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Real Estate Blog Growing Pains? Share the Load, Multiply the Success.

Inman-Connect-2008-San-FranciscoIn preparation for my participation at Inman Connect 2008, I have been thinking a lot about our panel topic, Growing Pains: Take Your Blog to the Next Level.

Today’s post is a run-together of the relevant points on this topic, the way I see it.

If you are experiencing “Growing Pains” in your blogging, I guess it would entail that you have been at it now for at least the last year, and in some cases much longer.  In addition, you probably find the following list familiar.

1. Your blog is at the center of your Online Marketing Strategy.
2. You enjoy the Discipline of blogging regularly.
3. You have integrated your blog into your Offline Marketing.
4. You are Generating Leads and Clients as a result of your blogging.
5. You have earned Prime Position in the Search Engines for desired terms.
6. You are recognized as an Authority on the topics you cover. 

So where does a real estate blogger go from here?

Well, what are your Needs?

1. More Content
2. More Authority
3. More Exposure
4. More Business
5. More Relationships

The Tendencies are to look for New Tools, New Design, and/or New Knowledge.
However, I don’t know that any of these will make any real difference.

In an earlier post, I penned that the Future of the Real Estate Blog is inevitably going to yield to proficient video bloggers.  However, I don’t feel that embracing video is the next step for bloggers experiencing growing pains.

Although I still believe that video will be an amazingly successful tool for those that master its application, I don’t see it to be universally leveraged in the real estate industry.

(On a side note, if you want to watch what fellow panelist Daniel Rothamel’s first thoughts on our topic are, go check out his vlog.)

Blogging, even with all the attention it has garnered over the last couple of years, is only being used as an effective marketing tool by less than 1% of active Realtors.  Vlogging (video blogging) is a similar effort to blogging, in that to be successful it will require discipline, creativity, consistency, skill and practice.  Given the effort required, I’m not going to broadly encourage bloggers with growing pains to jump on the vlogging train to solve the above Needs.

What then?

My first impression of the Real Estate Business was watching my father, who has been the broker of a successful boutique real estate office for longer than I have been alive.  Admittedly, as a boy, I had little understanding of what he actually did for a living other than:
1. He took lots of pictures of houses and property.
2. He seemed to know everyone in town.

It was the second item that impressed me most as I tagged along with him, going about his business.

Landscapers, builders, roofers, lawyers, film developers, painters, housekeepers, plumbers, bankers, etc… he knew everyone, and everyone knew him.  To me, it appeared as if his business was simply running around town, talking with people.  His life was conversation after conversation with every business person in town.  It was excruciating for me; “You know my son, Jimmy.”  “Say hi Jimmy.”  All day long.

I bring this up because I see that the greatest challenge in surging to success through blogging is the current form of the Conversation on the RE.net (Real Estate Blogosphere).

Tackling the industry conversationThe current Conversation is dominated by the Industry itself.  Blogs’ comments are, in most cases, a Realtor daisy chain.  I am not singling out Industry blogs like Bloodhound Blog or or Agent Genius that are designed to be Realtor-on-Realtor action.  In fact, I am referring to the hundreds of community focused real estate blogs that populate the RE.net.  The worst offender of them all being the stadium of Realtors that is ActiveRain.

The result appears to be that Mr. and Mrs. Homebuyer are electing to stay out of the conversation.  Whether it is for fear of ‘sounding’ dumb, or they are just getting the sense that they aren’t exactly welcome, their voice is just not being ‘read’.

Imagine a dinner party where one end of the table is made up of actors discussing a new, popular play.  The other end of the table are non-actors.  I think you can see where I am headed here.  The actor end of the table would be engaging only to themselves, leaving the other end to listen, or talk about something else.

Tackling the challenge of the perpetual industry conversation, I believe, needs to be the focus of finding the next level for one’s real estate blog.

The successful, local Realtor, is a virtual rolodex, building relationships with the town.  Conversations are open and inviting, and the content is presented from all sides.  The Real Estate Blog and Web 2.0 Environment needs to reflect this real-world aspect of the Real Estate Business.

Bringing the voice of the community to your real estate blog will more easily open the conversation to your current silent majority.

Butcher-Baker-Candlestick-MakerBy inviting your closest business contacts to take turns on your soap box, the conversation will open up to the whole table, where the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker and the Realtor are participating in the various discussions.  When Mr. and Mrs. Homebuyer sense the openness of these conversations, they will no longer curb their opinions for fear of “not fitting in”.

Let’s look at those needs again.

More Content
More authors means more content.

More Authority
You know how you earned your authority through blogging.  Now your blogging partners themselves will gain said authority on your shoulders. 

More Exposure
The Obvious: More content, more exposure in the search engines.

The Bonus: Now that you have a group of bloggers that are proud of their own efforts, they too will advertise the domain, and encourage others to to read and participate.

More Business
Successfully engaging your casual visitor will lead to more business opportunities for all.

More Relationships
The cumulative above all leads to more personal connections.  And then, you’ll have a whole new set of growing pains to worry about.

