The Art of Turning a Conversation into a Listing! Phil Herman is “Licensed to Sell!”

Conversational Hooks that turn Strangers into Prospects.

Over the years, we’ve preached the importance of changing from a “sales mentality” to a “marketing mentality.” A sales mindset is basically chasing prospects who are ready to sell now, while a marketing mindset is all about setting up a system where you brand yourself and work that brand to create a steady flow of business coming your way. A marketing mindset puts you in the minds of consumers long BEFORE they need to sell. (I can’t tell you how many times clients have told me that they go to take a listing and the homeowner says, “we always knew we were going to use you when we were ready to sell, and now we are!” That is the type of result you’ll see by moving to a marketing mentality.)

However, like many things in life, it’s easy to say, but hard to do. Building a brand that generates a steady flow of business takes time, money and effort.  That is why you also need great sales skills.  Today you are going to have conversations with a number of people.  What is your strategy to turn those conversations into listings?

Sales Skills and Marketing Programs Must Work Together

In the 35 plus years, I have been working with agents helping them build marketing driven real estate businesses I tell them they need to not only work on their long term marketing but they need to also work on their one on one sales skills.   A strategic branding campaign and marketing plan that is correctly implemented is designed to be a semi-automated way to create a steady flow of clients coming your way. It allows you to create a flow of leads so that you are not spending so much energy chasing and prospecting for leads; they are coming to you. But it takes time and money to establish an effective brand. That why you also need to hone your sales skills so that every opportunity that comes your way can be turned into a transaction.

Marketing & Prospecting

A perfect example is Dayton, OH agent, Phil Herman.  He has spent over 25 years working with us at MegaAgentDesgin.com to build his brand and create optimum name recognition. Many years ago, he went through that “sweat equity” phase of building the branding and marketing, just like many agents have to. Over time, he has built his brand into a lead generating machine. He now spends more money on his marketing and advertising budget than the vast majority of agents earn in commissions North America (remember the adage, it takes money to make money!). That being said, one of the things that strikes me about Phil is that even though he has this big marketing machine working for him, and brings him a steady flow of leads, he is still hungry and looks for every opportunity to prospect. He makes follow up calls every day that his team could easily make. But he wants to stay in touch with what people are saying.  This week, he shared with me that he had 15 listing appointments on his calendar for this week and I have a feeling he will get them all.

A Superstar at Both

Phil completes on average about 450 transactions a year and has been doing that production for many years. What has made Phil’s rise so remarkable is that he is both a consummate marketer and a consummate salesperson. It’s a powerful combination.

One Great Example

An example of this “consummate salesman” is his commitment to making calls every day, even when he has clients calling him every day asking Phill to list their home. Another example is Phil’s ability to turn ordinary daily encounters with people into business. Here is an example: Phil has a life and business philosophy built around the Japanese mindset of “Kaizen.” That is the philosophy of “constant improvement” through constant learning. He actually got a personalized license plate with this word. Phil shares with me that people constantly see his plates and then ask him “what does that mean?” He quickly explains the philosophy, then says striving to live “Kaizen” has changed my life for the better in every way and helped me become become a better person and businessman, if you give me your email address I would be happy to send you an amazing article about “Kaizen”, I know you will get great value from it.

Guess what?  He gets almost everyone’s contact information. Once he has collected the person’s contact information he hands them a copy of his personal brochure and says here’s a little brochure about who I am you will be able to see how “Kaizen” has made a huge difference in my life. I will email you the article, I would love your feedback on it.  Without fail, Phil sends out an email with the article with a request for feedback. He does not mention real estate he just provides valuable information.  Then over time, he follows up consistently with two marketing touches a month forever.

Conversation=Listing

For instance, Phil was filling his car at a gas station. A man approached him and asked about his license plate. Phil explained the philosophy and told the man that it’s an important part of how he approaches daily life. Phil also explained that the philosophy is exactly what Phil and his business team embrace. When Phill offered to email the man an article he gladly “took the bait” and gave Phil his name and email information. That’s how Phil turns conversations into prospects.  It turned out that four months letter the man decided to sell his home and Phil got the listing — from a casual conversation at a gas pump!  A simple conversation started the ball rolling; great sales skills turned the conversation into a lead. Then Phil’s follow-up great marketing follow up plan starting by giving the person a copy of his brochure and emailing them the  “Kaizen” article and sending out his professional and useful bi-weekly follow-up materials turned the lead into a listing.  Phil says many people have told him they were so impressed that as successful as he is that he followed up. They tell him that when they read his brochure, they felt like they have a relationship with Phil and knew they would enjoy working with him.  Phil calls the people his new friends farm.  Together great sales skills and great marketing are a very powerful force.

