Most Influential Twitter People In Real Estate

Earlier today I saw Irina Netchaev tweet about how Mike Mueller, Jeff Turner,  Jay Thompson and I were some of her “favs”, so I couldn’t help but be curious what she was referring to… Her link sent me to the type of poll that everyone loves to hate:  A popularity contest where the “community” is able to vote on who are the most important in the real estate industry.

Considering that after at least one day of the poll being live, none of the people have over 16 votes, I think it’s pretty safe to say the results are statistically meaningless and likely to remain that way.

However, it did get me thinking about an update to the 50 most influential real estate people on twitter that caused quite the stir last fall…  After publishing the list, I got to talking with Garron Selliken and Chris Lynch about how M Agents might be able to use such a tool, and so we build a web version of the process and started testing it out with some of the agents.

A couple of agents found some great uses for it including one woman who focuses on Modern Homes in Portland.  She used the tool to quickly identify and begin connecting with people relevant to her niche (i.e. modern homes) by simply identifying a few relevant people interested in the subject and then plugging them into the tool.  And in only a few months of being active on twitter, Marisa has added hundreds of relevant people to her sphere on both a national and local level.

Update to the list!

Now for the real fun… Because it’s so easy, I decided to update the list of most influential real estate people on Twitter.  There’s more discussion on updates to the list below, but without further ado, here’s the update list of the top 100 most influential real estate people on twitter:

Name Twitter Peer Rating
Robert Hahn robhahn 89%
mike simonsen mikesimonsen 88%
Todd Carpenter tcar 88%
Dustin Luther tyr 87%
Jeff Turner respres 87%
Andy Kaufman AndyKaufman 86%
Jay Thompson PhxREguy 86%
Sherry Chris BHGRE_Sherry 86%
Marc Davison 1000wattmarc 85%
Nicole Nicolay nik_nik 84%
Reggie Nicolay ReggieRPR 84%
Stefan Swanepoel Swanepoel 84%
Daniel Rothamel RealEstateZebra 83%
Derek Overbey doverbEy 83%
Drew Meyers drewmeyers 83%
Ginger Wilcox gingerw 83%
Kelley Koehler housechick 83%
David Gibbons DavidGibbons 82%
Mike Mueller MikeMueller 82%
Rudy Bachraty trulia 82%
Brad Nix bnix 81%
Teresa Boardman TBoard 81%
Joseph Ferrara jfsellsius 80%
Stacey Harmon staceyharmon 80%
Wendy Forsythe BHGRE_Wendy 80%
Eric Stegemann EricStegemann 79%
Kris Berg KrisBerg 79%
Pat Kitano pkitano 79%
Ines Hegedus-Garcia ines 78%
jeff corbett JeffX 78%
Jim Duncan JimDuncan 78%
Joel Burslem jburslem 78%
billlublin billlublin 77%
Jeff Bernheisel JBern 77%
Heather Elias LoCoHeather 76%
InmanNews InmanNews 76%
Ken Brand kenbrand 76%
Lani Rosales laniar 76%
Ardell DellaLoggia ARDELLd 75%
Brad Coy bradcoy 75%
Dale Chumbley DaleChumbley 75%
Jim Marks jimmarks 75%
Jason Sandquist JasonSandquist 74%
mlbroadcast mlbroadcast 74%
Benn Rosales BennRosales 73%
Brad C. – Dakno dakno 73%
Mariana Wagner mizzle 72%
Judy Moriarty realestatechick 72%
Maureen Francis MaureenFrancis 72%
Joel McDonald joelrunner 71%
Jonathan Washburn JonWashburn 71%
Kim Wood KimWood 71%
BHG Real Estate BHGRealEstate 70%
Chris Brogan chrisbrogan 70%
Missy Caulk missycaulk 70%
Morgan Brown morganb 70%
Paul Chaney pchaney 70%
Ricardo Bueno Ribeezie 70%
Sara Bonert sbonert 70%
BradAndersohn BradAndersohn 69%
Kristal Kraft KrisTalk 69%
Hilary Marsh hilarymarsh 68%
Kevin Tomlinson miamibeach 68%
Roost Roost 68%
Tom Ferry CoachTomFerry 68%
Kevin Boer kevinboer 67%
Sarah Cooper SarahWV 67%
Zappos.com CEO -Tony zappos 67%
Lori Bee BeeRealty 66%
Susie Blackmon SusieBlackmon 66%
Tony Longo tonylongo 66%
Bobby Carroll Dakno rewebcoach 65%
Dan Green mortgagereports 65%
Loren Nason lorennason 65%
Brian Tercero briantercero 64%
Elaine Hanson ElaineHanson 64%
Maya Sabot Paveza mayaREguru 64%
Nick Bastian RailLife 64%
Rhonda Porter mortgageporter 64%
Ted Mackel RealtorTed 64%
Bob Stewart activebob 63%
Jeremy Blanton jb140 63%
Linsey Planeta linsey 63%
Robert Luna RLuna 63%
Gahlord Dewald gahlord 62%
Gary Vaynerchuk garyvee 62%
Hal Lublin hallublin 62%
Jonathan Miller jonathanmiller 62%
Toby E. Boyce TobyBoyce 62%
Spencer Rascoff spencerrascoff 61%
cindy lin 非誠勿擾 cindylinsf 60%
Monika McGillicuddy monikamcg 60%
Todd Waller toddwaller 60%
Calie Waterhouse cwaterhouse 59%
James Shiner JamesShiner 59%
Jason Farris FresYes 59%
LaurieManny LaurieManny 59%
Rich Jacobson KitsapAgent 59%
Robert (Bob) Watson TopBrokerOC 59%
sarahbandy sarahbandy 59%

