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I suppose this would have been a great post to start off with but if you know me personally, well, you know I’m a bit quirky to begin with.

So why did I start this blog? I definitely have plenty to do and wasn’t looking to fill any blocks of time.  Nor have I anointed myself a ‘social media expert.’ And yes, there are plenty of great technology and marketing blogs out there already.  So, why?

Simply enough, I wanted a place where we could all explore and learn together. I am a sponge.  I read a lot.  I research a lot. I go to as many classes and events as I can to learn and better myself.  I am active participant in social media and actually use these tools and technologies.  I try my best to stay in front of the curve.  Marketing, technology and social media today are ever evolving.  My goal on this blog is to provide a unique perspective on how all of these new tools and ideas work and how they fit into the real estate industry. More importantly, how we in the real estate industry can use these tools to benefit our business and customers.

So, I hope you enjoy this.  I will post as often as I have something to say.  And if someone says it better, I won’t bore you with a post to simply hear myself talk (or write.)

So, for all of you techie real estate folks out there who are looking to step it up a notch….

Hopefully you will love this post on integrating Quick Response (QR) Codes with your real estate marketing!

So, what is a QR Code?

Literally? It is a black and white fuzzy box you may see in ads, on promotional gifts, even billboards.

Conceptually? It is a scannable quick response barcode which when scanned with a smart phone (equipped with a camera), will connect you to a web address dictated by the creator. Look at the image to the left.    If you are interested in the super technical aspects of QR Codes, check out this article.

Go ahead, scan it!

So, what does this have to do with real estate? A lot actually.

QR Codes are still relatively new to most people and businesses, but the potential is endless. Don’t be afraid to raise the bar and get ahead of the curve!

My two cents?

This fuzzy black and white barcode image, when scanned, has the ability to connect the user to ANY web address, email address, map location, text message or SMS message that the creator chooses. That means it can connect to pages on your personal real estate website, your Facebook business page, a listing page, your blog, etc.

The ideas are endless.  You could create a QR Code to-

  • put on your business card or in a print ad and have it connect to your ‘About Me’ video on your website. When have you ever been able to showcase real value in a print ad or on a business card?  Use the bar code to connect and engage with consumers.
  • put on your listing flyers.  Unless you have figured out a better way to connect your virtual tour to the yard sign in front of your listing, this is a great idea.
  • Use as a sticker and attach the code image to a yard sign. Have the code connect to a virtual tour, a google map of the area, or better yet, a video about the community. (I would make sure to test rain resistant sticker paper and ink)

So how does this technology work? Well, first you must download the one of the free QR Code scanner/reader applications.  Here are a few good ones. (It is recommended you use a smart phone that has a camera with an auto-focus option, but others do still work)

Here are some QR Code scanner iPhone apps that can be found in the iTunes app store-

  • QRReader
  • NeoReader
  • QR Scanner

I downloaded and tested all of these free iPhone apps and personally like NeoReader the best.  It scans and doesn’t require you ‘take a picture’ like the QRReader does.  The QRScanner does have a smooth scanning feature and quickly redirects you to the indicated URL address.  However, it doesn’t have the ability to alter your settings, enter codes manually and saves the history of barcodes you have scanned like NeoReader does.

AT&T has just launched its code scanner application and service for the BlackBerry and Android that you may want to check out as well.  Scanlife is a free BlackBerry app.  Now, I am an iPhone girl so I have no experience or opinions for the BlackBerry or Droid apps.

How do I create a code and use this for my real estate business? Scarily enough, scanning and creating codes is ridiculously easy!

  • In the box you will see the options for URL, Phone Number, Text, SMS.  To link the barcode to a specific website or webpage, select the URL option. (See image below)

    Screencapture of the Kaywa QR Code Generator

  • Below that, you will notice a box for you to enter in the web address you would like the image to connect to.  Be careful here.  Where do you want the bar code to link?  A specific page on your website?  A specific listing?  A map?
  • Next step?  Select the size of the code image you want generated.  Small?  Large?
  • Click on the ‘Generate’ button!
  • The QR Code image will be generated automatically.

There are two ways to save and use this information.