In fact, that is one of the most effective ways to do this is to have something of great value that you can offer to send to anyone you talk to.  Your offer should not be real estate related. If should be something that will truly help people live a better life.  The goodwill and relationship you build will generate more business than talking about real estate.

MARKETING TIP:

When you do have a face-to-face encounter, (whether or not you were able to turn the conversation to a lead) be sure to pass out your personal prospecting brochure as you disengage from the conversation. If you made a favorable impression, your brochure will solidify your relationship in the mind of this prospect! In fact, we have always coached our clients to carry a stack of personal brochures and hand them out instead of business cards. It’s an essential and effective part of a successful marketing campaign. In fact, it’s an integral factor in my E-Book, “How To Generate 10 Transactions in 90 Days with Your Personal Prospecting Brochure.”

The point I am trying to make in this article is that it is important to switch from a sales mentality to a marketing mentality to grow your business and take control of your time. It helps you get off the “hamster wheel” of chasing deals and looking for the next hot prospect. However, as Phil has shown, even though you have established a successful marketing campaign and system, you should never stop your daily prospecting, always be ready for the face to face encounter, and have an interesting conversational hook that will lead to collecting that person’s contact information.  Don’t force it. It takes practice. You may want to explore several scenarios you might encounter, and craft some ideas how to turn the conversation gently and naturally so they can send them something of value. Once you have this down, you will find you enjoy prospecting in social settings.

I would love your feedback on what your conversational hook is and what you offer to send people, so they are happy to give you their contact information. Please post comments below.

Greg Herder
CEO MegaAgent.com

PS:

If you Want A free Copy of my e-book “How To Generate 10 Transactions in 90 Days with Your Personal Prospecting Brochure.” Click Here.  If you want to see samples of personal brochures go to PersonalBrochures.com


Does Your Personal Brand Meet “The Storytellers” Standard?

Creating A personal Brand for Real Estate Agents to Generate Leads.

We saw a commercial the other day that reminded us exactly why we’re so passionate about the business we’re in. Take a look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Wa_6g9WNgU&list=PL88A23B2B49A23137&index=11

No, we’re not in the car business. We’re not in the dog products business. We’re in the business of branding, and nothing does that more effectively than emotional storytelling. In this commercial, you see a story unfold before your eyes. An emotionally compelling story. In fact, you see a man’s life unfold in 30 seconds. It’s a story that makes you feel good about the product, a Subaru automobile. The commercial doesn’t tell you a single fact about the car, it’s engine size, number of cup holders or any other feature about the car. Yet, you feel a bond with the subject matter. You care because you have a story you can relate to.

Story telling is what drives the most effective branding campaigns, whether the product being branded is a car, a cereal or even a real estate agent. Emotional marketing works for Fortune 100 products and companies and it works for real estate agents.

Many years ago, we at Hobbs/Herder adopted the slogan “The Storytellers” to describe what we do. We were the pioneers of emotionally compelling, story-driven marketing in real estate, and we think it’s even more important than it’s ever been before.

When we look around the industry, we see a lot of “cookie-cutter” advertising. This consists of advertising with one-size-fits-all impersonal, templated designs and boiler-plate copy that may be less expensive but is also less effective. In fact, over our 25 plus years in the business, we’ve seen a legion of copycat companies who took our idea to create branded marketing materials for agents but they’ve pulled the story and the emotion out of the equation. Creating that story, that emotional connection is the hard part, that’s the heavy lifting that makes branding so effective when done right — and that’s what makes us more expensive than other real estate marketing and advertising companies.

