Written By: Elias Nathaniel

The Real Estate Guy

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

I Took Time Off Social Media and Wow...!!

After reluctantly cutting my ownership ties with the Real Estate Community on Google+ recently, I came to realize how much the continuous time commitment and stress affected my freedom to do all the other things I like. The flavor of freedom was so intoxicating, that I even decided to take things one step further by unshackling myself from all of social media for a few weeks. Well guess what? The world continued to turn and there were no dire consequences. 

That got me thinking, how on earth did the social media hype get us into a state of voluntary and blind submission. Frankly, we all got herded in by hearing that social media is a must if you want to be successful with internet marketing. Most of us got in without a plan and tried to learn on the job. It became a task just like brushing your teeth or paying bills. However, before we knew it, most of us got overwhelmed, with not a whole lot to show for it.

So how can we navigate social media without drowning? In my opinion, we have to realize that social media is not an answer to all things related to internet marketing. First, social media does not have a monopoly on SEO. SEO is a product of good content, proper html tagging, links and other factors among which is social media activity. Second, social media is not a lead harvesting machine like some newbies tend to think. It is just another tool, among several, that can help secure leads.

If we are ready to accept these facts, then we can intelligently devise our own plan of action, tailored to our individual needs. Here's a list of things we can incorporate into our plan to use social media more efficiently.

1. Dedicate a specific number of hours a week to social media and stick to it.

2. Do not waste time trying to interact with followers that do not reciprocate. But, make sure to always reciprocate favors as they come. I know that some out there will raise their eyebrows hearing this. But, give me a goods reason why we should spend time with those that ignore us?!

3. Use automation tools such as Hootsuite to save time. I have never been a big fan of these tools. But in the interest of saving time, I am considering crossing the line.

4. Reuse old content that is still relevant.

5. Do not forget that your mobile device is great for social media during non-productive periods of the day.

6. Do not waste time posting content on topics that have already been posted for the umpteenth time by others. The objective should be unique interesting content that is relevant to your target audience.

Hey, reducing the burden of social media is such a relief. I tried it and the feeling is amazing. Try it, you may like it!

For other related topics:

The Ten Commandments for Real Estate in Social Media
The Introduction To Your Google+ Real Estate Posts
Your Real Estate G+ Influence
Why Am I Not Getting Attention on G+?
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You
My Real Estate Posts Attract Little or No Attention
Advantages of Joining a Community on Google Plus

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Changing Face of Real Estate

Internet Revolution in Real Estate

Yes, the Internet has turned our world upside down and we love it. It is these types of epic changes that provide tremendous opportunities for those of us that are willing to roll with the punches while looking for advantages to benefit our businesses.

Retail Shopping
Commercial real estate is feeling the heat in a big way. With time passing, owners of shopping centers and other retail properties are having a harder time filling vacancies. Store closings are a common sight everywhere. Shoppers are getting more accustomed to the convenience of internet shopping, where variety abounds, parking is a non-issue and prices are competitive. The problem is not going to go away and retail property owners have to face the music.

The office space user market is also quickly shrinking, as more office work is being done online, at home or on the fly. Service providers of all types continue to move online, where the need for human interaction is kept to a minimum. Large sales and support departments, occupying large office space have literally disappeared. The job done by fifty employees ten or fifteen years ago is now being done by a few people with the aid of self-serve websites. Furthermore, some larger office users are starting to provide shared offices for their employees, based on a reservation system. All indication is that the demand for office space is on a steep decline.

Not all is doom and gloom! The future for industrial and residential real estate looks very promising. Industrial/warehouse space will be in high demand as product inventories held in traditional stores move to warehouses and are sold over the internet. The cost savings for retailers are tremendous, as high rents, expensive store displays and sales personel saleries are kept to a minimum.

Home Renovation
The increase in the time spent working out of the house is bound to influence the size and location of homes. Spending many work hours at home will motivate homeowners to look for nice and comfortable home office environments. Don't be surprised if future homebuyers' start considering the home office as one of their top priorities in their search for a home!

So what does all this mean? The medium term to long term trends points to the following:

1. Conversion of some shopping centers and stores to other uses, such as entertainment centers, storage space, showrooms, etc.
2. Conversion of surplus office building to condos and coops.
3. Expansion of industrial parks and the construction of warehouse properties.
4. New home builders will start designing homes with office components and old homes may be extended or modified to incorporate home offices.
5. Spending less time away from home will mean fewer cars on the road. This can result in an increase in people moving closer to city centers and an expanding public transit system.

