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RISMEDIA, February 24, 2009-Actually, we’re not just talking about “social networks,” but business networking as well. The Internet has made dramatic changes in the way the world shops, locates information, and in how they communicate with each other. Of course, e-mail is the elephant in the room. But, as we become ever more mobile and in a hurry, networking will become a many-faceted activity.

So, what do we mean by online or social networking? It’s all about sending messages to one another in real time, and getting back responses quickly. But, it’s also about introductions. We introduce our contacts to others, and they can introduce us to their network. It becomes an ever-growing circle, encompassing more people who in some way keep up with what we are doing or saying.

A large part of these networking services is information retrieval as well. It isn’t just searching on Google, but also searching within a network for answers to questions, and sharing those answers with our circle of contacts. And, it seems that new services just keep popping up.

The big names are:

Twitter.com – This text and email communication tool has grown tremendously since it began. Leaving “tweets” as they are called, is placing short bits of information out via cell phone text message, RSS feeds or even voice to text conversion. It is used a lot to keep people who “follow” you posted as to where you are and what you’re doing.

MySpace.com – More for the younger set, but infiltrating older age groups as well, this is a social networking site for exchanging information, sharing music and just about anything else two people would like to share online.

Facebook.com – Facebook is a lot like MySpace, only for an older age group. It is also used to communicate over distance, send messages, and share information with a social network.

LinkedIn.com – This is a business and professional network of the first order. It is set up with a resume profile, connections to others in your field, business or company, finding employment and making deals. With more than 10 million users, it is a great place for a business person to network.

Industry Specific – On most industry social networking sites, the questions are frequently area-specific, so you can sign up to receive notices of questions in your area.

As a real estate professional, you may just be getting a handle on a productive website or blog. And, thinking about signing up for and participating in multiple networking sites is the last thing you have time for. You’ll need to make the time, as this is the future of your business. Instead of spending hours every week going to meetings and community functions to shake 50 hands and make contacts, you could be meeting and connecting with thousands online in the same amount of time.

Consider your immediate and current sphere of influence to be your first-level connections.

On these networks, your first level connections can and will introduce you to their connections, and you’re building second level contacts, and so on.

You soon make contact with consumers in the market to buy and sell real estate in your area. They use these forums to ask questions.

At LinkedIn, you can network with title companies, real estate attorneys, other Realtors, movers, and other businesses that are real estate related.

There are some specific etiquette concerns when using these network resources. They may be free in most cases, but you shouldn’t abuse them. A recent example that was publicized was a home buyer who asked a question on Facebook. They received dozens of “USE ME!” e-mails and contacts from real estate agents. They were not amused. These weren’t productive answers to their question, but just hurled requests for attention, much like throwing a handful of business cards into a group of people.

Your goal in working within these network sites is much the same as it is in personal networking at the Rotary Club. Be friendly and around. When a real estate related question is asked, be there with a courteous and informative answer. Just keep doing it, and you’ll build relationships over time that will bring you business. And, when consumers on these sites start to recommend you to their online connections, you’ve dramatically expanded your sphere of influence without shaking a hand or attending a meeting.

Peyman Aleagha is the founder and President of RealtySoft.com. RealtySoft provides Realtors with Real Estate Web Design (http://www.realtysoft.com), Real Estate Print Marketing and Free IDX  (http://www.realtysoft.com/freeidx.php) solutions.

For more information, visit www.RealtySoft.com.

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