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There’s always something to howl about

If you are a working Realtor — if you list and sell residential real estate for a living — the time you spend on social media sites is almost certainly anti-marketing, doing you more financial harm than good.

Chris Johnson pulled this out of our phone conversation the other night, quoting me on Twitter:

People don’t want a relationship with you. They just want your damn services.

We were talking about real estate weblogging, but the principle applies even more firmly to the world of social media — Twitter, Facebook, etc.

The notion that strangers are seeking out Realtors in order to befriend them is absurd. For a Realtor to get invited on a getaway weekend with three people who are not old school chums would require that all the undertakers and life insurance salespeople they know are already engaged. We all know what to expect from Realtors in any sort of social setting — which is why there is an entire mini-industry of RE(education)Camps to train Realtors to resist their smarmy, deal-probing impulses on-line.

That’s point number one, neatly Tweeted by Chris — who is, don’t forget, a vendor: You are the means to your clients’ ends, not an end in yourself. Even though you might sometimes hit it off just right with a client and forge a serious friendship, in virtually all cases — including those where you make a friend — it’s the mission-critical job that matters, not your sweet personality.

And that friendship? It will seem serious to you alone. If you are any good as a Realtor, your deep, deep friendship will be invisible to everyone else. You should be much too busy to be anyone’s friend. If you make a stout effort, you can hold up your end with your spouse and kids, but, beyond that, you should expect to hear this from the people you think of as being your friends: “The only time we ever get to see you is when we’re buying or selling a house!” That is real estate in real life.

Here’s point number two: “Marketing” by social media is a huge waste of time. Selling is one-on-one, focused, time-consuming and goal-directed. Marketing, done properly, is broadcast, diffuse, time-efficient and passive and long-term in its goal-pursuit. Even if you are really doing your best to market your services on-line, if you are doing it by engaging people one-on-one in fleeting media like Twitter or Facebook, you are almost certainly wasting your time.

In other words, if you spent that same time preparing a broadcast direct marketing piece or writing an enduring, canonical weblog post, your efforts would almost certainly produce better cash returns in the long run. Selling is harvesting the crop that you brought to fruition by marketing. If you spend all your time trying to do the sales job — one-on-one direct contact — you will never have a crop to harvest.

But, of course, this is not what you’re doing on Twitter and Facebook, anyway. What you are doing with the irreplaceable hours of your day is schmoozing with other Realtors and with vendors. Yes, I’m sure you’re also sharing cute jokes with potential clients, but we all know what you’re really doing on-line: Wasting time, in order to argue to yourself that you are working when you know you are not.

Want to prove my point? Get all huffy about it. Serious Realtors don’t have time to grumble to the world about how unfair it is to be called on their vices.

But this brings us to my third point: Even if you are actually engaging your clients productively on-line, and even if you can point to some actual paychecks that resulted from your having wasted your precious time on TwitBook, nevertheless, your Tweeting and Facebooking is almost certainly anti-marketing.

Why? Because you are an employee of your clients, that’s why. Even if your client is a high-I who likes the way you kiss his ass in public, he does not want to see you wasting time kissing anyone else’s ass.

Even if your client is a high-S who thinks it’s sweet that you have been so warm-and-fuzzy, so touchy-feely — even that client will start to wonder about your priorities when she sees you reTweeting your twentieth bad joke of the day.

What about the high-Cs? They are unlikely to admire your continuous exhibitionism.

The high-Ds? You’re screwed.

We are lucky as Realtors that our clients — our employers — supervise us so lightly. But if one of your clients is subscribed to your Tweetstream, expect to discover, sooner or later, that he is selling his home with a Realtor who works all day in the real estate business, not in the small-talk trade.

This is me from the Todd Carpenter is the NAR Social Media Piñata thread on ActiveRain:

I say that trying to sell real estate via Twitter/Facebook is a waste of time — and it is anti-marketing even if it seems to produce some results. Why? Because the bulk of your chatter is going to look like… chatter. Your clients might like it when you schmooze with them, but your public schmoozing with every other time-wasting Realtor and vendor in the RE.net is going to look to your clients like just what it is: Time-wasting laziness. God help you if they see you talking behind other people’s backs — as is going on in the Tweetstream that led to this post. If you plan to dispute any part of this argument, I will want to see real numbers. If you won’t produce the numbers, I’m going to assume you are rationalizing failure — a skill at which Realtors excel.

Just to ward off specious objections, vendors like Chris Johnson, lenders like Brian Brady and Realtors like Jeff Brown all have good reasons for marketing on Twitter or Facebook: Their objective is to sell to you — and they know where you can be found. Your potential clients aren’t looking for you on social media sites, and they’re not looking to make you their best-buddy in any case.

To the extent that anyone is paying attention to you as a Realtor, they are looking for reasons to reject you, not to embrace you. If you fool around all day on line, talking trash and ganging up and generally acting like a jackass teenager, people will see right through you. And that’s not the good kind of transparency. Many people like a hail-fellow-well-met when they’re out to have some fun. But when their financial lives are at stake…?

This is reality, deny it at your financial peril: If your front-line, every day job is listing and selling real estate, goofing around on sites like Twitter or Facebook is a huge waste of your time — and a wide-open invitation for everyone in your sphere of influence to turn to a serious Realtor when they have a serious real estate need to fulfill. On the other hand, if your objective is to convince everyone who sees you on-line that you’re a clown, you could not have picked a better marketing strategy.

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