Social Networking in Ann Arbor Brings in Business

The following article was written by Dan Meisler at the Ann Arbor Business Review. With Dan’s permission he let me post it here. You can follow Dan on Twitter too. One other reason I love twitter, all the local Ann Arbor connections.

Missy Caulk has nearly 1,500 followers on Twitter and another 1,500 friends on Facebook.

If that sentence didn’t make any sense to you, you’ve got a ways to go to catch up to the phenomenon known as social networking, and the benefits it can bring for Realtors and other business people.

Networking for the next generationFor the uninitiated, social networking refers to Web sites that allow quick communications between groups of users who agree to be connected to each other.

Facebook, which boasts 150 million active users in its promotional material, provides a forum to post photos and videos, write longer pieces such as a recent trend of listing “25 random things about me,” and create and support causes and groups.

Twitter is essentially a short-hand version of Facebook, allowing entries of up to 140 characters, which are often used to post links to other Web sites of interest.

LinkedIn is a professional networking site, where people can build up networks of work-related connections and write recommendations for colleagues looking for employment.

• And, of course, there are stand-alone blogs on which users can record their thoughts on any topic or links they’ve seen recently, for perusal by anyone at all.

Caulk, an associate broker in Keller Williams Realty’s Ann Arbor office, is among the leaders in using the Internet to connect with potential clients and relay information about the market – so much so that she often makes presentations to local groups on the subject, and will speak to conferences in Orlando and Atlanta in the coming weeks.

But Caulk, a Realtor for 14 years, said the key to success in the world of the Tweet, status update and blog entry is not to stick with an all-business attitude.

“The thing about social networking is, don’t go on there and do it just for business,” she said. “Business will be a byproduct if you do it the right way.”

If it all sounds like a lot of time wasted on the computer when you could be out showing homes to prospective buyers, Caulk has a statistic that might jump out at you: $80,000.

“When you connect with people all over the world, referrals come in,” she said. “I’ve had $80,000 in gross commissions from Internet referrals over the last couple of years.”

Of course, she said, when it comes time to show a home or provide other services, the client always comes first.

But building relationships is a key to attracting referrals and, ultimately, clients, Caulk said, and the social networking sites are simply the way that’s being done today.

“I want to connect with people in general, and build relationships,” she said. “Out of those relationships, I’ll get business … This generation, people are on the Internet.”

For exchanges of information specifically related to real estate, Caulk also uses a blog service called Active Rain aimed at Realtors and others in the industry.

But the social networking sites also have an appeal beyond real estate or business, Caulk said. Reconnecting with friends dating back to high school has been a very positive experience, she said.

“It kind of brought my whole life together,” she said. “It gives me a holistic feeling about what I’ve done my entire life.”

There are pitfalls, though. Caulk said she tries to prevent any tensions that might arise between her personal and professional lives. For example, she doesn’t follow her children’s friends on Facebook.

Are there any Internet postings she regrets?

No, Caulk said, but one vaguely political posting on Facebook resulted in a discussion that became heated.

“I didn’t like that,” she said. “Don’t put anything in cyberspace you don’t want the world to know.”

Thanks for letting me share Dan !

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