Blogger Spotlight; Alex Clark

Compared to loan originators, it seems to me that real estate agents are far more prepared to create content for a blog. My advice for RE agents has long been to start with the content you create offline, and throw it up on a blog. It’ll take root from there. Alex Clark is a great example of this simple and strait forward advice.

Hi Alex, what led you to create the Front Steps?

I have been “blogging” since late 2003 when I started sfnewsletter , which was my newsletter I sent to my clients. It was so popular I decided to allow other Realtors to brand and customize it and send it to their clients. It is successful, but my “voice” had to be toned down and much more “professional” as I had the interests of other Realtors to protect. A lot of my long time readers noticed the more subtle and less off the cuff writing style and suggested I start a proper blog.

Initially the blog was sfnewsletter BLOG, but that too was too hard to keep my clients interests in check as they were associated with sfnewsletter and my “voice” was again being edited. So I scrapped it, and decided I’d start theFrontSteps and anybody that wanted to join me could, the caveat being that they are joining my blog and the tone may, at some times, be less than professional.

I also felt that if some of us Realtors could join together under one site, it would be much more powerful than doing our own individual blogs.

It doesn’t take long before most bloggers see the value in adding additional voices to their blog. You’ve taken a somewhat out of the box track to accomplishing this through your Stammtisch. What’s a Stammtisch, and how is it working for you?

A Stammtisch is a German word that refers to “a table reserved for regular guests”. If you go to Germany and walk into a packed restaurant and want to sit at the only open table, you will kindly be told to sit somewhere else, as that table is the Stammtisch..reserved. You’ll know who’s at the Stammtisch when they walk in, shake hands with everyone on the way in, and sit right down at that table, no questions asked.

This is the whole idea of people that contribute regularly getting a bit of credit. There is no way I could come up with all this stuff myself, so there is no need to take credit for it myself even if they are anonymous tips and readers that choose an alias over their real names. They are all part of my site.

I’ve had to modify the way I promote the Stammtisch as many people don’t know what it is, so I changed the page tab from Stammtisch to “About”. It gets more clicks that way.

Recently, you held a contest for the Sexiest Realtor in San Francisco. Not all of your readers reacted positively. With this experience behind you, how would you advise other bloggers to handle disgruntled readers?

It’s funny. That was by far the most popular post I’ve ever done, and we’ll soon be finding out who’s the Sexiest Realtor in America… Feedback was generally pretty good on that post and how many industry people were a part of the voting was shocking. Realtors love publicity and that was a very good way to get some. I’m surprised the Realtor community was able to lighten up and have fun with it. Of course there were many that just can’t get past the whole thing to save their lives and there are other sites for them…not ours.

How to handle disgruntled readers? If their comments are just plain tasteless, delete them. If they continue, “blacklist” their IP and send them an email (if provided) letting them know you won’t stand for that and they are no longer welcome. If they aren’t commenting but sending you emails instead, you have to look at the bigger picture. The squeaky wheels always get the grease, but if thousands of people are participating and only a handful are complaining, they’re certainly in the minority and you have to live by the old phrase, “you can’t please all the people all the time”, and move on.

Overall, what was the general reaction to the contest. Will you do it again next year?

Reaction, as stated above was great. Yes. We’ll be doing it again next year, and like I said, I’m 99% certain we’re going to find the Sexiest Realtor in America, so get ready to help spread the word. 😉

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Funny enough, I don’t read many blogs regularly. I’m pretty busy doing my own thing, sfnewsletter, and selling real estate. SFist, Curbed, and RealEstalker are really the only blogs I check frequently. I check a few industry blogs to stay on top of things, but wouldn’t necessarily call them favorites. I guess you could say I do a lot of browsing, but rarely come back to the same blog over and over.

What web sites, blogs, tools, or people do you find most helpful in building your blog?

I use WordPress.com. They handle a lot of things for you, but don’t allow advertising, which is a bummer. I’d like to switch to wordpress.org and do it all myself, but really don’t have the time.

As for help in building my blog, that is all my readers. They are the ones that keep spreading the word, and I can’t thank them enough.

The best way to building my blog has been (like I said) browsing all the others out there to get ideas, then try to incorporate them into mine.

Do you have any tips or advice for a fellow real estate professional that’s looking to get into blogging?

Yes. If you’re in SF, join theFrontSteps as a contributor. You will get way more mileage out of being part of a bigger thing than you ever would going it alone…unless you’re really good. If you’re not in SF, consider doing the same wherever you are. If that is not possible, start your own, and have fun with it. Our blog is so successful because I rarely allow the “sales pitch” to come through. Realtors are notorious for always saying things like, “work with me, I’ll get you the best price…” at the beginning and end of their blogs. Readers don’t like that. If they like you and your style, they’ll come knocking. Don’t expect overnight success, and keep at it. It is a lot of time, energy and work that goes into blogging, but it can certainly pay off.

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