look young, dressing professionally is a tremendous asset, especially on a first meeting (don’t give it up just because you got a 2nd meeting). It’s a minor inconvenience for a career that allows you unlimited upward financial opportunities and independence. Any client who hires you and closes a transaction is paying you well, so act accordingly.

Don’t just recite, think it over.

Listen to the advice of the experienced brokers and agents in your sphere. Take in what the latest real estate speaker has to say about the industry and your job. Just take it with a grain of salt. If someone is getting paid to give advice, they’re helping their listeners make more money, and/or saying things that are quotable enough to propel their future speaking business. They’re not always doing both.

Approach your real estate career knowing that not all of the advice you receive is sound. You’ll allow yourself to gain more broad experience and get past some of the unnecessary hurdles of starting out as a real estate agent.

Sam DeBord is managing broker of  Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth, director for Seattle King County REALTORS®, and state director for Washington REALTORS®. You can find his team in Seattle and Bellevue.

One Indispensable Habit to Help Standout

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 09:31

Lee Davenport

By Lee Davenport

As a young real estate pro, you may be stumped on how you can standout in a sea of agents, particularly when some of those agents have more than 30 years of sales experience. Unfortunately, as a broker and trainer, I have witnessed younger agents, whether new to real estate or not, lambasted for their lack of experience in both life and sales. In those sad instances, lack of experience becomes “larger than life,” which myopically and erroneously become the only skill trait that matters. I marvel and cringe in those situations, but I am quick to interject with a vital characteristic that can trump experience any day of the week – a characteristic that can help a rookie agent land a listing and make a sale that the veteran missed out on.

Before I come right out and say what this imperative sales trait is, check out the following statistics and see if you can guess what it is:

  • Real estate is the second most searched topic on social media but ranks lower than the government in response rates, according to Sprout Social’s Consumer Engagement Index. (As sluggish as the government can be, this is deplorable!)
  • According to Real Trends 2013 Online Performance Study, 89 percent of consumers say response time was very important when choosing their agent.
  • The Real Trends study also says 45 percent of consumers expect an initial response from an online inquiry within 15 minutes.
  • And 56 percent of consumers expect a response from their agent within 30 minutes, according the the Real Trends study.
  • Yet according to the 2014 National Association of REALTORS® report, The Intelligent Internet Lead, the average agent response time was about 15 hours. (Is anyone else gasping for air?)

@Jamierodriguez37, 2015. Morguefile

I am sure you guessed it – the quintessential skill to possess that can actually make experience pale in comparison is responsiveness. When you are a well-trained agent (whether young, middle aged, or in your golden years) who exudes professionalism and makes responsive communication your point of differentiation, you win!

Here are four reasons why responsiveness should become your new normal, if it isn’t already:

1. You expect it.

The hallmarks of professionalism are doing what you say you will do and timely follow-up. You expect (and probably even demand) this when dealing both in and outside of the real estate arena, so let’s practice what we preach. Make the very crux of your professionalism be responsiveness. How many times have you chosen a product or service provider because he was “Johnny-on-the-Spot”? Perhaps your favorite lender does not have 30 years of experience but she follows up promptly. So for you, and probably many others, responsiveness trumps experience. Or, on the personal side, maybe your dog sitter never ignores your oddball requests, even if he cannot accommodate you each and every time. Responsiveness can go a long way in clinching new clients and making sure that past clients choose and refer you again and again.

2. It gives a boost to your reviews.

Time and time again, positive online reviews give an agent a powerful online footprint and virtual legacy that is hard to erase. Many of us buy products or choose services in our personal lives now because of the sentiments expressed in online reviews. The real estate industry is no different. But if you have ever had a hard time getting current and past clients to post a glowing review of you, maybe, just maybe, they were not impressed with your level of professionalism and they are taking the high road of not saying anything if they cannot say anything nice. This, of course, is not the only reason our clients elect to not be our online “raving fans” – sometimes they are too busy or maybe there were other glitches in their transaction that left them sour. But when all else goes well, check and see if your responsiveness was not up to par and work on it going forward.

3. Other agents are hungry.

It is no big deal if you connect with an inquiring real estate prospect in a few hours or the next business day, right? Well, if you are absolutely the only agent and online portal system servicing your entire area, then you may have that luxury. But more likely than not, you are not the only agent left on Earth or the only way for information about a real estate property to be obtained. Translation = you have competition.

