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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Social Media ~ Know What It Really Means Before You Hire

Hi friends and interested people; this is hopefully a helpful overview you can learn from, based on my personal growing frustration & observations of late both here in Palm Springs California, Wichita Falls Texas and online worldwide. Forgive the occasional cynicism and instead consider it as a positive encouragement to you, whoever and wherever you are, if you're contemplating social media or hiring someone to help. This isn't a resume, bragfest or about my achievements or talents; you can contact me via email, phone or text through my website if you'd like my help. This is instead a perhaps long overdue synopsis and “help sheet” which you can hopefully gleen some pearls from!

I've been hearing terms like “social media, SEO, brand, branding, soc-med consultant, virtual assistant, etc” for 7 years now; frankly it's making me testy. I have redefined “eyeroll” a few hundred times now; it's a wonder they're in my eye sockets at all. What passes for “professional,” “expert,” and “branding manager” is an INSULT to most peoples' intelligence and perhaps most especially for the poor saps who hire one without doing homework.

If you are considering either bolstering or venturing “into” social media, you had better know a few simple truths right off the bat.

1) NO ONE can give you an instant social media presence (although I can get you on the board pretty quick). It's not a coupon, bus ticket, or purchasable, immediate benefit. Anyone telling you that they can double your store revenue, internet sales, popularity, “brand” (I detest that word) probably knows nothing more than how to press “enter” on a computer. It's like people buying a digital camera and thinking they're Ansel Adams the following morning. It's just not TRUE. It's just not a FACT. It's just NOT going to happen.

2) Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. TEACH him how to fish, and the fish are nervous. It's the same with social media. YOU have to take a vested interest in it. If you “don't have time” you're never going to be “known” in the vein you need to be ~ i.e. “personally.” You do NOT get to suddenly jump on the bandwagon, get 7-10 Twitter followers and a FaceBook Like Page, and suddenly be the Kim Kardashian of fresh fruit grocery stands or brain surgeons or Realtors or political candidates in the blink of an eye. It happens over TIME. Fortunately that window can be a short one but don't fool yourself. Another example are people espousing about “being real and genuine,” and then seeing they're AUTO posting from a script. They're telling you to be real and using a computer to generate the post about being real. It's crap, it's harmful to you, and it's rude to your audience & potential clients.

3) Before you “HIRE” a social media “consultant” you should look at THEIR social media. Do they have 27 likes, 90 FaceBook friends and 22 Twitter followers? Perhaps a brand new Instagram with 22 followers, all spammers? Ooohhh, that'll work GREAT. You're in good hands there. Sarcasm. I've seen people not only representing businesses poorly, with perhaps 1/30th of my reach, but who also never read or learned #4 below (this is a biggie) >>>

4) Someone checking in on your FaceBook “Like” Page is NOT marketing. Like pages themselves are not marketing. They're a joke and mostly a horrid disappointment unless you're Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga or Kim K. Personally, I now use FaceBook for its initial intended purpose: to keep up with IRL friends and follow groups I'm interested in. There are MUCH better avenues for social media promotion available. When you post to your “Like” page, roughly 5-10% of your “number of likes” will see the post unless you pay to promote it. A restaurant with 4,000 likes can still go out of business and indeed one I enjoyed patronizing just did in Wichita Falls. Unless you get SHARES on your FaceBook page or Like page, you are talking to the same 100-500-2500 people over and over again; if you use it as a “shout channel” over and over again for let's say new Real Estate listings, people WILL lose interest, unfollow or unlike/unfriend you.

*** INSTEAD: ***

1) Start slowly. I won't bore you with my social media history, but I initially picked something I LIKED (Twitter) because of CNN's Don Lemon. I saw the Iran Revolution being covered when no reporters could be there and the only “press” were kids running with cellphones and posting to Twitter. I signed up watching Don Lemon because I was fascinated. About 40 minutes later a “light” went on above my head and I thought “this is the greatest thing ever!” You might enjoy other platforms and it's important to pick one you WILL enjoy. Feel free to contact me if you're not sure what might be good for you. But start slow. You don't have to be a mogul in 20 minutes; you WON'T ANYWAY. So have FUN. There are things you should and shouldn't do; there are things that are a complete waste of time. Again, feel free to contact me and I'll save you some time.

