And where have you been???

my workSo, I’ve been pretty silent over here lately, but that’s only because something had to give or I’d go nuts.  But since I’m so darn silent here, I thought it’d be appropriate to let you know where I am active!

My Facebook Page

This is one of the most active communities I have going right now.    This is where I start conversations by sharing links that I find interesting from around the web.  Become a fan of my page follow along!

Ventura County Star and Socially Wired
This is not only one of my favorite consulting projects I’m working on, but also where I’m starting to post all of my “social media” type posts. If you’re interested in talking social media strategy, then join me over at the Socially Wired blog where I not only talk about social media strategy, but I’m describing the progress of implementing a social media strategy at a regional newspaper. As I’m JUST starting to ramp things up there and expecting a lot of posts on using social media to drive business in the very near future!

Rain City Guide
Always my early love, the Seattle community on RCG is as strong as ever. But not only that, I recently teamed up with some folks from M Realty to add a rock’n home search tool to the site. If you haven’t checked out RCG lately, definitely head over there to see how we continue pushing the boundaries of what a local real estate community website can be.

Spinnio

This is my “entertainment” start-up where I’m hosting Facebook conversations with interesting people in the movie industry that’s gotten out of control lately. In the month or so since I launched the tool, I’ve hosted conversations with directors, writers, actors talking about movies like The Stoning of Soraya M, Food Inc and Humpday.

Our next conversation is with Ric O’Barry of The Cove on Tuesday!  Definitely consider joining us and become a fan of the Spinnio Facebook page to get updated about movie events, news and stories!

More?
For you following along at home, here’s a summary of the big projects I’m working on and where you can find me:

And of course, I love to banter on Twitter, but keep your expectations low for anything of value out of me over there!

Facebook, Facebook, Facebook
And I might as well make it easy for you… You can follow along with another of these projects right from this post!

Dustin Luther on Facebook

Rain City Guide on Facebook

Spinnio on Facebook

Having way too much fun with Facebook video streaming…

RCG screencapture
I’ve been playing pretty hard with Facebook streaming video this week… including an interesting movie promotion. However, because I’m playing with a new Facebook chat feature through RCG’s Facebook Connect, I decided to post about it over there, so please check out this post on RCG: Live Video Streams on RCG? With Facebook Chat?

Are there 5 reasons you do NOT want to create a Facebook Business Page?

homestomperMark Echenrode listened to our conversation yesterday and went on to point out 5 very interesting reasons that real estate agents should NOT set up Facebook Fan Pages:

  • Why? Why would a prospect (or even a client, for that matter) want to become a fan of an agent?… [I took a bit of liberty in summarizing this first point, but it’s an important one, so I wanted to include it]
  • Traffic: If you’re trying to build up your fan pages then that means they need traffic. Now, we all work to get traffic to our own websites and blogs but by diluting your traffic getting activities by splitting up the clicks – send some traffic to your website, others to Facebook – you have to work twice as hard for the same results.
  • Content: Your Facebook fans are probably looking for exclusive content. As time pressed as we are, you now have to create content for both your blog and your fan page. By publishing original content to your fan page your blog loses out on the additional content. If you’re simply posting teasers and redirects to your fan page, why bother with a fan page?
  • SEO: Building upon the previous points, there’s no SEO benefit to Facebook fan pages. The links are no-follow. Again, you’re cutting your blog/website off at the knees here.
  • List Building: You may be building a list of fans on Facebook but you’re relly not build YOUR list. It’s Facebook’s. You’re denying yourself a highly profitable business asset by not building your own in-house mailing list of folks interested in what you have to say.

He makes some very interesting points, so I’m going to take my best shot at providing the “other” side.

Why? The ONLY reason I could think that someone would want to become a fan of your business is if they are getting some benefit from it.   On my Page, I do my best to regularly provide useful tips, links, advice around social media marketing.   I’d like to think that if you’re wondering how to do a better job marketing your small business online, then you’re going to be a smarter person by becoming a fan of my page, following the links I provide and engaging with the community I’ve created.