 If you enjoyed reading this article, why not Subscribe to be notified of the next one?
If you want to learn more about how to make your blog a multi-author blog, just ask us.

Related Must Reads:
The Real Estate Business Is Content, Not Home Selling
Boots On the Ground Will Help You Find and Service Buyers
The 7 Reasons Why Your (Future) Clients Should Care That You Are a Real Estate Blogger

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Comments

I think that the websites dealing with the real estate market issue are still not enough developed, they provide hardly enough information about the properties and the pictures are not frequently updated. As I`m working for a Toronto real estate company I meet with this phenomenon on daily basis and that`s why we try to keep our site always up-to-date. You are right when you say that using always new innovative strategies is the key to success. Thanks for sharing with us this article I`ve found valuable ideas here.

The agent to agent conversation is one of those things in the real estate blogs that bothers me. When I see agents talking about, conversing and meet-ups about blogging itself too much on their blogs it seem obvious that the regular buyer and seller will feel left out. This is one of the things I noticed when I started blogging myself for business, over a year ago. I understand the importance of networking amongst other agents, but you're own business blog does not seem to be the place to do it. On the other hand there are successful bloggers generating real estate clients from their blogs despite the onslaught of agent only comments.

There seems to be a fine line between being too high-level and being able to create a conversation with buyers and sellers. Often, people choose to blog about the topics on their mind. For real-estate professionals, often it is much easier to discuss marketing/sales strategies than to put themselves in the buyer's shoes and discuss market conditions, buying need-to-knows etc. It's not easy to do.

I really like this post Jim. I use a little video here and there but too do not see it as essential for all. What I am doing is really focusing on what consumers are reading and are interested in and giving them more. I find that the ordinary has more of a draw than the sensational. Many of the comments are from real estate bloggers but that is OK. I do have a lot of conversations through my blog but most are via email or phone. I find that my clients don't always want to share there comments with the world and most don't have blogs so there is not need for links.

I keep my topics very focused and continue to learn from my readers. My blog is evolving, yet the technology remains the same. I have never been influenced by what other real estate bloggers do and have never been a follower when it comes to how I write my blog. I do my own thing and focus on my intended audience.

I think real estate pros would do better blogging about their market than with each other. I agree with elli that there aren't good updates. But as agents concentrate on the content for their own sites more than on others', the updates will become better and more informative. Right now agents try to blog everywhere to because they are told to. See http://activerain.com/blogsview/433801/5-Monkeys-Why-Real ...Estate agents give their listings away.

Jim, pardon me putting on my vendor hat here, but the "content" piece is specifically why Bring the Blog was created.

Every business day, Bring the Blog uploads new, broad-based (and relevant) real estate content to our members' blogs. The "big picture" posts that we write for members is not intended to replace the author's own contributions -- it's meant to support it -- and that's how we help our members keep their blogs current and fresh and full of good content.

Multi-author blogs can be a solution, but so can outsourcing good content from Bring the Blog.

We view ourselves as the Associated Press of weblogs. And just like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal use AP articles, there's no shame in a blogger doing the same thing.

http://www.bringtheblog.com

So, how does Dan Green get away with a blatant attempt at slinging his goods on the Tomato?

He politely asked me in a private email, and I gave him permission to do so.

Ironically, this blogging purist actually likes the idea of Bring the Blog. As long as BTB is being used as a supplement to your writing and not a replacement, then I see the benefit and support it fully.

I find it interesting that Active Rain posts generate comments and outside blog posts generate customers. The customers rarely comment, but they do follow and take action.

Active Rain was a learning experience that lead many of us to our own blogs. Things change with the times and agents develope thier styles. Real Estate is still very, very local and that is where the business is.

More, more content, more authors, etc....
I don't know if that is an answer for all.
I think an agent with a blog that is narrowly aimed at his or her market, covering the issues in that market is just about what most can and should handle.
Narrow scope doesn't mean limited information, it just means information tied to a niche target. That information can be deep as heck, and provide those who stumble on the source with a pleasant experience.
If you think you are going to be noticed by more than those that stumble upon you, I think you're sadly mistaken... JMO

Steve,

I can't argue that it would be the solution for all bloggers... but for bloggers that feel that they have plateaued and are looking for more growth and more relationships from their blogging, I see that teaming up with other solid voices in the community makes for a great solution to building a diverse voice in the comments, hence opening up the avenue of participation from the silent majority.

What a run on sentence! Gotta love blogging in the comments... wouldn't have felt I could have gotten away with that in the main body :)

"The result appears to be that Mr. and Mrs. Homebuyer are electing to stay out of the conversation. "

Jim, take a few minutes to look at the remotely new blogging network at http://www.Propertyqube.com - It is designed as a B 2 C platform, and I suggest to you and all your readers that write Pro-to-Consumer blogs to check it out, especially with it's user home page that puts local blogs in front of local people.

Jim,
Can't wait for the SF Conference again and definitely plan on attending your session and lending support.

