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In 1999, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) introduced the e-PRO® certification, a program that expands an agent’s digital skills to help them connect with the growing online market. The idea behind the creation of the e-PRO® certification was based on the thought that most real estate professionals were good at networking, but for some reason, had difficulty transferring those skills to the online world.

The e-PRO® certification has helped real estate professionals across the board tremendously. Becoming e-PRO® certified means you can take the lead in your market with the many benefits the certification offers your business. Customers can find agents through a search on the e-PRO® website, marketing materials are customized, and you can even gain new networking opportunities with tech-savvy real estate professionals.

Bill Lublin, a REALTOR® with CENTURY 21 Advantage Gold in Southampton, Pa., has been instrumental in rewriting and updating the e-PRO® certification throughout the years.

“In technology, there’s no such thing as an evergreen course,” says Lublin. “We’ve spent a lot of time concentrating on social channels and helping people take their offline skills and utilize them online.”

Today, NAR has partnered with the Social Media Marketing Institute (SMMI) in its new e-PRO® program with a curriculum that shows real estate professionals how to use the latest social media technologies to create an online presence that’s vital in reaching today’s hyper-connected consumers. The certification also helps one take advantage of rich media and e-office strategies to run a business more efficiently.

“It was during the previous rewrite in 2015 that we moved the social aspect to the second day,” Lublin explains. “Lobbying is important, but you want it to be meaningful. We concentrate on being thoughtful and creating an effective communication strategy. One thing that people need to understand is you don’t need to have the writing of Dostoyevsky or the photos of Ansel Adams or the videos of a Spielberg.”

He adds that real estate professionals are active on so many different channels now—Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and agent pages—that it can get confusing to even the most tech-savvy agents.

“We conduct a strategy to teach them how to utilize all the various channels and direct them to specific places where they can capture and convert,” says Lublin. “We want to be a trusted advisor for consumers and have social strategies to use to influence those communities. You want to have everything in one place and have consumers be able to get to you.”

The first day of the certification class centers around getting a tremendous amount of engagement. The discussion includes CRM systems, IDX feeds, syndication, dashboards and how to maintain relationships with people in a manner that doesn’t require you to be writing emails all day long.

“I think all agents should become e-PRO®-certified because while agents are accustomed to the tools, they don’t always know how to most effectively use them for their business,” says Lublin. “We need to build pipelines of consumers and compete in a world where there’s a tremendous amount of online chatter.”

Marki Lemons-Ryhal, a social media teacher for NAR, notes the importance of e-PRO® in that every aspect of a real estate transaction today can be handled electronically.

“As real estate professionals, we need to use the tools that clients are using and listen to their conversations so we know when they need to buy and sell,” she says. “Some of those key indicators include getting engaged, expecting a baby or kids moving out.”

There are also multiple benefits of the e-PRO® certification that real estate professionals can sell to their clients.

“For sellers, 92 percent of consumers are going to use technology, including the internet and social media, in the buying and selling of real estate,” says Lemons-Ryhal. “If we have a strategy to show them we’re able to attract those buyers in addition to the social proof that demonstrates it, it puts them ahead of the field.”

Lemons-Ryhal notes the value of incorporating and leveraging photos across Instagram, instantly sharing them on different networking sites such as Facebook Live or Twitter Live. It’s also vital to incorporate real-time engagement into the mix while repurposing video content on various channels.

“An agent that doesn’t have the e-PRO® certification doesn’t have a plan of action or know how to leverage the tools for the buying and selling community,” she says.

For example, Lemons-Ryhal has a case study that shows how one agent, through a Facebook Live video, was able to attract eight buyers who closed on real estate between June and October 2016.

“It wasn’t that she talked about the last greatest listing, but rather, she was able to understand the buyers in her marketplace,” says Lemons-Ryhal. “There were a lot of recent college graduates who didn’t understand that they could buy a house with 30 days of check stubs because their college degree is on-the-job training. To show the benefit is to show how real estate professionals are leveraging it and earning more money as a result. In the end, the agent returned a 2,100 percent return on her marketing strategy.”

The rationale behind this is that “secret” agents don’t get found.

“We need to be where these clients are talking about their desires to buy and sell real estate, and we need to have content to help them with their home-buying and -selling decision,” says Lemons-Ryhal. “Having the e-PRO® certification means you’re going to work on a plan of action to implement social media technology and help your business every single day.”

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