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Meet and Greet Online/Users/adamp/Desktop/Stuff for FAR/Magazine Assets/OCT08/images/meetGreet

Looking to connect with peers as well as prospective customers? Consider online social networks.

Like many real estate professionals, Jamie Huggins, a sales manager with Coldwell Banker United Realtors® in Panama City, has jumped on the social networking bandwagon to connect with peers and engage prospective buyers and sellers. “Somebody will e-mail me about what’s going on in the market, and the original contact was through Facebook,” Huggins says.

A growing number of real estate professionals are turning to Facebook, LinkedIn, ActiveRain and a host of other social networking sites to connect with peers, garner referrals, drive traffic to their real estate Web sites, build a contact database and educate consumers.

Here are some common social networking sites and how Florida Realtors are using them:

ActiveRain: Peer-to-Peer Advice and Networking
Connie Olson, a broker-associate at Realty World Executive Group in Fleming Island, says that anything that helps increase exposure on the Web is vital.

Olson posts on ActiveRain, a social networking site for real estate professionals, to seek referrals from colleagues across the country. Not only has she built up her peer network but she’s also learned from others on ActiveRain how to better promote herself.

Olson posts on topics such as the 180-plus steps that she does in a transaction and her views on the state of the market. Her presence on the networking site is evident when prospective customers do a Google search for real estate in the Fleming Island area and her name pops up. “It’s gotten me at least two listings,” she says.

Facebook: Not Just for College Kids
Teri Isner turned to Facebook to create relationships with other real estate professionals and profile her listings.

Isner, a broker associate with Keller Williams At-The-Lakes/Celebration, says Facebook gives prospective customers who find her on the Web a chance to learn more about her. In fact, she recently sold a property to a couple from the United Kingdom who found her that way.

One innovative way Isner uses the site is to offer information about her farm area. She devotes one Facebook page to a condo listing entitled, “Why people love Celebration condo living.” She lists open houses as well as the advantages of condo living. She also includes a link to her main Web site.

“Like any social networking site, you want to redirect them to your money-making site,” Isner says.

Florida Association of  Realtors® Discussion Boards: Recruiting Tool
When it comes to the Web, Scott Daniels is all business. Daniels, the marketing director of Florida List for Less Realty in Cooper City, thinks social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook offer limited business leads.

 “I’m not doing this to have coffee with someone the next time they are in town. I’m doing this for business [and recruiting],” he says.

Instead, Daniels focuses on sites such as FAR’s discussion boards, where he can post information about short sales and foreclosures and make business contacts with his peers. He also posts on day-to-day industry experiences and shares opinions with those seeking guidance. In fact, he’s used the site to hire five people in the past two and a half years.

“I use it [FAR discussion boards] as a recruiting tool,” Daniels says. “And they’re using it to do their due diligence on me.”

Linked In: Business Connections
Expanding your sphere of influence via the Web is vital. Add to that the fact that you can network for free on many of these sites, and it becomes a marketing necessity, says Maggie Morris, a broker with
Sellstate Achievers Realty in Fort Myers.

Morris says she encourages her sales associates to join sites like linkedin.com, a business-networking site that allows people to connect with business acquaintances.

Her LinkedIn connections have led to one referral and helped her find a virtual assistant for a few of her sales associates.

By filling out a profile and downloading e-mail addresses of people she knows to invite to the network, Morris says she quickly built her sphere of influence. Prospecting is the key to building business, and the way to do that is by building off your sphere of influence, she says.

“Social networking sites are key to building a successful real estate business today because snail mail is expensive, takes a lot of time and there can be very little return. The Internet is instant, it’s easy to gauge the results and it can be fun.”

MySpace: Finding Similarities
Hemley Gonzalez is part of a new generation that naturally gravitates toward social networking. The 32-year-old Gonzalez, chief executive officer of Miami-based AffordableProperties.com, has more than 900 friends on his MySpace page, including more than 700 who are real estate professionals.

Spending about two hours a day updating his site with posts about the real estate industry and responding to inquiries has paid dividends, Gonzalez says. A referral from a Palm Springs sales associate led to a customer who closed on a Miami condo.
 “With sites like MySpace, you have the opportunity to tell people who you are,” says Gonzalez. “It doesn’t cover all of your marketing, but it can add to your online presence.” 

Buck Wargo is a Las Vegas–based freelance writer.