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Are Online Relationships Fake?

I just returned from a week at Inman Connect and over and over I heard “it is all about the relationships”.  It left some of us feeling a little disappointed that there weren’t more tips and tricks from technical standpoint that could take our blogging and our real estate business in general to the next level.  My goal was to leave with some fabulous new tech tricks that I could implement into my business.

The focus of many of the topics was higher level and discussion revolved around ways to enhance relationships with the melding of offline and online.

Guess what?  Despite the fact that some of us techie geeks might have been a little disappointed, it is so true- it is all about the relationships. 

Anyone who says relationships can’t be built online have not tried it.  

I went to Inman after “connecting” with people through blogging, twittering and other social media over the last year and a half.  I felt like I was meeting old friends, not new people for the first time.  I could quote back stories of people’s lives, relate to what was going on.  These people weren’t strangers -they were friends who I had learned about over the last few years.  I knew when their parents passed away, their kids were in car accidents, when they were having a bad day.  I know about their business successes and failures, and so much more.

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I can almost bet I know more about many of these people than their local “friends” do.

Relationships DO start online and taking them offline deepens them tremendously.  I am talking about friendships here  but consumer relationships also start this way.  For those of us who have been blogging for a little while, we have met or talked to people who can quote back things we wrote about in our blog.  Our blog readers are getting to know us on a deeper level. 

The Most Important Lessons Don’t Come From The Experts

I have a broadcast journalism background and have written for television and radio.  This makes it tough for me to get more personal in my blogs but it is something I am continuing to strive for.   The most important thing I learned this week was not from a speaker on stage- it was from the personal relationships that I continued to develop.  The message I learned- it is ok to blog about me.  This week really nails it home for me.  I need to let my personality shine in my blog- not in a conceited way, not in a  “I am the number one agent in my office way”, but in a more personal way.

When you are in the service industry, people hire people.  On Tuesday, I closed a transaction from a client who was referred to me by a past client.  They weren’t really thinking about using me until they checked out my blog.  After reading my blog, they realized that I was the perfect fit for them, that I knew their neighborhood, and that I seemed trustworthy.  This is what it is all about.

People hire real people. 

So go ahead, tell me what you did last weekend, blog about your cat.  I am more likely to refer you to someone if I like you.

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Written By

Ginger Wilcox is a Broker Associate at Alain Pinel in Marin County, California in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is an accomplished speaker, writer and trainer on the real estate industry, online marketing and social media strategy. Ginger is the publisher of the Marin Real Estate Guide -"Blog by the Bay," a highly regarded Bay Area real estate web site. For more information about Ginger, visit



  1. Heather Elias

    July 27, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Yes, those relationships are most definitely real (I speak from my perch in the photo, of course!) The relationships are what help us connect with our clients in a tangible way, but they also connect those of us ‘in the business’ to each other. This week, many of those personal connections, first developed online, put me at the proverbial feet of some of the most talented minds in real estate, allowing me to learn from folks that I would have otherwise never had a chance to meet.

    Yup, very real. Shifting back to <>ging you online instead of in person. Write on about yourself, and let that fantastic personality shine through..

  2. Heather Elias

    July 27, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    “shifting back to ‘hugging’ you online instead of in person” …not sure why half that word got mixed up! 😉

  3. Vicki Moore

    July 27, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    True. True. We refer to those we like – or think our clients will like. We like people that are like us!

  4. Kay

    July 27, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Know what you mean about incorporating the personal into the blog. I’m a journalist by education and career, and I find myself not only feeling a bit funny about divulging personal info, but also about expressing opinions. Still look to show both sides! My professors, after all these years, would be so proud!

  5. Jonthan Dalton

    July 27, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Few things got my blood pressure rising like the weekend barbeque/how’s your cat discussion from one of the early panels at Bloggers Connect. There’s nothing wrong with letting your personality and your life shine through as you discuss real estate.

  6. Kim Wood

    July 27, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Is it a part of our nature that wants to reach deeper before ‘letting them inside’ ?

