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Use Social Media to Your Advantage, but Beware the Pitfalls

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Perspective by Walt Baczkowski

RISMEDIA, July 22, 2009-Social media is, and has been, exploding as a way for people to stay connected, market services and generally communicate with each other. Although a supporter/proponent for Realtors to embrace social media-for the benefits provided in marketing or staying in touch with customers or clients-there are also several pitfalls that should be considered.

The second biggest pet peeve I have with the social media explosion is the amount of “stuff” I now know about you. Based on the posts I saw just this morning on Facebook, you have nothing better to do than play the word or virtual reality games.

I also don’t care “what animal represents your spirit” or “what character from ‘The Godfather’ are you.” The fact that you are turning on the television for your kids at 5 a.m.-then posting this information on Facebook 10 minutes later-is not something that needs to be told to the world.

Several pages I have seen posted by business associates have contained some very un-businesslike comments as well as photographs. If I were a potential client or customer searching for more information about you before establishing a business arrangement-based on the information posted at more than 10 sites visited-I would be on to my next possibility.

Colleges, prospective employers and law enforcement regularly check the Web to find out more about you. So what are they learning? Would you provide this information if you were in a conversation with them? What image or impression is your social media activity conveying? This would be a good time for you to take a look at your profile, comments and information posted from the perspective of the entities cited above. Also remember that once the information is posted on the Web, it is in the wind.

My biggest concern is the growth in negative or vindictive postings. Most schools already have policies regarding “cyber-bullying,” and we have already seen some disastrous results from this activity. Also, at the Midyear meetings in May, NAR established policy regarding the posting of negative comments regarding other Realtors. Some excellent sites already exist for rating services, such as angieslist.com. Others have proven only to be sites on which people post negative thoughts or comments. Expect to hear more regarding this activity in the near future.

Consider your postings, blogs and profiles as if you were a prospective customer or college recruiter. What message do you think they would receive?

Walt Baczkowski is president of the Metropolitan Consolidated Association of REALTORS®. To contact him, please e-mail walt@mcaronline.com.

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