On the morning of Wednesday, April 29th, I will be participating in a panel discussion at the Seattle-King County Association of Realtors in Bellevue WA. The event is being put on by Claudia Wicks, the guiding force behind the Real Estate Base Camp.
Claudia had provided me with some questions in preparation for the panel, and I thought I would post the answers here for those of you who won't be able to attend:
What made you decide to blog?
Blogging really wasn't an intentional decision for me. I kind of 'fell' into it actually. My broker at the time was playing around on Blogger.com, and it intrigued me, so I followed his lead. But I quickly became tired of talking to myself and lost interest.
When did you start to blog?
As I recall, my first post was on MySpace, but I don't think that really counts, does it? I created my Blogger.com account back in September 2005, but never really developed it very far. It wasn't until I joined ActiveRain that the blogging bug bit me and hard!
Did you start with ActiveRain? Do you blog anywhere else?
I first heard about ActiveRain through a message that Brian Brady sent me on MySpace. But I officially joined in July 2006 at the constant nagging of Mark Flanders, a local mortgage lender and husband to one of the agents at the Windermere office here in Silverdale. At the time, Mark held the top scoring position here in Washington State. However, the gloves quickly came off and soon we were both trading the title back and forth. Those early days of ActiveRain were an absolute blast!
About a year after joining ActiveRain, Mark and I decided to create SOUNDBITEBLOG, a local real estate blog for our area. It's been a great blogging tag team ever since. Mark is the 'scary good' code monkey genius who created the site, and I provide much of the content. I recently launched another more playful site about one of my favorite pastimes, CrabbingInTheHood. And, for a short time, I was afforded the pleasure of contributing to AgentGenius.
How often do you blog? How do you schedule time to blog?
Well, I guess I'm one of those blogging purists who refuses to impose schedules for fear of adversely affecting the creative juices. I tend to blog better from inspiration, rather than a sense of planning. However, having said that, since consistency is one of the keys to blogging, I think there's value in creating regular repeatable features on your blog - monthly market reports, local business profiles, neighborhood reviews, etc., to keep you on task. You can plug these into your calendar and do them to provide 'filler' around your more personally inspired writing.
What do you blog about? Tell us about Localism?
One thing to remember is that 'One Size doesn't Fit All.' Each of us is completely unique and different. Each of us has our own distinct voice to add. One of the wonderful things about conversational blogging is that it allows us to convey our own individual personalities, perspectives, and passions. Personally, I try to balance the content of what I publish to my blog(s). Foremost in my mind is sharing stuff that I think my readers will find interesting, informative, engaging, and practical. Most of the time, I'm writing for consumers - potential real estate clients. Other times, I'm sharing something specifically for my fellow business colleagues. And then, once in a while, it's simply a 'romp' in the proverbial blog hay for the joy of writing and self-expression.
Ah yes, Localism. I still think one of the best definitions of 'What is Localism?' is one that I wrote for the 'About' section of the Localism Home page. Localism was another brilliant stroke of genius for the guys at ActiveRain. It's vision was to become a hyper-local consumer-oriented destination where people in very specific niche geographical areas could interact and share information about where they live, work, and play. For most ActiveRain members, much of the consumer content we generate gets pushed over to Localism, where it shows up on the various State, County, City, and Community pages. At some point in time (notice the intentional vagueness), Localism is supposed to be launched out of private BETA form, and made accessible to the general public. Once that occurs, then anyone with a computer will have the ability to join the platform and contribute content. Creating Localism has been a HUGE undertaking, more than I think anyone had imagined. And unfortunately, it's launch has been delayed on several occasions for various reasons. If and when it is finally finished, Localism has some truly amazing potential for people to connect in very specific geo-targeted locations.
How has blogging helped you to grow your business?
Blogging, and my involvement on ActiveRain in particular, has had a significant impact in my life and professional career. It has revolutionized the way I do business. Social media can be used very effectively to expand your SOI (Sphere of Influence) digitally, allowing you to connect with more people much more quickly. It also helps to enhance/increase your web presence.
Do you receive referral business from ActiveRain?
One of the primary benefits of participating on ActiveRain are the valuable networking relationships that develop over time. For agents like myself, who are affiliated with regional brokerages, we don't have the national referral networks like some of the national chains. But even then, most times you're referring in the blind. You typically don't know much about the agent on the other end except from what you find in a corporate referral directory or on their website. With ActiveRain I have developed deep meaningful relationships with literally hundreds of agents across the US and Canada. These are fellow professionals that I know personally and can entrust my valued clients to.
Have you linked your blog to Facebook, Twitter, etc.?
One of the great things about social media is the way that so many platforms are easily connected and interact effectively with each other. It makes the distribution of content quick and seamless, and allows you to connect with more people over multiple sites.
What % of your business comes from blogging?
The first thing I normally tell people is that blogging and social media are not the purple pill that will solve all your income-generation woes. It's not something that should replace the traditional marketing methods you've been using, although it could be argued that SMO (Social Media Optimization) is more effective and time/cost effective than many types of traditional marketing efforts. Utilizing the tools of social media should augment your current strategies. They should simply provide one more weapon in your marketing arsenal, and a very powerful one at that. My goal early on in my business model was to achieve as close to 100% referral-based business as possible. I think one year I actually achieved about 90%. As more and more consumers are accessing the Internet for their home buying and selling needs (over 85% of Buyers start their home search process on-line), it has become increasingly critical for real estate professionals to dominate the Internet and rank well with the search engines for key relevant search terms in their respective target markets. A greater percentage of my business is coming now as a result of my on-line marketing efforts, and I fully anticipate that segment to grow even more significantly in the next couple of years. Given our current economic conditions, we must diversify and expand the ways that we generate new business.
What is your role as a Community Builder for ActiveRain?
Well, unfortunately, we'll have to speak in the 'past' tense as it relates to my tenure with ActiveRain. For just over a year, I was afforded the amazing opportunity of being a Community Builder with ActiveRain and worked alongside some of the smartest and most creative people in our industry. It was a wonderfully wild ride and one that I will never forget. I especially enjoyed the interaction I had with members of the ActiveRain community, many who have become like extended family to me. However, back in March, it was determined that my efforts and contributions were lacking, and that my performance didn't warrant my continued employment, so I was let go. I want to go on record as saying that I am especially grateful to Jonathan Washburn for extending me every possible kindness and consideration along the way. I have returned to full-time real estate sales with Windermere in Silverdale, and face the future with renewed energy and excitement!
How has online marketing changed your business?
Blogging allows you to engage potential clients much earlier into the process. It offers them the opportunity of becoming better acquainted with you - understanding how you operate, the way you think, the knowledge and expertise you possess. Then, as a result, a rapport or connection is established. A comfort level is achieved. You become their agent of choice. And you've never even met them yet!
What advice do you have for agents new to blogging?
First, don't abandon the basics or what works for you now. Whatever marketing methods you employ now, do them well and do them consistently. Blogging isn't for everyone, but there's no excuse for you not to take advantage of the many social media tools at your disposal today. Find someone you know who has been successful at implementing social media or blogging into their business, and start having coffee with them once a week. Find out what they're doing and what works for them. Take small steps, biting off little pieces at a time. Be disciplined in your use of time for social media/networking. Remember that it's just one more additional method f0r generating potential business.
~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~
Rich Jacobson is a licensed real estate professional providing knowledgeable empowerment and relentless representation for his clients of residential properties and vacant land throughout all of Kitsap County WA and portions of Pierce, Mason, and Jefferson Counties. You can also find him at KitsapLife.com, SOUNDBITEBLOG, and Crabbing in the Hood.