- - Thursday, September 15, 2011

Social networks have become invaluable tools for real estate agents who want to enhance their business.

Once considered as just a way to get back in touch with old high school classmates or follow celebrity gossip, social networks have become imperative for real estate professionals.

Approximately 84 percent of agents use social media in some form, according to November statistics from the National Association of Realtors.

Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are popular among agents looking to get out the word about their services. They use these networks to make connections, promote their expertise, advertise upcoming open houses and offer helpful hints to prospective homebuyers and sellers.

Miranda Opiela is the social media director for Prudential Carruthers Realtors in the District’s Uptown office. She said she uses social media to market her real estate services and connect with potential clients.

“Social media has helped me to make connections I might not have had otherwise, as well as to strengthen existing connections,” Ms. Opiela said. “It has made folks aware of what I do for a living and in turn they’ve reached out to me with questions and requests for help.”

She also said social media use allows agents to schedule their time or be spontaneous by using mobile devices to interact with potential clients.

Anthony Corrao, a real estate agent at Long and Foster in Columbia, Md., said he uses Twitter and agreed that the spontaneity of the site is a benefit. He said that by tweeting about an open house he often can catch the attention of agents who might be in the area and have them show up at the home.

Twitter is a phenomenal resource, and it allows you to get things out quickly. You can use it impulsively,” he said.

Mr. Corrao said he also uses other social networking sites extensively. He said social media networks are replacing email and added that he often gets more feedback from social media sites than he does from email.

Brenda Small, associate broker and manager with Prudential Carruthers’ Uptown office, said she uses Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

“Each media tool has a specific purpose. Twitter is my preferred because I can better manage time and have access to various information sources in one place,” Ms. Small said.

She added that real estate agents should aim to be on the cutting edge of all technology, including social media outlets that can enhance services for their customers, clients and peers. She said the ways social media sites are used vary by tool and by agent.

Analysts say one of the advantages to using sites such as Facebook is that it’s easy to get the attention of hundreds of people by linking to a page.

“People check Facebook more than email,” Mr. Corrao said.

Some agents are in the beginning stages of using social networking sites for business. Camilla Mayo, who is with Weichert Realtors in Bowie, has used Facebook to promote her services and is planning on using other social networking sites as well.

She said social media is a great resource for agents looking to convey useful information about the homebuying process to a wide audience.

“Social media allows you to contact masses of people quickly, delivering important information on loan programs, market trends and the ever-so-important first-time-buyer programs,” she said.

Although social networking allows interaction with clients on a more frequent and personal level free of charge, Ms. Opiela said, the No. 1 complaint she hears from agents is that they don’t have the time to do it.

That goes for agents such as Valerie Blake, also with Prudential’s D.C. office, who has a LinkedIn account but questions the benefits of social networking sites.

“I have not found my clients demanding it, and until I do begin to get requests to communicate in this way, I will probably focus on business coming via multiple avenues of communication with past clients,” she said.

Ms. Blake added that switching from email and texting to social networking also can be time-consuming and often is repetitive. She also said an older client base may not desire or require this type of communication.

Industry insiders said social media use has its advantages, but real estate agents should be aware of the do’s and don’ts.

Ms. Small said, “Some agents use it properly and effectively; many do not.”

“I think many Realtors are not using social media correctly,” Ms. Opiela said. She added that many make the mistake of using social media to bombard all of their “friends” and other connections with real estate listings. She said social networking can’t be just throwing real estate in the customer’s face.

“Real estate agents have to interact with people socially and they find that the business will soon follow. It’s about making connection with people through common interests,” she said.

Mr. Corrao agreed and said agents should differentiate and separate their personal Facebook pages from those used for business.

Real estate professionals say some common mistakes include posting mass junk tweets, bad grammar and spelling mistakes, and even being drawn into conversations about politics or religion.

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