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May 2008

Managing Your Online Reputation

Online_reputation_managemen One of the panel discussions at the recent Bloodhound Blog Unchained covered the topic of online reputation management with:

David Gibbons, Zillow
Rudy Bachraty, Trulia
Jeff Brown, www.bawldguy.com Real Estate Investments Broker

Here are some of the best ideas and tips I gleaned from the discussion:

•    Leverage your blog presence by commenting on blogs - reaching the audience you seek
•    Use Google Alerts  to receive updates on topics of interest.  Set up a Google alert on your name, company, etc.
•    Zillow & Trulia agree  that when someone trashes their company – it is a great opportunity to engage and get publicity; promote their company by setting the record straight, engaging in the dialog
•    They like to engage negative, controversial comments the most as it tends to create better dialog and learning
•    Write for the evergreen content value – think longevity – depth and breadth of reach on Internet
•    Set -up Subscribe to comments feed on your blog
•    Correct  faulty info on other blogs via comments
•    Don’t overreact to negative comments – breathe – wait – then address with gratitude
•    Get on Craigslist Housing Forum for your area
•    Comment on the Featured content at Active Rain 
•    Trulia Voices – find your zip code and join the conversation
•    Find local areas of blogs like Yelp.com and add value
•    Join Facebook and LinkedIn

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To Twitter or Not Twittter?

Andy Kaufman and Brad Coy presented and demonstrated Twitter, the numerous applications available to enhance your Twitter experience and how to use it all at the BHB Unchained Conference on May 20, 2008. 

Twitter

What is Twitter?

  • A microblogging platform that asks the question..."What are you doing now?"
  • A communication channel and social network
  • You post to Twitter in 140 characters or less via your mobile phone or the web
  • It's text messaging, instant messaging, and email rolled into one service that allows you to communicate instantly with a group
  • A potential addiction and time-waster or a unique way to stay in touch with family, friends, current and prospective business clients?  Only you can decide that one!

The answer to that controversial question depends on several things, among them:

  • Are you comfortable with the platform?
  • Do you have clients or friends who use Twitter as a preferred communication method?
  • Can you find the balance of following members in your group and what they are doing at the moment and "Tweeting" or posting a comment about what you are doing and the rest of your daily life?

I setup my Twitter account over a year ago when I attended the Real Connect conference in San Francisco.  I posted 2 times to it and was reintroduced to Twitter this past weekend at Unchained with Brad and Andy.  For me, I see the potential benefits to connecting with others and building my online social network.   I just have to find that elusive balance...

Twitter can be an incredibly effective platform to:

  • Connect and communicate with a group for a specific event, function or gathering. 
  • An impromptu or planned get together or meet-up.  Several people have shared stories with me of putting together a meet-up using Twitter - for business or social reasons.
  • Stay connected with a client and their group of friends during the buying or selling process.
  • Connect with potential clients by simply participating in the online social networking world.

There are numerous desktop Twitter applications or clients popping up - additional services to enhance your Twitter experience.  Here are just a few:

  • Twirhl - monitor and post to your feed with this desktop client
  • Tweetscan - a real-time search engine for Twitter
  • Twemes - use the hashtag (#) to follow a live event, conference or group event
  • Twitpic - let's you share photos on Twitter

If you really become a Twitter fan, you can create a widget and post your live Twitter feed on your blog or website to encourage visitors to follow you.

Here are some useful posts I've read researching the whole Twitter phenomenon:

Tweeting for Companies 101 - great post about "why Twitter, stuff to tweet about, how to talk Twitter" 

12 Reasons to Start Twittering - from Michael Hyatt of "Where I Sit"

Twitter Fan Wiki = lots of useful information on Twitter, applications

Pat Kitano of TransparentRE.com has several recent blog posts about Twitter - check out:
How to fully participate in the Twitter conversation in only 30 minutes

To Tweet or Not Tweet...now that's the question.  Hope this post can help you find your individual answer.

Enjoy this short, simple explanation video on You Tube  "Twitter in Plain English " 

 

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Unchained Day 2 - Brian Brady on the Way of the Hunter

Brian Brady shared his obsession with marketing and how "ubiquity" works with the Unchained Conference attendees on Day 2.  Brian is everywhere on the Web 2.0 /RE.net webscape and he showed us how he does it.

Some key points from Brian's discussion:

  • New customers are the life blood of your business, including referrals from your past clients and sphere of influence.
  • The Internet automates your Unique Selling Proposition - how you stand out from your competitors.
  • Web 1.0 - static, your business card and brochure online.
  • Web 2.0 - an exchange, participatory, interactive.  The  empowered customer has all info available to make decision to use you.
  • MySpace changed everything - it was free, all about the user, provided multiple ways to connect, open access and grew exponentially.
  • Social media marketing is using online platforms to promote a brand or service and to connect with influential customers Mavens).
  • Why should you engage in Web 2.o?
  • Ask your clients where they go on the Web.  What a great way to reconnect with your database today and, more than likely, get some business! 
  • Get readers, visitors to subscribe to you via RSS feeds, email subscriptions, and e-zine subscriptions.
  • Build a community - consider joining and building your profiles on:
  • My personal recommendations are LinkedIn, Active Rain and Facebook.  YouTube if you are using video in your business.

