Category Archives: blogging

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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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

How to Hone Your Online Image

If you use social media to promote yourself or to attract and engage prospective customers, your blog posts and status updates gives friends and prospects a glimpse of what kind of professional you might be if they were to hire you.  So every post should be well thought-out and critically evaluated before you press that enter button.

Readers have a limited amount of time and because there’s so much content online, they have to pick and choose.  Why should they follow you rather than someone else?

Therefore, before you post, consider the following:

Value.  Is this message important?  Does it impart value to the reader? Does it answer a question or solve a problem for them?  Does it give them information they don’t already have?  Better yet, does it give them information they can’t get anywhere else?  Does it make them want to comment or answer back?  Does it make them want to save your message or share it with someone else?  By reading it, will they see you as someone who adds genuine value and is worth doing business with?

Viewpoint.  Let’s face it, everything you post is not meant to be a learning experience.  Sometimes your status updates will be insightful or personal.  So the question is, do you present a unique point of view?  Will friends and followers relish your posts for your good humor or your unusual take on the day’s topic?  Do you possess an outlook that sets you apart?  Are your messages worth reading because each contains a special little bit of you?

Verve.  Finally, are you exciting, energetic, entertaining?  Do you move people emotionally or spiritually?  Do your messages uplift?  Do they make people laugh or at least smile?  Do they make people think?  Does the information on your site or its very design convey something that grabs people? Will this post make people want to read more? Will readers feel like they’re missing out if they don’t subscribe or check back another time?  What is it about this post that will make readers want to come back again and again?

Certainly, everything you post is not going to meet all of these criteria every single time.  Your aim, however, should be to gradually, through a series of posts, shape the image your readers have of you.

Keep in mind that the words and images you post become you, especially for people who’ve never met you.  So craft your online image with care.

How Bloggers Handle the Holidays

“Do as I say, not as I do.”  That’s a refrain my dad used from time to time and I guess it was his way of admitting that he was far from perfect.  In the same fashion, I also say that I’m not perfect when it comes to handling social media over the holidays.

Blogging presents the biggest problem; when I’m taking time off, I don’t want to have to write and research articles.  Fortunately, there are ways to work around that.

One solution is to blog in advance.  In WordPress, for example, you can write an article today and schedule it to be published automatically at some date and time in the future.  My article Blog While You’re On Vacation shows you how to do it.  To make this option work, of course, you’ll need to write all of your vacation articles ahead of time.

Alternatively, you can rerun articles you’ve written previously.  TV and radio shows do it all the time so that media stars and their staffs can take vacation.  If Oprah can show reruns, why can’t you?

Another option would be to find one or more guest bloggers to write in your absence.  Guest writers can sometimes bring a fresh perspective to your blog and help keep your readers engaged.  This option assumes, of course, that you can find someone to write your blog who isn’t also planning to take some time off.

In the end, I did none of these things.  Instead, I took a break from Twitter and only posted brief Merry Christmas and Happy New Year messages on my blog.  But if social networking is about establishing and maintaining connections with friends and clients, is that the best approach?

How to Create Your Real Estate Blog

blogThere are dozens of reasons for real estate professionals to have blogs.  If you’ve given some thought to having a blog, but don’t know how to get started, here’s a guide to help you sort out your options.

Decide Who Your Audience Will Be

For real estate professionals, the first thing you’ll need to decide is whom you’ll be writing for.  Do you want a blog that connects you with other real estate professionals or do you want to write for consumers and the public?  Several sites make it easy for real estate professionals to create blogs to be read and commented on by other real estate professionals.   The best known of these is ActiveRain, but many agents also post on RealTown Blogs.

An ActiveRain “inside blog” is free and easy to set up, and with more than 150,000 members, it gives you great visibility among real estate professionals.  RealTown Blogs also has lots of members—more than 130,000—posting articles about sales, technology, and other useful topics.  Either one will give you a good introduction to blogging along with the opportunity to learn by reading the posts of other real estate bloggers.  Consumers can find and read your posts on either site.  But these blogs are primarily for real estate people to communicate and network with one another.  If your purpose for having a blog is to demonstrate your expertise, build a following among consumers, and generate leads, you’ll need to move beyond these blogs aimed at other professionals.

Choose a Turnkey or Custom-Made Real Estate Blog

Turnkey solutions provide you with everything you need to get started.  Select a design you like and the provider gets it up and running for a monthly fee.  Your site will probably include a feed from your MLS so your visitors will be able to search for properties.  You may also get syndication so your listings are automatically sent to sites like Zillow or Trulia.   You’ll probably also get some kind of lead capture tool—a way for visitors to give you their contact information so you can follow up with them.  Some providers will even write the blog content for you.   For turnkey blogging solutions, look into Point2 Homes, ActiveRain’s “outside blog”, or KineticKnowledge’s RealEstate Blogsites.

Real Estate Tomato custom designs self-hosted blogs (see below).  Each blog they create is different and uniquely designed to fit your business.  They also offer training in how to use the blogging software and how to get the most from your blog.  Because you’ll self-host the blog they create, you’ll pay a monthly fee to an Internet hosting company to keep your blog up and running.

Do It Yourself

Finally, there’s the do-it-yourself option. You can create a free blog at sites like Typepad, Blogger, or WordPress.  Blogs like these are absolutely free to create and maintain, and you can write for the entire world to see.  WordPress.com is the most popular of these blogging platforms; it’s easy enough to use that a beginner can have a free blog up and running in no time.

