It’s almost my anniversary.
My first post on AgentGenius arrived on September 22, 2008. By my calendar (which I sure hope is the same as yours) that means I’m only six days away from celebrating my blogging birthday. As I’ve mentioned previously in posts, I had done what I would now consider blogging back in my band days, but we called it “Diary Of A Madman” (nice Ozzy reference) and in daily speech I called it a “tour journal.” Looking back it was a blog, no matter what I called it. In my 359 days of blogging (I started right here before branching out on my own), I’ve learned a few things that I thought I’d share for the new agents out there.
These five things have served me well in my 359 days as a blogger, both here and elsewhere. I’m not claiming they will solve all your blogging problems, but I certainly hope they get you through a rough patch or two. Some of them I discovered on my own, some were handed down to me by some of the bloggers you see on these very pages. Overtime, I’m sure you’ll come up with your own important things that help make your blogging better and better each post. No matter how you look at it, blogging is definitely a growing (and learning) experience. So take these five things; adapt them, use them, throw them out, refine them, or carve them in stone – that’s the beauty of blogging.
That’s 0.013927577 Things Learned Each Day.
You don’t have to be an English major. – I was never the best in my English classes and although I held my own in various writing classes, I was never considered a genius. When I wrote my “tour journals” for the band, it didn’t matter a whole lot what I said or how I said it, so I learned to write as if I was speaking directly to my audience (then composed of 14-35 year olds who loved raucous 5th grade humor set to music). I wrote about my day as if I were telling my best friends what had happened. Honest, open, and full of ums and ahs. We weren’t looking to attract anyone new with “Diary Of A Madman” (I didn’t even know what SEO was), we were looking to entertain the people who were already visiting – the fans.
In writing as myself, I was able to talk about things as they were. Some entries read more like a Twitter message – “Show sucked. Tired. Jim just gave me a beer.” Some were the more lengthy diatribes you’re used to from me. What they were though, was a sneak peek into the true life of rock and roll. When I started writing for real estate purposes, I forgot those lessons and my first few blogging attempts were trying to be someone who I wasn’t. They were trying to give facts and figures and had no personality whatsoever. I was boring myself to tears. I’m not saying facts and figures aren’t important, but if they’re not showing the world who you are as an agent and why you’re the agent for them (on their terms, not yours), they’re a waste of your time.
Your looks are important. – No you don’t have to be a size 0 with perfectly white straight teeth and the latest trends in fashion, but you do need to pretty
yourself your blog up. None one likes staring at a white screen with a pile of words on it. From photos (I’d link to my Flickr account, but it doesn’t exist) to video to header tags to bold, italics, and links – you need eye candy.
I still have a long way to go in regards to truly beautifying my blogs, as I tend to be rather formulaic about it, but my early posts were without photos, formatting, or any sort of window dressing. Even just learning how to separate a few paragraphs can be an extremely good thing. Learning how to justify text is even better in my opinion – wish more bloggers did too.
Commenting is crucial. – If you’re not commenting on blogs, you’re not learning. I challenge anyone to disagree with that. Comments are where all the action happens in any post. A post is as static as your first website. Comments are where a blog becomes interactive. Comments are where visitors can take the information in the post to a new level and where you might just learn a thing or two. By commenting on other blogs, you may just attract a few inquiring minds to your site to start a conversation with you.
It’s not just about real estate. – Some of the posts that garner the most attention and reaction are the posts about things other than real estate. Yes, we are all here to talk real estate. Yes, we all want to tell buyers and sellers in our town how things work. Yes, we want to help show them that we’re the one they’d love to work with. When you step outside real estate for a moment and talk as yourself, readers are more likely to see you as a regular Joe (or Jane) and not a salesmen-esque, pushy, “buy me-buy me!” agent (which we all know is an all too common theme in people’s opinions about real estate agents). They want to connect with you. Let them.
When in doubt, read. – Blogging can be hard at times. I’ve written more than once of my sudden freeze on blog ideas. How I just can’t seem to think of anything. Some people suggest notebooks and some people use voice recorders to keep ideas. I’m not one of them. The way I write isn’t exactly perfect for those methods. What is? Reading. When I feel stuck, I head to the internet and read some of my favorite bloggers. By reading other blogs, I open up my mind and almost always, something comes rushing in.
Think about how many times you’ve read my blog and said, “I like it, but I would have added…” Don’t just think it, don’t just comment it…you have the ability to write a post that tops mine! Write what you would have done differently or better or just add to the mix. Want extra points? Link to the blogger and tell them you took their post and put your own spin on it. Bloggers love to get a bit of recognition. Please note: This is not about copying other bloggers, but rather building off of their thoughts.
photo credits (in the order they appear): woody1778a, bamarina09, sskennel, geishaboy500, respres, and Dawn Endico.
Atlanta Real Estate
September 16, 2009 at 8:33 pm
Right on, Matt.
So in the last year, did you write 52 posts, one per week?
Victor J. Asencio
September 16, 2009 at 11:20 pm
Very insightful. Thanks for sharing.
September 17, 2009 at 2:58 am
My blogging birthday is coming up as well. Readership has grown, and I am still learning. The thing that is helping me is heading each day to Google Reader and reading what others are writing and commenting. I subscribe to a very diverse group of feeds. It sets my brain to working and makes me part of a conversation, as opposed to creating a monologue. I still find it invigorating to see what others (Realtors, economists, regular human beings) are discussing. Food for thought.
September 17, 2009 at 6:51 am
Excellent Matt – I may have to flatter you with imitation at some point early next year with my recollections and lessons – but it wont’ be much different than this entry (less the rock band referrences).
