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How and why you’re missing the point of social networking

I firmly believe that too many people are missing the point of social networking. Lead generation is not what social networking is about, it’s a byproduct. If you volunteer at a soup kitchen, you wear your Realtor name badge, you mash the potatoes, you hold the door open, you help the disabled find their seat, you talk to fellow volunteers, you mingle with the needy, you wipe down tables, you clean dishes, you stack chairs and turn off lights. Can you generate business from your time at a soup kitchen? Sure. Should you serve at a soup kitchen with the intent of generating leads? (…this is a rhetorical question…)

Getting online to use social networking is so much more than lead generation.

Through social networking, we vetted dozens of applicants for the Community Manager role here at AG, we have access to the press in several major metro areas (and are contacted by the press in this reciprocal relationship), we connected with several people we refer business to or partner with ranging from graphic designers, web developers, and copywriters, we’ve formed several organizations locally and nationally to further non profits, technology and real estate improvement, we’ve gotten to know people we now call some of our closest friends, we’ve maintained a direct line with C-suite leadership in major corporations in a very personal way, we found our dog groomer via social networking, we’ve tried buffalo burgers and learned recipes and actually improved our diet, we’ve learned a lot about political campaigns and raised our general awareness, we’ve learned new technology and marketing tips as well as shared our own, we used social networking to organize a blood drive and a candle light vigil when the plane crashed into the Austin IRS building, we’ve helped unemployed friends get jobs, we’ve brought an orphanage in Kenya online and raised their donations by 300%, we have coped and help others cope with the loss of a child and a near loss of spouse and parent, we’ve laughed about kitties and bonded with new friends over stupid humor, we’ve advocated for the homeless, done blanket drives… shall I continue?

Note that nowhere above did I say “generate leads.”

Don’t get me wrong, the leads are there and although the sources of leads between Benn and myself vary, Twitter alone accounts for 90% of leads that have come my way between 2008 to 2010. My bio says what I do and what my intention is and I talk about what happens behind the scenes in what I do, but my social stream does not. Similarly, one of my friends is a copywriter and she tweets funny things but doesn’t say “hire me, hire me, hire me.”

If you can’t look beyond yourself and you can’t get past your self interests, social networking is not for you. If you’re a high volume producer and your plate is so full that you can’t devote time to the social networking community or a soup kitchen, social networking is not for you. If you can’t go to the store and simply shop, smile and converse with the bagger without stopping everyone in every aisle to hand them your card, social networking is not for you.

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If the list above of how we use social networking sounds stupid, social networking is not for you. The POINT of social networking is to be social and to be part of a community. If that’s not natural to you, you’re an abrasive personality and everyone’s a lead, then please, I beg you, stick to what you are already succeeding with and ignore the conference junkies. Do what works for you and skip the rest. It’s not complicated.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

51 Comments

51 Comments

  1. Daniel Bates

    December 1, 2010 at 10:09 am

    GREAT POST LANI! Did you sit in on the class I taught yesterday about facebook? I talked about these same ideas. It’s hard to get agents to see passed their own lives and thinking outside of the Whats-In-It-For-Me-Right-Now-That-I-Can-Measure-Box. Just curious, because I’m a facebook man myself. You’re the first person, I’ve ever heard claim a majority of their business to twitter, are they mostly referrals from agents? When I look at twitter, I mostly see people to follow and no followers, ie. all B2B conversations, which is why I focus on facebook…plus it just cooler :-p

  2. FlatFeeRealty.com

    December 1, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Are you and Benn active agents? I mean do either of you even work with sellers or buyers?

    • Benn Rosales

      December 1, 2010 at 1:24 pm

      Yes, 9 years practicing, and still work in lead gen, consumer study, as well as work within the industry via associations and startups. We actually study the process of buying and selling real estate with actual buyers and sellers in various ways. We probably also hand out about around 10 leads a week to real estate professionals near and far.

      I’m feeling rather old in that I’ve now been around going on 11 years in real estate full time. Although many of our clients are also outside of the real estate realm.

      I think your question makes her point in the article however – every person we touch is a buyer or a seller, and being part of the community as agents have done for 100 years is the point.

      I guess your point was to bring issue with our dissolved brokerage in 2008/09- it was a huge loss to all of us, not only to our company, but to Lani and I personally making payroll out of our own pockets for nearly 6 months virtually devastating our own personal savings. We’ve heard of folks poking fun at us, but I assure you, a comparison of our earnings statements compared to most would be a watermelon to a grape. I suppose in hindsight, diversification from new construction to resale could have helped, however, it really was too late for us as a stop in the market so sudden as to kill 10 closings in one day. As CEO, I was left with very little choice when my partner decided to depart the business as lines of credit for small companies at that time were unheard of, however, the brokerage still exists and they do still practice independently. I do not.

