For real estate agents, helping clients buy and sell homes is arguably more difficult than ever before. Competition is higher and tighter for a smaller number of clients who, understandably, fear the impact of a down real estate market and are reluctant to take the leap to owning a home or buying a new one. For these reasons, finding any leverage to use when building and growing a network is a must.
Fortunately, the power of the Internet remains as strong as ever. In fact, more and more people are establishing a presence online – which means you have more opportunities to use proven networking techniques and tools to grow your network.
Two such tools – online chats and online forums – are, for some reason, ignored by many real estate professionals. But, they can provide a much-needed angle for your efforts to spread the word through an online community.
It’s All About Self-Promotion
As any real estate pro knows, the business is about self-promotion. Most people decide on agents based off of advertisements and word-of-mouth, not through in-depth research of competing agents in a given area. That is why often times, the first agent to make a good impression on a prospective homebuyer takes the cake.
Using online forums and chats is a way to make that first impression. You are putting yourself out there, representing yourself to these buyers who are already making themselves available simply by being online and looking for help with real estate. Maybe they are on a local message board asking questions about the neighborhood. Maybe they are on a real estate message board with queries about closing costs, inspection regulations, or some other area of concern.
No matter what their need, you have an opportunity to promote yourself and what you do – even if you never make a direct offer to represent them!
Choose the Right Hangouts for Message Board Activity
Using forums (or message boards) effectively comes down to choosing the right places and actually using them.
Virtually every metropolitan area in the country has multiple forums dedicated to life within that particular area. Several other subject-specific websites also feature a wide variety of forums that you can utilize in your online communication campaign. It is as simple as creating a profile, browsing through the questions and discussions posted, and contributing.
Try to say anything helpful, even if it is a small suggestion or a short sentence. Have your information prominently displayed, but do not be too pushy – imagine if they were talking about real estate in real life on the sidewalk and you just happened to overhear them as you walked by. Answer the question, be friendly, and the rest will flow accordingly.
Oh, forums aren’t just for clients; they can also be invaluable networking tools with other agents as well.
Using Chats Effectively
Online chats are also very effective for agents and should be included in a communication campaign. You can join general real estate chat rooms, or you can have your own live chat support channel available on your website. The second is highly recommended, if at all possible. This option gives potential clients the ability to click on a button and engage you or one of your staff during business hours, all from the comfort of their home.
After all, if they’re on your website, they have a need – and they can easily reach out to you for help with meeting that need.
Doing the same approach with online chats as with online message boards (i.e. creating a profile and engaging in helpful discussions with clients) is also highly recommended. Ideally, your online networking campaign will be integrated with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other tools to keep you at the leading edge of 21st-century social media communication. (Plus, with Facebook, you can incorporate online chat into your social media seamlessly through its integrated chat function. Pretty cool, huh?)
In short, use both methods often to grow your brand online and communicate easily with your potential customers.