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5 Innovative Ways to Use the Web
(Try them today!)


Looking for hot new ways to market using the Web? Here are some great options!

. The Internet can be a complicated place for sales associates who know the majority of their customers go there first for homebuying information, but who don’t always know how to best harness those buyers. To help you weave through the maze, we’ve come up with five new ways to use the Web in your own business. Here they are:

1 Blogs
A Web site where regular entries are made in a journal- or diary-like format, a Weblog (or simply, “blog”) offers commentary or news on a particular subject, such as food, politics, real estate or local news. Blogs combine text, images and links to other blogs, Web sites and additional content related to a specific topic. Some also include photos, videos and audio features. According to Randy Eagar, president of Salt Lake City–based Computer Camp (computercamp.net), cybersurfers use search engines like Blogdigger.com, Feedster.com and Technorati.com to search for blog content, with sites like Google Trends (google.com/trends) allowing for tracking and comparison of the popularity of search terms over time.
 
Blogs are simple to set up (using a service like Blogger.com, for example), cost next to nothing to maintain and are updated with just a few paragraphs of text on a regular basis (ideally four to five times a week).

Real estate professionals can place blogs on their own Web sites, says Eagar, complete with home photos and listing links. They can also use blogs to increase Web site rankings in the search engines, due to their content-rich nature.

“A blog offers your own commentary on issues of the day or even of a ‘how-to’ nature, and are invaluable for getting input from clients, prospects and viewers in general,” says Eagar. “Once prospects find an interesting blog site, they’re much more likely to bookmark you to see ongoing discussions.”
 
2 Community Sites
Sponsored by sales associates, community sites are online venues that contain information about specific neighborhoods and communities. On a global level, MySpace.com and Craigslist.org stand as the two most popular community sites online today.

Craigslist is a classified service where sales associates can promote their listings and services, while MySpace.com allows users to post almost anything they wish about themselves as well as comments about other topics and reviews of interest.

Drilling down to the community level, Eagar says community sites can be particularly useful for sales associates looking to do target marketing. On ConnectingNeighbors.com, for example, consumers can find information on 10,000 neighborhood Web sites that cover topics like choosing a neighborhood, or buying or selling a home.

“Community sites are very effective at reaching communities from the international to the local neighborhood,” says Eagar. “Agents can create their own local community Web site for the use of their neighborhood farm area, for example, and can place information to raise awareness of their business services.”

Consumers can then use the sites to rate, review, recommend and reach the real estate professional. “Local community sites are a great place for the real estate community to spend a little bit of time and listen to what folks are talking about,” says Eagar.
 
3 RSS Feeds
RSS is a family of XML-based Web feeds that are used for Web syndication. Used by Web sites, blogs and podcasts, RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and provides Web content (or summaries of Web content) along with links to the full versions of the content. “Think of [using] an RSS feed as [being similar to a newspaper’s use of] UPI (United Press International) or API (Associated Press International),” says Eagar. “These feeds come to them direct, and the paper has a decision as to whether to use the information or not.”

But where a newspaper pays for these feeds, Eagar says, RSS feeds are almost always free. Real estate professionals use a program known as a feed reader or aggregator to check a list of feeds on behalf of a user (in this case, the home buyer or seller) and display any updated articles that it comes across online. There’s no software to install, and the feeds are available on any computer that has Internet access.

“Once an RSS feed has been implemented into your Web site, it requires no further work on your part,” says Eagar. “The feed simply comes in and changes daily or weekly.”
 
4 Podcasting
A method of distributing multimedia files, such as audio programs or music videos, over the Internet, podcasting stands as a way to promote yourself as a professional. Sharon Simms, a broker-associate with RE/MAX Metro in St. Petersburg, became a podcaster a few months ago, and uses a service offered by Real Pro Systems. She invests about $50 a month in the podcast, which is updated several times a week. On it, she discusses the housing market, statistics, insurance and other topics of relevance to home buyers and sellers.

According to Eagar, a podcast typically features one type of  “show,” with new episodes released either sporadically or at planned intervals, such as daily or weekly. In addition, there are podcast networks that feature multiple programs on the same feed.

Podcasts can also be used for more sophisticated users who want to go beyond the technologies of blogs or RSS feeds. “For example, multimedia presentations of agents, their listings, communities and other personalized presentations can be given more effectively,” says Eagar. “For the viewer, it’s just a simple download.”

5 Google Base
Google Base is a free new product that allows users to submit content that Google hosts and then makes searchable to the rest of the world. An online database, Google Base (http://base.google.com) allows users to add just about any type of content, with a major component of the service centered around a classified ads service, says Eagar, “However, it has also been used for such items as protein structures, current events, real estate, recipes and more.”

Supported by advertisers, Google Base matches ads to the user search (much as the main Google site does), with advertisers purchasing a Google ad and paying online when a user clicks on it. Real estate professionals can submit information about all types of online and offline content to Google Base, using either a standard Web form or—if there are more than 10 items to submit—a bulk upload option.

Google Base allows users to add attributes describing their content, so that searchers can easily find it. The more popular individual attributes become, the more often Google Base will suggest them when others post the same items. Similarly, items that become more popular will show up as suggested item types in the “choose an existing item type” drop-down menu.

Bridget McCrea is a Clearwater-based freelance writer.