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RISMEDIA, April 1, 2009-It’s interesting how many real estate professionals haven’t made the leap to social and business networking on the Web, especially considering how ingrained the old styles of networking are in their business plans. They join local civic groups, go to meetings, sponsor events and groups, and more. The goal being to not only help their community, but to meet people to build that “sphere of influence” that ultimately leads to future business.

How many hands can they shake? How many meetings can they attend? What’s the cost to sponsor groups, and what’s the membership they impact? These are all questions that illustrate the limiting nature of personal involvement at the local level. Once you realize that Internet social and business networking is exactly the same, but leveraged dramatically, you can get really excited about it. After all, can someone in Oregon see what you’re doing in Florida? They can if they are part of your sphere of influence on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Let’s take a look at the two dominant networks – Facebook and LinkedIn, and at the facets of these sites that can have a positive impact on your website’s traffic, and ultimately bring you a great deal of business. The positive aspects of these sites are exactly the same, though there are differences in how they help you accomplish success and the makeup of the membership.

Facebook is more social, while LinkedIn is very business-to-business oriented. However, Facebook is showing very strong growth, and many business people are finding it to be an excellent resource. You’ll connect with far more consumers on Facebook than you will on LinkedIn, but the business connections you make on LinkedIn can lead to referrals that leverage the value of your contacts.

Both Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to place your personal and business profile for all the world to see. Accomplishments, awards, education, specialized training, and business goals are laid out for everyone to view.

Spending just a few minutes online gives you ample time to ask or answer questions and interact with people from all parts of the country and the world. Your direct contacts have their own direct contacts, creating a possible sphere of influence far greater than any you could develop locally via personal interaction.

A referral or recommendation is much easier, thus you can get more of them. Your direct contacts can recommend you to someone else with a few keystrokes, with no letter or personal meeting required. LinkedIn formalizes the process of expanding one’s sphere of influence more than Facebook. On LinkedIn, there are formalized recommendation formats that can be keyed to your specific areas of expertise. Let’s say that you work both residential and commercial real estate. You can have those two segments of your profile, each with recommendations specific to that expertise.

Both sites allow the sending of questions, but again, LinkedIn has formalized the process more. A question, once answered by all who are interested, can be closed out, and a best answer and good answer selected. The person who supplied the answer builds “expertise credit” in the category. In other words, if you are answering real estate related questions, best and good answers get you more visibility in that category, which creates the possibility for future business.

While listings are all local, as that’s where the homes are that you service, buyers are world-wide. You can network locally for listings, but people moving into your area from afar have no way to know who you are unless they find you somehow. With almost 90% of prospective homebuyers now using the Internet to search for real estate, these networks are one way in which they can locate you.

Feed your site information to the networks with RSS feeds. Both of these sites have ways in which you can have your site content show up automatically once published, allowing you to write it once, and the information will display in multiple places. It’s a personal form of the syndication that news organizations have used for many years.

Examples of more focused networking are RealTown and ActiveRain. The real estate and mortgage professionals who participate on these sites are able to share information, as well as refer business. ActiveRain’s new Listing Router tool allows participating sites to receive leads from other ActiveRain sites around the country.

These networking sites are powerful exposure tools, and you simply can’t overlook them in planning for the future. In all of your entries and interactions on these sites, you’re placing links back to your website, and when you can, to specific pages or posts that answer specific questions. This builds credibility, but also site traffic. And, it’s coming from sources that are real estate related, as that’s the way you’ve set up your profiles.

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.

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