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Blogging: A Time Suck or Sweet Sunshine?

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Time Suckage

Blogging isn’t the Holy Grail, a magical Silver Bullet or a Savior.  For some, it really is a time-suck, a distraction or a poor idea.  For others, it’s like Sunshine for Sweet Success.

Sunshine for Sweet Success

Think of everything you do to attract, uncover and discover listing and selling opportunities as your personal real-estate-business-solar-system.

You and your blog sit at the center of your business-solar-system.  The planets and moons in your business-solar-system are the networks, tribes, niches and online communities that orbit around you.  I’m talking about your In-Real-Life (IRL) spheres like past clients, suspects, neighbors, your Bunco crew, Yoga classmates and other places you live, love, play prospect for business.  Additional planets and moons in your business solar system are the online communities you share and interact with.  For example Facebook.com,  LinkedIn.com,  Youtube.comSlideShare.comTwitter.com, Flickr.com, etc.

Because competing real estate agents live and work within common solar systems, it’s important that you position yourself as the MMIC (Main  Mistress In Charge) of your solar-system.  Authoring a blog is like owning the Sun for your real-estate-business-solar system.  When you own the Sun, you rule.  Like our real Sun beams sunlight to all the planets in our solar system, your blog beams  your personal brand of sunlight to all your important prospecting communities, tribes, niches and networks. The intensity, illumination and warmth of your sunlight is determined by the quality, relevance and frequency of the things you share on your blog.  If you’re beaming sweet sunshine and your competitors aren’t, you’re going to win, right?

Your blog is where you can show (instead-of-tell) others who you really are and what you’re about .  What you stand for and against.  How knowledgeable and helpful you are and the emotional and logical reasons why someone should choose you to help them with their real estate needs.   You accomplish all these things by sharing stuff on your blog (aka creating sunlight).  Specifically, shared stuff includes things like; neighborhood news, photos of neighborhood parks, Festivals and Art Shows, real estate market updates, local restaurant reviews, answers to commonly asked real estate questions and the like.  If you’re sharing and your competitors are not, you have a advantage, right?

Another blogging bonus, once you hit the “Publish” button on your blog post, your “Share” becomes part of the Online-Information-Ocean and becomes sharable via  perma-web-link.  Once you’ve shared (published) something on your blog, you and your friends and friends of their friends, can now rebroadcast-share your stuff (sunlight) around the inter-webs and within your/their social circles (planets and moons) using your perma-web-links.   For example you and others can share and cross-post your permalinks with your/their tribes on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, email, etc.  This is what ReTweets, Facebook Likes, Shares and Comments is all about.

Your blog also provides you with a powerful opportunity to further enhance your online presence by incorporating share-tools in your blog posts.  I’m talking about using share tools like Flickr.com for photos, SlideShare.com for presentations and Youtube.com for video – all for free.

Bottom Line

Blogging beams your personal shade of sunlight to your IRL spheres, networks, tribes and niches.  As a bonus, it makes your stuff sharable by others.  Which is a beautiful thing.  Of course their are other compelling reasons to blog too.  Blogging makes you Findable, Discoverable, Sharable, Choosable and Referable.  In my next share, I’ll expand on the Findable, Discoverable, Sharable, Choosable and Referable idea.  Till then, grace, speed and success.

PS.

I was wondering what you think about blogging?  If you do, what keeps you doing it?  If you don’t, why not.  Like I said at first, I know it’s not the right idea for everyone.

Thanks for reading.  Cheers.

Ken Brand - Prudential Gary Greene, Realtors. I’ve proudly worn a Realtor tattoo for over 10,957+ days, practicing our craft in San Diego, Austin, Aspen and now, The Woodlands, TX. As a life long learner, I’ve studied, read, written, taught, observed and participated in spectacular face plant failures and giddy inducing triumphs. I invite you to read my blog posts here at Agent Genius and BrandCandid.com. On the lighter side, you can follow my folly on Twitter and Facebook. Of course, you’re always to welcome to take the shortcut and call: 832-797-1779.

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. David Pylyp

    February 7, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Writing a great blog!
    Having people comment!
    Engaging your perfect target audience!

    Never answering their phone calls or emails, Priceless!

