Engaging an Audience

Kristn.jpg 

We are approaching the day when we all set fire to our Gregorian calendars, a day traditionally marked by resolutions and renewal. Shortly afterwards, I will be heading to New York where I have been invited to participate on a panel at the Inman Real Estate Connect conference.

Dan Green, Jeff Corbett, Rudy Bachraty and I are slated as the opening act for the Blogger’s Connect workshop, which precedes the main event. The program summarizes our mission as follows:

Avoid the Content Brick Wall: Ideas for Fresh and Frequent Blogging
Don’t waste valuable time writing blog entries just to fill space. Learn how blogging can become a de facto customer relationship management tool and how to gauge what topics will keep them coming back for more.

Yikes! The irony is not lost on me, nor is it, I suspect, on you. In the world of blogging, I am small potatoes. My reach, whether measured by influence, notoriety, or number of readers, is modest at best. As I contemplate the end of 2007 and a new year full of opportunity, this is a perfect chance to reflect on what the heck I am doing here and engage in a little self-critique.

The Blogging Ritual

Why start a blog? What’s the point? The point, of course, is to connect with the consumer, to be where my clients are, and to stay relevant as our society evolves technologically and continues its online migration.

Many real estate bloggers maintain their blog as the cornerstone of their business marketing plan. I have always seen the blog as an adjunct to rather than a replacement for traditional marketing efforts. And it is a medium well-suited for Steve and me. While we are not naturally geek-inclined, we have always endeavored to stay current and even in the forefront with our use of technology in delivering service to our clients. Those clients who appreciate the value of technology are most likely the ones who will find us here.

There are as many theories about what a real estate blog should look like and be as there are people participating in the activity, so whatever I do or say here should be considered in that context. My way is not the way, it is just a way. Yet, I am a hard sell to do it any other way.

My “Perfect” Blog

Ours is a service industry. We don’t manufacture anything, and we don’t have a product to sell in the traditional sense. In California alone, there are over 540,000 people licensed to provide the service we provide. The average consumer can’t help but be confused by their choices or have difficulty making a distinction among the cluttered field of agents at their disposal. Perhaps it’s naivete or even wishful thinking, but I believe that through our blogs, the customers can glean a little about us and therefore a lot about those things that differentiate us from others in our industry, for better or worse.

Getting to Know You

As blogs have become the new “must have” for the Realtor(r), I can’t help but think that an agent’s approach to his blog is going to naturally mirror his approach to his business in general. One of the most disturbing trends I see is the canned site with irrelevant content. In the online world, there is this revered deity named SEO, or search engine optimization, which is the modern day call of the Sirens. Pack your blog with keywords, write often, write anything, so long as your content is rich with the words which will return you on page one of the Google search.

You can tell a lot about a person by their blog.

The Chamber of Commerce I’m not. I have seen more than a few real estate sites which have summitted the SEO mountain, yet their articles (written by paid-others) about San Diego Sportfishing and the Best Eateries in the Embarcadero offend me. How does a knowledge of upcoming Concerts in the Park qualify one to assist in a real estate transaction? What message does this send? I don’t have enough respect for my business or your intelligence to post on topic? I am too busy, too detached, or too important to write my own articles? I can buy my way into blogging just as I buy my calendar magnets or bus bench space or my print ads? Quantity over quality. I’m everywhere, therefore, I am the best.

I truly don’t care about numbers of visitors to this site, although I probably should. And the day you find me writing an article in which every sentence includes the phrase “San Diego real estate homes for sale Scripps Ranch San Diego Realtor(r),” I ask that you beat me senseless with a your free CMA.

You only loved me for my keywords.

What I do care about is the number of returning visitors, because when this number is large, it means that I have somehow engaged my audience and, hopefully, provided added value. Added value is what the consumer wants and deserves, and what will distinguish me from the 87 licensed agents living within a mile of me and named “Dave.” For the record, about 40% of our daily visitors here are of the returning variety. This is encouraging, but we can do better. Or can we?

Fidelity is hard to come by.

So, back to the issue of content. While I most obviously can’t be all things to all people, I do believe it is important to provide variety of content. This blog will naturally have a niche audience. That is unavoidable as long as we are providing our own content and speaking with our own voice. But considering the subset of readers which we may attract, their interests and tastes will be varied. So, while I don’t ever write deliberately with keywords in mind, I do intentionally try to mix up the tone. And, mostly, but not always, the subject is at least loosely related to the business of real estate.

Spending Quality Time

Looking back, we have had our share of dry articles on housing statistics, termite and property inspections, contractual issues and the like. We have also had more than our share of posts about our dog, our cat, and our children. Many times, and, no doubt, much to the chagrin of the purists, they are all rolled up into one. We have written for the agent, for the consumer, and sometimes just for our own amusement. In the process, I believe our readers have gotten to know us as both people and professionals.

We have tried to not be overly boastful or commercial. There is place for that in the listing appointment or even at the open house. Here, we have an opportunity to add a little more depth to the “All About Me” page from our presentation book. 

Content is not difficult for me, because real estate is such a big part of my life, and I tend to find parallels or at least connections in much of what I see and do every day. The issue of frequency is another issue altogether. As long as added value is our goal in our business and on our blog, it will be hard for me to just throw a pretty picture on the site and call it a day. And, when we get busy with what we really do, which is represent people in the purchase and sale of residential real estate, our blog posts are less frequent.  Google doesn’t like this, but too bad. Business is business.

A Meaningful Relationship

So, it’s self-critique time, and I have decided that, though far from perfect, I like us just the way we are. Having typed my way through this, I have come to the conclusion that I am more than okay with how we have approached blogging and what we have accomplished. We are not a blogging success in the conventional sense. Search for “San Diego Real Estate”, and you will not find us on page one (yet). But, the decisions we have made here are representative of who we are, both in life and in business. I would rather earn success than buy it. Instead of 3000 blind dates a day who stumble in, I would rather have one reader who returns because he perceives value and detects a difference. This is the person I look forward to having a working relationship with in the future.

We’ll see you in 2008. Will we open with an article on market statistics, a trivial post about our latest trip to Lake Arrowhead or an expose on the dangers of horizontal gas-fired attic furnaces? Beats me, but you won’t find it by searching on Google for San Diego Real Estate.

Get your Instant Home Value…