Realtors and the art of the blog
The 2011 National Association of Realtors’ Member Profile indicates that half of Realtors use social or professional networking sites, and just 10 percent have a personal blog. NAR’s senior public affairs specialist Walter Molony spells out the blog stats:
Five percent of real estate professionals use blogs nearly every day. Six percent use them a few times a week. Nine percent blog a few times a month and 7 percent blog a few times a year. And 73 percent of real estate professionals rarely or never utilize blogs.
Local Realtors seem to fit more in the category of those who do not or seldom blog.
Some agents’ blogs are accessible from their websites’ home pages — but many have not been updated for months.
Real estate guru Dick Betts has been presenting to North American real estate pros for 11 years, and for three years has been teaching a technology class, which covers blogs.
With persistence, though, he said, “It takes a life of its own.”
Craig Grant is the chairman of education and technology for Florida Realtors and vice president of sales, marketing and education for EasyRealtySites, a Gainesville online sales and consulting company. He travels the country, instructing real estate professionals about technology.
“While writing a blog is not for everyone, those who do invest the time and effort and stick with it (to build up an audience) typically are rewarded as more … consumers are turning to blogs for expert advice, guidance and keeping up-to-date on topics they care about,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Real estate experts said more Realtors do not blog because they think it requires too much time and effort. “It takes time,” said Mike Kissinger, Realtor associate at Coldwell Banker Morris Realty in Punta Gorda. “You’ve got to be willing to dedicate time. It’s the time involved in researching.”
Mr. Kissinger estimated he spends about 30 to 40 minutes on each of his Monday, Wednesday and Friday blogs. “I take it seriously,” he said. “I’m making an effort to educate as much as possible and entertain. That’s my focus.”
Coldwell Banker Morris Realty manager/ associate broker Bill Perrault regularly writes a blog for his online site, though he doesn’t know of too many peers who do.
He said he has been blogging for 16 months. The president-elect of the Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte-North Port Association of Realtors said he blogs every four days. “If you’re going to do it, you’re going to do it often,” he said.
The frequency initially is important to capture an audience and keep viewers coming back for more. Mr. Betts said that when he started blogging, he was doing 10 a week and within four weeks had moved to the top of Google searches.
“One huge bonus of blogs is the high degree they are indexed by search engines like Google and Bing,” Mr. Grant said. “Due to their time sensitive nature and the premise that they are written by an expert on a topic, you will often find a single blog post listed above complete websites on search engine queries, and if you can get first-page placement on a search engine with free blog posts, that is marketing gold.”
Mr. Perrault’s blog propelled him to the first page when Mr. Betts did a search during a class he taught before the association. “If you work at it hard enough and long enough, you’re on the first page,” Mr. Betts said.
Usually it takes some time for blogs to create a following. Mr. Perrault said he’s received feedback from overseas college and university students who are gathering real estate information. “Initially there were not a lot of comments,” he said. “Right now I get a lot of comments from all over the world.”
Mr. Kissinger said as of mid-July, he had completed 170 blogs during the past year. He said he uses a real estate blogging service and fills in the template. “I have gotten close to 800 responses,” Mr. Kissinger said. “I have never gotten a negative comment.”
A blog can direct people to a Realtor’s site, where they can learn more about the Realtor, the area and more. “A blog is definitely a key piece of the puzzle and if done right can help you generate new business contacts, connect and build relationships within your community and/or find others with similar interests and passions and a whole lot more,” Mr. Grant said.
The area bloggers said they try to share information that people would not otherwise know. Mr. Kissinger, for example, created consecutive June entries indicating how to make packing for moves easier and identifying items that moving companies cannot transport because of federal law or internal policy. “A lot of information I probably would not have come across,” he said.
Sandra Rubinstein of Keller Williams Peace River Partners Realty in Punta Gorda has been blogging for a year, even before she joined Keller Williams. Her blogs often contain links to other sources. “I do try to cover information that might not be so readily known,” she said. “It takes me a good hour each time. I’m always trying to collect the information.”
She said she tries to cover gender and discrimination specific topics, trying to reach people who are unaware of options available to them. Veterans are of special interest to her. “A lot of people feel they can’t do anything,” she said. “There is a lot of discrimination and confusion.”
Ms. Rubinstein is doing what the real estate technology experts advise. “If you are thinking of starting a blog, you should first pick a topic that you feel you are an expert in, have a passion about or both,” Mr. Betts said. “Most importantly be yourself and have fun with it as people are only going to want to follow you if you seem knowledgeable, genuine and enjoy what you have to say.”
Blog material should address more than properties, the experts said. Home seekers or travelers can find out about properties — for sale or rent — easily enough by consulting various online sites, which list the pertinent information about the residence and include photographs and virtual tours.
“We’ve gone from selling lifestyle to selling homes,” Mr. Betts said. “I’m on a crusade to get agents back to selling lifestyle.” ¦