    The point of all this is to make the phone ring; we are in a belly to belly, provide the details show the Property business. When your phone rings, answer it. It is a prospect holding up their hand saying “Help Me Please”

    Living in Toronto waiting for my phone to ring with referrals
    David Pylyp

    • Ken Brand

      February 7, 2011 at 9:50 am

      I hear you, it’s like baking a bunch of cupcakes, but forgetting to add frosting. To win these days requires connecting all the dots. Thanks David.

  2. Eric Hempler

    February 7, 2011 at 8:34 am

    I think if you really want to leverage your blog correctly it takes a fair amount of time out of your day.

    Story ideas come from everyday experiences, such as making calls, door knocking, open houses, deals going great or going wrong, etc. After you get the idea you want to write it down somewhere and then expand on it later. Then there’s the last component of the post, optimizing it for search. If you put all of the steps together it does take some time to write a post. So I guess I’m not that surprised if top producers don’t blog. Although, I still think it’s a great addition to your business because you’re demonstrating your knowledge and expertise a lot more than what a website can do.

    (Even writing this comment took a little time. I wanted to make sure I put some thought into it.)

    • Ken Brand

      February 7, 2011 at 9:57 am

      I’m with you, it takes time. Stephen King, yeah that Stephen King said, “Writing is refined thinking.” We don’t get much time to sit and think these days, authoring a blog provides that quite-time-thinking that crystalizes our thoughts, beliefs, angels of approach, etc. Sometimes I wonder if I’m not doing it right. I can spend 5 or 6 hours on one blog post. Not all at once, but over time with rewrites, edits, deletes, start overs, adding and crystalizing my thoughts.

      Then again, sometimes and some subjects flow like water. I’m thinking the way to tackle the time issue is to not necessarily add a new time suck commitment, but redirect time that’s currently wasted on things or activities that don’t work so hot. And let’s face it, there are very few real estate agents who are working 50 – 60 hours a week. If you want to earn 100k+ it’s hard to do in 20 – 40 hours.

      The universal law remains so, the people winning are doing what others won’t.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment Eric. Cheers.

  3. Greg Lyles

    February 7, 2011 at 11:41 am

    I think blogging acts as a “silent salesman”, enabling others to find out about your level of expertise – and to some extent, your personality, before they engage you one-on-one.

    If you’re looking at blogging simply as an SEO tactic, or you’re not a gifted writer, I believe there are easier ways to go about it. For example, using your smartphone camera to take photos that are posted via posterous.com. You’ve always got your phone with you (don’t you?) so taking pictures of new listings in your area, neighborhood attractions, etc. can also serve to establish your knowledge of the market.

    • Ken Brand

      February 7, 2011 at 3:42 pm

      You’re right on the money Greg. Great points. Thanks

  4. BawldGuy

    February 7, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    All activities in our business take time, some more than others. Results, or lack thereof tend to dictate what survives. It’s always seemed nonsensical to me when folks say blogging takes so much of their time. Compared to what? They wouldn’t be considering a blog if their current efforts using other strategies were producing adequate, you know, results.

    I liken farming, that is, knockin’ on the same doors each month, with blogging. Slowly but surely they got to know me in the 70’s when I farmed. I got invited in for coffee, a donut, and conversation on cold, damp days. After awhile the neighborhood more or less thought of me as ‘theirs’. The experience has been eerily similar for me with blogging. I have folks tell me all the time how they’ve been readin’ me for months, even years, then ‘bam!’ something I wrote, maybe a strategy, maybe a case study, hits ’em between the eyes.

    It all takes time. It either produces results or it doesn’t. Your banker doesn’t know how you earned your money. He just knows you’re there a lot — or not.

    • Ken Brand

      February 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      Too true. When you’re a cool person, in real estate, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, it breed trust and connection – which leads to being chosen and referred – which leads fatter bank books. Cheers.

      PS. Knocking on doors was so easy. I marched up and down the hills of Bay Park and it worked as reliably as the sunrise…as long as I did too.

  5. MH for Movoto

    February 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Blogging in thoughtful, readable ways definitely is a time commitment. When you create and curate a blog, you’re basically creating an artifact/time-capsule/hand-print in cement/whatever you want to call it. It’s a static record of your/your company’s thoughts and attitudes at a given moment in time – in fifty years or so, well-known blog archives will be like the fossil record of the internet age.

