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 [link is broken, so I removed it]… 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.

41 responses

  1. Dustin- You make a great point about the importance of establishing trust and relationships online before implementing real world services . We need to engage the consumer and make them part of our community (or become part of theirs) in a real way by connecting with them in the manner they need – not the manner we think they need.
    Once we make that dual connection, we are not an internet presence and they are not an internet lead – we are friends who are prepared to do business with each other.
    Well put Tyr!

  2. I have to say I agree with your friend. Internet leads are more work than they are worth. we do get business from people who know us. It is much better than the business that comes from random strangers. I have however been able to make some friends through my blog. Mostly neighbors that I did not know.

  3. I have met far, far more people on twitter than I have met through my blog. Local people, in my area, that can and will refer business because I engaged them and we became friends. Most of them would not have ever been on my blog because they may not necessarily be in the market for real estate (right now), but now, when they hear their friends talking about real estate, they think of me. Maybe my tweets are “gibberish”. If so, fine. Apparently gibberish may work. It is all about connections.

  4. This is exactly why I “waste” so much time on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, email and my other blogs. Why I go to art openings, why I volunteer with my kids school, why I host parties and salons, sponsor craft sales, work on boards and fundraisers, build art cars, and help friends and neighbors to make our world a better place. It’s all about friendship and rapport, and this is how I stay connected. And when the time comes that they may need some real estate services, hopefully they’ll think of me.

  5. […] (of Rain City Guide and 4realz) has a great post today on the difference. The money quote: If you don’t mind dealing with internet leads, then by all means focus on […]

  6. Twitter is flat out awesome for getting your message across in a non-threatening way. I’m not always trying to cram sales figures at people. Instead I can talk about the weather, sports, fun local activities and people can get an idea of what living in Orange County is like. If that turns into business, then great. It might accidentally turn into business, which is the best kind.

  7. While blogs and social networks do help me stay connected and visible in the marketplace, I tend to get a lot more prospective clients from my website where they can search for properties and find real estate specific information easily. I guess they each have a place and purpose. But I think of the social networks like Facebook and Twitter as more “chatty” and less “real estate focused”

  8. Whether blog or twitter or FB or even (one of my favs), each is a different communication vehicle for us social beings to interact with each other and build relationships– they allow for a broader reach (if you want 2000 friends) but may be less emotionally deep — until they become f2f (or telelphone call) interactive. Heck, there is something about a smile that beats a lol or :). And who prefers a virtual hug?

    ….. or maybe instrument is a better analogy. It’s in the way you play SM and, if you are adept enough, you can be a one man band.

    Having said that, short term business ROI may not be greatest in social networks (cold/warm calling may yield higher returns) but the hope is the SM clients stick better and refer out better, making SM a long term play. BUt heck , I could be completely wrong. I built my client base in the old school, one handshake at a time.

  9. Maybe your friend is getting the wrong sort of internet leads. We’ve seen great conversions here in New York, and I know of many others who convert internet leads at a great rate. I wonder what sort of phrases his sites are showing up for?

  10. We have developed a system to work with and building relationships with online consumers that register to search for homes and condos on our websites. 95% of our business comes from our websites. Working with the online consumer is different than a traditional consumer…you must adapt to each to succeed.

    Recently, I changed our property search system from Park Place to Diverse Solution’s interactive map search…and the quality of the online consumer is higher…and everyone loves the map search product. I have been getting more phone calls from them during the past week. We are excited to see how the new product effects are business in 2009 and beyond.

  11. […] Top Post and Winner of the Realty Thought of the Week Award goes to Dustin Luther for his entry : The trouble with Marc’s approach to Twitter. In this post Dustin examines an approach to social media engagement for real estate professionals: […]

  12. Half of our business is coming from the Internet. The biggest issue I see with agents is lack of effective follow up.

  13. John… I totally believe that half your biz is coming from the internet and that effective follow up is the missing piece for most agents. However, my experience has been that getting some agents, who are otherwise very successful, to do effective follow up with internet leads is often like trying to fit a square peg through a round hole.

