3 Ways to Get Out of a Creative Hole

Sometimes you fall and you can’t get up!  By that I mean, sometimes you fall into a hole and you can’t think of a single thing to blog about.

Don’t despair.  It happens to all of us.  Sometimes it happens because you’ve been busy on a project or with a particularly demanding client.  Sometimes it happens when you’ve taken a short break or a vacation and stopped focusing or your blog for a few days.  Sometimes your creative juices just aren’t flowing.

I know the feeling because it has been happening to me; for several days over the last week, I attended a conference that had nothing to do with technology or real estate and for those few days, I didn’t even think about my blog.  The result is that now, I need to reprime the pump in order to come up with new ideas.

What to do when you can’t come up with a good idea for your blog?  Here are three suggestions.

  • Write about what you’ve been doing.  If you took a vacation or spent some time with your family, write a blog piece about something funny or interesting that happened.  In fact, including occasional pieces about yourself and what you do outside of your professional life helps people identify with you.  But keep it short and don’t do it often.  After all, prospects are more interested in real estate than they are in you.
  • Find the real estate connection in ordinary events.  For example, the venue for the conference I attended was a Michigan Avenue hotel in downtown Chicago.   I couldn’t help but notice the vacancies on and around the Magnificent Mile, including an indoor mall built on Michigan Avenue only a few years ago that is now shuttered.  My observation could spawn a series of articles about the state of commercial real estate.
  • Write about your writer’s block.  People who write for a living will tell you that one of the best ways to outwit writer’s block is to start writing about it.  If you have nothing profound or earth shattering to say, write about that.  It won’t be long before you have an entire article and you’re back on track.
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Website Offers Free Plans for Sustainable Homes

Environmentally-conscious consumers now have a place to find plans for sustainable homes.  And the best part is, many plans are free.

FreeGreen, the collaboration of a diverse group of progressive, energetic architects, engineers, and entrepreneurs, lets visitors view and download plans to many styles of affordable, durable, energy-efficient homes.

Select a home and view 3-D renderings of the interior as well as explanations of the home’s sustainability features.  A plan I previewed, for example had, among other features, a flat roof for solar panels and a south-facing orientation to facilitate solar heating.  Choose a home you like and download the plans along with information on estimated energy and building costs—all for free with a basic membership.  Premium members have access to additional features.

Prefer a custom-designed, sustainable home? FreeGree can prepare plans to meet consumers’ specifications quickly and inexpensively.

It’s a fun site to visit and a great place to send clients or builders looking for green home ideas.

Why Facebook is Where You Need to Be

A bunch of data on the Internet in recent days confirms it:  Facebook is where you need to be if you want people to know about you and what you’re doing.  Facebook is surpassing Yahoo! on a number usage measures and is slowly gaining on Google.

Consider the following:

  • Americans spend more time on Facebook. The Nielson Company reports that the average American spent just under 6 1/2 hours on Facebook in February, 2010, compared to approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes on Yahoo!, which came in second.
  • Americans get a growing amount of information from Facebook. A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle underscores how Americans are doing less navigating of the Internet on their own and more navigating and making choices based on recommendations from friends.  Facebook is a big part of this.  For example, Techcrunch reports that 44% of the items shared on the web in the past month were shared on Facebook.  (The next closest was Twitter at 29%.)
  • Facebook is starting to challenge Google as the most visited website.  According to Experian Hitwise, Facebook received 7.07% of all Internet visits during the week ending March 13th—more than Google, which received only 7.03%.  This happened once before, during the Holidays in 2009, and experts expect that it will continue to happen.
  • Facebook is a constant in the lives of many Americans. Consider the recent study , for example, that reported that 30% of social media users say they check for new posts during the night!

Facebook is where people are looking for information and finding it.  If you’re not there, you should be.

How to Be Sure Prospects Can Find You

Recently, Chicago real estate professional Andrea Geller wrote about her frustration at trying to find the contact information of an agent in another state to whom she was referring one of her clients.   She wanted to learn something about that agent and maybe even talk to them before passing her client along.  But that out-of-state agent couldn’t be found on Google.   In fact, it took Andrea a good bit of work to find a direct link to that agent on the Internet.

What if a consumer or another agent were trying to find you?  What would they get if they googled your name? How much searching would they have to do on the Internet before they found your contact information?  And if someone did contact you based on an Internet search, how long would it take you to answer?

Here are the five minimum things you should do to make sure prospects and colleagues can find you with ease:

  1. Have a LinkedIn profile.  Your LinkedIn profile serves as an online résumé that will come up whenever anybody googles you name.
  2. Have a Google profile. Google also lets you create a profile, in which you can write a description of yourself, upload photos, and provide links to other applications you use on the Web.
  3. Be on Facebook. A Facebook Fan Page is ideal because it lets you keep your friends and family separate from your professional image, and because the person looking for you wouldn’t have to have a Facebook account to find you.
  4. Check Your Broker’s Site. Make sure your contact information is easy to find and up to date on your broker’s website.  If you can’t control what’s on your broker’s site, get your own website.
  5. Have Your Own Website.  Even if you do have input regarding what appears on your broker’s site, you should have your own website.  On your own website, you can express our individuality, show your professionalism, and demonstrate how you differ from your colleagues.  A blog is even better than a static website because it allows you to easily update the site’s content.

There is more you can do.  But if you can’t find yourself when you google your name, start with these.

Podcasting for Real Estate

If sitting down and writing a blog is not your thing, consider podcasting as an alternative.

