We receive a lot of questions about whether social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, along with blogging, are valuable tools for real estate agents. And, if so, what’s the difference and how should they be used. This is a shot at explaining some of the differences.
All three options are free to use, allow you to connect with current and prospective clients, and allow you to easily publish content to the web. The differences largely come down to what type of content you can publish together with who you can likely reach.
Facebook is used largely to connect with real-world friends such as former classmates, family members, and other people you’ve physically met at some point. It’s probably the most intimate of the three networking options mentioned here largely because it’s a popular photo sharing website. One of the most popular things people do on Facebook is upload pictures of vacations, birthdays, kids, etc., to share with their friends. Facebook is a semi-private environment, so you can set limits on who can see the information you’ve put in your profile, photos you’ve loaded, etc.
The real-world equivalent of Facebook would be connecting with friends at family reunions, parties, church, or other functions where you have a deep connection with people. These are people you have a good chance of doing business with since they likely know you, trust you, and would like to give their business to someone fitting that description. Facebook carries those offline relationships online.
On Facebook, relationships are symmetrical, meaning when someone “friends” you, you have to “friend” them back to form a relationship.
Twitter allows you to quickly publish short thoughts (approximately 2-3 sentences or exactly 140 characters) of information to the web using Twitter’s website or a mobile phone. Twitter is by far the easiest channel for publishing content to the web due to the restricted length together with the convenience of being able to use a phone to text in a Tweet.
While relationships on Facebook are symmetrical, they don’t have to be on Twitter. Because of this, people can follow what you have to say on Twitter without you following them back. This is a good thing because people may find what you have to say interesting while you may not find what they have to find interesting in return. For example, a local musician may be interested in buying a home, so starts following you and other local agents on Twitter to get a feel for who seems like a good fit for his home buying and/or selling needs. You may not find the musician’s tweets about where his band is playing interesting enough to follow.
Real-world examples of Twitter include CB radio conversations or even talk radio call-in shows. You can follow conversations you find interesting and occasionally chime in with a tweet of your own if you have something to share.
Blogging allows for longer form content than what you can put into a Twitter post, and doesn’t have the access restrictions associated with Facebook. This makes it a valuable publishing platform for reaching people you haven’t done business with in the past (and to keep in touch with former clients). Blog posts can consist of text, images, video, audio, polls, and surely other formats of content. The length of a post can vary from a short headline and a sentence or two to thousands of words. Since blogging doesn’t have any of the length or formatting restrictions of a newspaper, bloggers tend to create posts that are as long as the content dictates (although, like most writing, if you can say the same thing in fewer words you’re generally going to have better luck keeping your audience interested in what you have to say).
One of the powerful advantages to blogging is the search engine friendliness of the content. Search engines tend to gobble up content they find on blogs and rank it very high in their results when someone searches for content you’ve previously written about. Because of this, prospective clients may first discover you through a blog post you’ve written some time in the past that answers a question they typed into a search engine today. This can lead to a very positive first impression that can lead to business down the line.
What’s the Right Tool to Use?
There really is no right or wrong tool to use for online marketing today. However, one rule that applies well to the web is to make the most of whichever tools you choose to use. It’s better to figure out how to use one of these platforms well than to use all of them marginally.
The nice thing is that they’re all free. It’s just a matter of taking some time to sign up to give them a try.