  • Save the HTML code for building the image into your blog or website.
  • Right click on the QR Code image and save it to your computer.  You can now use that image on flyers, create a sticker for a yard sign, print them on your business cards, etc.
  • IMPORTANT!  Remember to save each listing code image with the address as the name of the file so you can keep them in order.  The QR Code images look very similar and it’s hard to tell them apart.
  • Also IMPORTANT. Technology is not perfect.  Make sure to test the images/codes before using them in your marketing.  You want to make sure they work and are connecting consumers to the right place!

So, let’s walk through scanning the codes.

You have downloaded one of the barcode scanner apps listed above.  Open the app and ‘take a photo’ or ‘scan’ the QR Code.  The reader app will then immediately redirect the user to the website url address that is attached to the specific ‘code.’

Have another idea on how to use these codes to build your business?  Share them below!
What’s your two cents?

I’ve wanted to write this post for awhile.  I’ve been stirred by some great posts as of late on location based social media tools by Wayne Sutton and Maya Paveza. Maya’s 8 Rules for FourSquare are fantastic and as the Business Development/Marketing Strategist for TriOut, Wayne’s blog provides some amazing posts on the topic. I had a great discussion at our REBCRDU planning session last week and another great conversation this morning while leading a discussion on online marketing at our CBHPW Falls of Neuse office.

There has been a lot of chatter as of late surrounding location based tools and real estate, especially with the recent launch of Facebook Places. Are these tools good for real estate agents?  Or are they bad?

my triout account on the iPhone

I think I can argue both sides of the coin.

My two cents…

Let me be completely transparent. I enjoy TriOut and FourSquare. I love getting my discounts from local stores for checking in and I love getting tips from others who have visited other close by locations.  When I started using these apps, I was checking in everywhere, my workplace, my local grocery store, the coffee shop, the dog park.  Then one evening my friend Brad Hudson texted me and said that he saw I was at the dog park again on FourSquare.  He added, you better be careful.  You are a female and letting everyone know where you are on a regular basis.  I laughed it off at first as I only accepted friend requests from people I actually knew in real life.  However, he raised a good point.  You can see a previous post I wrote on my concerns of real estate agents and their safety with location based social applications.

With all of these concerns is there a use for location based tools and real estate?

Trends and statistics back up the fact that consumers are looking for hyper local content.  On one side, I think there are huge benefits as far as truly building yourself as a local community expert.  Using FourSquare or TriOut to check into local businesses in your community can help solidify your expertise in the area not only in real life by learning everything you can about your community, but also by showcasing those visits and sharing tips in a social networking world.  In can also help you connect with others that frequent the same community spots as you.

On the other side, perception is everything. Most real estate associates work 7 days a week and long hours most days.  It is not odd in their world to spend 30 minutes at the mall in the middle of the day on Monday when they have a free moment since they spent all day Saturday and Sunday showing and staging properties.  Yet, most of our real estate clients live in a 9-5 world and would be shocked and even upset to see their REALTOR checking in to a store in the middle of the day when they should be trying to sell their home.

There is even a new application called 4Mapper that, once you give it permission to link with your FourSquare account, will map out all of the locations you have checked into.  Again, a great application to showcase yourself as a local community expert, not so great for those midday errands if you’re a real estate agent.

And the new Facebook Places feature?  There are plenty of great posts out there by experts giving you the download on this new feature, so I won’t delve into that.  What do I want the real estate professional to remember?  Every time you use Facebook Places to check into a location, it posts to your wall and thus into the feeds of all of your Facebook friends.  Remember, perception is everything.

So how do I use TriOut and FourSquare?

  • I check-in to places that I feel comfortable with others knowing about; an office, a restaurant meeting friends, cool local community businesses, a networking event, an event or a place where others might be interested in or see value.
  • I add tips to local restaurants and cool stores I like and post photos when I can.
  • I post places of interest to Twitter, never to Facebook, as I personally don’t feel I should post to my profile that many times a day.
  • And I don’t check in at my local Target anymore or my local coffee shop… and definitely not the dog park.

Agree? Disagree?  What’s your two cents?

Now that you know a little bit more about FourSquare and other location based apps, the big question is what does that have to do with real estate?

There are lots of articles on the internet suggesting real estate agents add their listings or open houses to FourSquare or other location based applications.  My two cents? Not necessarily a good idea.  Remember, most times your listings are still someone’s home and adding it to a location based application could be considered an invasion of privacy.  You could also receive some unwanted comments (or tips/reviews as they are called) or disparaging remarks about the property in this platform.  Also, not necessarily a good thing.  What if the property is vacant you might ask? Even the more reason not to broadcast that information on the internet.