A podcast is a special kind of audio file that you create and that your “readers” can download and listen to whenever they like. Typically, podcasts are made to sound like mini radio shows with lead-in theme music and a different topic each week.  Prospective listeners can subscribe to your shows so they never miss out and they can listen on an iPod or simply through their computer speakers.

Podcasts are relatively inexpensive and easy to make.  If you get in the habit of producing and posting them regularly, people will get in the habit of listening, especially if you offer information that’s valuable, informative, and entertaining. Podcasts can position you as the real estate expert in your community, the go-to person when a journalist needs a knowledgeable real estate resource.  They can also help you build a following among prospective buyers and sellers in your area.

To be fair, podcasting is not as exciting a tool as it was a few years ago.  The rise of YouTube, along with iPods and smartphones that can play visual content, have pushed podcasting to the side a little bit.  But it still has its place.

Take a look (or rather have a listen) at how these real estate professionals are using podcasts:

How to Market Yourself Using Twitter

Need help getting started with Twitter?  Watch this presentation for ideas on how you can begin to use Twitter for marketing.

50 More Topics for Your Real Estate Blog

Several months back, we wrote about 12 Terrific Topics for Your Real Estate Blog. But this is even better: 50 specific ideas.

Fifty-four, actually.  That’s enough to get you through the rest of the year and easily into 2010.  Some may require a bit of research and some will require you to use pseudonyms to protect the privacy of your clients.  But all will help you position yourself as a mover and shaker in your community, and a knowledgeable real estate professional.

  1. Describe how the Internet is changing (or has changed) the real estate industry
  2. Write about how technology is changing how real estate agents work
  3. Review the provisions for the first time home buyers credit and remind your readers to get moving if they want to get in under the wire
  4. Offer a list with links to the best web sites for finding property
  5. Write an article that reviews the best new homeowner websites, like HouseLogic or HomeSpace
  6. Create a step-by-step lesson on how to log in and use the consumer features of your local MLS or your company’s property search website
  7. Offer a list with links to local economic data
  8. Offer your predictions for the 2010 housing market based on what you’ve seen so far
  9. Write about neighborhoods or communities where buyers are finding real estate bargains
  10. Create an article that offers resources for homeowners who need to refinance
  11. Have a loan officer write a guest post
  12. Offer links to useful, need-to-know information for homeowners who are thinking of renting rather than selling
  13. Offer easy or inexpensive home updating ideas for sellers who will be putting their homes on the market this year
  14. Post a list of questions prospective sellers should ask prospective listing agents
  15. Write a down-to-earth article about the realities of selling in today’s market
  16. Describe what to look for when choosing a home inspector
  17. Have a home inspector write a guest post
  18. Describe what to look for when choosing a lender
  19. Post a list of financial documents and personal information prospective buyers will need to assemble in order to be pre-approved for a mortgage
  20. Write an article (or a series of articles) about what buyers can expect when purchasing a foreclosure
  21. Write an article (or a series of articles) about what sellers can expect when doing a short sale
  22. Write an article for homeowners about how to contest a property tax increase
  23. Describe how you help buyers quickly and easily find the perfect home despite the huge inventory
  24. Offer several quick and easy home staging tips
  25. Have a home staging professional write a guest post
  26. Explain why buyers and sellers need a real estate agent (that is, describe what real estate professionals do that they can’t do for themselves)
  27. “10 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Putting Your Home On The Market In This Economy”
  28. Write an article for first-time home buyers telling them what they need to know about owning a condominium
  29. Invite a real estate attorney to write a guest post
  30. Consumers often don’t understand the difference between a real estate sales agent and a real estate broker.  Write a post that explains the difference between these two types of licenses
  31. Write a post about how you use Twitter and how your readers would benefit by following you
  32. Ask a question and poll your readers to get their response
  33. “8 Social Media Tools I Use Each Day and How They Help Me Help You”
  34. Or, “Why I Don’t Use Twitter, Facebook, or Other Social Media”
  35. Tell about a client who sold a home quickly in the past few months and how they were able to accomplish that
  36. Tell about a pair of homeowners at risk who were able to restructure their mortgage and keep their home.
  37. Invite your readers to submit their tips for frugal living in the current economy and write a post which includes the best tips
  38. Create an article with links to green living resources for homeowners
  39. Describe 5 things you do for clients that most other real estate professionals don’t do
  40. Describe 5 things your brokerage does for clients that most other brokerages don’t do
  41. Summarize the conferences you’ve attended, the training you’ve undergone, and the required courses you’ve taken in the past 12 months and how those experiences translate into better service for clients who work with you
  42. Describe the biggest problem a client had in the past year and how you helped that client solve their problem
  43. Share a testimonial sent to you by a client
  44. Write an article about the recent FHA changes and how they will affect buyers in 2010
  45. Write an article to help sellers understand that they don’t determine the selling price of their home, the market does
  46. Lease with option to buy: explain what it is and how it works
  47. Post a story with pictures of an important local event (e.g., the high school team winning a championship)
  48. Write about a person or an organization doing good things in your community
  49. List the “best places” in your community (e.g., the best place to picnic, the best bike path, the best beach, the best place to ice skate, the best place for tobogganing, etc.)
  50. Invite your readers to submit their lists of best places
  51. “25 Free Activities for Families” (or singles, or couples, or seniors)
  52. Write about a local organization in which you’re active and encourage your readers to get involved
  53. Write an article about a special property (e.g., historic landmark, famous former owner, luxury property, etc.) your brokerage is listing
  54. Write a article that reminds your readers of their fair housing rights and includes links to fair housing resources