    The personalities of the people I connected with were just like their blogs & tweets! If they didn’t write about ‘their cat’ I wouldn’t have felt the kindred that I did.

    Clients are people too. They want to get to know us – even if just a little!!!

    ((HUG)) to you! You were a person that became a live friend!!!

  7. bill lublin

    July 27, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Ginger: I have the same challenge about exposing my personality online when I write ( I sort of want to make sure the children are out of the room so they don’t get scared) The formality of writing can be an obstcle to overcome, but as you point out, if you can’t communicate who you are in your writing, your potential clients might miss the opportunity to meet the incredible Ginger.

    I’m a techie also,but for 8 years I never felt the need to go to Inman. This year I needed to go so I could meet Kim Wood (who lives about 30 minutes from me) and you and Vicki and Jonathan, and all of the people that we connect with through that terrific technology.
    I enjoyed the post, but not as much as meeting you and all the others 🙂

  8. Matt Heaton

    July 27, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Ginger great post, one of the traits that most successful bloggers have is letting their personalities shine through in their posts. You are competing with so many others who are often talking about generally the same subject, so the personality is the differentiator, and you have such a great personality.

    Oh and long live the three amigos 🙂

  9. Jeff in Hawaii

    July 27, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Conferences are a lot more than just sitting in on sessions and listening to talking heads rattle on. Don’t take this wrong, I agree you can learn a lot from sessions, but the most important thing you can gain is a relationship that can last a life time. I have met some of my best friends online and at conferences. Some I have done business with and others we share ideas to help each other 🙂

  10. Paula Henry

    July 27, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Ginger –

    While I agree, I find it difficult to share my life online. I share a bit, but find when I do, people start finding me for the craziest terms, which have nothing to do with real estate. May have something to do with my crazy life 🙂 I stay more focused; still I have found many friends online.

  11. Benn Rosales

    July 27, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Paula, that is brand building and one more fan may be added to the collection- think of it as a planted seed. We all attract link minds, always remember that. If they found you by a common interest, chances are, that interest is a bond building moment.

    As I said at connect, I like cats.

  12. Rich Jacobson

    July 27, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    No doubt there are those who pose to be one thing here online, when, in reality, they are quite different. Tech tips are great, and badly needed in order to stay on top of the development curve. But it’s the relationships that make our lives meaningful and satisfying.

  13. Todd Carpenter

    July 27, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    That picture, in front of the Altos Research sign of all places… rocks. Was that planned?

  14. Benn Rosales

    July 27, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    I was thinkin the same, you know Mike is a happy guy haha

  15. Larry Yatkowsky

    July 27, 2008 at 10:43 pm


    It’s a new low, but I did the unusual and reflected on your proposal for a few long minutes. Your words struck a chord that spawned questions which I’m sure have been pondered before for while I’m unique, I doubt I’m original.

    Do You Like Me seems to be the defacto crown we search for in our blogging efforts, but at what cost to us as private individuals. Where is that “sweet spot” that deliniates our personal life from the personal professional life we portray online. Should we and are we to wear two masks?

    How much does one put out for ROI warm fuzzies? Are we real estate whores who at the slightest suggestion of making a buck become indiscreat and open the closet doors to blogosphere clients by exposing our last vestage of personal privacy? Can we hold nothing back?

    These questions leave me in a constant flux when one reflects on the web’s declaration of pervasive permanence. It Never Goes Away! Must we accept that our online presence be an all or nothing affair or will a characterization suffice? Do we give them what we think they want and keep our realities in our closet? Finally, what ever happened to mystery?

    P.S. I don’t have a cat, dog or a llama, so does this mean I’m screwed? 🙂

  16. Nick Bastian

    July 27, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    How long ago was it that I commented on your “Blue Angel” post? It was fun to talk to you about that in person. I enjoyed meeting and talking to you this past week. In fact, I enjoyed meeting all three of you from the pic above.
    btw… Your blogging style rocks! 🙂

  17. Jay Thompson

    July 27, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    I’ve been told by several “experts” that I get too personal on my blog,

    Eff ’em. It’s my blog and I’ll play however I want to.