Hopefully, you have been on the receiving end and not the losing side of being the first to connect with a prospective buyer or seller that delivered the critical three Cs (Client, Closing, and Commission). But whatever your historical stance has been, choose now to be on #TeamResponsive and respond to ALL inquiries within the desired 15-minute window to increase your chances of converting ominous leads to actual clients that close and generate commissions for you.

4. Automation is easier and less expensive than back in the day.

It is 2015, so there are no excuses to not respond to EVERY inquiry within minutes. Why? Because of automation! Automation is painless, fairly inexpensive, and, frankly, half the battle. You still have to build rapport but this makes it easier. IT not only puts you in the running to capture a new client, but may very well push you to the front of the pack.

And let’s address the elephant in the room: As much as agents do not want certain web portals taking their leads, those portals have automated their responses. We are in a responsive, drive-thru age so many folks want what they want, when they want it. Technology allows us to accommodate this without losing our sanity and neglecting our families so let’s use it.

Texting is no longer taboo in the home buying and selling process for many. If you have not taken the time to do it yet, I encourage you, as a bare minimum, to make sure you have canned text messages (for unknown numbers as well as those that may be current clients, vendors, friends, etc.) that can be sent to every caller.

Have you tried IFTTT yet? This handy app can help you automate responses from your phone.

With emails and your various online sites, go back to turning on your autoresponder or use services like ManyContacts or MailChimp to send fancier looking emails to specific contacts from specific places.

If you have it in your budget, hire a receptionist or the more cost-effective option of a virtual receptionist. Services like Odesk and VoicePad Phone offer affordable and professional options.

There really is no limit to the tools you can use for automation, so I encourage you to explore them online today and also share in the comment section below the ones that work miracles for you.

By the way, follow me on Google+ and Facebook for more tips and techniques. Also, if you are a real estate agent or manage agents, learn how to GROW or RE|VAMP your business with us today. Here’s to your success!

Lee Davenport is a licensed real estate broker, business doctoral student, trainer, and coach.  Learn more about her training and 1-on-1 coaching programs by visiting www.AgentsAroundAtlanta.com.

Wine and Real Estate

Thu, 03/12/2015 - 18:16

Erika Villegas

By Erika Villegas

I recently moved to a new neighborhood in Chicago where I had only sold a few homes. I didn’t know many people there, but more importantly, I didn’t know enough women.

From my experience in real estate, women are often the ones that make important decisions like when and where to purchase a home. I wanted to grow my business in my neighborhood, so I needed to meet more people; I needed to meet my neighbors.

After thinking about marketing options like the local newspapers, social media, online marketing, postcards, or good old door knocking, the light bulb lit while enjoying a glass of wine: I could combine two of my favorite things – real estate and wine.

@DodgertonSkillhause, 2015. Morguefile

A women’s wine social was the solution.  A gathering of women who enjoy a glass wine and interesting conversation as much as I do.  An event  to “wine” down for a few hours with other women who juggle work, kids, and all the other responsibilities that come with being a parent.

As I started planning, I was mindful about two things: the location and a recurring date. I wanted a date that would work for as many people as possible. After considering my own schedule, I also looked at days off from school. I chose the third Friday of every month. The location was an easy – I decided to ask a different business in my neighborhood each month to allow me to host at their location. This allows me to meet new people and grow my brand within the community while also supporting other local businesses.

The kickoff wine social was January 16 at a local restaurant, and more than 30 women attended. I had cases of wine  delivered, a lender donated goodie bags for my guests, another local restaurant prepared the appetizers, and I ordered the dessert from a local mom. As I stood back and watched all the women talking, laughing, and enjoying good conversation with their glass of wine, I knew I had made the right decision about how to market myself. At the end of the night, the restaurant  had to kick us out because no one wanted to leave.

Real estate is about people; it’s about making connections and making sure everyone you come in contact with knows that you can help them achieve the dream of homeownership.

A few days after the first wine social, a woman who had attended decided that I was the right REALTOR® for her and we started looking at homes soon after. I am glad I decided to go with an unconventional way of marketing myself. I found a way to mix two things that I love: wine and real estate.

What would you mix with real estate? Perhaps a dog lovers’ gathering or maybe a book club? Go with what feels natural and easy to accomplish. As with any type of marketing, stay focused and consistent and the business will follow.

Erika Villegas is a broker associate with ERA Mi Casa Real Estate in Chicago. Connect with Villegas at www.erikavillegas.com.

It’s Time For More Female Leadership in Real Estate

Mon, 03/09/2015 - 09:00

Brooke Wolford

By Brooke Wolford

I recently had a conversation with other real estate professionals about the industry’s lack of women in leadership roles. For an industry comprised of almost 60 percent women, this doesn’t make sense. I have been blind to this issue because I am fortunate to work for a broker who’s management team consists of mostly women. The culture within our office is also very diverse.