The way to think about this list is to read it something like this…  Out of the top 100 people in real estate (as determined by the number of people in real estate following them), 89 are following Rob Hahn.    In other words, instead of using a random sampling of people as most polls do, this list is created by the most influential twitter people in the industry!

One of the more interesting things about the list is that when you get down past the top 50 people, non real estate people like Tony from Zappos, Chris Brogen and Gary Vaynerchuk start showing up… It doesn’t surprise me one bit that a decent percent of the influential people in real estate are following these folks, so it makes good sense.

The weeds

In terms of the web process I developed last fall, we made one improvement when we turned it into a web app…  Instead of using the top 50 people, we made that a variable and I tend to use 100 people as the basis for relevance since the results are much more granular.   And if you missed the discussion on the algorithms used to create this list, check out this post for background.

By the way, if you work in an interesting niche and you’d like to see the most influential people in that niche, I’d happily consider running the web app and sending you the results.  Just to show you how super-simple it is, here’s what the interface looks like:

And I wish I could add a link to the URL so you could run it yourself, but it was built to only handle one process at a time, so it could get ugly if multiple people wanted to play at once.

Publishing from my phone???

About a wek ago I decided to stop trying to make do with my blackberry and bought an iPhone… I’ve spent the past week playing with apps and found some great ones, although I haven’t tried publishing a blog post using the wordpress app, so here goes…

By the way, (assuming the photo upload works like I think it will), here’s the apps that have made my home screen so far:

“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!

Screw consumers… Let’s use internet tools to do what REALTORS do best!

I gave a presentation last week in Portland where I asked the audience of about 300 REALTORS two questions:

  1. Do you drive most of your business from referrals… friends, family, past clients, other agents, etc.?
  2. Do you drive most of your business by reaching out directly to consumers… ads, online home search, etc.?

A little over half the audience raised their hand to the first question, while under 10% raised their hand to the second, which didn’t really surprise me because I asked a similar (but more convoluted) question in an online poll about a month ago and got similar results (i.e. 58% said referrals).

I think it’s extremely safe to say that in terms of generating business, most real estate agents (and most professionals for that matter), are better at reaching into their network of friends (and friends of friends) to drive business than reaching consumers directly.  And yet, almost all online tools, commentary and critiques of social media within real estate focus on the inability to of the tools to directly reach consumers.  (One of the more eloquent critiques was written by Marc Davison).

Let’s break down the skills and tools that an agent needs to successfully run online campaign that directly targets consumers:

  1. Project management. Hire someone with web design, marketing and coding skills (or sometimes a team of people with these skills) and make sure the site actually gets built!
  2. Writing. Either need to write content, or at least advising and managing the person creating the content.
  3. Online promotion. Either need to optimize your landing pages and drive lots of inbound links to your site (so that you can get free traffic from the search engines) or buy traffic through online ads
  4. Conversion optimization. Optimize your site to get consumers to register (probably through a IDX/home search tool, which also has to be integrated into your site)
  5. Prospecting. Prospect the database of users (assuming your IDX allows for this) and ask them for your business. Otherwise, wait for the consumers to contact you (probably when they “request a showing”).

None of these skills are particularly hard, and I’ve seen agents with almost zero internet experience pick them up and start generating business in less than half a year. However, I’ve seen way more agents get frustrated at the lack of results afte they “master” only one or two of these skills…

For example, I’ve seen agents spend two years just trying to get a good site built (project management #fail)… or they get a beautiful site built for them, but never add any content (writing #fail)… or they write well, but don’t know how to get anyone to link to their content (promotion #fail)… or they get people to their site, but don’t give users a logical way to register (conversion #fail)… or they get people in their database, but aren’t setting appointments (prospecting #fail).  In other words, none of the skills are all that hard, but they aren’t necessarily intuitive to everyone either.