    In other words, keep up the great work!

  14. Good local bloggers corner their online real estate market. Part of that is social networking with ‘friends’ online. Great post. More talk like this and maybe the general public will start to get the real gist of social media!

  15. Relatively new to blogging, I’ve long considered how to focus my blog: whether to make it more informational, or conversational. I chose the later. I’m not sure if it will generate the most business or not, but it’s something I’m
    much more apt to enjoy and maintain longterm.

  16. […] I spoke with Michael this morning for the latest CoRE Podcast.  Since the subject matter of the winning post was Twitter, we talked quite a bit about social media marketing on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook […]

  17. I hope that you don’t mind, but I linked back to your post in my blog. To read it, click here:

    Thank you.


    Misty Faucheux

  18. Real estate marketing has always been about relationships. Now you just have a lot more ways to interact with people.

  19. We love social networking at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. Facebook, Twitter and our blog have become powerful tools to build brand awareness and establish a network of business “friends” Creating a balance between providing useful information, and engaging in friendly banter is key – just my opinion…

  20. Sherry: Your opinion obviously carries a lot of weight. Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

  21. Found your post very informative. I am just now getting familiar with Twitter. I am in the moving business, and trying to establish relationships with people.

  22. Perhaps my message was not fully comprehended. Firstly, I covered Twitter back in 07 ( with a considerable theme of excitement, long before most agents discovered it.

    I get Twitter. I get the brilliance of using it to build relationships. And I firmly believe that using Twitter to distribute critical intelligence about yourself and your market is the key to its users success.

    What’s in question is whether local market data is the meat on this particular bone, which appears in direct contrast with, agents desire to post activities to build and cultivate these relationships.

    Here’s the thing – intelligence can be just as sexy, just as interesting and considerably as attractive as posting the simple things you, I and the rest of world do on a daily mundane basis.

    And intelligence can be packaged all sorts of ways and made out to be interesting, fun, light-hearted and totally conversational.

    Folks like Robert Scoble, Guy Kawasaki, Tony Hsieh, do it daily and they are the kings of Twitter. And just look at their success.

    So I am with you guys in that I completely agree that Twitter works wonders within a sphere, cultivating friends and winning business. Where I disagree perhaps is simply the verbal, conversational bait placed on its line. I question how the posting things like I just parked my car, drinking a smoothie and wiping off my sweat at the gym (real posts that appeared on my account by those I used to follow) can really lead to business.

    If any of my friends called me each time they blew a gum bubble, I think, for sanity sake, I would move out of town in the middle of the night.

    To believe that broadcasting real estate info to real estate people on Twitter flies on the face of logic interests me considering just about every real estate conversation between agents at any conference begins with “So how’s your market”?

    So here’s how I think this through. If I were an agent in Arizona where the market is dead and have a clientele of rich investors who I am trying to source good deals for, do I a) work a deal with agent A who Twitter about the prices in her town and the opportunities abound or Bob from Cleveland who Tweets about his bubble bath, his dog and the itch he just scratched?

    If I’m not thinking clearly on this, please work with me. I am not an agent and often times attempt to apply my background, my business experience and my communication skills to a career I never had. There has been a healthy conversation going on at my blog as well on this topic, which is cool because I think social media is indeed an agents big, big opportunity in years to come.

    My concern is that real estate is applying older, 1.0 style communication techniques to a 2.0 platform. You know, the agent who once posed with their dog now Tweets about it on Twitter.

    At the end of the day, I am still placing my bets on following the practical applications used by the webs most prominent gurus who have cultivated tens of thousands of followers very successful businesses.

  23. Marc-
    I think the important word missing from your line of thinking is .. “and”

    In your example you give us a choice about choosing the agent who Tweets about pricing versus the agent who tweets about his personal life.

    If you are tweeting JUST about your personal life or JUST about pricing, you probably are going to be pretty boring to follow.

    The key in my opinion is to Tweet about real estate AND personal activity.