Is it possible for a realtor to do the same with a community that they’d like to create?   I definitely think so, although I think we’re just at the very beginning of marketing with Facebook Pages, so what those communities look like and how people will engage on those communities is yet to be determined.

Traffic. I’d go the other way and say that if you don’t have a plan to tap into the massive traffic that Facebook can send you’re way, then you’re missing out.

When I first started blogging on Rain City Guide 4+ years ago, I got new readers because other bloggers either linked to me or google sent me visitors (a small portion of which became regular readers).  Today, the game has changed.  Many of the good real estate bloggers have become so SEO focused that they almost never link out to other bloggers, so that source of new readers is gone… and while google can still be a great source of new readers to your site, the social networks, and Facebook in particular can be an incredible source of traffic.

And what’s so interesting about the traffic that facebook sends you is that it’s often the “friends of fans” which is so much more targeted (and often so much more relevant!) than anything google can send.  By simply allowing users to notify their friends when they leave a comment on your site (as I do with both RCG and this blog!), I’m allowing people to easily reach into their network to notify them about my site.   This type of targeting is something that the search engines could only dream of!

Content.  The content of your FB Page should be totally different than the content on your blog.   It’s two different beasts serving two different purposes.   If I’ve got something interesting and informative that’s completely original content (especially stuff I *hope* other bloggers might link to!), then I write a blog post like this.   However, I come across links all the time that I think my community will find interesting.   I *used* to blog those as one-line updates and became known as a microblogger before just about anyone in real estate had even heard of twitter and similar services.

However, those small updates were only going out to the people who received my RSS feed… and while I’ve always had a decent number of readers, the reach I have by using my Facebook account instead of my blog to give these micro-updates is incredible.  My guess is that the number of people in my community who will ever subscribe to an RSS feed will never get above 10%… But based on the number of people who have facebook profiles, my ability to reach a MUCH larger audience by using FB for similar updates is tremendously higher.   And I see that already with my updates.  I haven’t quite had my business page for 2 months and most of my micro-updates get comments with many of them soliciting an active conversation.

Despite the fact that I’ve got more “followers” on twitter than “fans” on Facebook, the conversation around business type topics are already much more active on Facebook.  People subscribe to my Facebook Business Page with the expectation I’m going to provide them with helpful business information.  When I deliver on that promise, my community is built.     Most of the people (and by that I mean probably 75%) who follow me on twitter are spammers or people trying to game the system in order to get as many followers as they can.  These people are totally irrelevant to my business and it shows in how they never interact with my tweets.

SEO. This is a huge weakness of using Facebook to market your business. Facebook is optimized to get Facebook to rank well, not  your site.  Totally agree with that one.  In many ways, you just have to bite the bullet and accept two things.  1) The quality of the traffic you will be able to generate from Facebook is so much higher and relevant than google that it’s worth taking the SEO hit and 2) the interest you’ll be able to generate from having an active community around your Facebook Page will mean that you’ll be able to generate more inbound links from people in your community than if you didn’t have that community.   I’m convinced of the first point, and the second point will work for some, but definitely not most.

List Building. Here’s an area where I think you’re missing out on the true benefits of Facebook. Getting people to self-identify themselves and provide you with information like their name, their facebook email (or at least enough to send them emails when ever you want), their sex, their location, their photo, etc. is TRIVIAL when compared to your blog.   All a visitor has to do is click the button “become a fan” and they’ve given you permission to market to them.  Stay relevant and interesting and they’ll likely stay fans for years to come, which means you can let them know about events, blog posts, awards, testimonials, etc… and you can target those messages in some pretty interesting ways.

At the end of the day

It’s not an “either/or” game where someone is either going to register on your blog and give you information OR they are going to sign up for a Facebook account.   The number of people with Facebook accounts means they’ve already made the choice to be there.   If you can use short updates to both build a community there and also drive interest in your business, it’s an obvious win-win.  And what’s so fascinating about Facebook is just how easy they’ve made it to reach out to new people in a highly relevant and targeted way thanks to things like the “friend/fan” recommendations and the highlight section of the homepage.

Small Biz Win for Dell!