Soon, even Twitter will be offering geo-tagging (identifying your real time location) to tweets.  Now, tweeting about hosting an open house or about helping out a client is one thing.  Letting them know exactly where you or your client is at that exact moment, is another.  So be careful when it comes to letting people know exactly where you are.

Your safety.  I don’t necessarily agree with promoting your Open Houses on these types of location based applications either.  Most of the time you are hosting these open houses solo.  Your safety is the number one concern and broadcasting your ‘real time’ open house info on this platform is not, in my opinion, the best idea.  Yes, they can see your open house info on all other types of real estate sites, but this is a bit different environment.  However, that being said, keep your safety in mind first!

Well, I’ve expressed my two cents on how I don’t see these applications fitting into real estate.

So, how do I think you CAN you use these apps for real estate?

Hyperlocal information is becoming a more integral part of real estate. Consumers are looking to work with area experts.  So, instead of just checking into FourSquare or TriOutNC, add tips for other users and photos of businesses.  FourSquare often feeds out user added tips to other FourSquare users when they check into nearby locations.  For example, last week I checked into FourSquare at the North Hills Movie Theatre.  As I was checking in, FourSquare let me know that Lisa Coleman (CBHPW Associate and Midtown Realtor) suggested I check out the nearby Mura restaurant and order a certain sushi roll that she thought was fantastic.  Just by adding a tip, I was ‘introduced’ to Lisa Coleman and really did begin to see how she just very well might be a ‘local expert.’

One last thought.  Remember, perception is everything.  You don’t want to broadcast your ‘check-ins’ all throughout the day if they are personal in nature.  Even though it may have only taken you five minutes to stop by the mall today, if one of your clients sees that post, they may be agitated and wonder why you aren’t busy trying to sell their home instead of stopping by the mall.

Agree? Disagree? What’s your two cents?

Ahh, Postlets. I can see the stress begin to leave a real estate associate’s face just as the word is mentioned.

What is not to like?  It is convenient, easy to use, quick and effective, makes it very easy to share listing information to your sphere, real estate websites, social media sites, other clients, etc.  And did I mention how easy it is to share the listing?  I can tweet the listing out, add it to my LinkedIn status, send it to all my friends on Facebook and share it on over a 100 websites with the simple click of a mouse.

Wait, what?

In my opinion, the potential danger of Postlets lies in the fact that it is so easy to share on social media sites.  I do like Postlets. Actually, I like Postlets a lot when used appropriately.  It is an affordable service that does allow for easy promotion and sharing of information about the homes real estate agents have on the market.

However, sometimes I worry Postlets makes it too easy to share this information on social networking sites.

The success of your participation in social networking comes with adding value and engaging with other people on these platforms.  What is the best way to promote yourself or your business?  Don’t promote yourself at all. Be authentic, engage, meet new people, have good conversations, build relationships, build trust.  The business will come naturally.  People like to do business with people that they, well, like.  To be an effective participant in social networking, regardless of the platform, you have to not only wholeheartedly believe in the above sentiments, you have to practice them.  But this is an entirely separate post.

Postlets does help real estate associates quickly and easily share their listings’ information with the simple push of a button.  Great right?  Not necessarily.  Too often I see real estate associates with a Facebook Business Page or Twitter account that has little to no real activity on it.

No value. No engagement. No conversation. But, I sure do see a whole lot of those darn Postlets links to homes they have for sale.

Just because Postlets makes it easy for you to share information, doesn’t mean you should always take advantage of it. If you are not actively engaging in social media platforms with people and building relationships, then firing off your listing information will do your business more harm than good.  People will label you, if not officially, a spammer and choose to ‘un-follow’ you or ‘un-like’ you or worse, completely ignore you. Your business certainly won’t grow that way.  In my opinion, it would be better not to participate in a particular social media platform, then to simply use it as an ‘billboard’ to promote your business.

So before you press that ‘share’ button on Postlets the next time ask yourself this, “If roles were reversed, would you find value being on the receiving end of that ‘share?’”

Agree? Disagree? What’s your two cents?

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