I started my efforts with commenting, per my SEO guy’s direction – it has changed my life – and not just by increasing my leads so astronomically as to make me giggle. You and Debbie are spot-on when you both speak about going to other feeds and reading, reading, reading. I have learned more here on AG and other excellent sites than anywhere else in my meager seven years of real estate.
Navy Chief, Navy Pride
September 17, 2009 at 9:54 am
@rerockstar, you’ve always been such an eager listener and observer and taken your existing knowledge with the new and created intelligent, useful, well written works that help others and that’s why we love having you here. Happy birthday, man, you’ll soon be a vet! 😉
September 17, 2009 at 11:11 am
RM – I missed a few here and there and when I first started my schedule was very inconsistent as far as what day I posted. I was curious since you asked that and I went back and counted. 48 posts to date. Not bad.
Victor – Thanks for reading. My writing is worthless if no one reads it.
Debbie – Awesome to hear it! I do the same thing, except I tend to visit the sites (I’m terrible at remembering my feed reader). I’ve often written posts about posts or had great ideas thanks to another post – sometimes related, sometimes not. Your note about conversation vs. monologue is an excellent one. If I just write and no one reads/comments, it’s nothing more than a monologue – they worked for Shakespeare, but not for me. Conversation is always the goal.
Joe – Since I know you pretty well now, I can say with confidence that I knew you’d comment in a similar fashion. Your commenting was a great move on your part. I see your face/name and I know what to expect! You’re someone I consider a “regular” and because of that I know that there will be conversation when I see you’ve commented on a post. I definitely look forward to reading your post early next year. I think a little reflection is a good thing.
@LaniAR – Thanks. You know that means a lot to me. I have listened and I was lucky to find a lot of great people to listen to, thanks to AgentGenius. I have spoken to what I consider some of the best and brightest on a very personal level thanks to AgentGenius and that alone is worth a ton. As long as people keep reading, I’ll keep writing. Thanks for the opportunity (to both you and Benn), I’ve loved every minute of it. And thanks for encouraging me, helping me, and occasionally fixing the mistakes I’ve made (sorry about the reblog button Benn!).
September 17, 2009 at 12:01 pm
This is your anniversary song… It isn’t very long… LOL ;?)
September 17, 2009 at 12:37 pm
Yes, commenting is essential to the conversation. As an author, getting comments is a real compliment that people are paying attention.
September 17, 2009 at 2:24 pm
@rereockstar you are! Great post with terrific information for anyone wanting to blog – You write pretty well for a one year old.
September 17, 2009 at 5:46 pm
Happy Birthday! Crazy how time flies and the things you learn when you “hang it out there”. I’m reading a book written by Stephen King, yes that Stephen King, titled, “On Writing” (It was recommend to me by several writing friends). In it he shares, “Writing is refined thinking.” Your points are perfect.
It’d be interesting to hear what you thoughts are about your very first posts. How your style, structure, approach, etc. has evolved. I’m saying you should write a post about it, I’m saying it’s crazy to look back at what you wrote a year ago and think about how you’d write it now.
September 17, 2009 at 7:03 pm
Dale – Send me the video of you singing it. I’ll wait.
Doug – You’ve got a great point too…comments make the author feel good. They help them feel like they’re not talking to themselves, which in turn encourages them to continue. Don’t you all wish you had never commented on my stuff now?
Bill – Just wait until I’m two! As I say (all the time), it’s thanks to people like who were there long before me that stepped up, welcomed me, and never said no when I said “do you have a minute?” Thanks.
Ken – I think you just solved next weeks writing problem. Thanks!
September 17, 2009 at 8:23 pm
Five great points but I also find listening and watching what’s going on in my immediate market always helps break any possible chance of running out of material. Clients almost always ask questions that turn into great blog posts. Yeah—the weekend is almost here! Enjoy!
September 17, 2009 at 8:24 pm
@rerockstar Happy Birthday Great advice 5things…so true, the part about writing like you talk
September 17, 2009 at 9:13 pm
@rerockstar – happy anniversary! Thanks for the tips in this and your other posts. Love your perspective and hunger for knowledge.
Joshua Dorkin @ BiggerPockets
September 17, 2009 at 10:03 pm
Nice post, Matt. Without question, commenting is crucial! I came to an epiphany one day and decided that I would be sure to leave my thoughts on any post that I took the time to read. It takes a few minutes to read an article and only a tiny bit more time to leave a comment.
The perks that come with that extra bit of effort are priceless!
September 18, 2009 at 7:02 am
Steven – Watching your local market goes without saying I think. If you’re not listening there, you might as well not be doing this for a living. A lot of my stuff comes from direct conversations with clients, friends, and locals.
Patty – Writing like you talk is something an old English teacher of mine preached often. I always thought he was a great teacher. We had a rule in class, you could say anything you wanted in your writing (referring mostly to bad language), but if called out for it, you had to justify why you used those particular words. It was always an interesting exercise when someone did use some choice words.
Brandie – Thanks. If I wasn’t thirsty to learn as much as I could, I probably would have never wound up here.
Joshua – I started my commenting career right here. Soon after, I found myself writing here. Talk about perks!
Joshua Dorkin @ BiggerPockets
September 18, 2009 at 11:31 am
It’s a beautiful thing, Matt! This is a great place to be a part of.
September 18, 2009 at 3:20 pm
You have some really cerebral readers. Who says “very insightful”
September 18, 2009 at 5:18 pm
This is my first attempt at exploring what it means to blog. I welcome any comments and hopefully will be able to contribute something from my 14 years in the Real estate business in Erie Pa.!
September 18, 2009 at 5:43 pm
@mattstigliano really like your comments about making the blog more beautiful, really good stuff and it’s true!#makeyourblogprettier