2) Show some common manners, courtesy and respect. Do for others if they do for you. NO, you do not have to share/like/retweet everything on the planet for other people. Sadly, and I'll put it bluntly & honestly because that's how I've attained a reach of 1.8 MILLION … most are takers and won't do squat for you. Learn the nice people, and thank them when they help you. It's amazing how often they'll help you AGAIN, because they too are “seeking the nice people.” If someone shares your post, share theirs. If they like your Instagram pics, like THEIRS. It's basic common courtesy and that will go a long way to establishing “connections.”

3) If you don't have a sense of URGENCY … GET ONE. Learn it. 10-12 minutes of doing the right things occasionally will have great rewards.

4) Hire someone who, while putting you out to their LARGE ESTABLISHED NETWORK (and they'd BETTER have one or why & how are they offering you anything?!), TEACHES YOU what to do and to the point of annoyance, pressures you to do it. It's like having a fitness coach. Anyone who DOES NOT want to teach you isn't your friend, your ally, or consultant because they want to extort money on a monthly basis forever... to not do as much as YOU could if you just learned.

5) Most social media platforms have an excellent phone app version. You do NOT have to sit at a computer 5 hours a day liking pictures of cats to start getting your message out. What the phone apps afford is the ability for you to RESPOND to people quickly. That, boys and girls, is very important. It's essential. It's real life. If someone messages you, tweets you, shares a post … and you quickly THANK THEM in a timely manner as we all should have been taught .. lots and lots and lots and LOTS of other people SEE that and you are immediately removed from the sewer barrel plethora of non-caring, self absorbed twits on social media and instead elevated to “human.”

6) Be yourself. Should I type that 11 times? Be yourself. This is where I differ from many, many “experts” who don't have the reach I do. How did I get the reach? See the first words of this #6. Be yourself. Don't be a drama queen, but if you're having a bad day it's okay to vent a little. If you feel strongly about something, post it. Politics and religion, for example, are considered the 3rd rail in social media. You'll see things like this:

Don't for God's sake say anything real or defend a public official or put out a meme about something or other. Just stick with pictures of cats, nice weather and fluffies.”

Horse shit. FaceBook and Twitter especially are full of those gladhanding nimrods; they're usually the type that “in real life,” would give you one single Tic-Tac. An absolute natural disaster can be occurring in their town (I've seen it myself on MY timeline) .. and nary a mention. It's happy rainbows and bunnies and “I have a new listing.” Loud buzzer. Fail. Be real or don't bother. People and their lives matter and if you care, they'll care about you. It's painfully simple and yet often ignored.

The Happy Conclusion, Drinks Available In The Lobby:

Friends, social media isn't pulling teeth. It can actually serve you well. It can and should be fun, it can make you new friends. It can be educational, a release and an inspiration, all while serving a purpose for you and introducing you and perhaps your product or service to the world. Skip the lightweights and phony types and get behind someone who will get behind YOU and show YOU how to effectively handle yet enjoy it.

I hope this helped give you an outline and some things for look for. Feel free to contact me directly with any questions. Cheers!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Droning On And On

Droning On And On ~ by Paul Roberts

Sometimes the right thing to do is blog about something that will help Realtors without your necessarily having an "interest in it." It's just the right thing to do. This is one of those posts. The “new” fad in Real Estate Photography seems to be the use of drone photography of properties. Here are my thoughts on the merits vs downfalls of using drones from various aspects. As an added bonus, if you read until the end, I'll give you a hint how you can get the shot ANYWAY … for FREE.

I consider myself a “new technology early adopter” in almost all respects. At the same time, I recognize fads, at least when I believe I see them, and I looked into drones TWO YEARS ago. I am friends with several photographers/videographers WORLDWIDE who are using drones to capture stunning images of downtown scenes, meadow landscapes, lakes, volcanoes, hard to reach river beds and other endless views and landmarks ~ they're truly stunning images. I have a bucket list of subjects I'd photograph should I opt to get one.