Now, let’s compare that to the skills and tools used for a referral campaign that’s the bread and butter for most agents:

  1. Networking. Make a connection with friends, family, past clients, other professionals, etc. (could be through events, organizations, or outreach via postcards, etc.)
  2. Sales. Ask them for your business (or more likely, if they know of any business they can send your way)

If it’s not obvious, the skills that drive the bulk of real estate business today (i.e. referral business), are vastly different than the skills needed to convert consumers into clients on the internet… so no wonder most agents get frustrated when their initial internet activities don’t effectively reach online consumers.    It’s a completely different set of skills.

    Instead, if you’re an agent that does most of your business from referrals, you should be thinking “how can I use internet tools to reach and build my referral network?”

    And the answer to that question is definitely something I’m going to continue exploring in the near future.   My opinion is that the tools currently marketed to real estate agents do really crappy job of building up a sphere because they almost inevitably focus on helping REALTORS reach consumers directly.  When I searched for a referral networking tool last month to feature in this article: Getting Serious about Lead Management, I couldn’t find one that I liked well enough to mention.

    However, I’m going to write a post in the next day or so on a new favorite tool of mine: Gist.   It’s the best sphere building tool I’ve used, because of the way it let’s me filter through people within my network based on criteria that I set… a feature simply not available on tools like Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, Seesmic, TweetDeck, etc.

    I’m going to be presenting the general idea mentioned in this post at lots of conferences in the next few months (Chicago, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Toronto, etc.) and more than your agreement, I would really love to hear your critiques…

    Where are the holes in my argument?   Am I screwed up thinking agents should forget focusing on reaching consumers directly and instead focus on building up their referral networking?

    I spent the evening playing with this si…

    I spent the evening playing with this site… and I’m finally at a spot where I feel like I can take a break. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for the night. 🙂

    The inspiration for changing things up was pretty simple. I really wanted to play with the power of the P2 theme in terms of real-time updates. In order to really take advantage of the way this theme treats comments, I’m positive I’ll also need to start blogging a bit more, which is a darn good incentive…

    I also had some specific functionality I wanted with my P2 install… I wanted a WP plugin that 1) authenticates using either Twitter or FB & 2) allows sending of comments to either Twitter or FB.

    My main problem is that the few plugins that could do such a thing (like IntenseDebate) came with their own set of baggage or simply didn’t work within the P2 theme (which I’m extremely fond of playing with!)

    The end result was that I installed two plugins that appear to play “well enough” together. The first was Twit Connect and the second was Sociable’s Facebook Connect Plugin.

    This way, users *can* use either service to “login” before leaving a comment (as well as no service at all!). And while I never could get the “send to twitter” option from Twit Connect working, you’all will be able to send your comments to Facebook should you choose to.

    Anyway, there’s lots more I could talk about… including why I’m so fond of the P2 theme… but I’m going to leave this post somewhat simple… and leave my P2 thoughts until I’ve played around a bit more. If you have any thoughts on the changes (or just want to see how the comments update on-screen in real-time), feel free to leave a comment!

    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

    4realz Gets a Makeover…

    RCG-ideaInspired by my desire to redo the RCG theme, I recently gave 4realz.net a makeover… If you want to see what I did and why, check out my post on Rain City Guide:

    And no doubt about it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the redesign!

    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.

    The trouble with Marc’s approach to Twitter

    Like many real estate professionals who are using the internet to market themselves, Marc seems to be overlooking the fact that the best clients come from your friends… your real friends.

    Most agents know this implicitly, but don’t necessarily make the connection to how they need to operate online.

    For example…

    A good friend of mine, who conveniently happens to be a real estate agent, hates internet leads. Doesn’t want to deal with them.   For years (he actually attended one of my bloginars in July ’06) , I’ve been telling him about the importance of SEO, “owning” his own domain, link structure, quality content, relevant traffic, etc, and while he humors me (he’s become a good friend after all), his heart has never been in it.  As he likes to remind me, internet leads are crap and he just passes them off to others when he gets them anyway.

    However, on a recent conversation, we were talking about where he’s getting his business and he mentioned Facebook (he’s very active on Facebook and MySpace having uploaded thousands of photos and shared countless stories).  Says his friends on Facebook have been treating him well lately sending him great clients and he’d love to get more.  But he doesn’t consider those “internet” leads since the clients typically come to him on a recommendation from a friend.

    I think it’s worth reiterating.  People who find him on the internet aren’t worth his time. People who get recommended to him from his Facebook friends help pay his bills.

    So, now to bring this back to Marc’s post on twitter…  Marc says:

    “You can either post gibberish or you can choose instead to post content about what’s happening in your marketplace right now that does or could have consequences for your reader.”