    My blog has a lot of info about market activity, but it also has my PERSONALITY and it has info about the fun recreational activities my town is famous for.

    As far as social media gurus go – I know that Guy Kawasaki loves hockey and can’t skate backwards like he should. I know that Chris Brogan is honest and open and gets great pleasure buying toys for needy kids.

    In my mind Brian Boero and Marc Davison are the same person. The 1000Watt Brand may be strong – but your personal brand is weak.

    In real estate that would be horrible for building a business.

  24. We all have different opinions and they all work—. I cringe when I have to “work” with a friend. I end up trying to “protect” them and it’s too hard for me.

    Further, I hate referrals because INEVITABLY they take me out of my MIami Beach/South Beach market. A person who extends the generosity of referring someone to you, on some level, gets offended when I don’t work with them.

    I prefer TOTAL strangers.

  25. Is there gonna be a blog war on Christmas Eve?

    Georgie vs Marc?

    Could it be?

  26. The truth about good sales/networking is it’s natural. Clients choose to do business with providers they know & trust. Twitter allows you to be yourself your friends will see through any “spamming of business” if you mix it up. Be real. Great post! The simple fact is use Twitter and enjoy, work hard and the business will come.

  27. The present day composer refuses to die. (Varese)

    According to one of the Twitter kings (methinks they were wearing their robes before they arrived):

  28. Kevin-
    I don’t do wars.

    Peace, love, and best wishes on Christmas eve to all.

    Geordie with a D.

  29. @Geordie,

    Great insight my man. I agree completely with the “and”.

    As for my lack building a personal brand – a few thoughts here.

    I have, at times, offered insights into myself when appropriate. My readers know I’m married to my childhood sweetheart, know my son got his real estate license, know we were in Hawaii celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary and know that I’m an accomplished musician that occasionally performs with iconic artists.

    I simply control how often I reference these things and try hard to execute it within the context of a beneficial post that carries with it some alternative value beyond being seen as a braggart.

    I refrain from posting what I’m eating, what color boxers I choose to wear or what song I am listening too. Some things I choose to keep to myself.

    Building personal brand is not part of my professional discipline. The 1000watt brand is based very much on the “us” experience (the combined knowledge, creativity and intellect) my partner and I collectively bring to the table. Combining some personal events can confuse clients in my line of work so I manage that side things best I can.

    Your inability to distinguish between Brian and I is an interesting observation. One I am glad you thought to pose.
    Has anyone else who has followed us felt the inability to distinguish between the two of us and if so, does it matter?

    I wonder.

    Mike Good, President and CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty comes to mind. We know very little about him personally, but publicly, he embodies the very essence of Sotheby’s. If Mike enjoyed rodeos, eating deep fried Twinkies and camping out overnight at K-mart for Black Friday, would posting about it help or hurt him? Granted, that me a part of him, but where, in the rules of Web 2.0 and transparency, does it say that you ought to reveal every single fiber of your being?

    That’s my point Geordie. Building a personal brand is just as, if not more intense, than building a business brand.
    I feel the principles and sensibilities of image building has been skimmed over in real estate and tied too loosely to instructors who don’t posses the academic pedigree to instruct correctly.

    For the record, I believe building your personal image is critical to a Realtors brand. I believe that doing it right is both art and science. I strongly believe most agents attempting to do this on their own with no professional guidance will build an image that is all over the place, and ultimately confusing to their client base.

    Two years ago, I judged a blog contest for ActiveRain. I wrote a very intense critique of Kevin Tomlinson based on my observation never having met him. My impression was that he was shallow, self-absorbed and disguised his lack of knowledge of the market behind sensational postings.

    Then we spoke. And I learned about Kevin’s intensity. And his talent. And deep-seeded knowledge of his market. And I then questioned him at length about the path he chose to convey his brand which I, given the time I spent on his site, came away with a completely different opinion.

    It would be cool if Kevin can chime in here and expand upon that illustrating what we talked about and if that had anything to do with how he appears today which is, IMO, a perfect combo that defines the “and” Geordie speaks of.