    Experts aside, clients have told me they love it. And you know what? I’ll take clients opinion over “experts” any day.

    I’ve got some online friends that I’d take a bullet for. And I don’t think I’ve EVER met someone in person after knowing them online that I didn’t like (assuming I liked them online to begin with).

  18. Glenn fm Naples

    July 28, 2008 at 5:55 am

    Isn’t a blog in addition to discussing real estate a way to humanize ourselves in front of other people. Believe me I still have a ways to go to humanize my blog.

  19. Sarah Cooper

    July 28, 2008 at 6:26 am

    Would we feel a need to get together and meet each other if we only talked about business? Would we offer so much help or be so quick to support each other? I don’t think so.

    Very happy to count you as a friend and can’t wait to meet you in real life!

  20. Norm Fisher

    July 28, 2008 at 7:34 am

    @ Larry – I think it’s not so much about sharing your “last vestige of personal privacy” as it is about just being yourself when you’re writing and interacting with others online and not caring so much if they “like me.” That’s how we actually start to connect with people who do like us (truly), and whom we’ll also enjoy working and associating with.

    “You don’t need the most popular blog, the consulting firm with every single company as a client or the flavor of ice cream that almost every single person loves. What you need instead is a passionate minority, a minority so passionate that they spread the word. Jackie and Ben call these people the 1% and they exist in just about every community.”

    This post from Seth’s Blog opened my eyes to the fact that fewer close connections are better than more weak connections.

  21. Missy Caulk

    July 28, 2008 at 7:41 am

    What you see, is what you get… be real, be who you are, then when you meet face to face there are no surprises. Enjoyed our face to face time, one thing I noticed you tend to hang out with those you meet and connect with online vs those you have just read their blogs. More to talk about…. more of a connection. Now look how much Matt is blogging and twittering !

  22. Matt Stigliano

    July 28, 2008 at 9:56 am

    It definitely seems that everyone took away from San Francisco the need to meld the tech with the human. I can’t agree more.

    Technology can open the door, but a human still has to walk through it.

    Jay Thompson – Experts are ok for advice, but they won’t buy a house from you.

    I think a bit of personality is a good thing. Now of course, if your blog is nothing more than a personal blog, it probably won’t work in the real estate world, but connecting with someone REQUIRES a bit of the personal touch. At least that’s what I think.

  23. Bob

    July 28, 2008 at 10:54 am

    A blog is merely a publishing platform.

    I publish information for the purpose of getting business. I target an audience with a specific need. In my market, that has become a rather large niche.

    My connection with my audience is based on the ability to convey that I know how to solve their immediate problem. I haven’t written about the dogs, cat, gecko or hermit crabs because the audience I targeted doesn’t care.

    At the end of the day, what you publish is a business decision. Some have a “Field of Dreams” approach – if i write enough stuff about enough stuff, someone will walk out of the cornfield and ask to play on my ball field.

    I prefer the Russell Shaw approach – get in front of as many people as possible and convey the message that they could benefit from my services.

    I wonder how many of Russell’s sellers know if he has a cat or not.

  24. Nick Bostic

    July 28, 2008 at 11:35 am

    MWAHAHA! You thought I was being genuine, didn’t you! HAHA!!! (and Rudy must have been following you around too if you kept hearing “it is all about the relationships”)

    Thank you for putting this incredible concept into words. As a Gen Y’er, I am constantly poked fun of by others and how my online relationships are fake and/or shallow. So untrue and this last week definitely proved it. It gets the “and what do you do?” introductions out of the way because we already know it from our discussions online.

  25. Joseph Ferrara.sellsius

    July 28, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    What we put out, we attract. Or is it opposites attract? Anyway, no matter how hard you try, you cannot keep your personality out of your writing. It seeps through like Larry Y’s humble charm 😉
    While online relationships can span wider, offline relationships run deeper and stronger. You can learn a lot about a person from reading their words but more from reading their face.