    I can guarantee that if my friend had spent the past two years limiting his online participation to writing content that had consequences for his marketplace, he’d not only have a small fraction of friends on the site, but Facebook would not be providing him any meaningful business.  Worse, his most common “friend” would probably be other real estate professionals who accept this boring banter on social networks.

    With that said, I’m a HUGE fan of agents creating a place where they can share their knowledge and expertise by creating content that has consequences for their marketplace… And my other website, Rain City Guide, does a great job generating business by creating this type of content (and I’d argue generates more business for our agents, mortgage brokers, title reps, lawyers, etc. than any other real estate blog).

    But to compare the value of Twitter banter (or banter on Facebook or any other “social” network) to the content created on a site like Rain City Guide is to completely confuse the value of unknown internet clients with clients recommended to you by your friends.

    If you don’t mind dealing with internet leads, then by all means focus on building out a website like Rain City Guide that will drive relevant traffic.

    However, if you want your real friends to start sending you clients, then you better start interacting with them in a “real” way.  Maybe that means throwing ridiculously cool parties, joining the local PTA, coaching a little league team, or sharing inside jokes and other gibberish on Twitter.  Either way, your real friends expect you to be a real person.

    Because favicon love is so easy to give

    If you’re running a website, did you give your favicon any love?  Do you even know what a favicon is?

    A favicon is simple a mini-logo (icon?) that shows up next to your URL in most address bars. (Favicons also show up on the tabs of browsers and are often included next to articles you write when being pulled by other news sites, such as this business week page about online real estate that pulled the favicons when linking to articles from Rain City Guide and Inman News). and

    Here is the favicon I created for 4realz.net: 

    In terms of a icon, I don’t like it as much as the 4realz logo that I generally use on my marketing materials:

    but it shows up so much better when displayed at a really small size and kept the site’s color scheme. The idea is that people who know the site will quickly start to relate the favicon to 4realz.net.

    Before creating a favicon for a different site (not yet launched), I decided to do a bit of research and look at the favicons for a variety of real estate sites. Here’s a peak at some of the sites I looked at:

    There are some really good favicons there in that they are instantly recognizable for the website they represent, but just as many are pretty bad… and without the help of a little text, it’d be hard to know what site they represent.

    So what makes for a good favicon?

    A good favicon is:

    1. Really simple
    2. Limited to two or three colors
    3. Recognizable in place of your logo

    However, as the examples form above show, using your logo is almost never a good idea.

    For example, the blue/green “Z” house of the Zillow logo, just doesn’t cut it for me at the small size of a favicon.   Ditto for the landscape scenes used by Altos Research and Real Central Virgina.

    Something more likely to work is a cute play on the logo, such as the tomato from the Real Estate Tomato, the owl’s eyes of Roost, the explosion from Blown Mortgage, or (I like to think) the rain drop of Rain City Guide.  At the same time, the “R” of Realtor is so recognizable that the realtor.com team was smart to keep their favicon that simple.

    Looking through the list of favicons from above, it’s also obvious that the “home” metaphor is way overdone. Phoenix Real Estate Guy, Redfin, The Real Estate Bloggers, Move, HotPads, Estately, Altos Research, and Zillow all feature homes in their favicons…

    Create your own Favicon!

    So, you’re inspired to create a nice looking favicon for your site.   Here’s how I created the 4realz favicon in a few minutes using nothing more powerful than Microsoft Word (or in my case, Mac’s Pages app):

    Step 1: Using a document processer (Microsoft Word will work), create your image. For the 4realz logo, I create a grey circle and put a blue “4” in the center.   If you feel like you need something more complex than simple graphics and simple text, then you’re probably making your favicon too complicated!

    Step 2: Take a screenshot of the image

    Step 3: Upload your screenshot to Genfavicon, and follow their simple instructions in order to create an “*.ico” image. (as mentioned in a recent hotlist post!)

    Step 4: Rename the file “favicon.ico”and upload it to the root file of your server.

    That’s it! Once you’ve created one favicon, I think you’ll see that the entire process can be done in less than 10 minutes.

    It’s worth noting that in order to have a personalized favicon, you MUST be using a self-hosted website where you can add files to the server.  Folks using blog platforms like ActiveRain and WordPress.com can’t have their own favicon. 🙁

    Of course, if you have photoshop you can get way more advanced and create really killer favicons directly from the app, but if you know what you’re doing in photoshop, then you probably wouldn’t read this far!  😉

    Finally, favicons are important because they show just how much effort you put into the details.  They’ll never be a big thing (they’re way too small!) and they’ll never bring success to your website, but with a little effort, it’s not hard to create a fun, recognizable icon that will help you make a better connection with your readers.