Social Networks for building Real Estate Communities

by THE WAV GROUP on March 29, 2008

Social Networks for Broker and Agent Websites. – create your own.

Today real estate Brokers are struggling to understand how Web 2.0 applications like Online Social Networking can impact their business.

Online Social Networking refers to online website communities of people who share interests and activities or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others.  Communications between members can be chat, instant messaging, email, video, file sharing, discussion groups, etc.

For real estate brokers, online social networking can create online communities for agents to share information with each other, and with prospective buyers and sellers of real estate in a controlled environment.

For real estate agents, online social networking is similar to offline networking whereby they may connect with other real estate agents, friends, and buyers and sellers of real estate in a meaningful and transparent way.

When we review the elements of broker and agent websites, one key area that lends itself nicely to Social Networks is the company biography page and agent pages.
Potential Benefits:  Theoretical

  • Drive a lot of traffic to your website
  • Already have high levels of search engine optimization
  • Will enable your company to connect to the consumers that are most likely to engage your company as a result of social networking
  • Would not compromise the needs of your traditional customers.
  • Provides more transparency for your company
  • Humanizes your agents
  • Makes agents more approachable.

There are 2 ways to manage the creation of a Social Network to replace biography pages – populate agent biography pages on your favorite network like Linkedin, or  “white label” social network software and create your own social network.  To make this determination, you will need to carefully consider the effects of each choice.

How to get started – Using a Favorite Social Network

Using your favorite social network is an easy path to creating a social network with your agents.  These popular social networks are very easy to use, have mass appeal and wide ranging adoption among real estate agents and consumers alike.

Because the social network pages connect to your website, you will generate more inbound links to your website, which is a key component to search engine ranking today.

Social Networks are effective at search engine optimization.  If you google “Victor Lund,” you will find that the many social networks I have tested show up on the first page of the results.  One social reputation network, Naymz, even purchases pay per click to drive traffic to my profile page on their social network thinking that they can add customers that way.

Many consumers are using Social Networks today.   According to Ipsos research, about 1 in 5 Americans use social networks and 24% of those people log in every day, and 8% log into their social network every 30 days.  As your agents connect with friends and customers participating in their social network, they begin to connect more and more people to your company.

Depending on the social network that you choose, you will find that it displays the information that would typically be present on an agent profile page today.  These features include Agent Photo, Agent Profile, Agent Contact Information, Link to Agent Listings, e-mail agent, etc.  More importantly, social influences may be persuasive in encouraging your agents to keep this information current as they will be able to update it themselves, and they know that the profile is connected to the people that are most important tot them.

Agents will also be able to manage the transparency of their profiles.  Their favorite real estate resources may be included in their friends group, along with community groups and even family, friends and past customers.  By reviewing who an agent is connected to, consumers evaluating their interest in choosing the agent will be exposed to an electronic referral system.

Successful real estate agents today are upstanding, active participants in the communities in which they work.  Unsuccessful agents who are simply “hanging” their license with a broker will be exposed by social networks, and frankly, perhaps they should be if their interest is not professional and sincere.

Where social networks as agent profiles gets really interesting is the way that they will enable someone from within the network to approach the agent comfortable.  They can join the agents network, which will notify the agent and they can welcome them, or the consumer might connect with the agent by introducing themselves as a friend of a friend.

If an agent chooses to switch offices or brokerages, using social networks as their profile page will allow their profile to remain portable, but will also benefit the brokerage and the consumer because activity history with the past brokerage will remain in tact.

Most Popular online social networks

  • MySpace
  • Facebook
  • Linkedin
  • Hi5
  • Orkut
  • Friendster
  • Naymz
  • Bebo
  • Plaxo

These communities are all very vibrant and have many developers providing new functionality every day that enhances the community.  Leveraging these free applications will insure that your community technology remains up to date.  As each of these networks grow, so does yours.

Create your Own Social Network

If you want a social network but want to keep it as your own, you can consider “white labeling” a social network form a vendor.   You can host these on your servers or select a hosted solution.  To see an example of this, you can check out inman.com who built their entire website using drupal

The benefit to the pursuit is this strategy would be to build your own social network that you can control.The design of the pages can be customized to match your branding and the display rules for your brand.

You can control the page layouts

You can control the content

Unites all of your agents automatically

Builds a portal of information with stronger SEO for your company website.

Build unique listing websites as blogs and unite them in the community.

One to many publishing that will enable the broker to “post” to every agents profile or blog.

List of Social Network White Label software providers

  • Drupal
  • BlogTronix
  • Social Platform
  • Community Server
  • Kick Apps
  • Web Crossing
  • Crowd Factory
  • ElggSpaces
  • Me.com
  • Onesite
  • Haystack

If you would like help figuring out to implement a Web 2.0 strategy for your office or you have suggestions to share with other REALTORS® contact us and we’ll post your ideas.

 

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