Brian's talk inspired me to take action and join or organize a bloggers group in Las Vegas.  Since there is currently not a meetup for bloggers, I formed one today - the Las Vegas Beginning Bloggers Meetup which will meet on the 3rd Wednesday of the month, 7:00 pm,  at a place yet to be determined.  Look for more to follow on this group in the very near future - calling all Las Vegas bloggers or would-be bloggers....


Unchained Conference Monday, May 20 - Epiphany, History, Way of the Farmer from Greg Swann

My second day at the BloodhoundBlog Unchained Social Media Conference proved to be more than I expected - these guys know how to deliver the good stuff!  The morning started with an epiphany and intriguing historical review from Greg Swann on, well, history - from primitive cultures to the Greeks to the 20th Century.  I loved how he tied the history and philosophy to the evolution of Web 2.0.  Visit the Unchained You Tube Channel for all the videos.

The epiphany - read/view more on this BloodhoundBlog post and Greg's April post on the subject:

  • You are free to THRIVE
  • You are free to STARVE
  • But you are not free to escape the necessity of making a choice

Other memorable quotes from Greg included:

  • "Big ideas rule the world."
  • "Greeks... We are they, they are us and none of us are normal."
  • "Beehive (worker bee) mentality ... Trained to think but not talk back. Trained to embrace change but stay in line.  Trained to dream of the day when you might be the boss but n=meanwhile, do what you are told."
  • "20th century all about the sacred organization.... and then came the Internet"
  • "Welcome to the wired-world of real estate."
  • "Freedom's reflection is transparency."

What I got out of this session is the major opportunity we all have right now to really embrace Web 2.0 and take charge of our individual destiny.  Web 2.0 is transforming the way  Real Estate is  sold and we haven't yet reached the tipping point.  Make the choice to become your own boss and rainmaker.  I choose it now!

Greg also outlined 10 Simple Things to Do Now to Put Your Business on the Web 2.0 Road.

In his afternoon session,"Way of the Farmer" Greg demonstrated how he applies Web 2.0 to the traditional real estate marketing idea of geographical farming.   He uses a variety of tools to stand out from the competition, among them:  See Listing Real Estate the Bloodhound Way

  • Over-sized, custom yard signs
  • Single Property websites using Engenu - now in Beta testing
  • Virtual tours from Odeo.com which has a slick virtual remodeling feature
  • Open House, 2-sided business cards that are delivered to the surrounding neighborhoods and on the yard sign for prospects to pick up like a flyer to promote scheduled open houses
  • Applying the principle of the long tail house-by-house, street-by-street, to the neighborhood, to the region all the way to the short head "Phoenix Real Estate" and "Historical Phoenix Homes." as he demonstrated in this session.  This work in progress is labor is intensive and intriguing. When completed, they will have mapped all the historic districts and photographed every home on every street within those historical districts of Phoenix.  A truly unique tour of Phoenix distinctive homes!
  • Blogging about your listings - with flare, care and creativity

BloodhoundBlog Unchained Recap - Sunday May 18, 2008

Pre-Conference day at the BloodhoundBlog Unchained conference in Phoenix proved to be chock full of nuggets and solid content.  In fact, I have already implemented many and made changes to my blog as a result of what I have learned today. Here's a recap of the key points for me:

Mary McKnight of RSS Pieces covered a lot of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tips and lead generation strategies:

  • Use SEO tools to analyze the effectiveness of your blog:

SEOBOOK
WebsiteGrader
SEOCentro

  • Use a call to action on your blog - a button with "Search 20,000 listings"; "What is my home worth?"
  • Make it easy for someone to contact  you - use a contact form and/or include your phone, email on the front page
  • Register your domain name for 5 or more years
  • Use a Google-Friendly sitemap on your blog to make it easier for the your blog to be crawled
  • Try to get indexed in DMOZ.org - very selective. 
  • 128 links or less on your blog home page for optimal SEO (Matt Cutts from Google).  Some ideas on how to get there if  you discover you are way over this number as I was (using the SEO tools above):
    • Limit your categories to 10-15 (I'm down to 23 from 30 and still working on it)
    • Change the number of posts on your homepage to 5
    • Put your blogroll on an interior page
    • Limit the widgets on your sidebar
  • Your domain name URL and title tags are key to search engine rankings - research the keyword search tools to find out what people are searching for and how often.  Then set up categories and title posts based on your research as it relates to your target market and purpose.

