Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Sense of Community and Opportunity

I have been involved in the real estate and online industries for about six years now and I must tell you that over and over I see the most traffic online invariably comes from the communities. Chat rooms and forums used to rule the online traffic, and if you wanted to find a group of active target customers, you would simply search for a forum, Yahoo Group or chat room that served your client’s niche. With the advent of the new online social networks this truism is becoming more and more pronounced.

So as a marketer and real estate agent, how do you capitalize on this phenomena to drive people in your community into your office?

Thanks to the proliferation of standardized community tools you can create your own online network to serve your local community. As the host of this network, you can drive a lot of traffic through your front door. In addition, because of the new and emerging networking platforms, the cost is minimal, and the opportunity for customization is immense.

I have been researching the different platforms that you can use to create your network, and there are a variety of platforms to suit your needs. If you have no access to a programmer, there are a few such as, CommunityServer and which are primarily turnkey networks. If you do have access to a programmer, there are a lot of open source packages that can be customized to serve the needs of your community. The few that I have looked at are:,,,, AROUNDMe and DZIOC which I will most likely use for my new online project. Finally, if you want to go big, there are a number of platform providers and integrators that you can use to create a completely customized platform. In addition to Pluck Sitelife and Select Minds, here are the Google Picks.

With the advent of all of these online tools and the adoption of MySpace by individuals over the age of 35, people are moving online to find ways to connect. We all lead such busy lives that many of us miss the day to day interaction with friends and have given up social outlets in favor of longer work days and too many demands on our time. For the real estate agent or firm that can capitailize on this movement and connect with their neighbors online there is great opportunity. By extension, for those agents that can connect with others online and bring those connections into the brick and mortar world, through the use of meetings, mixers, and social events, the opportunity to become a fixture in your community is immense.

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