The problem with cheaper, templated marketing pieces is simple – this is not effective branding. There’s no hook. There’s no story. There are no personally significant or captivating design elements that resonate with a compelling story. It’s nothing but a waste of money spent on marketing materials that will neither make you memorable nor differentiate you from your competition. You end up being viewed as a commodity with no discernable difference between yourself and every other agent out there. (And the next time you wince when a client starts complaining about your commission rate, remember, it’s not the consumers’ fault, they have been programmed to think of agents as a commodity because agents all appear to be the same with little to no differentiation).

Madison Avenue understands. Every successful brand has a story and an emotional hook that pulls you in, grabs your attention and makes a connection with you. When that magic happens, it’s powerful. Then that product owns a piece of your mind. And when you think of a car, a brand of tissue, a cereal or a perfume, you think of YOUR favorite brand because of that connection.

At Hobbs/Herder we’ve heard this countless times over the past two and a half decades. Clients call us as their campaigns gain momentum and they establish their brand with their Hobbs/Herder Powerkard in their farm. They tell us, “I got a call from a home owner to come list the house. They said I was their Realtor®, that they knew they were going to use my services when they move.” That is the magic of branding when a client gives us full reign to tell their story and create an emotional hook that prospects can relate to.

So here’s what we propose: Lay out all of the marketing materials you use on a table. Your business card. Your personal brochure, if you have one. (If you don’t, why not?) Your ads. Your mailers. Printouts of your Facebook and Twitter pages. Then, ask yourself a simple question – Do these materials meet The Storytellers’ standard?

If your honest answer is yes, then that’s great, you’re on the right path. But if your answer is no, then stop spending time and money on inferior branding that isn’t really “branding” you at all. Give us a call and let us tell your story. We are The Storytellers.


Social Media: One More Thing to Do or the Most Powerful Networking Tool Available Today?

When we talk about social media at the Gateway seminars, agents typically fall into one of two distinct camps. One group is excited and energized by the marketing opportunities available through sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Then there’s that other group. You might already know who you are. This group is defined by the “Oh great, just another thing I have to do” agent mentality.

How Does Social Media Fit in Your Marketing Toolkit?

Here’s the thing. It’s fine if you feel that way. But you must understand that – whether you like it or not – social media is a big part of today’s marketing landscape. People are using the “big 5” of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube to keep in touch with clients, build relationships and most importantly, generate leads. Check out a recent post on the Hobbs/Herder Facebook page by a Gateway graduate and Hobbs/Herder client, Derrick Tornow, a premier agent in Utah County, Utah:

“This Facebook Stuff Works!

Today has been a little out of the ordinary. I got 2 listings today from my Facebook friends. About 5 months ago I played in a golf tournament – a 4 man scramble. I got teamed up with Dan & Wayne Ross. I’m not very good at golf, but I can crush the ball teeing off and I’m sometimes funny. I gave them my personal brochure and we talked a little about real estate. A few days later I looked them up on Facebook and asked them to be my friend. Today I got an email from Dan asking to meet up and look at a rental home they own just south of BYU. I went over, looked it over, showed them my comps, and had them sign the listing. All in about 15 minutes.

The other person that contacted me was a high school friend of my wife. Met him once at a reception for another friend of my wife. We became friends on Facebook because we are both BYU fans. He called me up looking to sell a home in the area and saw that I am a real estate guru on Facebook. I sent him off the listing and hope to have it back later today.

Facebook is just another tool in the tool box!”

Your Perspective is Critical

So, the question now becomes, do you think Derrick views the time he spends on Facebook as “just another thing I have to do”? Of course he doesn’t! Like he said at the end there, he views it like a great tool to have at his disposal. Think of how powerful face-to-face networking is amongst your sphere of influence. Using social media allows you to supercharge those efforts and vastly expand your networking reach! It’s an extremely powerful method to keep in touch with people you’ve come in contact with.

Embrace the New Powerful Technology

The moral of the story is this – social media isn’t going away anytime soon. Look how quickly Pinterest has carved its niche and became the “next big thing.” We’re sure it won’t be the last. It’s up to you whether or not you want to let such a great opportunity pass you by. Stop looking at social media as a chore and start integrating it into how you conduct business. Work it to your own comfort level, but don’t let it completely pass you by. Unless, that is, you’re willing to let the business pass you by as well.