I was pleasantly surprised to find an uptick in interest (including more than a few emails!) from people over the past day or so regarding my toolshed where I’ve summarized some of the best technology and marketing tools for real estate professionals.

Checking my stats, I noticed that most of the traffic was from Facebook, so I immediately assumed it was from my Facebook Page, which really has been growing at a ridiculous rate lately… (700+ fans in the last week alone!) However, looking a bit closer at the stats, I noticed the ToolShed was featured by Dell’s Small Business Facebook Page.
Dell Small Business Link to 4realz

How cool is that! Thanks Dell! I’ve put a lot of love into that page over the past year, so it’s much appreciated that you picked up on the work that’s gone into it!

And truth be told, almost all of the information on the page came from things learned from hosting 4realz Roundtable conversations last Summer… so I thought I’d take this chance to also share my appreciation with the real estate professionals who took part in that fun endeavor last year!

<shhh> don’t let the Dell folks know I run my small business off a mac… although I do have a Dell projector that rocks! </shhh>

Facebook Takes Another Step Toward Merging Functionality of Pages and Profiles

Anyone who’s been following this blog knows I’ve been playing pretty heavily with Facebook Pages as a marketing tool and think the tools have already surprised Twitter as a micro-blogging tool in terms of functionality (and in many ways, even utility).

This morning, I noticed that Facebook has now taken it one step further. In the area that used to be reserved for making “friend” recommendations, they’ve now started including profile Pages!

fb-profiles-pages

This rocks and I’m sure will make it even easy for people to gain traction on their profile page. And if you want to join my page as the community I’ve created explores how to use social media and Facebook Pages to generate business, then head over and become a fan!

By the way, I really want to thank the 200+ people who have become fans over the past few weeks. It’s been fun to watch as more people join because the conversations have obviously improved. It seems like almost every micro-blog post, video, link, etc. is generating a conversation, which just rocks from my point of view!

Are your Facebook friends hiding from you?

Turns out the latest update to the Facebook news feeds sets a bunch of feeds that you may want to follow to “hidden” so that they don’t show up in your main feed. This includes both “friends” and “public profiles”, so it’s probably worth checking to see if you have some things hidden that I did not mean to!

How to check?

This is not self-evident, at least it wasn’t for me. The trick is that you first have to hide a news item, and then Facebook will (briefly) give you a link to edit your hidden items (i.e. “show hidden friends”):
hidden-menu

This will open up a menu similar to this one where you can unhide (or “add to newsfeed”):

pages-newsfeed

Personally, I was not only surprised at the number of “pages” or public profiles that were hidden, but also at just how many people were hidden in my menu. I think the old messaging of “show fewer updates” turned into “hidden” in the new layout.

And if you’re looking for more background on Facebook, maybe you should ask yourself, Why bother with Facebook Pages?

facebook marketing

4 Levels of Social Media Connections

dale-chumbleyI was chatting with Dale Chumbley about Facebook Pages and how we’re both using them to reach out to our respective communities when he touched on an interesting topic… He said about 1/3 of the folks who became “fans” of his page were not his “friends” yet on Facebook.

I’ve had a few conversations on this topic lately and I’ve boiled down the different types of social media relationships into the four most common types and given a bit of an explanation about the implicate meanings behind each type:

1) No connection. This one seems to be obvious… but there could be a number of reasons you don’t connect with folks. Most of the time it’s because you simply don’t know them, but maybe it’s because you don’t like them, don’t think they’ll add value to your network or, even worse, view them as spam.

2) Follow. This is the Twitter model and the connection is probably one of the “weakest” ones out there.   You could have any number of reason to follow someone and it’s completely one-way.  There’s no reason to expect that just because you follow someone that they’re going to follow you back, be interested in you, or even take time to learn anything about you.

3) Fan. This is the model used by Facebook Pages.   While functionally it is identical to a “follow” connection (i.e. a one-way connection with no reverse interest implied whatsoever), there’s a value judgement implied when you become a fan of someone.  Whereas it often only takes one interesting tweet to get me to “follow” someone, it takes a bit more before I’ll become a “fan” of someone.

