no spam!
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Big question in the blogosphere…

Should blog comments be open or closed?

The argument for open comments is basically that it allows consumers (readers) to interact with you through your blog.  It is a very strong and compelling argument.  And while most blogs will NOT get an abundance of comments, tossing them without deep thought would likely be a mistake.

The argument for closed comments revolves around spam prevention and keeping undesirable commentors at bay.  And I have had my share of both…  In fact, on my Active Rain blog, Gwinnett Garage Guy, I have been closing comments for the last few weeks.  And I maintain a spam detection service for my WordPress blogs.  Active Rain has internal monitors to detect and kill spam.  There are also issues that can arise with negative comments.

 

 

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Personally, I fall on the open comments side of the debate.  I think it is very important to allow readers as many avenues as possible to interact.  However, I am beginning to close comments on old posts that get spam comments.  I have had negative comments, and find that transparency is the best option…

 

 

What do you think?

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Back in the mid 1990s, people started to say that you HAD to have a website.  So, you hired someone to code up a few pages and it was good…  You were done. 

Ten years later, those same people were telling you that you HAD to have a blog.  The cool thing was that you didn’t necessarily have to hire anyone, you could just toss one up.  So you did it… and then it kind of languished after the first couple of months because you didn’t get any direct business from it.  You were done.

A couple of years later, you finally started hearing from some of your peers that that blogging thing actually worked… so you dusted it off and started posting.  You were done. 

Seemingly, 30 minutes later, the consensus was that you needed a Twitter account.  But before you could call it done, you needed a FaceBook Fan Page… then you needed a YouTube Channel… and a Yelp presence…

 

Now, if you aren’t on Google+, you are just wasting time with the rest of your internet program… or so say “the people”.

When does it end?

Does it end?

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Nope.  It doesn’t.  Technology and “what’s cool” keep marching on.  There is always a new site and there is always a new way to engage consumers.  There are always new channels and there always will be.

What’s worse… or better… is that they are unfolding faster than EVER before.  Newspaper dominated for centuries.  Radio dominated for generations.  TV dominated for decades.  Websites dominated for years.  Now we are down to weeks…  Maybe days.

 

But that doesn’t mean that you have to try to ride EVERY wave that breaks on the shore.  In fact, it means that you shouldn’t.  A hundred years ago, you couldn’t go big if you weren’t in the newspaper.  It would take a while before the next wave came in.  Now we have waves breaking constantly.

Pick your battles.  Figure out what you are going to be able to do… alone or with your team.  Learn ways to automate without destroying engagement.  Aggregation and Syndication can be your friends.  Link and leverage your networks.  Pick your battles. 

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You aren’t done.

But you never really were…

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On Monday, September 26th, I am hosting a “Lunch & Learn” at the NAMAR (Northeast Atlanta Metro Association of REALTORS®) offices in Duluth.  We will be talking about blogging for real estate professionals.

As part of the discussion, we will be covering a variety of topics, time permitting.  Among them…

  • Blog Platforms
    • Active Rain
    • WordPress.com (remote-hosted)
    • WordPress.org (self-hosted)
    • Posterous
    • Other platforms
  • Content Creation
    • Coming up with Topics
    • Video
    • Focus
  • Details
    • Conversion
    • Plug-ins
    • Hosting Companies
    • DiY?
    • Social Media Outposts
    • Analytics

With only about 60-75 minutes to get it all done, there are a LOT of things to talk about.  We also want the specifics of the session to be determined by the people that show up to ask questions.  There is a good chance that we aren’t going to hit all of the individual bullet points.  In effect, we are going to take enough information to fill a three hour CE class and condense it down to around an hour.  Not only that, but we are going to allow time for discussion.

In order to make sure that the information gets out, I will be posting up follow-up posts AND hopefully kick out a mini-eBook… for free.  If you aren’t able to attend the NAMAR Lunch & Learn, it should still be a good resource… but if you ARE able to attend, it will be a great extension of what we talked about.

One last thing…  We are calling this prebarcamp.  If you aren’t familiar with rebarcamp Atlanta, check it out here.

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Do you hound over your site statistics?  Do you look at them to see where your traffic is coming from and which sources are the most fruitful?  If you aren’t, you should be. 