Branding Across the Spectrum

Hot Tip: With all the noise in the marketplace with agents competing for listings and buyers (not to mention the rush of new agents sure to enter the market when the recovery gains more momentum), it’s more critical than ever to “brand” yourself on your social media sites. Make sure your personal brand is conveyed on your Facebook fan page, your Twitter profile, your YouTube channel and anywhere else that allows you to customize the display of your online profile. When all your marketing across the spectrum is cohesive and correctly branded, it exponentially increases its effectiveness at building your business. If it’s not, it is working against you.

Call us at 800-999-6090, ext. 668 if you need help with this important aspect of your social media marketing. Chances are you’ll be surprised how affordably we can integrate your brand into the various social media platforms.

YES, I would like more information on how to place my brand on my social media.


Branding and Social Media: Turning Facebook and Twitter’s Branding and Marketing Capabilities into Real Estate Lead Generators.

The key to success in social media marketing is to break out of the mold and differentiate yourself with your own personal brand. We’ll show you how.

We’ve all heard the Facebook horror stories: Profile pictures of so-called “professionals” with drinks in their hand or a goofy pose better reserved for private viewing, not public consumption.

In this social media-driven age, too many agents tend to get sloppy when it comes to their Facebook and Twitter profiles. Like any other marketing you do, the first impression you make on Facebook or Twitter is very important. If it’s not favorable, you’re going to repel people. Failing to take the time to really think about what your profile is conveying can be detrimental to your business.

The good news is that new graphic capabilities now allow for greater flexibility and increased professionalism and branding, and in this article, we’ll show you how to make the most of these new options.

Content is King
The first rule of thumb for social media marketing is to offer something of substance. Your Facebook and Twitter pages can’t be facades – they must deliver valuable information to prospective clients without being overtly “salesy.” They need personal content that is both professional and engaging.

Once you have and are offering good quality content and data, the next step is tying it all together with high-quality branding. Let’s start by taking a look at how you can convey your unique brand on Facebook.

Facebook Follies
For a site designed to express your individuality, Facebook itself sure lacks for personality. Think about it – for the most part, one person’s Facebook page looks pretty much like everybody else’s Facebook page.

Until now, that is.

Breaking out from Facebook’s anonymous aesthetic starts with the simplest of options, your profile picture. In the past, this image was limited to 200 x 200 pixels, but now it can be up to 600 pixels tall. An extra 400 pixels isn’t going to turn you into a social media dynamo, but it’s a good start to differentiate yourself, and it allows you more flexibility to convey your brand rather than just a square mugshot.

Here are a few examples of how to best take advantage of the extra territory:

Deborah Herridge Facebook Profice Picture Christopher Small Facebook Profie Picture

Once you have updated your profile picture yet to include your branding, it’s time to get a little more involved. One great feature Facebook offers but not many people take advantage of is the “fan page.” This is a separate page from your profile page that allows you to customize the graphic appearance of your page. Check out what Dean Martin has done with the “Welcome” tab of his fan page:

Dean Martin Facebook Welcome Page

This rich graphic presentation sets the tone for Dean’s Facebook presence and allows him to provide additional resources to the prospective clients who visit his page, all wrapped up with the high-quality graphics he uses on his marketing materials. Furthermore, a branded social media site indicates that you’re serious about your career and plays into the emotional connections people forge through social media. When someone finds you on Facebook, they feel a stronger connection to you. And when your Facebook is branded with professional graphics and contains quality content that sets you apart from others, it serves as validation of your quality as an agent.

Creating A Sense of Community
Your Facebook fan page also provides another benefit. Over time, as you drive more clients and past clients to your fan page, a group will form. Think of the impact of a prospective client discovering your Facebook fan page, only to find a collection of loyal fans all singing your praises. The “group” aspect will resonate strongly with that prospective client, causing a desire to join the community by becoming your client.

What’s more, the members of that group, who are all bonded by their common support of you, develops a sense of community. This allows you to “rally the troops” or disseminate valuable information to your most loyal clients and customers easily and effectively.