    • Ken Brand

      February 7, 2011 at 7:50 pm

      It’s an amazing time. Imagine people 100 or so years from now wanting to delve into the family tree/history. It’ll all be there, text, video, pictures, audio – everything. I’d love to do that for what was going on 100 or 200 years ago, wouldn’t you?

  6. Liz Benitez

    February 8, 2011 at 11:52 am

    I think my blog falls under the discoverable category and not the sunshine one. Right now I am just hoping to become more findable. I enjoy it so I continue. Maybe someday I will be sunshine 😀

    • Ken Brand

      February 8, 2011 at 4:10 pm

      Being discoverable is HUGE. I believe that every blog post is like sunshine, so whenever whoever is reading your blog, they’re sun bathing in your shared stuff. The more you share, the more findable you are….keep on keep’n on. Thanks Liz. Cheers.

  7. Cindy Marchant

    February 9, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Hi Ken, I normally write fairly lengthy comment here on AG; but your blog says it all well. For me it is sunshine…I’ve been blogging for three local communities for years and it doesn’t take much time at all…15 minutes to write it. And best of all, it forces me to become the expert in my area. I can tell you how many houses are listed right now, how many we sell in a year, what the price per sq ft is, how many sold in January of 2010 and 2011, etc…the list goes on. Why? Because I write about it every month. And best of all (really best of all this time)…there is nothing more thrilling than hearing, I’ve been reading your blog and want you to help me find a home in “x” city.

    Guess it is still a lengthy comment!

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Business Marketing

The science behind using pictures of people in marketing to convert more leads

(MARKETING) People fear using their picture in social networking profiles, but we make the case not only for using pictures of yourself, but of scrapping stock graphics for photos of people that studies show improve conversion rates in marketing.

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To avatar or not to avatar?

After all of these years of people using the web, the debate continues about whether or not people should use their headshots as their profile pictures and avatars on their blogs and their social networks. Many people are uncomfortable with the way they look in photos, and some are never satisfied with their picture, so they settle for their company logo, a cartoon image, or a random photo to share something about who they are. While some believe the argument is subjective, we would argue otherwise.

It is advisable to use a photo of yourself as your profile picture wherever you go, no matter how unsatisfied you are and how uncomfortable. There are many reasons from making it easier to connect with people offline after talking online, to giving people a better way to connect with you, but a personal side has become expected on social networks and blogs, making a profile picture culturally mandatory.

Throw culture out of the window

So let’s say you’re still uncomfortable advertising your face. I personally hate every picture of me taken since I was 11 and had a bad perm, I get it. Profile pictures can send some people into full fledged panic, and at that point, who cares if web culture dictates a photo?

You should, and here’s why… science.

Science? Yep. Any parent knows intuitively, and scientists have studied for years that babies love pictures of other babies, and part of socializing a child is giving them books with pictures of other babies to connect with, learn from, and see other ethnicities. Babies love looking at other babies, it helps them connect and learn, and believe it or not, many studies show that we don’t evolve past that point in our lives, so, adults love looking at other adults.

More science

If that isn’t enough to convince you to use a profile picture, a recent study shows that a website’s conversion rate can be skyrocketed by using human faces. According to KISSmetrics.com, using human faces “get your prospects to focus more and this causes them to draw towards a common point of interest. It doesn’t get more real than that.”

The company cites an A/B test on Medalia.net, an online art shop, which presented paintings from artists on their homepage, and during testing, they swapped out the photos of the paintings with photos of the artists hoping to increase user engagement. KISSmetrics said, “Making this small but relevant change sent their conversion rate through the roof – something they didn’t expect. Their site experienced a whopping 95% increase in conversions!.”

Reading between the lines

Using a photo in your profile pictures is important, it allows people to connect with you, just like babies connect with other babies through photos, and website viewers are converted by human photos. But, read between the lines here – using photos of people in marketing is a concept as old as the idea of marketing, and your using people in your blog photos and marketing can improve your conversion over outdated stock graphics. There are legal ways to obtain photos of people (through creative commons), and using photos of your own can have the most meaningful impact.

