It’s the time of year that we make New Years Resolutions – maybe we’ve already broken some of them already. How many of you have said that 2011 will be the year you try new technologies, or “get into social media”?

Be a part of Social Media in 2011

Maybe you’ve already tried.. or maybe you’ve kept putting it off because you don’t understand it, or find it too hard or too time-consuming. But Social Media is here to stay.. it’s not going away – and you need to get onboard. More and more consumers are using social media to search for, discuss and research property – you want to be a part of that conversation! And what’s more, your competitors are already involved. Don’t miss the boat!

But Which Social Networks

There’s lots of different social networks out there now, but you can’t spend time on all of them. You should concentrate your time on the most popular.

Facebook

Facebook is the biggest and most active social network and if you’re going to choose just one social network to concentrate on, it should be Facebook. You should setup a Facebook Page for your Business (do not use your profile) and start adding all of your business information, including your blog posts, photos and videos, events etc.

Mashable has a great guide for setting up a Facebook Business Page and getting the most out of it. Once you have your page setup, you need to keep it fresh and updated regularly, and work on ways of increasing your ‘fan base’ (number of ‘Likes’). Remember, each ‘Like’ is like an email subscriber – they’re valuable! Social Media Examiner has some great tips on how to increase your Facebook page following.

Blogging

Facebook and Twitter updates are generally pretty short – and a lot of what is shared on twitter and facebook is LINKS – links to articles and blog posts. You need to have your own content that you, and others, can link to!

Blogging is where you get to show your expertise, and get into some meaty topics enhanced with additional media such as images and video. Write about what’s happening in your local community, your local market, industry trends. Your blog posts can leverage other blog posts too – reference and link to an article you found online, and provide your own commentary and thoughts about it.

You’re welcome to use articles from the RP Data Research Blog in your own blog – just remember to maintain the credit and link to the original source. Some examples of other Australian real estate blogs which you can use for inspiration include experts.realestate.com.audomain.com.au blogs, the Australian Real Estate Blogbusiness2.com.au and the Australian Property Forum.

If you’re part of a franchise, your head office probably already maintains a blog too and I’m sure they’d be more than happy for you to use their content.

Blogs are also an incredibly effective way of improving your search engine ranking. Search engines love great blog content – especially if you write quality posts on a reasonably frequent basis. Your results will be even better if you get other people linking to your content.

Twitter

Twitter is growing rapidly and there’s no reason you should not be a part of it too. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to set up an account and start getting involved. You can take your time and just listen and follow conversations to start – get a feel for how people are using it, and when you’re ready, start joining in the conversation. Follow some influential real estate twitter accounts, search for people discussing property and follow them, share interesting news and information. Also be sure to think about the twitter demographics and who your target market is.

Don’t just use twitter to send out one-way, un-engaging tweets of your new listings. That will no doubt form part of your twitter strategy over time, but it can’t be the only thing you tweet about. You have to be social, engage in conversation and be interesting. That will get you more followers.

Property Ad Guru has a nice article on the Top 10 Tips for Real Estate Agents using Twitter to help get you started.

YouTube

Video is increasing in popularity every year, and real estate consumers can get a lot of information in a short video – whether it’s about you, about your agency, a video tour of a listing, a video tour of your local community. Remember to keep the video fairly short – 3 minutes is about right for most videos.

Videos are also great content to integrate into your blog posts, share and embed on facebook and link to on twitter.

Try to keep the quality high and as professional as possible, and practise makes perfect. You can engage services like PropVid to create professional quality videos on your behalf.

Getting Started

I’ve only just touched the surface with these, and I’ll be writing future blog posts that go into more detail but the main thing you need to do is get started.

You don’t have to be 100% active on each of those social networks above, but you should start getting more experience with each of them and find the one that works best for you and your business.

One of the most important aspects of any social media strategy is to remember that social media is not about one-way conversation. If you think you can simply “spam out” your latest listings and open home times and expect to get hundreds of fans, followers and leads, you’ll certainly be disappointed with the results.

You have to be engaging and interesting, friendly and conversational, approachable and professional. Ask questions, answer questions, help people, post interesting news and links.

Develop relationships with people, don’t sell to them. Think of the consumers’ goals first – not yours.

Finally..

Social media is not a magic bullet. Don’t expect immediate results. It takes time to build up the trust, the confidence, the relationships, that will eventually turn into leads when someone is looking to buy a house, finance a house, sell a house.

Good luck with your social media strategy! I’d love to hear what your plans are for navigating the social media jungle in 2011.. what challenges have you faced and how do you plan to overcome them?