Joining the Tweet Elite
Twitter allows for a little more customization with templated background patterns and various color palettes to choose from. But even the best of those options can’t match up to a truly custom background image. Birmingham, Alabama’s Peggy Lucas has done an excellent job of integrating her brand into her Twitter page:

Peggy Lucas Branded Twitter Page

Keep It Simple
When branding your social media pages, don’t get too ambitious. Instead, keep things simple. Use a nice photo of yourself, your logo, your contact information and perhaps a recognizable graphic element from your campaign. The last thing you want to do is come on too strong and scare people off. If your branding is too garish or poorly designed, it will feel like an ad. In social media marketing, it’s essential that you remember the “social” aspect of it – your Facebook and Twitter pages shouldn’t feel like ads. You cannot try to sell people right away. You first need to earn their respect and trust, or you will be shunned if you come on too strong. Integrating your branding into your social media helps build trust faster by making you more credible.

Getting Technical
What prevents some people from customizing their Facebook and Twitter pages with their branding is that they simply don’t know how to create the files required by each platform. Some Facebook customization options do require what is known as “Static FBML” coding, so unless you’re a technical wiz, it’s best to leave your branding to an expert. Don’t let this be the cause for not customizing your page, however. (If you need help, call us.)

Don’t Get Left Behind
More and more major companies are turning to social media integration to connect with prospective clients and build strong fan bases. A television campaign for Del Taco leads viewers not to the company’s website, but their Facebook page, where you can access additional, exclusive content. Starbucks and Coca-Cola are huge players in social media as well.

The moral? Social media is here to stay, and it’s not good enough to simply have a generic Facebook or Twitter page anymore. Integrate your brand into your social media and use it to truly differentiate yourself from the competition.

Did You Know?
For the assistance of our clients, Hobbs/Herder has been at the forefront of Facebook and Twitter branding for real estate agents. If you’re still confused or would simply prefer to leave your social media branding to the pros, visit www.hobbsherder.com/marketing_social_media.asp for more information.


How to Plug Your Real Estate Career into the Power of Social Marketing: Part 2

So you have followed my advice in Part 1 of my article on social marketing and you have decided to put your toe into the Social Media water. You want to take it slow, so you decide to start by signing up on the basic three: FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn. For those of you who are techno-phobic, there are lots of companies, Hobbs/Herder included, that will set up your social media sites and get you started for a small fee. Once you have your sites set up, you will think…

…Now what?!

First, completely fill out your personal profiles on all three sites. The secret to having an effective profile is to allow your natural personality to come across. Think about this as if you were decorating a home office where you regularly meet with clients. You want to project a professional image, yet at the same time they are getting a first hand look at how you live. Your profile should give people insight into your personality, your passions, what is important to you and your values. The big mistake that most people make with social networking is they do not focus on a specific group of people. In social marketing, there are already a lot of agents networking, so what makes you different? It’s your personality, your interests, your passions and hobbies. When you share them, you naturally attract people who share the same interests. Don’t try to be all things to all people or you will end up attracting no one. I know this is hard, but it is the key to successfully building a strong social marketing presence.

If you are into family, mention your kids and post their pictures in an album. If you are into wine, talk about your favorite bottle of wine and ask for people to recommend theirs. Don’t hide the fact that you sell real estate, but remember that selling real estate is not what will make people want to connect with you. Your goal is to build a relationship with people over time, and if you come across like you are just trying to sell your services you will fail. The key is to be personal, but never cross that line and post things that would undermine your professionalism, no matter how funny or interesting you think it might be.

Once your profile is a reflection of who you really are, you are ready to start making posts. Don’t worry about building a following yet, or building the size of your network. You want to get a feel for social networking before you have a lot of people watching your every move.

I find the best place to start learning the art of posting is on Twitter. Twitter limits you to 140 characters so you have to be brief and to the point and at the same time let your personality come across to your readers. Twitter asks you to answer the question, what are you doing? That’s a great place to start, wake up, login and make a post.

Morning Post:
Back from my morning run, looking forward to previewing
homes today, need to find a great four bedroom in Seacliff
for my clients from Nevada.

Only post what is true, do not make anything up or it will come back to bite you. In social media the key is to build trust. Making stuff up kills trust.

