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The Internet has proved to be an apt repository for the voluminous and detailed information that makes up the real estate industry.
More than 90 percent of all home buyers start their search online. A similar percentage of homeowners looking to refinance their mortgages do the same.
You can find property listings, home valuations, mortgage interest rates, glossaries to explain terms, house videos and informational videos that explain everything from buying a foreclosure to improving your credit score.
But how we access all that real estate information is starting to change. As the concept of "social networking" continues to evolve, peer-to-peer relationships are driving the conversation.
In other words, we care more about what our friends think and are more prone to follow their direction than we are to follow a professional's -- for better or for worse. Companies are responding by shifting more of their advertising and marketing dollars and human resources online to cope with the tidal wave of online social experience.
Carol Flammer addresses these issues in her book,
"Social Media for Home Builders: It's Easier Than You Think!"
"Social networking sites like
Younger buyers, especially those in their late 20s and early 30s, are more apt to rely on their own network of family and friends (even
This is a huge problem for Realtors, home builders, mortgage lenders and most other real estate professionals, as the Internet and social networking have shifted the center of gravity toward the consumer and away from the professional.
But savvy real estate professionals can still make lemonade. In her book, which is a concise 112 pages and is small enough to slip into a jacket pocket, Flammer decodes what home builders must do to compete in this world. With her nationally ranked site, AtlantaRealEstateForum.com, she has proved she can get her many home builder clients some all-important Google-love.
But her advice is applicable to the larger real estate industry, perhaps now more than ever, as it struggles with the worst housing market since the Great Depression.
Using social media isn't rocket science, but that doesn't mean every real estate company is doing it right. Flammer recommendsd that every home builder's social media toolbox contain a company Web site, a blog, online public relations, social networking Web sites and other Web sites.
Her company uses "social media marketing" to create and distribute messages through social networking sites such as LinkedIn,
But it isn't enough to just throw a lot of search engine optimized content up on the Web and hope for the best. You need a thorough strategy to help you make the most of what you have.
And that's the problem most real estate companies have with social media. The growth of this phenomenon has coincided with the steepest drop in U.S. housing values in history. Many real estate industry players are just trying to survive.
I don't think we're anywhere near the end of social media. Five or 10 years down the line, some of these sites might fade while other, better ideas emerge.
Imagine: It was only a decade or so ago that a small Web site called Google was launched.