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Real Estate on Twitter – Cocktail Party, SEO Conference or Kool-Aid Cult?

Can twitter help you find a home in Austin?Or is it just a way for real estate agents to stalk home buyers and sellers? Here’s what I’ve seen of twitter so far.

For those of you have had your head in the times of druids, twitter is a micro-blogging platform – a chance to send your best 140 character message to a world of followers.

Followers?Sound a bit like some kool-aid is coming? Not exactly. You can follow friends, colleagues, people who share similar interests and they can follow you.

Twitter is a social networking platform that has been growing seemingly exponentially – a 1374% jump in visitors in 12 months.

In my opinion, it’s a bit like a cocktail party rather than a cult. There’s a public timeline where people can tweet – send out their messages.

Other people who are following (in the same cocktail party) can respond back to you in a whisper (direct message) or as a shout (so everyone can see or hear). So other people can join in the conversation too, and they may end up following you.

Sound familiar? It’s social networking, a term which for some reason now seems only applies to online media.

Who is using twitter? If you look at the twitter elite in Austin, the most popular users are online marketers. So even if you’re having a cocktail party in the Tonga Lounge in the hotel in San Francisco, the city is hosting a web marketing convention, and the people you bump into in the corridor and street are online marketers touting SEO.

What are people using twitter for? Some people share information – they use it like Digg or Delicious to share interesting links. Some people use it for meeting people, for conferences, tweetups and some for creating giant “follow me ponzi schemes”. And yes, for spam.

Just like at a cocktail party, there’s twittiquette – think of the guy who shows up at the cocktail party and yells about their latest book, project or blog post. After a while people stop listening. That happens in twitter too.

So how does this relate to home buying and selling in Austin? Personally, I use twitter as a tool to share information about Austin real estate. I also share articles that I’m reading about the topic – my own and other people’s.

I answer questions, and I keep in touch with clients and friends. I build relationships with people.

How does this help buyers and sellers? If I’m at a cocktail party in conversations about Mueller Austin, people might figure out that I can help them if they’re considering a move there. I’ve certainly had a few inquiries from twitter users as I often tweet about life and homes at the Mueller development.

When you’re buying or selling a home, you want someone you can trust, and someone with recommendations from friends, and someone with demonstrable experience and skills.

Building a relationship with social networking tools like twitter is one way of getting to know someone with whom you are considering doing business. And twitter is like a cocktail party with a TiVo – you can see what someone has been talking about for months.

So what are the challenges? Realtors are a social bunch and a fraction of them like online social media. They like hanging out at the online cocktail party.

Say Sally is moving from Chicago to Austin and tweets something like “looking forward to finding a home in Austin”. There are going to be a few Realtors in Chicago and Austin who see this in the public timeline, and decide to strike up a conversation with Sally to see if she needs help in relocating to Austin.

When Sally was chatting to her friends (followers) she didn’t realize that the party line was tapped, and that people would try to solicit business from her. People who believe in permission-based marketing have a problem with that.

Twitter is a useful platform that can be used to build relationships and share information. It’s another way for buyers and sellers to connect with real estate agents and to do some due dilligence on them.

Garreth Wilcock is at various online cocktail parties – LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook when he’s not helping people buy and sell homes in Austin Tx.

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