By Marylyn Schwartz, CSP
RISMEDIA, May 9, 2009-Brad Hanks (bradhanksseminars.com) refers to himself as a “social media evangelist.” He is out in the field preaching to the masses about the importance of embracing the tide that is social media. He is also a well-respected CRB (Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager) instructor and the developer of a newly approved CRS (Council of Residential Specialist) social media elective-credit class.
Defined by Wikipedia, social media are: “primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio.”
Hanks and I sat down and chatted about the ins and outs of social media networking and what every sales professional needs to know to take full advantage of connecting with others socially and professionally.
Marylyn B. Schwartz: It seems like every few years the cheese gets moved, and we must step up to the plate, sometimes kicking and screaming, and embrace another level of technology. This particular shift started with the creation of Web 2.0. Tell us about that.
Brad Hanks: Blogs, micro-blogs, social tagging and bookmarking, photos, videos, connection points…all these are parts of the toolbox that is commonly known as social media or Web 2.0. Prior to this, the Internet was mostly an advertising medium. It was about broadcasting messages to the marketplace. Web 2.0 evolved as a result of all the tools we created. These technology tools fostered ‘time drags.’ Information was being spewed out faster than we could respond. Consumers wanted to weigh in with user-generated content, and there was no way to do that with immediacy. In addition, everyone is busier than ever before. Many of us are struggling with financial challenges, and as a result have fewer and fewer hours or resources to interact with friends and family. We’ve disengaged to some degree, and we’re searching for ways to reconnect. The Web provides a way of attending ‘multiple cocktail parties’ from the comfort of our easy chairs, cars, offices, etc. People will keep many sites running at a time and checking in with them periodically. We take the opportunity to connect when we can get it. We ‘chunk up’ our information and interactions when we have time to respond.
MBS: Why are there so many of these sites and how do they differ one from the other?
BH: Each site has a different tone, tenor and personality. It would be akin to attending a Super Bowl party versus an elegant sit-down dinner versus an outdoor barbecue. There are sites for people of all interests, wants and needs to find one another. Facebook.com is already available in 70 different languages. In 2004 the site came into existence. Today there are between 185-200 million members. Globally there are in excess of 500 million people engaged in social networking. Considering how much of the world is not even set up with technology, that is an astonishing phenomenon. All one would need to do is Google a topic of interest to him/her to find a social network for people with that common interest.
MBS: It reminds me of being a young girl of 10 and having a pen pal in Hawaii. That was all the rage back then. Schools worked with each other to link kids up from around the globe up. I guess it was the first attempt at international social networking. I loved connecting with someone from another culture and place to find out how much we had in common and shared. Not so different today.
BH: As technology reaches out to places it has not been before, social media will just continue to grow, and the adage of it being a ‘small world’ is truer than ever. Think of the level of engagement President Obama used to win the presidential election. He drew the audience into a personalized dialogue. While not everyone embraces this way of connecting, the fact is that for everyone who does not want to get involved, there is one who does. People find themselves reconnecting with others to whom they have not spoken in years. And, many who meet on line go forward and marry. On-line matching/dating services are quickly replacing the local watering holes for hooking up.
MBS: No question that most of us know one or more couples who met while surfing a website looking for Ms. or Mr. Right, or Ms. or Mr. right now… We are often warned to be careful of getting what we want. Tell me more about blogging.
BH: The word blogging is a hybrid of blog and Web log. It is a kind of personal journal where people write about their experiences, voice opinions and tell their stories. All you would have to do is to log onto the blog of a popular talk show after the viewing of what might be considered a controversial topic to see those blogs light up with people weighing in… We love having sounding boards at our fingertips. It is cathartic to vent and have no accountability for doing so. We can remain anonymous while having a voice. However, we know that much of what is placed on the Web in our names remains there for perpetuity. Many a person has been scared by what they or someone else posted. Be careful of what you say, what photos you take and/or post and the company you keep.
MBS: So true. Frat parties are just not the same anymore! Why would a real estate sales professional be totally missing the boat by not getting on board with social-media communication?
BH: It is a matter of being in front of the curve or playing perpetual catch up. From the time radio was introduced to the public, it took 38 years to reach tens of millions. Today, we reach that many and far more daily. The agent who thinks this is going away is wrong and delusional. If it goes away, it will leave and be replaced by a faster, more effective form of social communication. We are hooked together forever… Pushing back against the oncoming tide is pointless and impossible. Here is a great experiment that I like to do when I am in a group.
Ask the people in the room how many of them have clients who have asked if they (the agent) has a Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter page? If half of them raise their hands, it is a sure bet that in the very, very near future they all will have hands raised. And, the popularity and effectiveness of sites is also evolving. If I were to have prioritized the sites a year ago by number of members and popularity, it would have been: Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. Today, I put the order as: Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. When the President was making his address to congress this week, members were Twittering to each other and their constituents. There are a lot of peeps and tweets out there! The point; if you are not on all three, you have lost positioning and opportunity without even noticing the shift.
MBS: People are always asking where they can find the time to keep posting and keeping current on all these sites. Do you have a suggestion?
BH: Yes, and it is ping.fm. You can enter an update there and have most of your social media sites populated at one time with that update. It makes keeping up quite simple and streamline.
MBS: The more I hear, the more I want to learn. Others are going to feel likewise. What we have here is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. What’s the best way to get the needed knowledge?
BH: I conduct ‘boot camps’ in which I break four modules into three-hour segments. Participants can start out at ground zero and add to their expertise and knowledge in increments as they see fit. These are spaced-training, hands-on applications that teach people real-world skills that they can begin to apply immediately to their businesses. My website (address above) contains the information. Whether one takes a program from me or another qualified person, the point is to take up the challenge now and learn.
MBS: Years ago agents worried that they were going to be replaced by computers. Well, we know that never happened. What did happen, however, is that they got replaced by agents who used computers. If history repeats itself, and we know it always does, we are on the cusp of the next ousting. Thanks for the heads up!
Marylyn B. Schwartz, CSP, is an expert in real estate and corporate sales training/management and team development. She is president of Teamweavers and a trainer for Leader’s Choice. To contact her, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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