Why Blogging for Real Estate?

Most real estate and mortgage professionals understand the benefits of maintaining a blog.  Connecting with customers helps keep your brand at the top of mind and helps bring in referrals. A blog makes your website easier to find, improves your SEO.  It provides important material for Facebook, Twitter and/or LinkedIn posts.  An updated blog, appearing frequently in searches, immediately places you as a local expert knowledgeable about the real estate market.

Topics for a blog?  As a professional dealing with real estate and mortgages, your world is homes.  Everyone is interested in houses and wants to own one – or a better one.  The popularity of home reno shows just proves this axiom. So topics for your profession are a breeze.  Here is a short list of suggestions:

  1. Home fashions
  2. Neighbourhood events
  3. Neighbourhood history
  4. Recent Neighbourhood Activity
  5. Community organizations
  6. Home renos: pick a room, pick a positive and a negative story, and add a short paragraph about monetary impact.
  7. Best and worst home condition stories
  8. Most unexpected inside of a house
  9. Tips for buyers
  10. Tips for sellers
  11. Financial facts
  12. Securing a mortgage, loan and financing options
  13. Specialty markets:  20 something’s, families, retired couples, handicapped concerns, investments, sports and other interests…
  14. Property Management

Alternate between information/ educational and entertainment.  Move freely between topics.  Some topics will be too long for one blog.  Do not be afraid to include a ‘to be continued!   And get that audience to come back for more.  The rule of thumb is about 300 words (and so I will close very shortly).

The more information you provide online, the more you will be viewed as a knowledgeable local expert. Your readers will come to trust you, and when it’s time for them to make a move, you will be the professional they contact.

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HOW SOCIAL MEDIA ARE AFFECTING THE TRADITIONAL WEBSITE

I have heard a lot of people saying, over the past year or so, that they are spending more time and energy on their social media campaigns and less time on their websites.  Case in point:  several of my colleagues are using Facebook Business Pages as opposed to websites these days.  So, the question is:  Are social media displacing the traditional website we’ve all come to know and love?       sm vs website

In our Social Networking workshop, we advocate the use of social media in conjunction with what is already working for your business.  If you have a dynamite website set up for your business and it’s serving you well, why scrap it?  Your website stands for constancy and familiarity with your existing clients and it’s a great testament to what it is that you do, for prospective clients.  Plus, you can never have enough of an online presence if you want to maximize your SEO (search engine optimization).  But, what we definitely recommend is that no business be without a social media presence in today’s market.  That would just be counter-productive, especially given the ease with which social media can be used.

A social media campaign is absolutely essential to the success of a business’ growth right now.  The fact is, people are on social media sites like Facebook on a daily basis.  Facebook has become a primary source of information for a lot of us.  And, with Facebook’s user numbers expecting to shoot upwards of a billion before this year is up, if your business isn’t on Facebook, you stand to be in a position where you will not be as easily found when people are seeking information about the very products and services that you provide.

The same goes for other social media platforms.  Each has its own special features that make it unique and essential from a business perspective.   I’ve discussed them all in detail throughout some of my other posts:  Twitter is great for getting short bursts of information out there in real time – updates, event information, links, etc.  Blogs are a wonderful way to position yourself as an expert in your industry – to share valuable information and your knowledge with people.  LinkedIn is the place to connect with like-minded business individuals and to network within a comprehensive business arena.

So, what are some of the fundamental differences between social media platforms and a website in terms of your business?  First and foremost, social media are just that – social.  A social media site is not a platform for overt advertising and hard-sell tactics.  Social media sites exist to help you connect with people – to inform and enlighten – to engage in two-way dialogue with clients and prospects.  A website, on the other hand, is a place where you can more aggressively peddle your wares, so to speak.  A website is static – updated and changed, for the most part, on a not-so-regular basis.  Social media business sites can be easily updated and altered on a daily basis, whenever necessary, in real time.  That’s important for any business.  Social media sites also provide you with an opportunity to take part in ‘live’ conversations with people through messaging and groups features.

Bottom line, a social media presence is a necessity for your business in the current market.  Websites are still important, too.  And, no, it’s not redundant to incorporate both a social media presence and a website into your business’ marketing strategy.  It’s important, in fact, that the two co-exist and even feed off of each other to allow for maximized SEO and a well-structured presence on the web.

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HOW TO WRITE A FACEBOOK POST WITH AN EFFECTIVE CALL TO ACTION

When using Facebook for business, strategy is everything.  The timing of your posts is relevant, what you post is relevant and how you post is relevant.  Sure, it’s okay to post here and there about the frivolities of life, even when posting for business purposes.  But, it’s also important to remember that your Facebook business page and its posts represent the identity of your business.  And, the end game of your strategy on Facebook is to generate productivity.   So, what’s the most important thing a Facebook post can do?  Provide a call to action, of course!     call to action

Here are some tips on how to create an effective call to action within your posts:

1.  Outline the Benefits – In order for someone to complete a call to action, they should be given the incentive and the benefits to doing so.  Make it clear what your audience will get out of completing the call to action – for example, will your product or service solve a problem?  If so, identify that problem and display how your service or product can serve as a specific remedy.