Out of curiosity, I did a little research. I pulled demographics and surveyed a small group of people within the industry, all of whom are from different areas of the country and work at different companies. The results were mixed.

This is not an issue that only affects the real estate industry, but rather a workplace issue in general. Just the other day there was an article in the New York Times about the Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins case and the small percentage of women who are venture capitalists. The story also highlighted the lack of female leaders in Silicon Valley. I found this report by Catalyst, which is further proof that we have a long way to go in terms of female corporate leadership:

Now, I believe there are solutions to this problem, not only at the company level, but also at the individual level. Let’s seize this as an opportunity. Here are some points based off of the research I did with my peer group, as well as some statistics I found:

  1. Many in my peer survey suggest that women are very motivated and have additional skills that can be great in leadership.
  2. Many real estate pros surveyed said there is a lack of female leaders at the brokerage level. When asked the average number of people in upper management at their brokerage, they said seven, and the average number of females in upper management: one.
  3. Some said that their companies have had the same people in leadership roles for many years (10 to 20 years or more).
  4. According to NAR, 57 percent of REALTORS® are women.
  5. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 61 percent of the U.S. workforce; they earn almost 60 percent of all undergraduate degrees and 37 percent of all MBAs, yet many companies continue to lag in placing females in executive positions.
  6. Many people I spoke to suggested that some women are motivated to advance but they seem to get stuck in the middle management limbo.
  7. Several studies I read show that women are often held to a higher standard than men.
  8. According to the U.S. Census, women account for a little over half of the population.
  9. In 1980, the portion of female leaders of the top 500 companies was at 11 percent, and today, that number is roughly 18 percent.  That’s only a 7 percent increase – in 35 years!

As I look at myself and look back at my history, I see that I made a lot of sacrifices to get to where I am now. I sacrificed sleep, health, and having a personal life to run a business while simultaneously being a single mom. There were times that I only slept a couple hours a night. A lot of this was my own doing. I also didn’t have a strong support system, like family to help, a supportive significant other, etc. But why should I not be able to have it all? When there are 12 million single parent families in the U.S. as of 2014 – and more than 80 percent are headed by single mothers – working toward success both professionally and personally is clearly not uncommon.

I could go on and on about this, but I think it’s more important to stress that there is an opportunity here. Being the diverse and constantly changing industry that real estate is, there is plenty of untapped talent and ways to improve.

The best chance of changing obstacles in business is to tip the gender scales in leadership.

To all the women reading this: Become the leader of your own career and life. Be authentic authors of your own lives. Take responsibility for your professional development. No one has a greater investment in your success and satisfaction than you. Don’t depend on the traditional management structure of your organization to put you on the path to achievement. It’s up to you to direct and protect your career and to develop your own potential. You cannot afford to be passive or to accept roles assigned to you. Know what you want and why you want it, then be prepared to take action to make it happen. This means maintaining your focus on your goals in spite of any feelings of discouragement. Tell yourself this: I simply will not give up. If your goal is to become a leader and to help real estate industry become truly diverse, then don’t give up. Your leadership is most needed.

Our industry has a huge opportunity. The real estate industry can be the trendsetter; we can create a ripple effect that will carry over into other industries. Let’s not wait for this to happen, lets make this happen.

Brooke Wolford is a real estate practitioner with RE/MAX Results in Eden Prairie, Minn. Follow her blog at www.thehousingword.com.

10 Ways to Get The Most Out of LinkedIn

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 18:35

Bill Gassett

By Bill Gassett

What do you think LinkedIn is for? Is it just for people who are trying to find a new job? Should you only visit it if you want to recruit somebody? Or is it one of the best ways to grow your real estate business? If you chose the third option, you are correct. In fact, HubSpot, reports that LinkedIn is three times more effective at generating business leads than Facebook or Twitter. And since leads result in more sales and more money in your pocket, it is clear that LinkedIn cannot be ignored.

Here are 10 ways real estate pros can effectively use LinkedIn to increase their online exposure.

1. Remember, It’s Not Facebook

First, it is crucial to realize that LinkedIn is not like your other social networking sites. This one is all about business, and you better keep things professional. So no sharing that funny meme your Aunt Linda showed you, and no posting pictures of what you are eating for dinner or your funny cat. There are plenty of other sites for that.

