Social media networking (or social networking, or social media, or a plethora of alternative descriptions) has taken the business world by storm over the past few years. With the advent of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and a host of other social media applications, tools, and websites, social networking has become a major component of marketing campaigns for a wide variety of businesses, fields, and industries.

Real estate is no exception. In fact, some could argue that the unique role of buying and selling real estate is tailor-made for social media and modern technology that creates a virtual network of relationships between Realtors and prospective clients for foreclosed homes, distressed properties, and other in-demand parcels.

Therein lies a question, though: How can you determine whether or not your return on investment (ROI) for your social media technology is positive, and then make sure you are properly utilizing your technology?

Principle #1: Don’t Assume Social Media is Free

Leveraging social media technology, while powerful and very cost-efficient, is not free. Having a Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter account costs you nothing monetarily, but it does cost you in terms of time. It takes time to post status updates, add connections or friends, put out tweets, reply to posts, post pictures of foreclosed homes that are available, and build a vibrant online community.

That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it, of course, but one part of accurately leveraging this kind of technology for better ROI means understanding the indirect costs of using social media tools.

Principle #2: Create Measurable Objectives that Make Sense

Many Realtors – and business people in general – find it difficult to accurately measure the benefits of 21st-century social media technology. Unless you operate a website and track the number of unique visits to your website for foreclosed homes, for example, these concrete numbers are hard to come by.

You can help yourself by developing smart objectives that measure indirect benefits. One reason Realtors use social media is to connect with a target audience to sell, say, foreclosed homes. Investors who are particularly tech-savvy are prime targets for these properties, and use social media quite a bit. You can get an idea of increased interest in foreclosed homes on your website, for example, if you track the number of:

–          Visits to your website

–          Posts/comments on your blog

–          Posts/comments on your Facebook, LinkedIn account

–          Subscriptions to your email/newsletter list

–          Connection requests

This is indirect; none of the above usually has anything to do with a closed sale (people tend to avoid buying homes over the Internet, after all. We’re not there quite yet.). But, what it does reveal is that your social media campaign is generating interest – and that is half the battle.

Principle #3: If You Go, Go All the Way

It doesn’t make sense to do much in life halfway, and social media is no exception. If you are going to have a Facebook account, you might as well have a LinkedIn and Google + account, too. And a Twitter. And a blog.  And other tools that can work together very nicely to create a cohesive marketing strategy.

Otherwise, you are not taking full advantage of social media technology and aren’t maximizing your leverage for optimal ROI. Foreclosed homes and distressed properties are especially good for this maximum approach because they are in demand and investors always want the latest info on an ever-changing market.

Follow the above three principles and you can better leverage your social media campaign for stellar ROI.