Many of us worry about change because we don't want our boat rocked. I say, fully embrace change and use it to get ahead of your competitors.

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Ten Commandments for Real Estate in Social Media

If you are active or intending to be active in social media, then follow these ten commandments and you shall rock.

  1. Thou shalt have a compelling personal and business profile
  2. Thou shalt choose your friends carefully
  3. Thou shalt not post boring content
  4. Thou shalt engage your friends actively
  5. Thou shalt avoid getting blocked or banned by others
  6. Thou shalt not be offensive or show strong opinions and emotions
  7. Thou shalt not promote yourself or others shamelessly
  8. Thou shalt use good spelling and grammar
  9. Thou shalt not use hashtags inappropriately
  10. Thou shalt not use automated services or clones

To have a better understanding of those commandments, I have expanded on them below.

1. Thou shalt have a compelling personal and business profile

Make sure you fill out in detail your personal profile, including your bio, about, tagline, introduction etc. Include a few key phrases you want to be associated to, without going overboard. Examples of key phrases are 'Phoenix homes for sale", "Buyers' agent in Miami, FL", "Atlanta, GA radon testing" and "FHA home loans, Nebraska". Be as specific as possible to avoid competition from general key phrases such as "mortgage broker" or "home for sale".

Add a memorable profile picture, so you can stand out and be remembered more easily. The profile picture and all photos related to you should be tagged with your name. Other people you want to be associated with in photos should be tagged as well. Last year I had a photo taken with Google's Matt Cutts and made sure to tag the photo with our names. Google's knowledge of my association with him can only be good, as it makes me more credible in it's eyes.

If you want people to reach you, include as may forms of communication as possible, including email, phone & text, fax, skype etc.

Include and/or connect your websites, blogs, Youtube channels, communities and other social media platforms with your profile.

2. Thou shalt choose your friends carefully

You don't have to bother with who follows you, as you cannot control that anyways. However, you are in control of who you follow. So choose your friends and business pages carefully. Make sure you follow those that are closely associated to your industry and your clients. Avoid falling into the trap of following people just because they followed you or following others indiscriminately for the purpose of expanding your follower group. Following a tightly focused group will minimize distraction, encourage engagement and sends out a signal of who you are. It works the same as in real life. Would you rather be seen with a petty criminal or the volunteer firefighter that just risked his life to save someone else?!!

3. Thou shalt not post boring content

Posting boring content that does not get a response from others is counterproductive. It's not only a waste of time, but also makes you look bad and damages your social image. Just imagine, in real life, you are out with a group of friends who look uninterested and bored with what you are saying. Before you know it, you are being ignored and your social status is suffering. Well, the same thing happens on social media, except that the audience is much bigger and you are being watched by the likes of Facebook and Google.

To grab attention and make your posts more interesting, you have to include images.  Images with people showing emotions, with colorful designs, of cute animals and of beautiful places, attract a lot of attention. An attractive image will get people to read your headline and your headline will get people to read and interact with your content.

Your headline should be attention grabbing too. Avoid ho-hum headlines that can make people yawn. For example instead of saying "Mortgage Rates are on the Rise", say "Are Rising Mortgage Rates Squeezing Out Homebuyers?" The first headline is just stating a fact, whereas the second is not only stating a fact but also eliciting an emotion and a response.

Don't overdo sharing friends' posts. You risk turning off your audience on one hand, and diluting the value of the re-shares, on the other. It is a turn-off when you visit a profile/page and find all the posts are re-shares of a few friends' content which you've already seen and interacted with elsewhere. When I see that, I assume that the re-shares were not based on value, but based on gaming the system. ...and guess what, I bet you anything that the social networks see that too. Don't be surprised if in the near future this type of activity starts to get penalized, just like reciprocal linking and in some cases guest blogging has.

4. Thou shalt engage your friends actively

Interact, interact, interact. Those words are the foundation of social media.