2. Make Sure Your Profile and Company Page Are Complete

Since you are a real estate practitioner and independent contractor, you have your own professional brand, thus, you should have both a personal profile and a Company Page. Each one should be filled out completely. Not only should every detail be included—like your website, links to your other social media profiles, any awards or certifications you have, and past companies you have worked for—but it should be displayed in a way that is easy to read and engaging.

3. Include Keywords

Just like you do with your website and blogs, your profile and Company Page should be keyword rich. When people want to find a “real estate agent in Massachusetts,” for example, you want to make sure you show up.

4. Share Plenty of Content

When you are deciding which content to share on LinkedIn, always have the goal of helping others, but make sure the type of information varies. On one day, post an informative article on a new development in real estate, and on the next, share an opinionated blog post about what agents are doing wrong. Make sure you’re not just sharing your own content. Those who are successful in social media understand that it can’t always be about YOU.

5. Publish Directly on LinkedIn

Not only should you be sharing loads of information, you should also be writing your own. One thing that makes LinkedIn unique is that it allows you to publish your content for all of LinkedIn to see. They are referred to as long-form posts, and you definitely need to be taking advantage of them. Not only does it make you look more credible when you have them on your profile, but they are searchable both on and off LinkedIn. People do not have to be in your network to view them, and they are able to connect with you directly from the post. This is an invaluable tool for growing your network and establishing your expertise in the real estate industry.

6. Study Your Analytics

LinkedIn is very generous in the amount of information they provide to you. They tell you exactly which of your posts received interactions and which ones didn’t. You should study these analytics thoroughly so that you can capitalize on what people like and avoid the stuff they don’t.

7. Connect With Everyone

There has never been, and never will be, a rule that you are only allowed to connect with people that you know on LinkedIn. You should do searches for locals in your area, other agents, home appraisers, mortgage brokers, and anyone else you want. The thing is, there is no such thing as too big of a network. You never know where each connection will lead you. Over the years, I have seen some really shortsighted agents who say, if they don’t know them then they won’t connect. This might be prudent thinking on Facebook, but not on LinkedIn!

8. Capitalize on LinkedIn Real Estate Groups

One of the hidden gems on LinkedIn is the group feature. They are the difference between agents who really drive traffic back to their website and those who don’t. However, there is a proper way to use them.

  • According to the Social Media Examiner, you should look for groups within your industry—or groups that contain your target niche or market—that have enough members to get you exposure, but not so many that you get lost in the shuffle. Aim for between 1,000 and 5,000 members. You can also join a few of the larger groups for when you are sharing something of a more general nature.
  • When you interact within the groups, remember that you are there to add value. You should respond to others’ questions, give your opinions, share advice, and ask questions that make people think. You should not post links to your site unless it is something of value.
  • Don’t post your listings! I cannot emphasize this one enough. Real Estate agents are notorious for only thinking about promoting their listings. Social media is about forming relationships, not trying to sell to people. Do you think anyone goes to Linkedin groups to buy a home? I hope you realize the answer is no. This is one of the most annoying things real estate agents do in social media. What’s worse is there are some groups that spell out the fact you can’t post listings and some practitioners do it anyway. This is the perfect way to look like a fool in front of your peers.
  • Don’t try to be active on too many groups at once, or you will not be able to provide anything useful to any of them. Instead, choose three or four that you really think could boost your exposure and make sure to check-in with them several times per week. Some excellent real estate groups to take a look at joining are The National Association of REALTORS®, Real Estate Professionals Group, and Real Estate Professional Referral Group.
  • Once you are part of a conversation, don’t leave it unfinished. Always go back to see if anyone has responded to what you said.
  • After you have established yourself within the group, you can start asking your own questions and solicit feedback. If you ask one that garners a lot of attention, you will even be featured as a top contributor within the group, increasing your visibility tenfold.

9. Start Your Own Group

If you are really ambitious, it could be time to found your own group. This puts you in the driver’s seat, and, if done correctly, can really catapult your recognition in the real estate industry. In order to set the precedent, you should set up an auto-email that goes out to all new members welcoming them to the group and setting the ground rules (like no soliciting). You can also let them know that you will be sending out weekly or monthly emails with industry resources and tricks of the trade.

10. Help Others

Finally, you should take a few minutes each day to endorse and recommend other people. They will appreciate the gesture and may even return the favor.

These are some of the best ways a real estate agent can use Linkedin to get meaningful results. Do you have any tips for successfully using LinkedIn? Share them in the comments below.

Bill Gassett is a nationally-recognized real estate leader and one of the top RE/MAX salespeople in New England. See all his real estate articles at www.maxrealestateexposure.com.