Ron Cates of ConstantContact.com discussed the Power of Email Marketing

  • 91% of Internet users age 18-64 send or read email - higher % for the over 65 group
  • Return on Investment (ROI) is better than direct mail - $57.25 for every dollar spent
  • Use blog content for an email newsletter
  • Include a sign up for Free newsletter on your blog and in your email signature block
  • It takes 7 touches before a sale occurs
  • Always have an unsubscribe or opt-out link
  • #1 reason people unsubscribe is "over-communication"
  • 25% of email addresses change annually
  • Write for web readers - scanable content - upper left corner is where most eyes start their scan
  • Limit required fields in a contact form to 4 for best return
  • Tuesday & Wednesday then Thursday are best days with 10 am to 3pm being the best times to send email according to ConstantContact stats
  • 60% of consumers use the "From" line to decide to open or delete the email; 30% decide by the "Subject" line
  • Subject line tips:
    • Keep it simple and short
    • 5-8 words; 30-40 characters
    • Your have 3 seconds for the impression
    • Incorporate a specific benefit
    • Check spelling, punctuation, capitalization

Laurie Manny shared her success stories and techniques from her Long Beach blog and website.   She focuses on key SEO techniques - many taught by Mary McKnight (Laurie's blog is on the RSS pieces platform). Laurie demonstrated how she uses the SEO tool for Firefox to stay on top of her blog rankings and track (then crush) competitors.   She uses Picasa (photo tool from Google) and Slide.com effectively on her blogs. Laurie blogs about 80% on the real estate keywords for her niche market and 20% on the community.  She recently started adding more market statistics with good results.  She also is using an impressive lead generation, IDX solution and back office system with 1ParkPlace.

Russell Shaw contributed some great tips on marketing and becoming a better listing agent.  Check out his sites for more details and useful information:


Is the Housing Crisis Over? ...Indications that the Las Vegas Real Estate Market is Heating Up

This editorial opinion by Cyril Moulle-Berteaux, "The Housing Crisis is Over" appeared in the Wall Street Journal on May 6, 2008 and has been getting a lot of attention in the blogosphere.

The author quotes historical real estate cycles and claims the national housing market is approaching the bottom now based on a variety of facts and economic trends:

  • Home sales peaked in July 2005
  • New Home sales are down 63% from peak levels
  • Housing starts have fallen more than 50%
  • Affordability - prices have declined while, generally, incomes have grown

Brett Arends asserts in his article "Is Housing Slump at a Bottom" that we may be at the bottom of the housing market because housing starts dropped below the One Million mark in March.  "Every time that has happened in the last 50 years, it proved to be the bottom of a recession."

Indications in Las Vegas are that prices may continue to fall further, yet NOW is definitely a great time to buy - here's why:

  • Over 60% of sales are REO or Short Sales - there are tremendous bargains out there right now!
  • From 4/1/08 to 4/30/08, Las Vegas had 1927 closed resale single family, condos & townhome: Download April2008REO-Stats.pdf 
    • REO - 1224 (63.5%)
    • Short Sales - 144 (7.5%)
    • Traditional resales were 19% of the market for the month
  • Total number of contracts written is increasing dramatically.  GLVAR statistics show that 770 listings went into Pending or Contingent status in a one week period between April 21-28.   Notice the dramatic trend upward on written contracts since January 2008:

    Contracts_written_janapril2008_2

            Download GLVAR_UnderContract.pdf

  • Banks are pricing their REO listings to sell - sometimes below the market  - thus generating activity and multiple offers.
  • Motivated sellers are finally shifting their list prices into the "Showing Zone".  For more on this trend, check out Forrest Barbee's Las Vegas Real Estate Market 2008 post.
  • Interest rates remain at historically low rates.  Even with the tightening of the mortgage market, there are a variety of loan programs to choose from.  FHA loans are now a realistic option in Las Vegas due to the new loan limit of $400,000.
  • Download las_vegas_market_condition_report_may_2008.pdf (Market Condition Report from Equity Title):

    • The report indicates a shift and positive change in closing numbers which, if the pattern continues, will surpass 2007 numbers in about 60 days.
    • Percent Selling and Absorption Rate demonstrated substantial increases after a series of declines and pendings indicate that trend may continue.

The bottom line ... the market continues to adjust and there are great opportunities in the market now... what are you doing to adjust and take advantage of this market?


Making Money with Effective Open Houses

Openhousesign150 Open Houses...You either love 'em or you hate 'em.  And based on your attitude about them and as a real estate agent - they either work for you or they don't. 

In my experience, open houses are the single, easiest, most cost effective way to make money and generate leads in the real estate business.

Let's consider the benefits:

  • Marketing exposure for your sellers and your active, saleable listing inventory.  There have been offers written and accepted on the actual property an agent is holding open!
  • Opportunity to meet and work with buyers and sellers and make additional sales.
  • The real investment is your time!  Open houses can be the most cost effective prospecting activity if done properly.
  • Worst case scenario - if no one shows up - you can catch up on admin tasks, follow-up calls, mailers and other "busy" work at the open house.  Preparation and planning is required! 

Attitude is Everything!
o Know that the open house is going to be productive
o Plan, Prepare and Know the Property and the Market
o Ask, Believe, Receive!

Selecting the property
o Location (choose a listing that has great traffic; cross streets)
o Condition, price, terms (How does the property show? Is it priced to sell?)
o Your own listings – leverage success through

  • Invest in Personalized Yard and Open House Signs
  • Hold open houses on listings in your farm areas

o Research office/company listings and coordinate with the listing agent to hold them open
o Vacant vs. Occupied properties
o Open houses work any day of the week!!

Continue reading "Making Money with Effective Open Houses" »