When I first started in real estate abut 11 years ago, I was told it was "company policy" that I apply for and become a member of the local, state and national Realtor Associations.
I've never been one who thrives on conformity. I didn't like the "policy" and I let that be known. Other than a Code of Ethics which a lot of agents seemed to ignore, the only other thing I really saw the Association doing was organizing and hosting the Circle of Excellence Awards Banquet (aka Realtor "Prom") each year. Unlike most MLS's throughout the nation which are coordinated through the local Associations, our MLS is maintained and run through an outside entity.
It seemed the Association and I were just not on the same page. After my first year in the business, I was told that I would not receive my "award" if I didn't submit my picture (I HATED that agents plastered their mugs on everything so I never had mine taken). My Broker explained how thoroughly embarrassed she would be if I couldn't get my award because of a silly picture so I caved and went to a photographer the day of the deadline.
A few years later, I was personally invited to a Realtor/Lawyer Committee meeting by the Chairperson. I enjoyed it and learned a few things and started attending on a regular basis. We also got a free lunch out of it so that was a plus! Then, I was asked to give a presentation on centralized showing systems and the various options. As I spoke about the different programs and online options - I began to lose people and thought that maybe I was no longer speaking English. Thus, I realized the majority of my peers knew very little about technology and were nowhere near ready to embrace it. I withdrew back into my anti-Association shell.
For the next few years, I pretty much ignored NAR, VAR and HRRA. I received my North Carolina real estate license and was then required to join more Realtor Associations (North Carolina, Outer Banks and Albemarle) which I had little use for. I even stopped going to Realtor Prom when I found out my company charged us to go. The Associations just seemed like a clique that I would never fit into.
Then, I met Ben Martin.
Ben is the Director of Communications and New Media at the Virginia Association of Realtors. We met through the Active Rain Real Estate Network. Ben was the only person I had ever met who was involved in the Association and embraced technology in real estate like me. Slowly, Ben was able to get me to crawl out of my shell and start getting involved...but in ways that worked for me. I became an author for VARBuzz, the Association blog. I wore a "Virginia is for Bloggers" button at the Inman Conference in San Francisco. And a HUGE step came a few weeks ago when I actually attended the VAR Conference in Baltimore where Ben recruited me to be a Social Media Correspondent.
I feel so fortunate to now know lots of agents embracing techology all over the Commonwealth of Virginia who are also active in their Associations. Most, like me, were not involved until Ben Martin reached out and brought them in. Some local Associations are now getting their own Techology Committees, New Media Directors and Social Media Trainers - mostly due to Ben's efforts. VAR has been used as a role model for other State Associations throughout the United States and Ben Martin is a huge part of that recognition.
Through Twitter last week, I was recruited to be on the Professional Development Advocacy Group for VAR. In fact, I think many appointments were nominated by Ben through Twitter. I am truly excited to be involved with the Association and look forward to helping it grow and prosper because I now know that the Association represents all of us...including me.
Tina in Virginia