Noon Post:
I found the best 4 bedroom in Seacliff and it is priced to sell.
My clients are going to love this one, I love being a Realtor!
Early evening Post:
Going out to taste some Rockriver wines at the Wine Room with
my wife, Patty; she was my high school sweetheart. We love
trying new wines with friends.
Late night post:
The Rockriver wine was very disappointing. Anybody have a
recommendation for a great cabernet, at a drinkable price?

The key is to be yourself. Make posts that make what ever you are doing sound interesting and pose questions asking for help. The objective is to engage people. If you see a question that interests, you answer it. You have to give value in order to receive value. The best way to engage people is to be engaging.

Make at least three posts each day for the next two weeks. Space them out, morning, noon and night. Every day take a look at your past posts by clicking on your name at the top right hand page of your Twitter page. Read through your posts from the day before. Ask yourself are they interesting, does your personality come across? Ask your spouse to read them and give you their take on them. If you do this for a couple weeks, your social media voice will start to emerge. Soon, as you are going through your day, things that make great posts will start popping out at you — jot them down so you always have something to say.

Also, start looking for articles, pictures and videos online that you find interesting and put links to them. Don’t post everything. You want to make sure that what ever you post you truly have an interest in and find interesting.

Once a week, make what I call the expert opinion post. In social media parlance, this is called thought leadership. Share local market stats and explain what those stats mean to typical buyers and sellers in your marketplace. To do this effectively, it’s going to take more than a couple sentences. So put your opinion on your web site or on your FaceBook page, and link back to them posting a link from Twitter.

Once you have found your social media voice, you are ready to grow your network. Start by uploading your client contact list into your FaceBook account and email them all an invitation to join your FaceBook page.

Go to www.Twellow.com and do a search for people in your local area and start following them. It is Twitter etiquette to follow the people who follow you. Also upload your client list into FaceBook and LinkedIn. Send them all an invitation to join your network. This will start your network growing.

In both Facebook and LinkedIn, you should download your contact list and send them an invitation to join your network. As people join, segment the people in your list. Create segments like past clients, active sellers, active buyers, friends, family, realtors, Seacliff Farm, etc. By grouping people into segments, you can look at that group’s posts on your wall and get a better feeling for what they are concerned with and thinking about.

Then interact and spend ten to twenty minutes a day interacting. When people ask for advice, give it; give referrals and recommendations, as your goal is to become part of the network. This is just like networking in the real world–it takes time and energy to build relationships. Stay with it and over time this will become a strong dynamic group of people who will help you when you need it, give you referrals and find you leads.

Also, remember that many prospects today are checking your social media sites before they call you. You also want to go to sites like TwitterLater.com and enter key words to follow, like your name, homes in Seacliff and other phrases that people in your area might be Tweeting about. Once a day they will send you a list of every time your name gets mentioned so you can see what people are saying about you and respond to those people. This is truly an amazing way to know what is being said about you. Encourage your clients to write an endorsement about you on LinkedIn, etc.

Stay active, and don’t expect anything for three to six months, and you will be on your way to social marketing success. Be true to your voice and your target market. Resist the urge to become all things to all people — that will kill all your chances.

As always, I would love your feedback. Also follow me at Twitter.com/GregHerder and become my friend on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/gregherder. Of course, you can always email me at Greg.Herder@HobbsHerder.com.

(To read part one of this article, Please click here.)


How to Plug Your Real Estate Career into the Power of Social Marketing: Part 1

The landscape of real estate marketing is changing fast. And, if you want to be ready to take advantage of the market as it starts its recovery process, you have to tap into the power of social marketing. Unfortunately, so many experienced and established agents keep telling me they don’t understand the value of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, so they don’t bother setting up a free account. Or if they do, they turn their MySpace page into a boring sales pitch for their real estate services, which is even worse than doing nothing at all.

Today, you must understand social networking on the web, because it is changing the rules of the real estate game in significant ways. Don’t think that social networking is just for the under-35 crowd. In fact, the second-fastest growing segment in social networking is people 65 and over, and the gap between these two groups will continue to shrink quickly.