      Because I have a background in business and communications, obviously I had a career to fall back into and the timing made an old career new again. We’re just now digging ourselves out of 2008, and we have plans on reentering the brokerage business once we’ve finished a few of our projects we have ongoing.

      If your goal was to attempt to put us down, that’s unfortunate, we’re not ashamed of what we’ve been through, nor are we ashamed to share what we know works. At our height, our brokerage was operating 100% online, however, our base was just as impacted as we were in the market crash as our key demo was in working with relocating startups who were no longer expanding into and out of Austin.

      If you want to dig at us, at least allow us the dignity of doing it in private. Lani and I have dedicated our lives to the representation of the membership as a whole and for you to deny our grasp of real estate consumer culture is pretty shallow to say the least.

      I hope that you never ever go through what we’ve been through, but I can tell you, we’re more affirmed today than ever before.

      • FlatFeeRealty.com

        December 1, 2010 at 2:39 pm

        Hey Benn, no I was just curious to know if you guys where still out there in the field seeing first hand what is going on. Sorry it came across the wrong way.

        • Victoria Woods

          December 2, 2010 at 7:14 pm

          I don’t believe you “flat fee”. You did mean to dig at these people, who are trying to contribute value added information to their community of readers. Why not do something constructive instead of lashing out at people? Don’t be a hater. It doesn’t accomplish anything.

        • Brad Balmer

          December 3, 2010 at 9:00 am

          @Flatfee – I doubt you would have included the word “even” in your question originally unless your true intention was to come across exactly as you did.

  3. Lani Rosales

    December 1, 2010 at 10:19 am

    I am not a real estate agent, but I get a lot of referrals for it anyhow (which I refer on via Twitter most of the time). This article is industry agnostic.

  4. Bruce Lemieux

    December 1, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Great perspective and advice. In my market I don’t see any examples of top producers who have a strong SM presence. Those who are most visible seem to do very, very little business. I think this will change in time, however. Like you say – do what works.

  5. Erion Shehaj

    December 1, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    That’s true, but to a point. Because in the end, social networking doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You have to balance your desire to serve the community with your need to feed your family. The blowback you usually see towards social media is typically directed to gurus preaching that if you’re doing anything else but this shiny new way that is social media, you’re a pushy, heretic dinosaur.

    I’ve always though that social media is excellent if your business is to sell services, products etc. to another business or to build brand awareness.

    But balancing your lead gen activities with building a social media presence and being a part of the community is crux of the matter. Too much of a good thing…

  6. Sherry Carr-Smith

    December 1, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Lani ~ Great post! I can’t even begin to count the number of relationships I’ve built through social media. I have three distinct groups of people I talk with, and those conversations have lead to everything from finding an incredible wedding photographer to learning about job leads. It all goes back to relationship building – for the long term.

    Always good to read a reminder of that!

  7. Andrew McKay

    December 2, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Well said Lani. I’m not a ROI sort of person. I know I should be but I tend to just throw it all in the mix and see what comes out. Meet someone in town, then see they have started to follow me on Twitter and opted in to my blog newsletter. Is the ROI from meeting, Twitter or the newsletter??? I really can’t be bothered with working it all out. Also I enjoy social media compared to door knocking ad therefore can be consistent and do it everyday.
    As an aside being totally new to real estate, the town and even the country 2 years ago when I got my licence concentrating on a internet/social media presence was and is a way for me to differentiate myself from my competition/colleagues in an area that is rather traditional in its approach to business, prospecting etc.
    I just have to be careful with my English sense of humour as I’ve been deleted (rightly) from some threads 🙂 🙂

  8. LemonMeister

    December 2, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    The term is “To plant the seed”, that seed will someday grow into a giant tree, branching out in different directions. The fruit will bloom, with more seeds falling from that tree. The Cycle continues. The next generation will be totally different from this one, but you will take on what you learned and grow some more. Did anyone see my LEMON tree? Word of mouth is the greatest sales tool.

  9. Kelsey Teel

    December 2, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Lani, loved the article! A big driver behind the success of social media is the variety of uses it offers. To me, it’s just one big free platform of communication–do with it what you wish. Social media has just made the communication process easier. It’s an easy way to touch family, friends, acquaintances, business contacts, and whoever else you come across. The scale of social media users ranges from people who use it strictly for social purposes to people who use it strictly for business purposes and everyone in between. In a business like real estate, there are definitely benefits to utilizing these streamlined forms of communication (if they appeal to your personality). The exposure they provide is unmatched.

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