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Big Idea$ for Itty-Bitty Budget$/Users/adamp/Desktop/Stuff for FAR/Magazine Assets/SEPT08/images/Big-Ideas

Looking for some inexpensive ways to market on the Internet? Here are some suggestions.

A single Web site is not a differentiator anymore. Ask yourself: How many Web sites do you have, and how are you using the latest Web technologies to brand your business online? Consistent combinations and strategic positioning of Web technologies will immediately differentiate your business from the competition and help you remain relevant to future home buyers and sellers.

Here are six ways to build your Internet presence for a fraction of the cost:

1. Online social networking (Free) Google and Yahoo generate a substantial amount of online traffic using search engine optimization techniques (pay per click being the most common). Free sites like FaceBook, LinkedIn and MySpace add tremendous value to SEO marketing while creating interaction with online users. Save time by creating a profile on one online social networking site and then copying/pasting it into the others. Find your sphere of influence online and send its members a message.

2. Blogging (Total cost $10-120 per year) Creating custom Web sites is a high-cost, albeit worthwhile, investment. Blogs are free if you use software such as RealTownBlogs.com,
ActiveRain.com and WordPress.com. Create an account using one of the free online software programs, buy a domain name ($10 per year from GoDaddy.com) and forward the domain name to your blog account. Advertise it online and in print. Post topics relevant to your niche on a regular basis, and watch your credibility and search rank rise.

3. Podcasting (Total cost $10-$240 per year) Ready to take your practice to the airwaves? Build immediate worldwide presence by taking your expertise to iTunes, the world’s largest collection of audio programs that can be downloaded to your computer, car, MP3 player and home stereo. The only equipment you need is a computer, free audio-editing software such as http://audacity.sourceforge.net, a microphone and an Internet connection. Real estate practitioners know which questions to ask lenders, inspectors and other vendors involved in the transaction. Interview vendors and affiliates to share knowledge in an audio format while coordinating marketing efforts.

4. Videocasting (Total cost $0-$9,600 per year) If you do not have a YouTube account at YouTube.com, get one now. This is an online social networking site where you can also post your resume and video clips. Video you customers’ testimonials and walk-throughs of properties for sale, or create a professional presentation of market statistics to immediately differentiate yourself from your competition. Quality versus quantity and the budget associated with each will differentiate your video presentations.

5. Web Widgets (Free) A Web widget is a portable chunk of code that can be installed (by you!) and executed within any separate HTML-based Web page without requiring additional compilation. In other words, take communication or part of one site and put it on another. Examples of widgets are Plugoo.com and widgetbox.com. Plugoo will allow you to communicate (like a live chat) through your Web site. It will give you code to insert in your site and display a box where consumers can ask quick questions. This is great for those who have someone who can monitor this applet. Widgetbox will let you install a widget on your Web site for most Web RSS feeds. This will allow your Web site to contain blogs, podcasts and other social media that are searchable in reverse chronological order.

6. Search for Homes by Text Messaging (As low as $10 per month) Instead of picking up the phone to call you about a home from their car, consumers can now text message a code to a five-digit number to receive property information on their cell phone immediately. One site that offers this technology is CellSigns.com.

Every sales associate should have a business plan, marketing plan, a technology plan and a budget for each. Dedicate time weekly to monitoring, tracking and readjusting these plans to meet the market’s expectations. In addition, monitor new technology that can help you market yourself and your listings cost effectively.

Doug Devitre, e-PRO, ABR, CRS, GRI, is a national speaker on Internet marketing and technology. For more information, visit www.ReTechTraining.com.