Frankly, I want to be just like your Dad...sounds like he was a man who hasn't been the least bit concerned about comments or the lack thereof.

Although I have read some great journalistic articles, for the most part people scan and want to know facts about certain subjects so that's what I believe we need to give.

Where are we going...that's yet to be established. 10 years ago whoever heard of blogging. The blogosphere is wide open. I can't wait to find out.

David-

There are a number of platforms that are certainly engaging to the Consumer that are populated by those in the Real Estate Industry: Trulia Voices, Zillow® Discussions for example. But the concern is that the agents who operate blogs that have earned them authority and traffic are experiencing growing pains. Instead of having to take their knowledge elsewhere, and post it on a 3rd party platform, the idea is to continue to leverage their blogs and continue to grow readership and response on the entity they own and manage.

Great post, I've been hearing a lot of buzz about video lately and it seems to be catching on.

Excellent post Mr. Cronin.

I don't get many on-blog comments from local non RE industry types. But I get an ample amount of emails, phone calls, and people using the IDX search. I've had many clients say things like "I've read your blog for months" and they've never left a comment. When I ask them why not, they usually respond along the lines of "never saw a need to. I'm getting what I came for".

The percentage of people that leave comments on any type of blog is very small. Look at some of the big tech blogs and "a-list" blogs. Sure, you may see 200 comments on one post, but some of those posts my be read tens of thousands of times.

I've been told by some "experts" that I'm wrong to mix posts related to local consumers, real estate pros and interject personal stuff all in one blog. But without fail I've had clients tell me they enjoy the mix, they like to read about real estate industry stuff, and they appreciate knowing others in the industry apparently have some level of respect for me (whether that's true or not, who knows!)

Jay,

That is the common experience from our own clients as well; leads, calls, sales all from the blog...but no real comments from these people. And that, "I've been reading your blog for months" statement is so typical. It's amazing how well it all works, when it works.

I recognize that the majority is always going to be silent, but it is common that there is at least some sort of conversation happening on the blog in the comments, and I am aiming at trying to steer that conversation to Mr and Mrs Homebuyer, knowing that only positive things can come from them feeling comfortable enough to chime in.

I think that the blog content needs to reflect the everyday life of the agent. You spend some of the day being the trusted consultant, some of the day as a photographer, some of the day as a friend, some of the day as a networker, some of the day in statistics and so on.... Being all those things on your blog is exactly how to build relationships with your interested audience.

Now, couple that with some of the community voices, and I believe that the conversation will blossom.

Since I'm a newbie I haven't hit the wall yet. I do know that people have an endless fascination with the topic of real estate, but they don't do it enough to be comfortable with the process and have trust. AR participants know the crossroads of expectations met or unmet. Seems to me that if a Blog doesn't do anything else, it can help to establish some trust about how the process "should" work. Even in a short period of time, I can see that it's the post that meets a very specific need that gets the most clicks.

I feel like I have hit a wall. I love blogging for real estate, my blog is driving traffic to my website and resulting in good leads...but I can't seem to get to that next level. I have tried guest bloggers but so far the biggest challenge there is finding someone who is 1. Knowledgeable 2. A Good Writer who knows how to write for the web and 4. Is willing to commit to it...agents in my area seem to seriously undervalue what a good blog can do for their business. I mention my blog and I still get eye rolls from those who are enmeshed in the "tried and true" methods of doing r.e. I have taken a lot of advice and really overhauled my blog and it helped tremendously but still...here I am at that wall! Sigh...at least I know there is somewhere else to go from here!

Excellent post! What I really blogging online is getting potential leads. If you really know what you are talking about online then half of the sales is already done.

Jim - I think I can add some idea to this post. Also want to comment to Jay. One thing I have learned is that my own instincts are better than all the advice out there about how to blog. I focus on my intended audience and don't give a hang what anyone else says or thinks. I break the rules and make up my own as I go. It works.

I agree with the R-R daisy chain comment. Although it is nice to see familiar faces, I dont really care if another agent reads my consumer blogs. I have 2 wildly successful blogs. One ranks for stellar Google-terms and brings us a lot of great clients through our IDX system. The other one is the neighborhood hub for my farm - no other agents ever visit that blog ... The neighbors go there for information and advice. I see that as AS VALUABLE as the other one.

Excellent post Jim, thank you! I especially appreciate the comment about the R to R daisy chain; it's very true. But I think it goes both ways; prospects may be scared off or intimidated by entering a Realtor dominated convo, but they could also be intrigued.

Also, all that conversation on your own blog is just creating more user-generated content that can push you higher in the search engine rankings and get the consumers you actually want to come to your site.

The key is making the site itself inviting; how about a nice CTA inviting your visitors to comment, no matter their affliation; it never hurts to address possible concerns from the outset. Just an idea:)

DJ Swan,
That's why we recognize you as another leader in this industry. Great ideas.

Sorry I will miss all of you at the Connect - other committment for the entire week. Here is an example of how you can reach out further into the community via your blog - http://tinyurl.com/59k6fb

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