By interacting, you are wielding a lot of power that can be felt by others in social media and by the search engines too. So how does your interaction wield power? Simply put, it bestows credibility to and promotes the person and the post you are interacting with. Credibility is everything in our business. Just imagine a prospective homebuyer checking you out on social media and they come across a series of your posts that drew little or no interaction. On the other hand, imagine that same homebuyer seeing a whole bunch of your posts with all sorts of enthusiastic back and forth responses from others. In your opinion, which scenario will lead them to think that you are knowledgeable, respected and a credible professional?!! The answer is obvious and guess what? Social media networks and search engines use the same signals to evaluate you as a person, your business pages and your websites in their search rankings.

5. Thou shalt avoid getting blocked or banned by others

Getting blocked, muted or banned is the last ditch effort for a friend or a community to avoid you. Being persona non grata is a detriment to your online social presence. If your action has caused one person or one community to block or ban you, you are likely to have drawn the wrath of many others who have done the same. The signal here is likely to lower your overall rankings in social and search results, resulting in fewer followers and clicks.

Do not share posts directly with people you are not closely associated with!

6. Thou shalt not be offensive or show strong opinions and emotions

Using strong or offensive language is not conducive to social settings and should be avoided at all cost. Strong opinions and emotions are also damaging, as entrenched and illogical positions do not encourage social interaction.

7. Thou shalt not promote yourself or others shamelessly

To much self-promotion is a turn-off. The 10/90 rule is applicable here. No more than 10% of your posts should be about the services you offer. Any more than 10% and you risk annoying your social media friends and counter-act what you are intending to do. I would also stay away from any "in your face" self-promotions. How many times did you forego a purchase because of an aggressive salesperson's pitch?! The same dynamics are in play on social media.

8. Thou shalt use good spelling and grammar

Good spelling and proper grammar ensures that your content and comments are easily and properly understood. It also reflects on your credibility and professionalism. People generally steer away from poorly written content, in order to avoid being associated with it.

9. Thou shalt not use hash-tags inappropriately

Using too many hash-tags is considered spam by your audience and the social media networks. I stay away from any posts that contains long rows of  hash-tags. For the social media networks, adding many hashtags to a post is like "keyword stuffing" which used to get heavily penalized by the search engines.

Excepting Twitter, don't use hash-tags within the contents of your post. It is harder and more confusing to read content embedded with hash-tags. The best approach is to place hashtags at the end of your post's introduction.

10. Thou shalt use automated services or clones sparingly

Social networks and users of social networks generally dislike automated posts and responses. The same goes with clones that post and interact with others, pretending to be someone else. In my opinion, clones and automated services violate trust and genuine interaction.

In many instances, it is easy to spot a clone by the shallow or short comments. The conversation doesn't usually go anywhere and leaves the person replaced by the clone not looking very professional.

If you are interested to read more, the following is a list of links to my thoughts on related topics:

The Introduction To Your Google+ Real Estate Posts
Your Real Estate G+ Influence
Why Am I Not Getting Attention on G+?
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You
My Real Estate Posts Attract Little or No Attention
Advantages of Joining a Community on Google Plus

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Introduction To Your Google+ Real Estate Posts

Most Google+ users in the real estate field don't realize how important an introduction to a post is. If they did, our time lines would have looked very different.

Introductions serve two purposes:

1. They get other G+ users to consider and decide whether to read and react to a post. That usually takes a second or two. So making the right impression at the start is critical.
2. Google uses them to pick up keywords or key phrases to rank a post in its search results.

So what is the best way to write an introduction? Think of an introduction as having two components. The first is a title of about 4 to 8 words. It serves to entice people to continue reading on one hand, while giving Google a primary source of keywords or key phrases on the other. It is similar in nature to Title Tags on your webpages. The second component which is similar to the Description Tag of your webpages, serves to give a more meaningful description of your linked article and to get people interested enough to click your link. Google gleans the description for more keywords and most probably tries to create a context for your post.

I have assembled a list of best practices steps which should give people a better understanding on how to SEO their posts.

1. Bold format the title of your posts to give them prominence. Bold titles draws more attention from readers and I have heard that Google takes into account that bold formatted text is more important.
2. If you want people to visit your linked blog or article, don't write long descriptions. Two to four sentences should do it. You don't want people to read your description and feel like they have read your blog article.
3. Make sure your title and description relates closely to your posted article. Confusion promotes distrust and is a social media hazard.
4. Don't stuff your description with keywords. Based on Google's past behavior keyword stuffing can cost you dearly. Also, readers don't want to continue reading spammy posts.
5. Don't hash tag the words in the contents of your introduction. That confuses people and makes it hard to read and comprehend quickly. We are not on Twitter where the number of characters used are constrained.
6. Don't use more than four to five hash tags at the end of your description. Otherwise, you'll make your post look spammy to readers and to Google. I know I shy away from spammy looking posts.
7. Always end your description with a question or a thought provoking comment. This stimulates peoples thinking and encourages interaction.