  30. Great conversation! And I agree that Marc is onto something.

    I wonder if people should be focused on using the social web to communicate with people you know. It is probably better to speak and not slurr or SHOUT. Slurring and Shouting is an embarrassment that is not likely to promote stronger friendships or business contacts.

    I guess that I connect with different people on Twitter than Facebook. Facebook is for people that I know – or at least have met in person, or hope to meet in person.

    I think that if an agent is connected to a number of people on twitter, and they clearly put in their profile that they are REALTORS, then they can lend the agent bent to twitter conversations. But most of the time should be carrying on the conversation if you see something that it interesting.

    If you know who you are publishing to, then you know what they are interested in – just don’t assume. Sharing what song you are listening to would only be relevant if you are being followed by people with shared musical tastes, right?

    Twitter can also be a marketing tool. For me, it replaces email marketing and press releases. It is “micro blogging” and I typically use it to draw followers to our blog.

    Anyway – Merry Christmas

  31. Just one other thing…..

    I just read on twitter that a Loveland Man has the Number 1 selling software application on the iTunes store at .99


    I guess there is room on twitter and everywhere else for a little levity

  32. Building a personal brand no matter how you do it, no matter what medium you use, using the proper mechanics of good brand building is critical.

    Just because the web has now provided tools to build brand through self publishing, posting, anything, anytime, won’t necessarily accomplish this. Your name might be more recognizable to more people but it won’t build your brand.

    A brand has to be tied to something that people can anchor to.

    Honda – Tied to mechanically sound engineering.
    Apple – Tied to flawless design.
    W Hotel – Tied to a wonderland hotel experience.
    Zappos – Tied to relentless service.
    UPS – Tied to prompt, dependable delivery.
    Wav Group – Tied to helping real estate firms understand its market and its brand position within through research, analysis and published reports.
    1000watt – Tied to helping brokerages and media companies navigating the complexities of web 2.0, branding and communication.

    Proper branding means that everything these brands do should act as a touchpoint to their meaning. The better each touchpoint conveys their meaning, the better the brand.

    What are you tied too? Do you know? And if you, are you managing each and every touchpoint which includes every post, comment, tweet, etc.

    Real estate has been taught to blast the neighborhood with flyers, bus stop bench posters, shopping cart ads and template websites filled with forms and bio’s and Hobbs Herder glossy tri-folds showing agents as humans. And through it all, why do people get toungue tied trying to voice the difference between most agents?

    Twittering the things you do is cool. Don’t stop. But I advice trying to tie to something that also supports what you stand for.

    Earlier today, I Twittered about U2 and their upcoming release and the marketing techniques they are employing that I find brilliant and the tie ins I see for real estate. I feel that type of post support my brand, both personal and professional.

    So here is an example for you guys.

    Suppose your agent brand position is tied to – representing local real estate through up-to-date, instant market centric information, consultation and hyper local knowledge and service.

    Which post supports that brand better?

    a) Stuck in traffic, boring. Wish I could beam myself places.

    b) Stuck in traffic sucking on a swizzle stick listening to Sweet Thing on the Country Music Channel.

    c) Stuck in traffic and just learned a local developer was granted permission to build condo complex downtown. K’ching. Reaching out to clients right now.

    If you could prudently, skillfully, apply your efforts into really building up a brand based on simple, proven brand formulas, imagine how much more successful you would be?

    Over the holidays, write down a statement that defines your brand. Then look over the bulk of your past Twitters and see if what you’ve posted supports your definition of yourself. If it does, bang on. You are doing it right.

    Some leeway is acceptable. But the more you pay heed to connecting these dots, the more your worth and value will be better communicated. You will see an increase in readership. And business.

    I stake my career on this.

    And, thanks much to Dustin for his original post and allowing us to educate each other here on his blog.


  33. Hey Dave, I’ll join you here from your twitter post and add a big heaping shovel full of an even bigger question this whole conversation begs me to ask…

    It’s a bit dangerous to post here.

