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By Barry HurdRISMEDIA, September 4, 2007–In the past, many real estate professionals have fallen into the routine of presenting themselves in a “pre-fabricated” manner. They wear the same suit, they offer the same conversational topics and they react with the same responses. This is not necessarily a bad thing in some situations, but take a look at how this idea interacts in the online world and examine how your online persona (your website) appears as it stands today.

Ask yourself these simple questions:

Am I the boring person in the corner of a virtual cocktail party?

In the past year, month, week or even day has there been any new information on my website?

Are there new tidbits of information that would cause a visitor to have a reason to come back and visit again?

Seasoned professionals in this industry know how to work a cocktail party or a networking event: they have exceptional wardrobes, spend extra time thinking and planning who they will meet and what they will say, and they double-check the latest news headlines so they have something interesting to talk about.

These are the social skills that create the “buzz” about social media and its growing impact on your network. The platforms and technology that enables sites like Match.com or LinkedIn.com to attract people is fundamentally based on taking a real world situation and converting that instance to an online solution. Rather than create a new “social interaction” on the web, the most effective social media sites leverage existing real world scenarios and provide a way to maximize that relationship in an online solution.

That comparison helps to identify how social communities mature online. For real estate professionals, many of them already go through the effort of holding face to face events- everything from cocktail parties, breakfast networking sessions, and open houses in the community. These face to face interactions allow an agent or broker to establish a personal relationship and share a moment of professional insight during a social interaction.

As we step outside of the box, ask yourself one more question:

In every social networking event that you have attended, which of the following approaches created a better conversation:

You stated exactly what you did: “I’m a real estate agent;” “I sell houses;” “I find homes for people.”

You conversed about a topic of personal interests, then mentioned your professional aptitudes. “Actually on the weekends I play golf or go hiking, it helps me relax after a week of helping people find a new home.”

Option A is pretty straight and to the point, but hardly social. Unless someone is looking for a real estate transaction right here and now, you’ve basically shot yourself in the foot conversationally. Option B provides the same notation of what you do professionally, and provides some personal reasons and points of interest for a listener to form a personal relationship with.

An essential part of the conversational portion of Option B is that you have opened your statement with a personal reason to connect. You are not treating the listener as if they are a commodity, the next “hot prospect,” or simply a big paycheck.

Social Media, whether it is in the form of online communities, individual blogging, or sharing videos–is about relating social reasons to connect. The by-product of this connection is a growing network of relationships that can be leveraged for business. The conversation that evolves around social media allows an experienced marketer to look at an assembled group (anything from a cocktail party or a chamber of commerce event) and distribute a message into that group.

By knowing how to host your own party, everyone who comes to your social event knows you’ll take a minute or two to step up and say a word about what is meaningful to you professionally (and personally). The social aspects of the party give multiple reasons for the attendees to come, and it gives the host multiple chances to establish connections through-out the group.

Coming back to the opening three questions of this article: examining how you think of your professional and personal interaction with your network via your website is a critical factor in how they relate to you, how they can refer business to you, how interesting you are within your community, and also affects the number of conversational points you can have with your network. Real estate is only a small portion of very worthwhile information you (and your team) has. Examining the other community, personal, and professional ideas you have as conversational points can greatly increase your exposure and identify you as an expert in a niche that sets you apart from your competitors.

Barry Hurd is President of Social Media Systems, an online marketing and advertising consultant group working with search engine marketing and leveraging social media communities. He has over 15 years of entrepreneurial Internet and online marketing experience. As an author and prolific blogger, he has reached online audiences around the world. Since the mid nineties, Barry has been involved in numerous efforts to bring forth technical innovation through online business models. Past projects have included NIKE, REI, TMP Worldwide, Monster.com, Verizon Superpages, Intuit, and RIS Media. www.socialmediasystems.com

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