The Evolution of Social Networking

First, you need to understand how social networking has emerged over the years. We all got started using the Internet, smart phones and instant messaging in an effort to make our lives easier and more efficient. What we did not count on was that having access to so much information would make us want to do even more stuff and make our already busy lives even busier. In the process, we ended up spending less time quality time with friends and family, leaving us with the feeling of being isolated and alone. But magically, through social networking sites, we were able to strike up relationships with other people because we both read and posted on the same blogs and chatrooms. We started making powerful connections and realized that all this technology could help us connect to those few people who are just like us–people who share the same interests, passions, values, etc. But with so many people online, the problem became finding a better way to wade through the millions of people on the Internet to find the ones with which we connect.

Sites that allow you to make connections have since sprouted up all over the Internet. Online interfaces like MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and many others started enabling you to search through millions of people and find the ones that share a common interest, passion, point of view or hobby. It has proven to be a great way to build a network–an extended family, if you will. And as a plus, your Aunt Darlene can easily find out what’s new with you without making you feel guilty for not making the time to call her.

Then, it evolved even further. Someone would tell their network about a cool new product, and everyone would go out and buy one. People started to see the business opportunity of social networking and soon social marketing was born. Many people jumped in trying to use the marketing knowledge they had in print, TV, direct mail and even online advertising. Most failed, but every now and then someone created a huge success that showed the world the massive potential of social marketing. Today, the rules of social marketing are just starting to emerge–and are still being written–but the rules that have emerged are very strong and if you break them you will not succeed.

Rule #1: Connect First, Sell Later

The first and foremost rule of social marketing you need to understand is that you must build a relationship first, before you start trying to sell something. The people that don’t get this fundamental understanding will never succeed in social networking. What makes social networking so powerful is that you are able to establish a common bond or connection first. This connection is what gives you a voice in the community. If you just try to sell, you will fail. I recommend that 80% of the content on your social networking site be dedicated to making connections and only 20% be about selling your services. Remember the rule to connect first and sell only after you have made the connection.

Rule #2: Be True to Yourself

The second rule of social marketing is that you need to have an authentic voice. Let’s say you are an agent that wants to build your business, so you create pages on Facebook, MySpace, etc. You decide to connect through your passion for family and desire to be the best mom you can be. Well, you better have pictures of your kids, posts about parenting, recommended parenting books and stories about your own struggles as a parent. Somewhere in there, you can casually mention that you’re a Realtor® who specializes in helping families find homes. Also, when they press the link to your website it should further convey the family message. Otherwise, they will quickly realize that this is not who you really are and that it was just a marketing ploy. The key to remember is that everyone is connected on the Internet, so you have no secrets and everyone will find out everything very quickly–both the good and the bad. Remember, word of mouth works both ways.

Rule #3: Share Your Passion

The third rule of social networking is that the more passionate you are about the issue you’re connecting on, the more powerful your ability is to turn that connection into sales. This is the very heart of social networking. Whatever your point of view is, express it strongly and without apology. Yes, it will not appeal to everyone, but for those who share the same convictions it is a powerful way to connect. Remember, it’s the relationship and connection that matter, not how good you are as a real estate agent. We have heard the old adage that when all things are equal, people prefer to do business with people they like. Today, people will more likely do business with people they share a connection with. Agents always ask me, “Greg, if I express a strong point of view, won’t that turn some people off?” Yes, but that will more effectively attract and connect you to the people who share your point of view.

Taking the First Steps

So how should you get started? First, think about what voice you want to have online. It should be a reflection of your personal brand and something that you are passionate about. Sign up for at least MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. Each of these networking sites has their own advantages, and having a presence on them all will help you build your credibility as a social networker. Make sure that on each one you put links to your website, as this will help increase your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

On Twitter, start following a few public figures that you like or have something in common with, and watch their posts for a few weeks. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter, as well. Remember, posts are very short on Twitter so start getting in the habit of making at least one post every day. Share things that give insight into who you are as a person, the things you are doing and the issues that you care about. Let your natural personality come out and do not try to be something that you are not.  Check back here for Part 2 on social marketing, and I will walk you through the next steps you need to take to start building your social network. (Part 2  of this article is available here.)

I would love your feedback about this article. Did you find it helpful? Did you follow my suggestions and start your social network? If you have a great social networking story I would love to hear it. Please register with this blog and leave a comment below!

(To read part two of this article, Please click here.)