However, with Real Estate photography for clients, after careful analysis, I don't see their worth for the photographer, the Realtor or the client he/she is representing in order to SELL that property.

We have many “country club” properties here in Palm Springs & surrounding areas like Palm Desert, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells & La Quinta. Often these are in a “tract.” The Realtors won't use that word, LOL! Sorry … “community” or “country club.” They are cheek by jowl with other homes. Taking the right angle of the home to the property line, front & back, with well lit balanced interiors will show that home nicely. Now … let's say we shoot it with a drone. Pool, jacuzzi, backing on to a golf course fairway, lake on the fairway, nice interior that shows even in the exterior shot(s), blue sky reflecting in the bay window. Nice! Right? That'll work. Now put a camera 100-150 feet in the air, bother the neighbors, get a roof shot.

  • How will that be cropped
  • What's on the roof (leaves, palm fronds, dead rat, dismembered hobo skeleton from the 70s, dust, bugs, little Johnny's kite). Happy air-brushing.
  • How do you isolate that property to the seller? An arrow saying “this is the one I'm selling” ~ ?
  • What are HOA rules for flying a drone within grounds airspace? I'm guessing forbidden.
  • What are the neighbors doing? #SkinnyDipping Next door? Again with the airbrushing, and hopefully no lawsuit.
  • If a golfer misses a tee shot because you buzzed him/her, there'll be hell to pay :)
  • Neighbors won't want THEIR home included, especially if doing dishes in the kitchen naked. Many modern drones (as of this date June 14 2015) DO HAVE the resolution to show what's inside a neighbor home.

Further liability issues: There are TWO sets of batteries; one in the magic flying machine itself and another in the CONTROL unit. If either of those batteries run down (average flying life is 10-12 minutes at present) ~ and that thing gets “squirrelly,” it's going down. So is your reputation. What if it takes out a bay window? Straight into a neighbor's pool and electrocutes Mrs. Nesbitt?

Aerial shots, especially if it's a very large property, are indeed nice, and dramatic. Since I believe “dramatic but accurate” PROPER photographs (not computer generated layered litho nonsense) sells homes, drones might have their place. I'd make the rule of thumb 5 acres. If the property is 5 acres or larger, and therefore you can operate the drone WITIN the property lines, and there isn't a noise or neighbor privacy factor, then go ahead. Battery failure and the other concerns outlined above wouldn't be an issue. But what to do with properties smaller than 5 acres? How many properties that large are you realistically going to list? The answer, folks, is free and the images are good. It's called Google Earth. Believe it or not, the Google Earth app for your PHONE is often a better, more “tweakable” one than Google Earth on a computer. As long as you DO NOT REMOVE the Google Earth watermark / logo from the image, and CREDIT Google Earth for that image, you can use one. After searching for the address and perhaps putting the “street view little golden man” icon on the street if necessary, you're “right there.” By placing two fingers on the screen you can not only rotate the angle (go higher); you can swivel around to show front, back, side view of the home/property and position it just how you like it. You will not have exposure control since you're using an existing library image of the property taken by Google. On average the clarity & sky conditions are quite good but you may not get a perfect blue sky. However, it will show layout, bushes, landscaping, the home, the pool, golf course, even the street if you want it as a reference.

Problem solved. I would say in 80% of the cases an aerial won't do much to promote the property; in fact you're probably taking away “visual value” because all you'll effectively show is how close the neighbors and the dumpsters are, and a dirty roof. I'd recommend letting clients assess that for themselves in PERSON when you show it. Let the fantastic, natural interior/exterior ground level shots show the beauty & appeal of the home. After all, that's how you'll see it when you're living there, unless you're 200 feet tall.

The bottom line is this: Good photos, an aggressive agent, longer hours open houses, advertising including social media and “sense of urgency” sell homes. Not cutesy sales pitches about “I'll photograph it with a drone.” If you're approached by an agent who offers “cutting edge” 50 year old remote control plane technology to “get” your listing, ask “How many have you actually SOLD using drone photography.” Giggle and wait for the long pause. I have no aversion to providing equipment & photography (and charging a LOT accordingly) to help Realtors sell a home. I just don't believe in risky gimmicks that afford little or no return. You shouldn't either.