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A house video on YouTube; staying in touch on LinkedInRealtors have long searched out new ways of marketing themselves and the homes they sell. And it is particularly important in this harsh economic climate to be innovative about how clients are searched for and kept around.

From Twitter to LinkedIn to Flickr to Facebook to Active Rain, a site dedicated to real estate, and beyond, people are looking to see how they can use these networks to connect with buyers and show their homes.

[caption id="attachment_17169" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Social networking Web sites unsed for real estate business (by California Association of Realtors; click image to enlarge)"][/caption]

A recent report by the California Association of Realtors, "Text, Tweet and Sell: A Dialogue on Tech's Possibilities for Today's Agents," found less than half of real estate professionals are using social networking sites. But that may be changing as homebuyers turn to the Internet in rising numbers.

Mirjam De Rijk, a Realtor with Century 21 in Santa Rosa uses YouTube and Facebook to promote her business.

“Showing people a home with video is so much better than just using photos,” she said.

By uploading videos of the homes she is listing, she can actually talk to the prospective buyers and tell them special features of the homes.

Timothy Brown, Realtor with Creative Property Services in Santa Rosa, also has used YouTube. He, however, uses this for buyers he is representing that are out of the area. He will take a video of the home and send them the link to the uploaded video.

Professionals must be careful in how they use networking sites. Some, for instance, do not allow marketing uses.  Flickr and Facebook are two that don’t.

The terms of use clause on the Flickr site says, “Don’t use Flickr for commercial purposes. Flickr is for personal use only. If we find you selling products, services or yourself through your photostream, we will terminate your account.”

And they do.

While no local Realtor surfaced that had these issues, Matt Stigliano, a Realtor in San Antonio with ReMax had problems with how he was using his Flickr account.

One day he found that his account had been shut down.

“I didn’t read their terms of service upfront and based my efforts on what others were doing, photographing neighborhoods and basically in the descriptions using keywords dominating search terms for certain neighborhoods,” he said.

He is now sticking to sites like Twitter, Facebook, Trulia, Active Rain, Agent Genius and his own site for marketing purposes.

Ms. De Rijk uses Facebook, which also has a clause in the terms of use about not using it for commercial purposes. Because of this she uses Facebook only for casual purposes.

“I keep people informed of what I am doing or say that I have properties that have certain attributes, but no hard sells on Facebook,” she said.

“I use Twitter to send out blasts of homes that are for sale,” she said.

A survey conducted by the California Association of Realtors found that 89 percent of homebuyers were looking at Realtor.com.

It also showed that specific brokerage and agent sites were in the top three viewed.

In the same survey, 54 percent of agents surveyed said they did not use social networks for their business.

Of those who do, 34 percent use LinkedIn, 13 percent use YouTube, 12 percent use MySpace, 10 percent use Twitter and 4 percent use Facebook.

As far as the actual social networks go, sometimes these Realtors just use them to keep people paying attention.

“I like to keep a market presence,” said Mr. Brown. “I like to put out personal notes like, I rode my bike to work today, or I went to a really great show.”

Mr. Stigliano agreed. “Twitter has been useful to me,” he said. “I try not to make it too much about real estate, just get to know the locals and have them know me.”

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Submit items for this column to Jenna V. Loceff at jlocecff@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4259 or fax 707-521-5292.