Tag Archives: Interviews

Blogger Spotlight: Chris Johnson

Can a someone by ubiquitous, relevant, and transparent, all at the same time? Chris Johnson seems to be giving it his best effort. Chis is a contributor Lenderama, The Mortgage Cicerone, Blood Hound Blog, and authors Ten Day Team and Genuine Chris. Yet, he’ll be the first to tell you blogging is not for everyone.

Hi Chris, what made you decide to start a blog?

Well, I was blogging on Live Journal all the way back in 2001, mostly about my goals and dreams. The odd thing was is that I picked up transactions by being part of communities. I was 25 at the time, so a lot of the stuff I saw I absolutely cringed at, so when RE blogging took off I decided it was a great channel to reach out to people and to make myself available.

When the market turned in late 2005, I thought it would be a good time to start really advocating good business practices. You told me that people that blog to advocate last.

On the Ten Day Team blog, you recently wrote about finding you niche in blogging. What advice do you have for real estate agents as to just how focused their blogs should be?

Lenders and Real Estate Agents should create a ridiculously compelling reason for someone from the outside to contact them, or they should simply not blog. It doesn’t have to be hyper-focused, but it does have to have a reason to come back. Some breathtaking content. It’s hard to achieve, but once you find something you believe in, you’ll know right away. In this business it STILL doesn’t take a lot of transactions to make a great living, so instead of focusing on subscribers, I’d focus on providing quality, organic and authentic content.

The great thing is–that you and others have proven–is that there’s no limit to what can get accomplished by blogging correctly.

I was kind of blown away at something on your other blog, Genuine Chris. You’ve actually listed your personal goals, AND exactly where you stand in meeting them. I know the blog is an, “Experiment in Personal Online Transparency”, but where does one draw a line between public and private with regard to their blog.

I did that–and I’ll do it again–to help me “walk the walk.” Google docs and other programs help us to do that quickly, and if I’m going to hold myself out as someone that knows how to survive the loan industry, then it’s helpful to show that I’m actually following the plan that I preach.

I don’t know where the line is drawn–because I love accountability. I don’t want to go off the deep end, but if I voluntarily expose wide swaths of my life, then I will live better in those areas. If I know people (and some people that dislike me) are watching, chances are that I will live beyond reporach. Am I there yet? Hell no, but it’s the direction I am going..

Your blogs are all about helping other people get better at their jobs. There’s ways to monetize this, but with everyone and their brother racing to share their knowledge on the blogosphere, do you see a day when the asset of knowledge will have no value?

Not really. I am combining knowledge with accountability in the projects that I have coming out. Personal trainers make a great living not by helping people do proper exercises, but by creating a control that ensures that people do it. We’re not being paid so much for the information itself as being a trusted filter. Brian Brady made the comment that he learned nothing new from my book, but still found it a great value.

The models and info is out there, but what I’ve done is distilled it. Did David Allen’s GTD teach us anything new? No, not really. But what it did do was gave us some of what he calls ‘enlightened common sense.’ A trusted filter will be viable for decades into the future.

I never ask when I’m recruiting people to join, but I’m always curious as to other’s motives. Why do you contribute to Lenderama?

It was the best Lender blog around. The people you’ve collected are all outstanding and solid examples. I wanted to have to create content that was as good as the stuff that was coming their way. I had had a good experience on Blown Mortgage when Morgan was experimenting with being multi author, and I wanted to help originators in any way that I also wanted to kick it up a notch or two, as far as quality goes, and I was new at making a name for myself on the internet.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Instead of listing the ones that everyone knows, I’ll try and get some of the ‘unusual’ suspects.

Bliss Point Blog, Confident Writing, I like the Art of Manliness, JustDugUp is fantastic. I like the Xbroker and BawldGuy because they let their guard down and aren’t afraid to call out the BS that is in the market.

What advice do you have for prospective bloggers who are sitting on the fence.?

Get started on your own blogging, leave comments, don’t be afraid to disagree. You have to be both remarkable and good if you’re going to do this long term, so learn from people. Also, subscribe to the Long List on Bloodhound, and poke around Rembex a good bit. Then when you engage, listen first and talk second. I am honored to get to be on Lenderama and to get to be on Bloodhound and to get to be on the Cicerone. There is some work creating original content for 4-5 places, but it’s really rewarding.

I’d also say that it’s possible to be relevant WITHOUT blogging, and if you don’t see it as a “get to” vs. a “have to,” it’s 100% OK to skip doing it.

Chris Johnson is a loan officer, and author of the Loan Officer Survival Guide. You can buy his book at losurvialguide.com.

