The Benefits of Relentless Networking

Credibility Corp Summer Interns 2012Last year, I was asked to give a presentation to CLU students and decided to focus on the idea that they should be relentless in their networking!

Often, when preparing for a talk, I “learn” something new or have an insight that sticks with me. For this talk, it was definitely that people looking to break into the business world should feel comfortable “over-promising” based on their current knowledge and then work their behind off to deliver on lofty goals!

Anyway, I clearly don’t go to slideshare.net nearly often enough, because I just visited the site and noticed that the presentation I created for that event has over 10K views! Woot! Glad to see so many folks found it useful!

On a related note, that talk at CLU brought in some awesome interns this past summer/fall and I’m back on the hunt for some more! If you know anyone interested in a crazy cool internship opportunity in either online marketing or technology development (developers!), send them my way! I’ve been interviewing people for the past few weeks and we’re sure to have another great crew this spring!

BuzzRE OC Wrap-up!

The BuzzRE  OC event was so awesome…   I met so many great people and the speakers came through with awesome presentations. Thanks again to everyone who took the time to join us!

Some of the highlights were:

  • Jon Lansner: Compared to any time in recent memore, there’s actually some good news to talk about in the real estate market
  • Stacey Harmon: Understanding which social networks to focus on based on your business practice
  • Dale Chumbley: Ways to bridge your real-life community activity with your Facebook community
  • Robert Luna: Importance of focusing on your home search consumers
  • Gahlord Dewald:  Always be testing!
  • Loren Nason: Get on dropbox.  It’s time!
  • Garron Selliken: from @YvonneArnoldCRS:   “@garrons “what is the moment that u set new appt?” Then look at it backwards, how did u get there. Work 2 get in position more often #BuzzRE

And it all couldn’t have happened without Linsey Planeta putting a ridiculous amount of time and passion into the day.  She rocks!

One of the things I most enjoyed about helping to organize BuzzRE was organizing the presentations…  I had every speaker email me their presentation in advance so I could fit them into one solid presentation that didn’t feel like it was jumping around too much.   I’m pretty darn proud of the final product and super-happy to share it with you via slideshare.

What a great day!  It really is awesome to see so many folks get excited about implementing advanced strategies and websites.   If you’re looking for inspiration, check out this page of advanced real estate websites.

And after such an awesome event, it’s now time to turn to organizing another awesome BuzzRE in Portland in early June. Want to get involved? Let us know!

If you have feedback about yesterday’s event, I know all of us would sure would love to hear it!

NEO, or the Study of How to Optimize Content for Social Networks

This past weekend while giving a presentation in Chicago, I was talking to the following slide:

… about the importance of understanding how Facebook’s algorithms work when creating your Facebook marketing strategy when someone from the audience asked, “is this similar to understanding how SEO helps explain how Google ranks websites?”

And it hit me like a ton of bricks… EXACTLY! I’ve been working towards this idea for the past year few years, but had never articulated it that clearly.

So after a bit of refinement, I think it’s time for us (internet marketers) to add a new word to our vocabulary: NEO or Networking Engine Optimization.

In a nutshell, the idea of NEO is that by studying how social networks determine relevance, we can better understand how to optimize our marketing strategies.

Having spoken about using social media for business to many different professional audiences, I feel extremely confident in saying that very few people have any understanding of the algorithms that Facebook users to determine it’s “top news” or “suggested” friends/pages… some people, Dale Chumbley comes to mind, intuitively understand how to use these algorithms, but I’m not sure even he has put a ton of thought into why…

Assuming the feedback on this idea keeps me going, I’m hoping to explore a couple different areas of NEO… but the most interesting will definitely have to do with understanding how the “hard” algorithms interact with the “soft” people (friends, followers, fans, etc.) that really determine success.

In other words, whether talking about Facebook’s “top news” or Twitter’s “trending” topics, there’s no way to get any traction without having others interact with your content. My take is that there’s been a ton of thought into understanding the importance of engaging others in your social network (Jeff Turner’s done a particularly impressive job of this with exploring YEO), but engaging with others is only a piece of a successful internet marketing strategy and just about everyone who’s actively marketing with social media would benefit from a better understanding of the algorithms that determine the relevance of their content/presence.

Anyway, this is obviously an idea that I’m still in the early stages of exploring… and I would love to hear your thoughts. But especially based on the recent news that Facebook passed Google in terms of total traffic, isn’t it time to seriously explore how the social networks are determining the relevance of our content?

“How likely is this person to send me business?”

Lately, I’ve been putting a huge focus on thinking through how we (as professionals) can use social networking tools to build and strengthen our relationships... and in particular, our relationships with people who are key to growing our business (i.e. our “sphere” or “referral network”).

And this has led me to my new favorite tool, Gist.  (much thanks to Gahlord Dewald for the intro!)

The main idea behind Gist is pretty similar to other social media aggregators like MyBlogLog, FriendFeed , Seesmic and Google Buzz in that you add all of your other social media accounts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc) and then use one tool to see all your updates.

