The Real Estate Professional's Guide to Networking

 By: Justin Havre
Miriam-Webster defines networking as "the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically, the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business."

A large number of people who are drawn to the real estate profession are outgoing, goal-driven, and personable—thus natural-born networkers. However, there are also agents that can be placed more on the introverted side of the spectrum, for whom networking is a mysterious, intimidating thing.

Networking has become a popular catch phrase in recent years, particularly in relation to job seekers. Experts advise you to "talk to people you know; widen your sphere of influence; obtain more personal and professional connections." But just how does a person go about doing that?

One of the best ways for real estate agents to build their network is to join either a local or national real estate organization. These groups often host regular events, which provide excellent opportunities to meet like-minded individuals in your field. Exchange business cards with those that you speak with, and engage in conversation with as many people as possible. Try to get other members' contact information, and keep in touch with them so that you haven't socialized in vain.

You don't need to build a lifelong friendship with these people; you just need to forge a professional connection that both of you can benefit from. Contacts that you make through professional organizations like The Women's Real Estate Network for instance, can turn out to be invaluable in terms of getting referrals and sharing information.

If you're not competing in the same market, you can feel free to pick each other's brains and brainstorm ideas. In difficult economic times like these, developing creative marketing plans can be the key to your business' survival.

These types of relationships can also be rewarding on a personal level, as you get to know others who share a passion for the real estate industry. You can also commiserate on the challenges you both face every day, which can be very cathartic.

In addition to meet-and-greets, professional organizations also keep their members informed of the latest happenings in the housing market, and may offer workshops and lectures to attend.

Aside from in-person events, you can also expand your circle of influence by going online. There are in fact several websites today that are dedicated to networking online.

These online meeting places are known as social networking sites, and they've become the latest vehicle for savvy realtors to market their businesses and make connections with other professionals in the industry.

Social networking sites include MySpace and Facebook, which are casual, social places where you can meet up with former schoolmates, extended family members, and meet friends of your friends. If you decide to post a profile on social sites like these, please keep in mind that self-promotion can be off-putting to others. Be subtle when you talk about your business, and try to use social sites simply as a way to make contacts.

ActiveRain on the other hand, is a social networking site that was created specifically for real estate professionals. It is a website that allows realtors, potential clients, and colleagues to meet and share information. Agents can create profiles for themselves, host their own blogs, and join groups on the site. There are articles designed for clients going through the buying or selling process, as well as articles for agents on topics such as online marketing and industry news.

These sites are an ideal platform for real estate agents to bounce ideas off each other, as well as attract new business. However, a better way to get clients' attention is to start a regular blog as part of your networking efforts.

Blogs, or web logs, are essentially online diaries where you can post mini-articles on whatever topic you choose. Blog posts are meant to be less formal than a traditional article, which means that you can let your personality shine through. Thanks to a blog's comment feature, visitors can comment on your post, and participate in a dialogue with you.

You may find that clients or other agents follow your blog posts, and are interested in what you have to say. Either scenario can lead to increased revenue—whether it's from agent referrals, or directly from the clients themselves. Increased income is the ultimate goal when networking, though the relationships you develop and the knowledge you acquire will prove to be priceless in your career as well.
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