  26. Ginger Wilcox

    July 28, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Heather- Being online sort of evens out the playing field so to speak- you talk to people you might otherwise be fearful to talk about. You are as real as it gets!

    Vicki- Maybe not TOO much like us, however!

    Kay- I think people have who written professionally have a much harder time- we were taught not to editorialize. I would have a tough time going back again to professional writing!

    Jonathan- poor Brady Coy. He was sitting next to me during the cat discussion as I was getting agitated.

    Kim- Aren’t I much better than flat Ginger?

    Bill- I enjoyed meeting you too. I love being let out of the computer!

    Matt- You nailed it- the personality is the differentiator because there are thousands of other agents who offer the same basic service. It is all about who we are, not what we are.

    Jeff- I agree, some of the talking heads were really good, but the substance came outside the conference.

  27. Ginger Wilcox

    July 28, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Paula- I love the crazy terms people find me for. If people want to call me because they want a good margarita in my town, so be it. I will join them for one!

    Benn- I was the one applauding from the back of the room when you said you love cats.

    Rich- Who has time to create a fake online presence. Get real people!

    Todd- Yes, it was planned. Epic!

    Larry- WOW, those are some thought provoking questions. By all means, do I share everything in my life, I don’t think that is neccessary. But, for me personally, I want to attract like minded people. The best way to accomplish that is by being real.

    And if you don’t have a cat or a llama, you probably don’t really care if your clients do! You might be quite successful in the I hate llama group. 😮 )

    Nick- Thank you. I knew I liked you from you first comments to me, and you cemented that in “real” life.

    Jay- I agree, experts can say whatever they want, when money talks, I listen. You are exactly what I expected, and I love that I felt like I already knew you when I met you. P.S. How can we make sure you get a pair of those shoes!!

  28. Ginger Wilcox

    July 28, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Glenn- Not just humanize, but distinguish ourselves from the sea of faces just like ours.

    Sarah- same here. Hard to imagine you would agree to room with someone when you have never met them face to face- the power of online relationships!

    Norm- very eloquent. I love that – “what you need is a passionate minority”. EXACTLY.

    Missy- Good point- it is about a “real” connection, not just reading a blog here and there!

    Matt S. – a little balance is key. If it is all personal than we are taking the opportunity to show how qualified we are in our professions. I believe you have to do both simultaneously!

    Bob- We each have our different styles and our different target market. I also don’t talk about animals, because I don’t have any, but I do talk about my kids (on a high level), and I find many of my readers and clients feel connected too me for that because I understand what kinds of decisions they are making.

    Nick- That was all FAKE? You should be an actor! I think I still asked you what exactly you did, but when I asked, I really cared!

    Sellius- Agreed. I think we attract like kind and opposites too! The point is that the online relationship can be the starting point for which “real” relationships develop, where they might not otherwise have begun because we demonstrated online who we really are.

  29. Matt Stigliano

    July 28, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Ginger – I agree. I wouldn’t write ONLY personal stuff, I think that would put people off. But I do think that your personality should show. That doesn’t require writing about your cats (as suggested), but it should show with your writing.

  30. Glenn fm Naples

    July 29, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Ginger – there are many to distinguish ourselves from the other sea of faces. Basic – deliver information via our blog that is something our readers would like to know about – maybe more local or sharing our positive experiences within our community?

  31. Ginger Wilcox

    July 30, 2008 at 8:39 am

    Matt- 100% agreed.

    Glenn- not only deliver something our readers would like to know about, but also something we want to talk about. If it is boring to you, it will be boring to someone else too.

  32. Larry Bettag

    July 30, 2008 at 10:03 am

    Great stuff…..I like seeing you in multiple spots. You can post on AR and have it pour over to the outside blogs as well. Needless to say, you have forced me to open my eyes a bit to life oustside of AR. I think that I’m a one trick pony….maybe you can teach me a 2nd trick.

  33. Ginger Wilcox

    July 30, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Larry- good to see you on the outside. Glad you can be trained!

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