However, there’s one HUGE improvement they’ve made.  Rather than forcing you to view updates based on a timeline (i.e. most recent updates first), they allow you to view updates in a “people” mode where you can view all the updates from that person (whether they are on Facebook, Twitter, their blog, foursquare, etc.) based on the importance that you’ve selected. (Facebook has tried to do this with their “top news” feature, but it’s crude at best and doesn’t do a great job finding updates that are important to me).

After a few days of using Gist, I can tell you that there’s no turning back to this style of update consumption.    If I’ve got 5 minutes, then I can quickly navigate all the people that are super-important to me, whereas if I have a bit more time, then I can dive deeper into reading updates from people that are less important.   And because I’m not missing out on updates from super-important people any more, I’m finding I’m MUCH more active on places like Twitter and Facebook because I spend less time sorting through the noise.

However, there is a HUGE problem with the tool.  There are so many options and ways to configure things that it could definitely be off-putting because it can take a few hours of configuring before the system is humming.   Nonetheless, it’s totally worth taking the time, so let me walk you through the steps to setting up a configuration that’s working really well for me.

1) Import contacts (connect) from four main tools:  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Email. For Facebook, Twitter and Gmail (my email), this only needs to be done once and then will get updated automatically afterwards.

2) Configure your dashboard view to get updates.  My configuration is listed below, but the important parts are:

  • show all news, blogs, twitter and facebook updates
  • show people and companies
  • show importance level 1 and above
  • show all tags
  • Sort by “importance”

In other words, just show EVERYTHING and then sort the results by importance.

3) Start prioritizing people within your sphere.  All you need to do is go through your people and start ranking them on a scale of 1 to 100. Initially, I’ve been adjusting EVERYONE’s priority, even if only just a bit to make sure I put some thought into how important this person is to me.  To make this as easy as possible, I’ve been basing my ranking of each person based on one simple question:  How likely is this person to send me business some day?

Here’s a screenshot of my page where I’ve ranked Scotty Brown a 100 (out of 100!).

Using the criteria “how likely is this person to send me business some day?” might sound a bit cold and calculated, but I’ve found it works quite well.  The people close to me (family and good friends) are almost always referring business my way, so they show up highest.   Other people have been ridiculously great to my consulting practice in terms of referring business my ways, so of course I want to see and respond to their updates whenever appropriate.

4) Use Gist instead of Facebook, twitter.com, seesmic, tweetdeck or whatever else you use to check status updates of your contacts.   If you configure things just as I have, you’ll find that there are a ton of updates coming into the system all the time… almost definitely too many to check on a regular basis.  However, there’s no need to read all the updates.  Start at the top (i.e. the most important people) and wind your way down as you have time.

To move from one person to the next (and this is critical!), all you have to do is click on the check mark to the right of the “importance” bar (this is the “mark all as read” option).  For example, while I’m reading Linsey Planeta’s updates, if I click on the check mark, the tool will bring up Scotty Brown’s updates because he is the next most important person with an unread update.

And, of course, if I want to respond to any of these updates, there’s always a link that takes me to the appropriate place to respond.

Another useful feature is the “remove” button to the right of the check mark.   This will remove this person’s updates from showing up on your dashboard.   If you find a person or company that you never want to see updates from, simply hit the remove button.  In order to make the tool as useful as possible, I’ve adjusted just about all of my contacts by either revising their “importance” or “removing” them.

5) The hardest part of using gist is configuring the importance for all your contacts and this is only hard because it takes a decent amount of time.  However, if you ignore tags and all the bells and whistles besides “importance”, it doesn’t have to take all that long before you can start using the dashboard and getting some decent value from the tool.  At least a few times you’ll almost definitely want to give yourself an hour or two in order to filter through updates from everyone on your list. Gist tries to auto-prioritize folks for you, but tons of folks from Facebook and Twitter who might be super important to you will likely be have the default importance levels of “50,” “25” or “1”.

The beautiful part of the tool is that once it’s configured, you end up with so much more control over which updates you see.

Here are just some of the most obvious benefits to this style of consuming updates:

  • Better focus: rather than letting the “noisiest” people (i.e. the folks who tweet the most) take up the most mindshare, you can rank those people low on importance and only see their updates on a day when you’re bored and get to the people who rank at lower levels of importance. By the same token, if there are a few folks rarely update, but whose updates you never want to miss, you can make sure to rank them high in importance and you’ll get to see everything they say.
  • Remove noise. If a friend is having a super-busy day on social media, you can quickly scan their updates and hit “mark all as read” rather than have them clog up your twitter and/or Facebook stream all day
  • Network integration. For the people I care about, it shouldn’t matter where they are active (Facebook, Twitter or their blog), I just want a tool to connect with them where appropriate, so I’m loving that Gist mixes and matches updates based on the person, not the network.

Finally, Gist is still in “beta” and there are a few bugs (and they mention they will likely start charging some day).  However, even if they start charging some outrageous amount, or go under for lack of funding, I can tell you that this approach of  filtering people based on the importance you place on them is here to stay.  It’s just too darn useful!