Blogger Spotlight: Jan O’Brien

Of course, the primary goal of most real estate blogs is to sell houses. But that’s not the only thing they are good for. I caught up with Jan O’Brien to ask her about the unique ways she leverages blogging.

Hi Jan, why did you adopt blogging as a marketing medium?

I have always loved technology, the internet, website design and development. Around October of 2006 I started researching and learning about blogging. My first blog attempt was on LiveJournal.com – just keeping an online diary. I launched my real estate coach blog in January of 2007 and started posting regularly in March. I absolutely love the blog platform as a marketing medium and enjoy the overall process, the building of community and connecting with others and the search engine rankings!

I have studied SEO and web design and have experimented with pay per click for other websites. So, I was ecstatic to discover how quickly my blog and various posts came up in Google searches for the keywords I was targeting.

I have connected with so many interesting people in the last year and developed business relationships all as a result of my blog.

Your most recent real estate blog is quite unique. It’s a recruiting blog for Prudential Americana group. How is this blog progressing?

The LVRealEstateCareer.com blog has been an experiment and a pet project of mine. My goal is to demonstrate how the blog platform can out-perform a traditional website in lead generation and overall effectiveness for businesses. In this case, the goal is to attract new and seasoned real estate agents to contact Prudential Americana regarding Las Vegas career opportunities. We are using the blog as the home page and have added several pages to detail the tools, services and benefits of a real estate career with Prudential Americana,

The site really looks like a website with the added benefits of what a blog provides. We are also using the blog to provide career information, share tips and strategies, educate the local real estate community while inviting a conversation.

The blog has only been up and fully operational for less than two months and the results have been amazing. We have soared in the search engine rankings for our targeted key words in a few short weeks. We are also starting to get inquiries and comments. I highly recommend brokerages and real estate agent team leaders consider using a blog as a recruiting venue.

I know you also teach a blogging class to real estate professionals. What is the most often asked question you receive in these classes? (and please answer the question).

Probably the most frequent question besides “What is a blog?” is “Will I really be able to find the time to maintain a blog or How much time does it take?” My answer usually involves reviewing the questions to consider before launching a blog first:

1. Do you enjoy writing?
2. Do you have something to say or contribute? Are you passionate about what you want to blog about?
3. Can you provide compelling, informative, valuable content for readers?
4. Are you familiar with and involved in the blogosphere? Do you participate by commenting on blogs or posting in forums?
5. Do you have a clear mission and purpose for your blog?
6. Have you defined your targeted audience?
7. Do you have an existing website with articles, content and information you can link to from your blog?
8. Are you committed to posting on a regular basis? Once a week at a minimum; 3-4 times a week to daily for optimal exposure.
I really cover in my classes that blogging is not for everyone and that’s okay. It’s better to explore and seriously consider the answers to the above questions and decide if it’s for you then jump in only to abandon your blog shortly thereafter.. If blogging is for you and you are having fun, you will make the time to blog. Ultimately, the time required will depend on how frequently you want to post. In my experience, I spend an average of 4-6 hours per week working on my blog.

On your Real Estate Coach blog, you link to several tech blogs in your “More Favorite Blogs” section. I also know you attended the Blog World Expo last year. What can real estate bloggers learn from the tech world?

I believe it’s critical for both real estate agents and bloggers to stay informed about the latest trends and developments in technology for many reasons.

• The consumer is using technology. More than 80% of today’s buyers and sellers start their search for a home or in some cases to find a real estate agent via the Internet.

• The new generations of buyers (and many others) prefer to communicate with everything from text messaging to Twitter. The buying process is different for today’s younger buyers – it’s social networking in action. Decisions are made via group sharing and input. You’ve got to adapt and learn the new social media – or they will find someone who understands their needs.

• There are so many online marketing site and opportunities to promote your listings as well as yourself. Virtual tour sites, Trulia, Zillow, Oodle, Craisgslist, vFlyers, Postlets just to name a few.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Bloodhound Blog – This was one of the first real estate blogs I subscribed to. Greg Swann and all of the contributors are truly on the cutting edge of real estate blogs. A must read!

TransparentRE – I met Pat Kitano at Real Connect 2007 in San Francisco and we discovered that we “knew” each other via our respective blogs. Pat has a great blog on the real estate industry, technology, marketing, business strategies, web 2.0 and more. I refer to it often and recommend it to everyone.

Dustin Luther’s Blog – I discovered Dustin on Rain City Guide. Met him at Real Connect last year also. Dustin is an innovator and one of the elite real estate bloggers. I recently found his blog www.4realz.net and love it.