Whether you’re nervous to share your face with the world or not, web culture dictates that you should and studies show that a percentage of people distrust social networkers without a face shot. Independent of all of that, conversion rates improve when people see other people, as it is easier to connect with over stock graphics or abstract images, so take a leap of faith and put your picture out there, and while you’re at it, try to find ways of using photos of humans in your marketing and blogs.

Just remember – babies love looking at pictures of babies, and we’re all just babies when you boil it down.

This story originally ran here on March 6, 2012.

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Business Marketing

4 ways to rise above the noise and get your message heard

(MARKETING) Getting your message heard in this noisy world isn’t impossible, it just takes some purposeful habits on your part.

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When you sit down at your computer or pull your phone out of your pocket, you’re essentially going into battle – a battle for your focus and attention. Will you be able to complete the task you set out to accomplish, or will you get sidetracked by one of dozens of distractions?

Here’s the truth: Your customers aren’t all that different than you. They’re exposed to the same internet noise and onslaught of distractions that you are. If you want your marketing messages to be heard, you must rise above the noise and engage your audience in a clear manner that’s worthy of their focus and attention.

Here are four tips for rising above the noise:

It doesn’t take a lot of foresight or experience to know that the internet is a noisy place. Every single second, 8,015 tweets are sent out, 842 Instagram photos are uploaded, 1,369 Tumblr posts are published, 66,615 Google searches are initiated, 73,580 YouTube videos are viewed, and 2.69 million emails are sent.

There are currently more than 3.8 billion internet users – a 42 percent increase in the last three years – and these figures are ballooning even more. Your customers live in a loud, chaotic internet world where everyone and everything is vying for their attention.

“Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Vine, Twitter, sports, news, and the list goes on and on,” says Alex Kahan, President of Nomad Communications. “Notifications and alerts bombard us by the second. So what’s a marketer to do? How do brands stay relevant in the face of this digital onslaught?”

The solution isn’t to publish more content or create more noise. This will only make you blend in. If you want to thrive, you must rise above. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Go where people are paying attention

The first step is to go where people are paying attention. People are busy and they don’t have time to visit dozens of different outlets to consume content every day. They’d much rather congregate at a village square where they can get everything in one place.

“In digital terms, that village square is social media,” marketer Justin Gray writes. “That’s why most brands aggregate their content on Facebook and other platforms these days: People turn there for business news because their friends, colleagues, and favorite leaders are there in one place. If you think you’re site is where your buyers eyes are, you’re mistaken.”

2. Get to know your audience.

Do you know your audience, or are you too busy focusing on your own needs and goals to notice what they want, need, and feel?

Before you can ever expect your audience to engage you, you must engage them. Work on getting to know your audience and focus on building a tribe. Eventually, the hope is that this tribe will become your customer base.

3. Be authentic

“Trust is the top factor when it comes to getting heard,” Gray believes. “If your mind is only on revenue, stop—that’s 25 steps down the road. Your first priority should be making sure your content persuades buyers to view you in a different light than every other business on the web.”

How do you breed trust? Through authenticity and transparency, of course. With all the promotional marketing and bogus advertising going around the internet, a brand that’s authentic and genuine will stand out. It takes more work, but it’s worth it in the end.

4. Develop visual content

In an internet landscape where millions of words are published on an hourly basis, you need visual content to stand a chance of rising above the noise. Even then, you aren’t guaranteed any visibility and exposure. Your visual content must be compelling.

Compelling visual content is unique, vibrant, eye-popping, and digestible. You only have a few seconds to make an impact, so you need to get straight to the point. This means prioritizing uniqueness, yet being consistent to what your brand stands for. Over time, your audience should be able to identify a style as being associated with your brand without seeing a logo.

It’s not easy to stand out in a noisy marketplace.

Even brands like Amazon, Apple, Coca-Cola, Disney, and McDonald’s face stiff challenges in this area. In order to be successful, you don’t have to reach the masses. You do, however, have to reach your audience and convince them that your messaging is more valuable, relevant, and worthwhile than everything else that’s competing for their finite attention. It sounds simple, but nothing could be more difficult.

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Business Marketing

Modern best practices for your online design portfolio

(BUSINESS) Do you have an online design portfolio? Does it hold up to modern standards or is it stuck in 1997?

