These days, it seems like a lot of real estate investors are turning to online ventures in an effort to grow their businesses. As the internet explodes with users, many of which are vying for the attention of customers and clients, an ever-increasing number of platforms and tools are popping up online. From directories to classified sites, online auctions to all sorts of personal pages and blogs, there are multitudes of ways in which business people in general –and real estate investors in particular– are using the internet to try to increase profits. While the old piece of advice that recommends spreading oneself thin may have a lot of weight behind it, the sheer number of avenues for the promotion of a business online makes it impractical to take this route.

Rather, most real estate investors employ a focused, concentrated hub for their online activities, using various utilities and tools as still helpful, but essentially auxiliary, measures. So how does one go about finding a focus? The answer is fairly simple when success rates are weighed for various options, and especially when the relative difficulty and time investments involved are set against these rates.

One of the fastest growing and most effective online venues for real estate investment is social media. For the uninitiated, social media describes a variety of sites with utilities that allow people to network –to find each other, converse, create profiles, and often share pictures, music, and video– in one convenient place. Some of the biggest names in social media today are Myspace and Facebook, sites with untold millions of members who generate and share the content.

The power of such social portals is self-evident; imagine an interactive, searchable, fully functional directory of people who are there not because they’ve been solicited, but because they’re interested in making new connections. A business-minded person, whether in the field of real estate or hot dog sales, is likely to grasp right away the wealth of potential carried by such a thing.

Yet one social media site has been busy changing the way that people on portal sites interact online. Twitter, which has been steadily gaining members and growing at a decidedly exponential rate lately, has revolutionized the social media phenomenon, and for the web-savvy real estate investor (and even for those just starting out online), it’s a tool that really can’t be left out of any serious arsenal.

What makes Twitter different is its basic platform, messaging, and how it’s structured. Many refer to Twitter use as “microblogging,” that is, similar to blogging itself, but in a significantly condensed form. Users find contacts to follow and in turn are followed by others; when a user makes a post (called a “tweet” in the unofficial lingo), everyone following the user sees their page updated with this new post, and can reply. The result is a multi-threaded, complex conversation spanning scores of people and topics, all based on real, natural, and meaningful connections between the people involved.

So how is this special tool utilized specifically for real estate investors?

Well, it’s a great contact builder overall, but it’s also a prime way to buy property from motivated sellers. One of the greatest advantages of using Twitter is that people tend to trust their contacts; a deep sense of community is felt throughout the site, and this can foster truly meaningful business relationships. Catching on to the trend, property sellers enjoy a fair representation on Twitter. But rather than plastering the site with advertisements or being present for the sole purpose of a potential sale, these sellers usually mention the fact that they’re looking to sell as a part of their normal program of tweeting.

While this does of course make it slightly more difficult to find such contacts, the rewards are spectacular. One of the best ways to attract motivated property sellers on Twitter is exactly that –be attractive. Many real estate investors have realized success on the site by providing quality information on local related events, laws, and other points of interest. They may answer questions posed by their contacts, or post the occasional piece of advice. They might even simply serve as news aggregators for real estate happenings in the area, collecting all the breaking news on the subject and providing regular links or updates. In so doing, real estate investors create a sense of place within the local community, and can gain a great deal of credibility and approachability. Don’t be surprised if a number of sellers approach you directly if you employ this technique!

Keeping a keen eye out for people posting about selling a property or asking related questions can help you identify quality prospects, who you can then engage with on Twitter itself. If you stumble across real estate companies in your area on Twitter, take a look at the list of people who are following them, and consider adding these contacts to your own list (both for the purpose of reviewing any potential property sales and with the prospect of being followed by them in turn, boosting reputation). With the right attitude, you can persuade many of these people to choose private investors rather than traditional real estate firms, so that when it comes time for them to sell their property, they’re familiar and comfortable with your name.

This virtual brand creation, using your persona front and center as the advertisement is an excellent way to grow your business overall, as relationships grow and mature, engendering more and more new contacts as time passes. In a world where hard sales seem to have taken over in many respects, and professionals are endlessly pressuring their clients into closing deals, the ability to support low-pressure, natural relationships is extremely valuable.

Check out Twitter and discover a whole new way to buy property and interact with your virtual community at large.

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