4) Friend. This is the model used by Facebook Profiles, Digg and many other social networking sites… and clearly implies (and most likely requires) a two-way relationship.  However, the term is so often abused (I’m just as guilty as anyone else of becoming “friends” with people I’ve never met and am likely never to meet) because I thought I might find some value to having them in my “network” in the long run.

Similar to Dale, a little over 1/3 (30 out of 85) of the people who have become “fans” of my Page are not “friends” with my personal Profile. This tells me that based on their actions, a fair number of folks feel more comfortable becoming “fans” than “friends” with someone they don’t know.

Almost all of these people are professionals I *would* have connected with on Facebook (via a “friendship”) in the past, but I’m so much happier to have them separated on my business page so I can begin to do a better job separating my work life from my personal life.

Also interesting is that from a marketing perspective these relationships imply different levels of business outreach. When someone becomes a “fan” of my business page that definitely implies an “opt in” to a certain level of marketing that is not necessarily part of being a “friend”… or even a “follower”.

If you’re ready to explore how different professionals are using Facebook Pages, start following (i.e. become a fan!) of these pages:

And while you’re exploring, you should probably also check out the page I created for my listing syndication tool.

Did Facebook just usurp Twitter in providing a micro-blogging platform for the masses?

I’ve been using Pages on Facebook for quite a while (the NY Times even featured me in an article around a biz page I created on FB almost a year ago), but it’s only with the most recent update by Facebook that I think everything clicked…

With the new design of their homepage, just about all the technical functionality of Twitter is built into Facebook, except FB has made it even more useful from a marketing perspective.     I’m of the opinion that Facebook has hit the sweet spot in terms of micro-blogging for the masses. Here’s why:

  • While Twitter’s command-line style communication (i.e. commands like “@” and “d” make sense only after you’ve been initiated), Facebook offers a cleaner interface that allows for better photo, video, and link integration
  • While Twitter rocks because it feels like all the “cool” kids are on the service, Facebook hit the masses a long time ago and has more active folks that twitter ever will.
  • While Facebook *should* have been all over integration with live events on other websites, it was FB who first nailed this when they linked your status updates with the live video feed of the inauguration (the traffic results were mindblowing)
  • While people have tried their darnedest to improve twitter by adding groups and highlighting “best of” content, it’s really Facebook who has nailed this with their latest updates.  If you run a page (i.e. you have “fans” instead of “friends”) your updates end up in your friend’s newsfeeds. If you’re interesting, then your stuff will be featured in the “highlight” section of your fans (and potentially their friends!). Obviously, going viral requires you to be interesting to your audience, but that’s as it should be!

fan-me-on-facebookI’m obviously smitten with Facebook’s latest updates… Not so much because I like the idea of giving so much marketing power over to the Facebook gods (I don’t), but because they’ve made it way too tempting and some early movers will most definitely do well in this space.

However, to be fair, there are some issues with using Facebook in place of twitter. Here are some of the things I’ve run into:

  • The main issue I have is one of terminology.  If you want to follow my updates on FB, you’ve got to become a “fan”. On twitter, the barrier is lower in that you only need to “follow” me and not put such a positive judgement on our relationship.  The result is that getting people to follow your updates is a bit tougher on Facebook, but the quality of people following you should be much higher!
  • FB users can’t treat your Page like a profile in some key areas like photo tagging and putting you into lists
  • Managing a profile for a client can be awkward.  For example, I’m an “admin” on a page for a somewhat popular author.   As an “admin”, I’m only allowed to leave comments in his voice, although sometimes I’d really like to take part in the discussions under my own voice. Considering creating two profiles is against Facebook’s TOS, this is a bummer.   I need to be an admin for this profile in order to make sure things stay clean (i.e. delete spam, install apps, etc.), and would really love a way to toggle between my personal profile and the admin profile.

As you can see, my complaints are pretty darn minor, and definitely not going to stop me from playing more with Facebook.  If you want to follow along, become a fan!

Plus, I really want to say thanks to all the folks who have become fans so far! As an experiment, I’m going to use the 4realz blogroll to give a little something back to folks who become fans — a homepage link!   It may take me a few days to link out to all the folks who have become fans, but I’ll continue to work at hitting this moving target!