If you blog it, will the leads follow?

Blogs hit the news big a few years ago, and they are still popping up everywhere. If you haven't kept up with your reading, thousands of big corporations now have a blog to accompany their web site; Teenagers are keeping a daily journal of their oh-so dramatic lives through Facebook; business professionals have created a blog to network with others in their field. Have you started your blog yet? A blog, or web log, for short, is an online journal that gives everyone the opportunity to be a writer and publisher. It gives you, the real estate professional, the opportunity to differentiate yourself from the thousands of other agents in your city. If you think that the world of blogging is too technical for you - think again. Blogging is as easy as typing an email or a document in Microsoft Word - and best of all, it is free marketing tool for you.

Your blog will give you a presence in the marketplace. Readers will recognize you as an educated professional and will help you build long-lasting relationships with your customers while continuously offering new leads and referrals.

Before you leap into the world of blogging, find your focus. Your blog can be fun, educational, professional, or a combination of all three. Define your blog's goal - Do you want to position yourself as the neighborhood expert? Do you want to focus mainly on sellers and getting listings? Also, remember that blogging should be a daily project. It will not work if you blog sporadically. Take the time everyday to write or reply to your blog. The good news is that you can blog from almost anywhere - where ever you have internet access.

After you have determined the purpose of your blog, it is time to set your blog up. There are many programs available to help you create and update a blog. Active Rain (http://activerain.com) is a free networking site for real estate professionals where members can share ideas, gain referrals, and access and create blogs. You can experiment with other software programs such as Google's Blogger (http://www.blogger.com) or Internet Crusade's Real Town Blogs (http://www.realtownblogs.com). These are all free programs.

I encourage you to submit your opinions to these blogs to get the feel of them.

After your blog is active and semi-designed, you will need to address your target market. You will need to provide compelling and relevant news on a continuous basis. For example, if your target market is to buyers in your neighborhood, you should provide some information on neighborhood statistics. Are there new construction buildings going up in the neighborhood? Are interest rates going down? Why is the time to buy now?

Remember what I said earlier about keeping the blog updated? Create a schedule and stick to it. Let your audience know how often the site will be updated. Always encourage audience participation. Ask for their opinions, feedback, and questions. Your responses to their postings will help you position yourself as an expert in the marketplace.

After you gain more comfort with your blog, add some pizzazz to it with pictures, photos, links to news articles - anything that coincides with your blogs purpose.

Your blog will not be successful if you do not promote it. You must promote it at every opportunity. You will be able to create a blog address of your own. Be sure to create one which will help you brand yourself. Sometimes, your name isn't enough. Will a reader remember your blog address of only your name? You may want to pick something catchier. The Real Estate Tomato (http://realestatetomato.typepad.com), for example, is very catchy and memorable. Include your blog's address on every marketing piece you distribute. Do a special marketing campaign to your Farm list announcing your blog and encourage participation.

To get a bit more technical, make sure that your blog allows RSS (really simple syndication) feed capability. This allows you to proactively distribute your blog content. People who visit your blog can click on a link you provide which will deliver your content straight to the Reader. The Reader will then have all relevant blog postings in one area, without having to visit each blog everyday. Why does this help you? It will help your presence on major search engines, like Google and Yahoo! The better presence you have on the search engines, the more readers you will acquire. Examples of Readers include Bloglines (www.bloglines.com) and Google Reader (www.google.com/reader).

Creating a blog should be at the top of every real estate agents marketing list. They provide an additional channel to put your brand in front of the customer while differentiating yourself from your competition.

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