I’m really glad Cheryl was interested in doing an interview. As I’ve said in the past, I think the vendors who serve real estate professionals offer a unique perspective that’s worth looking at.
Hi Cheryl, what made you decide to start a blog?
As is the case with many, it seemed that blogging was fast becoming de rigueur for effectively marketing online. I was already providing extensive content articles on my site describing the services I offered along with my methodologies and blogging seemed the perfect solution to further build the stickiness of my website as well as a means to provide fodder for the search engine spiders to eat. It’s hard to believe I took the plunge into blogging over three years ago. I may not blog as often as many others, but I do strive to create value with what I do post.
I adore Joomla. I started with Mambo in 2005 and made the switch when Mambo forked off into what’s now known as Joomla. I was the first Virtual Assistant to implement a content management system of any kind, now you find a great many VAs implementing Joomla. I considered WordPress, TypePad and a few others before deciding on Joomla for my website. I was even an early adopter of blogger.com prior to starting my business in 2001. I looked at it from an SEO angle as well as an ownership angle. I wanted to own my marketing and promote my own URL and I wanted the most powerful system that would make my job as easy as possible. WordPress at the time didn’t have the URL structure I wanted, I needed my article keywords in the URL as well as the meta tags, header tags and I also loved the richness of the admin interface of Joomla. While many may be a bit daunted, once you’re past the initial learning curve in running the backend of Joomla you quickly see the power and richness of the interface. Also, as a designer I found Joomla templates a breeze while the WordPress templates were a bit clunky to implement. Blogging on Joomla gives me tons of power – the ability to have certain ‘modules’ that display only on my blog pages and other ‘modules’ display on alternate areas of my website, the ability to use CSS to vary the styling (colors, graphics) of those modules for increased variety. I also love that with Joomla, you can create or purchase a template that will make your Joomla site look totally custom whereas many WordPress templates all look very similar. Again, that’s my designer peeking through.
Some agents have different independent blogs and traditional web sites. Others are combining them. What do you recommend?
Mostly it’s just a matter of preference. I adopt the KISS or Keep It Simple Stupid methodology for my own site/blog mainly since I get so busy with client work, I seldom have the time to manage multiple sites. If an agent feels there’s value in keeping his opinions (blog) away from his storefront (website) and has the time and budget to implement and optimize both, (s)he should go for it. However, if you like the idea of having just one spot on the web to manage (aside from your Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed…), then Joomla gives you the ability to do so easily.
One of the services you provide is to help agents manage their presence on social networks like MySpace or Facebook. It seems to me that these sights depend largely on the personality of the agent themselves. How can one outsource social networking and retain authenticity at the same time?
Certainly, I’d never recommend fully outsourcing your social networking as that defeats the purpose of being social. While I have yet to have a client take me up on the service (it’s there more as a concept to encourage folks to consider social networking in the first place) I can offer some benefit by managing settings, accepting or rejecting comments/pokes/requests, finding more friends or associates for you on Linkedin or Facebook. If I can access your PC remotely, setup some basic social networking tools, create you a protopage.com browser homepage with links to all your new networks, create your MyBlogLog account and tie in your blog – basically get you started and advise you a bit as you get your feet wet, then I’ve done my job. It’s that initial inertia or fear to jump in that plagues many folks and I’m the ‘hand holder,’ if you will.
You market you services through these same social networks. In your experience, what is the most effective social network for connecting with real estate agents?
Hands down, Twitter. As a Real Estate Virtual Assistant, I work 100% from my home office staring at the same four walls all day and having a resource like Twitter where I can socialize and network with my peers and defeat the isolation – that is priceless. I’ve made fantastic connections – @gotbob Bob Carney was kind enough to allow me to save his website from Advanced Access, we converted it to Joomla www.gotbob4homes.com, I’ve found several new clients who need help with this or that and I’ve connected also to several wonderful Virtual Assistants with whom we share ideas and referrals. Every other social networking platform pales by comparison. What’s also fantastic is the ability to have clients stay connected and aware of my daily grind – they now can rest assured that I’m *real* and in the trenches working on their projects. I look forward to the time when social media will be more distributed – sites like FriendFeed and SocialThing are headed in the right direction, but the ability to pull all these great services into my website so you get the ‘big picture’ would be amazing.
What are some of your favorite blogs?
Oooh, that’s hard – there are so many! Here are several that I read regularly and why:
Agent Genius – If it’s tech and real estate, I love it and these folks *are* genius!
Chris Brogan – He never fails to leave an impression and topics are always spot on.
Freelance Switch – Terrific for entrepreneurs of all kinds, often they make me feel like they’re writing about me, very relatable
Problogger – Darren is a wealth of blog knowledge and his style is clean, love it.
Tech Crunch – I always want to know about the hot new toys
What advice do you have for prospective bloggers who are sitting on the fence?
Build it now! Even if you only post once per month to start, get that blog domain name into Google today so when/if you do decide to go full force into blogging, you won’t suffer the Google sandbox aging delay. Look at your local market – is anyone else blogging? You could build relationships with RE.net bloggers and perhaps grow friendships and referrals – you could become the authority on your market and have the local network affiliates calling you for your opinion. Carpe Diem, as Robin Williams said in Dead Poets Society. How will you know the amount of benefit unless you try?
My parting shot is actually to shoot myself – I promised myself I would work on blog posts over the weekend and got caught doing client work instead – thus, I’m the shoemaker whose children run around barefoot! I’ve improved, but I often blog in bursts when some bit of amazing news or creative idea strikes. My saving grace has been the book ‘Getting Things Done’ by David Allen which is a fantastic system of organizing your life in order to alleviate stress. Many other netizens agree as it has an almost cult status online.