    I know this may shock you and the others who know me and think of me as “techguy” of sorts. But I’m probably be better categorized as more of a RE “pragmaticist” and “researcher” and after you read this you’ll probably call me a “antagonist” and “contrarian” AND possibly a “HERETIC”…

    So the heaping question is, “what’s the yield?”
    $$$/month, week, year?

    This question may look innocuous, but by delving deeper, it will start to pull and challenge the roots of the RE tech community (sorry).

    With a degree in Finance and a background in Economics, I know with all options being equal (efficient market theory), an investor will pick the vehicle with highest return with the shortest payback period.


    Replace the word “investor” with “REALTOR”, “vehicle” with “marketing strategies” and assume EMT (efficient market theory) means that the agent is fully aware of his/her options to choose what marketing will work the best.

    Now the question is, who is making more money?

    Blogger/Social Media Maven v. FSBO/Expired Listing Leader/Cold Call Cowboy?

    After spending the last 13 months chest deep interviewing over 50 top coaches, speakers and agents in the world, I’ve found that every single case of “million dollar babies” and “super producers”, agents who make over $500,000 a year NET to the bottom line, do so on an almost pure blend of Active Prospecting using telephone and mail.

    They are not substantively twittering or blogging with any real “conversation” intentions.

    -and since-

    TIME is the ultimate in limited resources and the only true fixed variable to measure success; leads/day, appointments/week, $$$/month, I’m throwing this next statement out as subject for debate and evolution…

    What do you think is the optimum blend of time is spent generating business?

    How is your day scheduled?

    What tasks and actions are they comprised of?

    Who is really rocking it with the SM? Define rocking it.

    Has anyone tracked, tested, or case studied this before?

    It would be very interesting to study the best of breeds from both camps and see who has more money at the end of the month, quarter, year.

    From my own experience in launching an enrichment based educational web service to agents, at the end of the day, they want more money in their bank accounts, (give me ROI or give me my money back).

    Kind of like “give me liberty or give me death”, but not as harsh.

    A corollary thought, after learning what works best from each side take the “best of breeds” from each “skool of thought” and create a hybrid model of the modern real estate success. Could sound something like -The Ultimate System to Modern RE Dominance-

    Well I hope I’ve made some good points, looking forward to feedback (no rotten tomatoes) and if you would like to share the numbers behind your yield, I’d love to interview you!

    Justin Zimmerman

  34. Bravo to Marc to staying engaged in this conversation!

    I comment because I care.

    I enjoy reading everything that you and Dustin bring to the table and I think this discussion has helped us all grow.

    I look forward to the ongoing discussion of :

    *Appropriate us of Twitter for business
    *How use to Twitter to brand your self
    * How to use Twitter to connect IRL

  35. Cool. Same here. I believe Twitter to be an uber powerful tool. But I also believe, that when it comes to doing anything publicly, tools like this, while powerful, can also be somewhat dangerous if done wrong. Is is so fool-hearty of me to think that taking charge of your own imaging and branding without a fundamental knowledge of this discipline is risky?

  36. Does anyone know of a step-by-step “guide” to using twitter for real estate most effectively?

    Or do you have to grap tips and tricks here and there?

    My point is, advising agents to embark on this without some kind of guidance is not very good advise?

  37. Exactly my point all along. It’s not as simple as just posting arbitrary shout outs of what you’re doing to friends. With all due respect to Dustin, that’s my trouble with his trouble to my approach. I believe this, like any powerful public medium, a strategy is required.

  38. There’s that but let’s not forget basic common sense. Post when you have something to offer that brings benefit to those following you and check periodically during the day.

  39. Thanks for the two links George, helps a lot to clarify some points that I had.

  40. Bleh re Facebook. I am on it, but to me it’s for finding old friends.
    Twitter is my drug of choice. I’m known on Twitter for my passion for horses and Cowboys — which gave me the wake-up call that my lack of passion/respect for RE, per se, was obvious. Let ‘er buck baby. Twitter is a gold mine of knowledge.

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