Please understand that this is only one SEO component that may affect a post's ranking in Google search. The other component is the quality and quantity of interactions with a post. 

If I have missed something or you disagree, please feel free to let me know. Good luck and happy postings.

Here are more of my other related posts on improving your presence on Google+: 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Your Real Estate G+ Influence

I have recently noticed real estate people on Google+, are starting to form some pretty substantive alliances with each other. Basically, you have my back and I'll have yours. This may be a huge development that can significantly impact profile and business page influence and authority. As time goes on, continued interaction within an alliance will push individual members to the top, as each accumulates and passes on more and more authority and influence. It's kind of like a vicious circle.

This may be great for members of a real estate Google+ alliance, but not very good for those on the fringes. If you are a newbie or someone who views Google+ as a billboard for posting the same old blog articles that have been already posted many times, then you are a "fringer". With time, fringers are destined to loose out, as they clamor for and get little or no attention from those with the power of authority and influence. So how do you avoid getting left out?

The answer is simple. To create your own alliances, start getting noticed by other real estate Google+ users NOW. MaƱana, in this case, is your enemy. As time passes, you will find it harder and harder to get attention and form good alliances.

I suggest that your time on Google+ should be spent 20% posting and 80% interacting. Try to understand, that it is by far the interactions and not the postings that will propel you upward. So here is a good plan to follow:

Spend 20% of your Time on Posting

1. If your posts receive no attention, then you have a real problem. To Google it means that you have things to say, but no one is interested to listen. So try to grab attention with new ideas and topics of interest/benefit to others. Stop posting old recycled information and ideas that others have read many times before. Who wants to keep reading about uncluttering a home or five tips for a fast sale?!! Instead, write about your unique experience with a happy client that referred you to another happy client. Or, how you are using specific tools to leverage your business.

2. If you are a prolific poster, stop it! Two to three quality posts a week are plenty. Spend your time on quality and not quantity.

3. Make sure you create an attention grabbing headline for your post. The headline should also include properly thought out keywords that Google can use to return your post in its search results.

4. If you are linking to a blog post, include a good introduction. Two or three sentences with enough info to solicit engagement without the necessity to visit the blog is great. Some people may not have the time or don't want to read your blog. So the intro alone should give enough "food for thought" to elicit a response.

If you are sharing content directly without a link, then make sure it's short and sweet. Real estate people are mostly on the run and don't want to spend a lot of time reading.

Asking a sincere, intelligent question in a post is a great way to get people to respond.

5. Make sure to include a great attention grabbing image with every post.

Spend 80% of your Time Interacting

1. Find and target those Google+ real estate related profiles or business pages that interact with others. Follow them and get them to follow you. Create a circle for interactive users.

2. Start interacting with their posts and comments, without expectations. Soon you will get their attention and the reciprocation you're after.

3. Make sure to respond to all sensible comments, questions and shares asap. People interacting with you should not be ignored and should be rewarded without delay.

4. Try comments that encourage more conversation. Refrain from short meaningless responses such as "Great share", "Thank you" or "Nice post". Give engaging responses, such as "Sounds like a good idea. Do you think it's easy to carry out?"

5. Try to tag third parties in your conversation. That will give you more credibility and improve the dynamics of the conversation.

So how do alliances come into play? Once you create a friendship with someone, you try and nurture it on an ongoing basis. Provided, the other party is just as enthusiastic, you can create a cycle of back and forth. The more I interact with the other person, the more the other person's influence and authority increases. That in turn, helps leverage the authority and influence I receive back. As this cycle continues, we both continue to climb Google's ladder of social influence. Add multiple relationships with other Google+ users and you will start to see the leverage in propelling your social influence and authority higher.

In closing I want to stress the words "be natural in your interactions". Socializing artificially is not conducive to human relationships. I don't know, but why do I get the feeling that Google knows when you are genuine or faking it out?!!

Read more of my related posts:

Why Am I Not Getting Attention on G+?
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You
My Real Estate Posts Attract Little or No Attention
Advantages of Joining a Community on Google Plus