7 Tips to Getting SEO Value Out of Your Social Media Efforts

Recently, I was asked by the folks at MOTM to give a talk on Social Media.  I typically present to real estate audiences, so I decided to rethink my usual approach for this tech-audience.  More than anything, I wanted to present something that was worthy of the group.

After more than a few conversations, I decided to explore the “gray” areas of social media, and especially how you can use social media engagement to improve search engine rankings.  It feels like I’ve been living in this gray area for quite a while now, but I don’t often blog about it because most SEO works best when it is not widely shared. 😉

In terms of SEO strategies, the stuff I presented last night was relatively tame (i.e. on the black hat to white hat scale, the ideas trended toward the lighter side of gray). And at the request of more than a few of the people who attended, I’ve decided to publish (most of) the slides I used in the presentation.

As with most of my presentations, the slides don’t begin to tell the whole story.  That’s especially true with this presentation since the conversation that came out of the slides was by far the most informative part of the evening.

Nonetheless, the 7 tips listed below offer some insight into how you can start to improve your website rankings (SEO) by taking part in various social media sites.

SMM for SEO Assumptions
Assumptions Going Into the Presentation

The four assumptions I start out with are:

  • Off-site SEO is where you can get the most bang for your SMM buck
  • You should focus on anchor text of inbound links whenever possible
  • Social media sites can often pass along ridiculously great SEO value
  • You should focus on DoFollow sites whenever possible
White Hat SMM:  Corporate Blog
Tip #1: Create Value on Your Own Site (URL)

The typical corporate blog is about as white hat as they get in the SMM world. Here the company is trying to outreach to consumers and/or clients by providing useful, interesting or otherwise valuable content and thereby earn inbound links and other positive word-of-mouth from their blogging.

Black Hat SMM:  Automation
Background on Black Hat SMM
  • Automation is not all that effective in social media and often pretty easy to detect
  • While there are examples of useful automation (think: google news), most is spam and does not add value
  • [Note: this slide generated a fascinating conversation at the presentation with an active discussion on the role of automation within social networks.]
Gray Hat SMM:  How Hard You Promote
TIP #2: Promote your Posts... HARD!
  • Level of “gray” really depends on how hard you promote.
  • It’s trivial to join/create a group that attempts to “game” the social news/bookmarketing sites.  Is this “black hat” or just using your social network effectively?
  • [Note: I do have a group for online real estate professionals where we help each other promote posts. It’s in invite-only thing, so as long as I know who you are and you run a quality blog, then feel free to let me know if you’re interested in joining.]
Create Active Profiles
Tip #3: Create Active Profiles... lots of them
Get Creative With Your Profiles
Tip #4: Get Creative With Your Profiles
  • One example is that you can use delicious to push “topics” to mybloglog to get SEO value from a “nofollow” site
Play Hard on One Social Network
Tip #5: Play Especially Hard on One Social Network
Develop an Exclusive Database
Tip #6: Develop an Exclusive Database
  • If you can develop something that media outlets want to pick up, then it’s quite possible to drive a ton of traffic and great inbound links by feeding them exclusives
  • In the real estate space, this is celebrity listings, but most industries have their exclusive stuff you can mine from databases
HomeSyn:  Real Estate Listing Syndication
Tip #7: Think SEO When Syndicating
  • While this example is specific to real estate, most industry could benefit from thinking of SEO when they push their content around the web.
  • In this case, I work with agents all the time to create listing detail pages on their sites and then make sure that they link back to those listing detail pages in a savvy way to ensure SEO value is getting past to their site whenever possible.
  • It’s worth noting that I created a syndication tool for my real estate clients called HomeSyn that syndicates listings in a savvy way  (i.e. links back to the listing detail page of an agent’s choice whenever possible).   However, it’s an invite-only tool.   If you have some listings and are interested in testing out the tool, let me know and I consider throwing an invite your way.

If you think I’m wrong or have something to add, let’s continue the conversation in the comments… and if you found this information helpful, then help spread the luv by returning to the top of this post and giving it a digg, save, bookmark, stumble, or whatever it is that  you do!

PropertyShark team launched MyDealBook and…

pre-launch opinion was to be very skeptical.

After a conversation with Ryan Slack (former CEO of PropertyShark, now CEO of MyDealBook), I became more optimistic that he had a plan beyond starting with a mass of users.

The way I understand it, the site is kind of cross between LinkedIn and ActiveRain… but with a larger focus on the commercial real estate sector since that community is pretty underserved online (as mentioned to me by Ryan).

I’ve been playing with the site for a few minutes, and it definitely leaves me with the feeling of “what next”, but I’m not really the target market.   I’m not really looking to connect with others to make deals, but then again, I’m not sure real estate professionals are looking online for this type of community.

With that said, if you do decide to try out the system, you (apparently) need to be “connected” to at least a few people before it will give you access to some of the features (like member search), so feel free to connect up with me.