If you are using your website to attract business, you HAVE to track your traffic.  Just at with a traditional store, you track ads to see which ones are effective, with internet traffic you have to see which outposts and stratigies bring the traffic to your site.  you also need to track the quality of different traffic sources…  When people come from site “X”, are they sticking around your site or bouncing?  Does your search engine traffic bounce?  If you are selling a product or service, which sources provide sales or leads?

There are some great tools out there to accomplish these goals and know more about what is actually working for you.  Google Analytics is free and VERY powerful.  Personally, I use Clicky Analytics.  I find it easier to navigate and understand.  They have a free and premium level.  I have included an affiliate link.  Either of these tools will let you drill down to see what the traffic on your site is doing.  With Clicky’s premium service, you can literally follow an individual user around your site to see exactly what they are doing.

Just like with a traditional store, knowing what your customers want helps you to provide it.  Analytics provide the data about what your site visitors want…  And you can’t optimize for search engines without knowing what searches people are using to get to your sites.

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But what about social networking?

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A few days ago I posted that (in my humble opinion) real estate blogs should be about real estate… not movie reviews, restaurant reviews, not recipes…  Real estate.  That is what the audience is tuning in for, give them what they want.  I gave a few examples of what I see from my traffic patterns, and generally tried to support my opinion.

But, real estate agents that are marketing online (should) have a LOT more channels aside from their real estate blog.  And I DO believe that there is a place in some of those other channels for items with less focus.  First, let’s run down a few options:

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  • YouTube
  • Posterous
  • Twitter
  • FaceBook (Business) Page
  • Delicious (Link sharing)
  • Flickr (Photo Sharing)
  • FourSquare (Location Sharing)
  • Community Websites
  • More…

 

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With the exception of the community websites, EVERY one of those items listed is FREE.  Community websites might be free, might cost a few bucks a year, or might cost as much as $100 (if you have to have someone set it up).  But there is something that they ALL have in common, too.  They can all be support systems for your real estate website.  And they can all send links to your real estate website… they are all outposts, providing information and hopefully send a few people trotting off to visit your cyber-office. A community website is the absolute toughest to get going… and has the most reward if you get it right.

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Video is hot.  You should have video of testimonials, communities, local events, YOU and likely a plethora of other things.  Host them on YouTube, embed them on your site (the ones that belong) and let them pull in a little traffic.  Flickr is much the same… but with pictures instead of video.

Posterous is COOL.  It is a great way to get some of the content to the other sites… and also share news and tidbits about things that are happening in the community.  Grab an RSS feed from your Posterous site and let it run on the sidebar of your blog.  Pull in calendar entries from local events, interviews with local politicians or business-people, news items, reviews or local places, etc.  Don’t make it the focus of your website… let it stand on its own, while contributing a little to your website.  Better yet, make it community specific, and find people in the community that want to load THEIR content onto it.  Be the publisher…

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A great source of news is Twitter.  I have come to see Twitter as “broadcast media” rather than as person to person social networking.  Some will disagree, but I look at Twitter the same way as I look at the “newswire services”.  Filter it down to what is important, and then share that in a news feed on your site.  It isn’t terribly difficult in a geographic specialty… but a bit tougher with a lifestyle specialty.

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Delicious is a link sharing site.  Instead of having a giant blogroll of all of the people you might know, share the links through Delicious… they can be tagged and categorized to make finding resources easier for your reader.  Again, publish a feed to your sidebar.

On FourSquare, do those reviews (in the “Tips” section of the location).  Have a great profile and point it back to your website.  If there is someone out there that will buy a house from you based on your incredible writing about an ice cream cone… they can still find you.

Foursquare (social networking)
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FaceBook could be 20 posts all by itself.  But, the basic idea is to make a Page about a community and then get the community to give it life.  You should be there to nurture it, cull out the junk (and competitors) and keep it moving along.  Talk about the parks, restaurants, movies, local parades and a zillion other things.  Let it be a virtual Town Square where people can gather at 4am in their underwear without being laughed at (nobody has to know).

The bottom line is that there IS a place for all of that other content we want to use to show everyone how connected we are to the community.  It just might not be the main real estate website.

 

What do YOU think?

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