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Whether you’re looking for your next gig or full time opportunity, your online portfolio is your showcase, your chance to shine. But so frequently, we see creatives that either don’t have an online portfolio, or an awful (or incomplete) portfolio. It’s a challenge, because you often sign NDAs and are not at liberty to share all of your work, it’s a challenge.

Let’s talk about the modern best practices for your online portfolio.

First, before you even open a browser tab, put pen to paper and commit to your goals and consider what you are looking to express. Look around at what others are doing so you know what to compete with. Are you just going to slap up some pics of your work, or are you going to tell the story about the process and why you made certain choices? The language you use will differ if you’re looking for a job or for a client.

Second, where are you pointing people to? If you have some thumbnails on your Geocities site from 1997, you’ve already lost. Owning your own site is the best method, and the most common option used in the industry is WordPress (here are 50 themes to consider), and ideally you own the URL for your name that points to any site hosting your portfolio.

If WordPress feels too advanced for you, Squarespace is the most popular drag and drop option in the industry, and some even use Wix (which was recently improved). Or, you could consider a design portfolio platform like Big Black Bag or Behance.

Next, consider what you’ll display. You’re in a real catch-22, because you want to express experience, diversity, and quality, but if some of your work doesn’t apply to what you want to be hired for, it could actually work against you. Think of this as an art show at a museum – they would never show every piece of your work, rather they would curate specific pieces to tell a story.

And if your portfolio is light on applicable work, create your own concepts and redesigns (so long as you label it as such). Hate Google’s logo redesign or maybe the search interface? Mock up your own, show a before and after, then disclose it as a concept piece you’ve imagined. You could even have a section for concepts that is separated from client work.

Your display should match your work – if you design mobile websites but your portfolio isn’t responsive, you’ve screwed yourself. If you’re an animator, your portfolio shouldn’t be a bunch of websites you redesigned. If you’re a graphic designer, your portfolio shouldn’t showcase a bunch of emailers you created copy for. People are judging you within the first three seconds, so your offering better match the story you’re trying to tell about yourself. If you’re not a deconstructionist designer, your website design better not be deconstructionist. Get it?

Always be updating your portfolio, even if you’re not looking for clients or employment. It’s harder to go back in time to recreate a portfolio than updating as you go. But remember – you can’t just slap up 800 images of a project, again, you’re curating. Select only the best images and add them as you go to save endless time. Try doing this at least monthly (plus, it’s a great way to tell search engines that your site is fresh, thereby improving your ranking).

If much of your work is physical or print, take the time to take high quality photos of these works, potentially even mocking them up on physical products (you can use a site like Smart Mockups as a shortcut).

Next, you want to make sure that your online portfolio serves client or employers’ needs. Is your About page sparse, or does it talk about how you connect with your profession? Does your site tell people who you are, where you are, who you’ve worked for, what kind of work you’re looking for, how you charge, and how they can contact you? If you can’t answer each question in under three seconds, you’re losing opportunities. Design your portfolio for them, not for you. Do you have a logo and tagline? Testimonials? Can they find you elsewhere online (do you have social media buttons in the header or footer)? Everything we’ve mentioned in this paragraph is the equivalent of dozens of “Hire Me” buttons, so don’t take this part lightly.

Make sure that your portfolio is error free. Test every single page to make sure it works, then before going live to the world and sharing the URL, have at least three people (ideally that are writers or editors) review all of the copy for accuracy. You’re not a professional writer, so trust their input if they suggest the copy is off.

If you have the time and capacity, blogging is the cherry on top. Not only does it help your search engine rankings (don’t stress too much about SEO, though), it creates new opportunities for your thoughts to be shared, expanding your reach. You’re smart, you know not to blog about conspiracy theories or politics, blog about your work – why did you choose this profession, what enriches you, why do you make certain design choices, what do you think of large brand designs, etc.

Get the word out. Be sure to add the URL to your design portfolio on all of your social media profiles, even LinkedIn. Audit your online profiles annually to make sure they point to the place that will generate business opportunities for you.

TL;DR – get a WordPress site, curate your best work, make it easy to contact you.

And if your brain needs some samples of modern design, start clicking:

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