2.  Don’t be a Bore – This one’s a no-brainer, but mention-worthy just the same.  Ensure that your posts are engaging and interesting to people.  You want to grab their attention and entice them to use your services and products.  So, make your posts fun to read!  And, it’s never a bad idea to add some visual stimulation – include photos wherever possible.  They can exponentially complement your posts.

3.  Keep it Encouraging and Optimistic – As with anything you post on Facebook, the idea again is to try to engage and even entertain.  Your posts should excite and inspire people to want to use your CTA (call to action).  Positive feelings will encourage users to share your posts!  More sharing = greater virality.

4.  Ask a Direct Question – An under-utilized tool when creating Facebook posts, asking questions encourages participation and engagement of your Facebook community.  People will be more inclined to respond by clicking a link or by commenting when asked a direct question – something that they really want to answer.  You can also ask a question that can be answered ‘yes’ when people ‘Like’ it.

5. Be Sure to Include a Link – Not each and every Facebook post requires a link, however, a post with a call to action should contain one (unless the only call to action you’re looking for is a ‘Like’ or a comment.  When your purpose is to direct people to other content, a link is definitely in order.

6.  Sweeten the Deal – There’s nothing like a little extra incentive to encourage people to complete a call to action.  You could, for example, offer a discount on your products or services; you could offer a free token gift (a T-shirt or a water bottle emblazoned with your logo would do).  People are generally more likely to respond when there’s something in it for them.

7.  Follow Through – Okay, so your call to action is effective and people responding.  Now what happens?  It’s absolutely imperative that the rest of the process be as well laid out as the call to action itself.  The single most important thing to remember is to keep it relatively simple.  You don’t want to make people jump through hoops – don’t ask them to provide any more information than is necessary and don’t make it difficult to navigate once they’re there!

Your calls to action are one of the most vital components within your social media marketing strategy.  When created correctly within your Facebook posts, they can be a very effective means of maintaining a primary objective:  generating business for you!

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How NOT to Respond to Customer Complaints on Social Media

Okay, I read the following Facebook posts and after I stopped giggling like a 12 year old schoolgirl, I thought, “Oh, what perfect material for a blog topic regarding how not to respond when a customer complains about your services via social media.”  So, without further ado, here’s a truly perfect example of what you shouldn’t be doing…

 

how not to respond

Pretty much self-explanatory, right?  The reasoning for not talking to people in the manner illustrated above?  I know it can be tough to take criticism, and while the lady who wrote what she did in this post used all the tact of a raging bull, the chef at Pigalle Boston still, as a business owner, should never have responded as he did – so harshly and with such colorful language!

Even though you might not like what one or two people have to say, you should keep in mind the big picture, and remember once again, that what you post on Facebook (and other social media platforms) is there for the world to see, the world that includes clients and prospective clients.  Other than for the entertainment value, no one really wants to see callous, not-so-well-thought-out comments.  They’re not a great reflection of you and the way you do business.  When posting on social media for business purposes, it’s always best to maintain a sense of professional decorum.  Swearing and name-calling don’t really fall into that category, and while it might seem like a good idea at the time: Always think before you post!!!

So, you want to tell your critics to jump off a cliff, but how should you actually handle put-downs and negative criticism?  Simply let the person know that you are sorry to hear that they’re dissatisfied with the service.  Ask them how they feel you might make their experience better the next time.  Accept it as constructive criticism, and learn from it.  Bottom line:  You can’t please all of the people all of the time.  Just remember, do your best, and keep your customer care/service skills honed so that, even if you’re tempted to, you never respond to negative comments in the manner illustrated above!

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‘CUSTOMER SERVICE MARKETING’ VIA SOCIAL MEDIA

With social media altering the way we do business and how we interact with clients/customers, the customer service aspect of business has become emphasized like never before.  Social media have brought customer relationship management and customer service to the forefront and have rendered customer service a form of marketing unto itself.  Here’s how:

Social media have enhanced the customer experience by giving the customer a profound voice.  And, for most businesses, this has translated into having a favorable impact on overall sales and growth.  Social media are interactive and customers can communicate directly with businesses; whether it be to ask questions about products or services, file complaints or offer praise with respect to products & services.                   customer service 2

Direct dialogue is now possible via most mainstream social media platforms.  Within a business’ “online community”, the brand benefits via engagement with customers.  This is true both in terms of insight and ideas that can be garnered from customers as well as how brand loyalty is being constructed and promoted via word-of-mouth.  Listening to what customers are saying and responding promptly & directly to them is key.  Customer service becomes an effective form of marketing!

To implement customer service as a form of marketing for your business, ensure that you:

A)     Focus on conversation/engagement as being the core of your business – concentrate on the exchange of information and ideas with your customers – interact, listen and respond.

B)      Strive to excel at a more refined range of things – you can’t be “great” at everything and solve all of the world’s problems, but you can focus on the things that are most meaningful to your customers (things that you will come to identify through real dialogue with them).

C)       Break down the barriers that have traditionally segregated business and customer – make use of social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & Blogging to get conversations started and to maintain & manage ongoing, solid relationships with your customers.