Real Estate Tomato – Jim Cronin’s blog about real estate blogging and marketing is one of my favorites. It is packed with great tips, advice, and strategies for novice and advanced bloggers alike.

R Blog – Rosie O’Donnell’s blog. I find her blog entertaining and irreverent. I love how she is so transparent, authentic and speaks her mind. She’s one of the best celebrity blogger in my book. I also love how she integrates video and pictures.

What advice do you have for prospective bloggers who are looking to start a blog.

1. Review and really answer the “questions to consider prior to launching a blog” I outlined above.
2. Be authentic and transparent.
3. Find your own voice. Understand and accept it takes a little while to find it sometimes!
4. Make sure you are passionate about your topic(s). Keep your blog focused on the 3-5 things you have chosen to write about as much as possible.
5. Just start posting… don’t be such a perfectionist and self-critical! (And we all are hardest on ourselves by the way.)
6. Develop a schedule or writing commitment and stick to it.
7. Quality not quantity – don’t force it.
8. Develop a mindset and awareness of how your everyday experiences, questions from clients, and random thoughts can all become blog posts.
9. Carry around a blog notebook or tape recorder so you can record the ideas that start flowing when you are focused and aware of the process.
10. Have Fun!

Blogger Spotlight: Cheryl Allin

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.

Your blog, and entire website is built on Joomla. How does this platform compare to more common blogging platforms like WordPress or TypePad?

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

Future of Real Estate Marketing – always has the news you need to know first
Geek Estate Blog – They speak geek and they’re in real estate, brethren!

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.

Blogger Spotlight: Missy Caulk

Whenever I do a set of theses interviews I always ask for bloggers to step forward if they would like to participate. This time around, Missy Caulk, of Ann Arbor Real Estate Talk was actually nominated by another blogger. That should give you an idea of the impression Missy sets among her piers.

Hi Missy, why did you adopt blogging as a marketing medium?

It was only when I started blogging on Activerain that I began to get business from blogging. Both from other agents as referrals and from local people finding my posts. Now it is the 2nd most important venue I use for generating business.

You’re an active member of Active Rain. Which came first for you, Active rain, or your own personal blog?

I actually set up a blog on blogger, long before I had run into Active Rain in December 2006, but really didn’t “get it” until I started using Active Rain consistently. My personal blog Ann Arbor Real Estate Talk was just launched in November. When the whole issue of Move buying Active Rain hit the press, I knew I wanted something that was truly my own, just in case…..

What made you decide to contribute in both places? (AR and your own blog)

I rarely duplicate content, occasionally. Honestly, I’m still trying to get ranked in search engines on my own blog. I sold a house to a Google employee back in August. He was in charge of Google in Poland and he told me Google didn’t penalize for duplicate content and I believe him. My Ann Arbor Real Estate Talk Blog I am trying to have just strictly focused on Ann Arbor and Saline, market, real estate, events, human interests. Active Rain is a great place to learn and the relationships are phenomenal so it is probably more social to me now. It is a great platform to bounce real estate issues off other people and pick up new techniques.

I noticed that you occasionally include your listings on your blog. There’s a lot of debate about if this is a good idea. Have you ever received any negative response for doing so?

No, not at all. I am a Realtor, I sell houses, and blogging helps get great backlinks for my sellers on their homes.

I know you’re also a Flickr user. Would you share with us a little about how you use Flickr to promote your blog/business?

Todd, I am just getting my feet wet on flickr. As soon as it gets warm and we have green grass, I am going to do sets of things around Ann Arbor, like art fairs, music events, shopping, schools, University of MI and group them all together in sets. Then I plan on when I get leads send out the set to people relocating to Ann Arbor in my email responses. But, I really want green grass, flowers and full foliage. Ann Arbor is a beautiful city, they call it Tree Town.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Well currently I subscribe to 153 in RSS. I learn from many of them. I love Sellisus and 4Realz.net, Agent Genius, 1000 Watt, Pro-blogger, Transparent Real Estate, Word Press SEO and Blog Marketing, Blog Fiesta, Common Craft, Real Estate Zebra. Gee, I can’t name them all, but I am really enjoying Twitter too, it has introduced me through links people publish to lots of good blogs.

What advice do you have for prospective bloggers who are looking to start a blog.

Join Active Rain, learn, read, comment and jump in. You will grow and it is a good place to find out if blogging is something you love and want to be a part of your marketing plan.

A parting shot.

I think we are still at the beginning stages of blogging, as far as many agents and Brokers that don’t understand or “get it”. I’m very thankful that I found it early. My world has been enhanced and enlarged.