A free wordpress.com blog will allow you to establish yourself on the Internet and build your brand, but it has some major disadvantages for real estate professionals.  A big one is that it won’t allow you to include a feed from your local MLS, so visitors won’t be able to search for listings on your site.  In theory, if your blog is interesting enough, visitors will subscribe to it and read it anyway.  But the fact is, consumers want information about properties.  If you’re going to take the time to create a blog, you should probably create one that’s really going to work for you.

In order to include MLS listings, you’ll need a different kind of blog.  You’ll need what’s called a “self-hosted blog”.  The free blog from wordpress.com is hosted by the folks at WordPress.  They host it for free, but they set limits on what you can do with it.  If you want a blog that you control and that can include whatever applications you want it to have—including property listings from your MLS—you’ll need a self-hosted blog.  The most popular self-hosted blogging software is offered at wordpress.org. (wordpress.org is different than wordpress.com).

A self-hosted wordpress.org blog is probably too challenging for a beginner to tackle, especially since blogging is not your main job.  As it turns out, that’s what Real Estate Tomato does.  They design your self-hosted blog, get it installed on the Internet for you, and help you learn how to use it.   A self-hosted blog gives you the greatest degree of flexibility and creativity.   It might be the perfect choice for a broker with a tech person on the team, or an agent with lots of computer experience.  But if you’re new to working on the Internet, you may not want to start there.

If you’re a beginner, my recommendation is to keep it simple at first.  Try out a free blog and see how it works for you.  Once you get the hang of it and you’re ready to commit to writing articles and keeping your content up to date, then you can step up to something more sophisticated.

12 Terrific Topics for Your Real Estate Blog

bloggingAny blogging expert will tell you that one secret to building readership is to be consistent about posting fresh and interesting content.  But sometimes it can be hard to come up with something to write about.  Here are a dozen great ideas that any real estate professional can use as a single blog post or as a recurring blog theme.

  1. Property Listings. Use your blog as a showcase for your listings.
  2. Housing Market Data. Share up-to-date information on home sales, home prices, or market time.  Be creative and post unusual information readers might not easily find elsewhere, like how much home a buyer could get for, say, $300,000 in one neighborhood versus another.
  3. Local Reporter. Report on things that have happened in your town or your neighborhood, like high school games or school board elections.
  4. Clients Say the Darnedest Things. Share stories about things clients have said or done over the years.  Use your anecdotes to help clients understand what they can do to make it easy for you to help them.  (Be sure to change the names and details so former clients can’t recognize themselves in the stories!)
  5. DIY Tips. Are you good with gardening, keeping the lawn green, or fixing things around the house?  Share your secrets in your blog posts.
  6. Personal Reflections. Write about what’s on your mind—but make sure it’s interesting or that it has relevance to your readers.  Endless stories about your kids or your pets may be appealing to your mom, but they aren’t likely to hold the interest of clients or help you build readership.
  7. Photo Montage. Take photos as you go about your day.  Post them on your blog to document the natural beauty of your area, the elegance of the architecture, or the unique character your community.
  8. Big Picture Economics. Post news and information about interest rates, consumer confidence, or cost of living trends.
  9. Local Economics. Monitor economic trends that affect the housing market in your area and post relevant information such as local employment data, changes in personal income or construction of new homes.
  10. Home Decorating/Home Staging Ideas. If you’ve got an eye for design or a specialty in staging, offer quick tips that your readers can put into practice.
  11. Foreclosures and Short Sales. Many people think they want to do a short sale or purchase a foreclosure until they learn what’s involved.  Help troubled homeowners and would-be buyers understand the process.
  12. Mortgage Information. Pass along information from a trusted loan officer or mortgage company about new programs and new products.

What Bloggers Can Learn from “Facebook Lite”

blogNot long ago Facebook rolled out a lite version created for users in countries where connections are slow and bandwidth is small. But during testing, they discovered that the lite version was quite popular with American users, too.

Facebook Lite (www.lite.facebook.com), which is currently only available in the U.S. and India, features smaller type, fewer ads, and no applications, pages, or groups.  It lets you quickly and easily see what’s happening with your friends without having to take in lots of other information, and I for one love it.  Facebook Lite might even make me a regular Facebook user.

As Mike Elgan at Computeworld points out, Facebook Lite is growing in popularity for the same reason Google trumps Yahoo and Twitter is a wild success:  simplicity.  Simplicity works every time.  We like cool stuff, but we like it even better when it has a clean design, a straightforward approach, and it’s easy to use.

The same concept applies to your blog and your website.   Too much stuff flashing, waving, blinking, or talking will drive your readers crazy.  Too many choices will confound them.  It’s OK if it’s fun, or unique, or different as long as it’s easy to use. People want information without having to fight for it.  If your site is too much trouble, they’ll find another one.

So, today, make an honest assessment of your website.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it simple to navigate?
  • Can people find what they’re looking for?
  • Does it have the features you would want?
  • Is it loaded up with too much stuff?
  • Does it have a unique perspective?  That is, is there a reason to visit your site rather than someone else’s?
  • Does it give visitors a reason to bookmark it or to come back again?
  • If you stumbled across your website, would you stop and look, or would you just keep going?