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For Realtors, a Crash Course in Social Media: Stupid, or Crazy?

By Colin Ryan

Industry News

A few days ago, Marc Gould of the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC), via RISMedia, issued a press release promoting a new course his organization debuted this spring, called “Real Estate Marketing Reboot.” According to the release, this one-day course “expands on marketing fundamentals, teaching students everything from branding and relationship marketing to social media technologies and practical business-building tips.” In other words, the course gets agents up to speed on the advantages, strategies, and complexities of Internet marketing in the social media era.

My first reaction to this course went something like this. After some head-tilting, however, I tried to understand where my skepticism came from. Part of it had to do with the fact that I have grown up with the Internet, and interact with it on a very frequent basis. As a result, I have a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea that some people “don’t get it”–i.e., don’t intuitively know their way around a mouse, a keyboard, and a search engine. (You should see me backseat-drive when my mother is at the computer. Sorry, Mom.) As far as the subject of this course is concerned, I entered college just when Facebook was getting off the ground, just when I was in a position to understand both the technology and the etiquette of social media. Thus, I sit here and think, “is it really that difficult to understand and apply?”

But as I thought about it, I began to understand just how complex social media can be, especially when business relationships are at stake. In a recent post for Agent Genius, Matt Stigliano provided some great insight into the nature of online relationships when it comes to the real estate industry. His Venn diagram graphic is particularly telling in two ways. First, it indicates just how expansive our social webs really are. Second, the varying degrees to which the circles overlap show just how many kinds of relationships we cultivate in pursuit of an effective marketing strategy. That is, close friends have the greatest overlap, then close colleagues, then casual friends and colleagues, all the way down the line until the circles are barely touching–an acquaintance, let’s say. Each of these relationships must be managed differently, with different idioms (formal or informal? technical or simplified?), media (email, snail mail, or phone?), frequency of contact (twice a day or twice a year?), etc. Add to that the fact that every business relationship is at its heart concerned with what the other person can do for you, and you have the added challenge of disguising your cold, money-grubbing interests behind a facade of professional warmth and courtesy. Furthermore, consider the limits of online social media. That’s right, limits. Think about Twitter, for instance. How can you be expected to promote your interests or those of your clients effectively to a skeptical marketplace in the space of 140 characters? Finally, consider the demands of social media: can we really be expected to do this kind of work with all of our connections, all the time?

In reality, it seems some of my skepticism actually came from the opposite end of the spectrum. While part of me thought, “is this really necessary?”, another part thought, “is it really feasible to clue people in to these phenomena in the space of one day?”

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