Need some help navigating these social networking sites?  Then our Social Networking workshop is for you.  Please check out our schedule at:  http://onlineerealty.com/schedule.php

 

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7 IMPORTANT THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE YOU POST ON FACEBOOK

Facebook is the medium of choice for many businesses when it comes to a social media marketing strategy.  Why?  Because Facebook has almost a billion users; it has become the social medium on which to connect and because, with its gazillion user-friendly features and apps, it’s just so damn cool!

Here are a few statistics and things (courtesy of consultant, Jeff Bullas, one of my favorite go-to guys for all things social media) you should know before using Facebook as a part of your business’ social media marketing campaign.

1. What Days of the Week are Best for Posting?  Although there’s nothing wrong with posting on Facebook any given day of the week, statistics show that the best days to post are Wednesdays and Sundays.                                            posting on facebook2

2. What Times of the Day are Best for Posting?  The best time to post on Facebook is between the hours of 8:00 PM and 7:00 AM.  Apparently posting between these hours garner 20% more user engagement.  So, if you want to increase traffic, “likes” and comments, analysis shows that it’s actually best to post when users during non-business hours, when users are not at work.

3. How Many Posts a Day Should you Create?  Research dictates that it’s quality, not quantity that matters most.  Accordingly, posting one or two times per day generates 40% more user engagement.

4. How Many Times a Week Should you Post?  By the same token, according to Bullas, you can, “Achieve maximum user engagement by not overcrowding users’ newsfeeds with too many Posts during the week.  Posting one to four times produces 71% higher user engagement than five or more Posts in a given week for retail brands.”

No one wants to have their News Feeds inundated with an over abundance of posts – especially not if they’re all from the same person or company.

 

5. What is the Optimal Length for a Post?  With respect to the length of posts, it would appear that more concise posts (posts between one and 40 characters in length) produce higher engagement than do longer posts.  The statistic is, “Posts with 80 characters or less receive 66% higher engagement.”

 

6. What Kind of Content Sparks Dialogue?  To get the dialogue ball rolling, ask questions of your fans.  If you really want to generate lots of comments, there’s no better way to do it.  If your objective is to really get fans talking, remember that, “question posts generate comment rates double that of “non-question” posts.”

 

7. What Keywords are Most Effective in Facebook Offer Posts?  People respond best to uncomplicated and undemanding offers.  Tell your fans what they’re getting in straightforward language.  Bullas claims that keywords like “$ Off” and “Coupons” generate the highest fan engagement.  On the flipside, keywords such as “Sale” and “% Off” receive the least fan engagement.

 

So, now that you’re armed with some of the best advice for posting on Facebook for business – get out there and get posting!!  For more information and to best optimize your social media endeavors, why not join one of our Social Networking workshops and we’ll equip you with everything you need to know!  Just click on the link for a schedule of workshops in your area.

http://onlineerealty.com/schedule.php

 

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Fair or Unfair, Landowners Beware (It Might Be Time to Upgrade your Insurance)

“In one of the scariest court decisions of recent years, the Ontario Divisional Court has ruled that innocent landowners can be held responsible to remedy contamination caused to their properties by a neighbour.” (– Bob Aaron for thestar.com)

Does that sound just to you?  Not to me, either.  The article from which I borrowed that quote cites a particular case that occurred in Ontario in December of 2008, in which, following the filling of the oil fuel tanks in a residential home, oil was leaked from the home’s basement, contaminating the home’s property as well as city property (the oil traveled into the storm sewers and ultimately into a nearby lake).  The contamination of the surrounding city property was discovered after the homeowner informed his insurance company of the situation.  When the Ministry of the Environment got wind of the contamination, an officer was sent to conduct an assessment and the homeowner was Environmental_Insuranceordered to “eliminate any adverse effects” and to “restore the natural environment”.  This being a costly undertaking, the homeowners insurance covered the cost of remediation work to his own property, but after a long three months, ran out prior to being able to cover the full restoration of the natural environment to the city property.  The Ministry of the Environment subsequently issued an order to the city to remediate its own property.

The city went on to appeal the order to the Environmental Review Tribunal, but it was dismissed.  They then further appealed to the Divisional Court, citing the fact that the property was contaminated due to no fault of their own, and the case was heard by a three-judge panel in May of 2012.  Before the case was heard, however, the city had already performed the ordered task of the remediation work, rendering the appeal proceedings to determine responsibility moot.  The court, however, opted to hear the appeal just the same as a means of clarifying future similar cases.  It ruled that the review tribunal was accurate in its decision to not hear evidence with respect to responsibility for the oil spill – they never opposed the fact that the city was an innocent party with respect to cause of the contamination.

Bottom line:  The court is upholding a law which states that even though a party might not be responsible for contamination of their property, they are responsible for the cleanup, regardless of who caused the contamination.

(In the particular case cited above, the city’s remediation costs are still at issue and the city is suing the Ministry of the Environment, the homeowner, the cleanup company (and others) to recover the costs.)

What comes into question upon hearing a case like this is insurance coverage.  As most homeowner policies do not cover pollution or contamination remediation, and given that situations like this one do occur, your clients will appreciate being informed about this kind of protection.

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