Who's Got a Blog?
When RAE asked "Who's Got a Blog?", more than a dozen associations were eager to tell us about them. Here we feature our 8 favorite blogs for content and functionality. No two are alike but each in it's own way is reaching REALTORS in a way other communication methods don't, these blog operators say.
Chicago Association of REALTORS®
Launched: Nov. 2008
Mission: To facilitate an ongoing, digital dialogue between members and leadership on issues pertaining to and affecting our industry and business.
Contributors: Volunteer leadership and staff, plus member guest bloggers who have expertise on a topic.
Popular topics: Current events, specifically the economy.
Activity: Three to five posts a week. Average page views doubled from Nov. ’08 to Jan. ’09.
Benefit: Through the dialogue between members and their leadership, we can see a sense of community being built each day. Our leadership has demonstrated a great commitment to the project and actively responds to comments left on their posts.
Plans: Additional bloggers so news is updated more frequently.
Tips: One lesson we learned was that it takes time for blogs to develop an established readership. We’ve been fortunate that our leadership actively helps us promote the blog and supplies us with content.
Pinellas REALTOR® Organization, Fla.
Mission: To be an outlet working in concert with our other information sources and communications vehicles. Although our Web site is a hub of information, many members may not easily find the information we provide. We have six topic-specific blogs (Marketing, Technology, Statistics, Governmental Relations, General Organization News, PROView Magazine) that complement the other vehicles we use.
Contributors: Staff oversee all blog content, accept or edit member comments, and contribute per their specific expertise.
Popular topics: Social media marketing.
Activity: Each of our sister blogs is different. Our magazine blog is updated only once a month. Our marketing blog is probably the most active, with about two or three new additions each week and the most member comments.
Benefit: Ability to ask readers what they’d like to see next, rather than having to launch a more formal survey.
Tips: It’s important to have a focused blog, or as in our case, a number of focused blogs. I believe members would have easily been turned off if we had tried to distribute all information in only one blog. Choose a platform that easily allows you to post pictures and videos.
REALTOR® Association of Greater Miami and the Beaches
Launched: Jan. 2008
Mission: To help members become more profitable and successful by providing up-to-date information in an easy-to-use and easy-to- access format. Our blog has three platforms: residential, commercial, and international.
Contributors: 12 staff authors rotate every other week to blog on their specialty areas.
Popular topics: Government affairs issues, new-product articles, legal articles, luxury-market articles, membership articles.
Activity: Average of 70 posts per month.
Tips: Don’t depend on traffic to your blog to develop on its own. We direct traffic through a weekly blog newsletter that features short blurbs on each post, plus we post links to the blog throughout our Web site.
Memphis Association of REALTORS®
Launched: March 2008
Mission: To get our members and nonmembers to join in the conversation about anything real estate-related. Before the blog, our members had nowhere to go online to discuss local issues.
Contributors: Any member, though so far only staff and some volunteer leadership have contributed.
Popular topics: Steering in specific neighborhoods, the REALTOR® image.
Activity: Relatively light (e.g., three or four posts a month and one or two comments).
Benefit: Another way to engage our members that enables them to directly respond.
Tips: Make updating the blog part of your regular priorities. Engage with members who are active bloggers elsewhere and tap into their understanding of the medium to help get started.
Maine Association of REALTORS®
Launched: Jan. 2008
Mission: Perspective from a conversational angle.
Contributors: Staff and selected members are asked to blog on events and meetings.
Popular topics: Our Habitat Build—members, sponsors, and family and friends of attendees enjoyed the daily progress and observations.
Activity: Varies. Daily during Katrina build, sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly.
Benefit: Learning member perspective of specific events, like the Republican National Convention.
Plans: In the future would like to link with other social media, have more member blog authors, and use it for more of our legislative efforts.
Tips: Moderating comments is a big endeavor. We’ve had plenty of spam and marketers try to reach our members this way.
Tennessee Association of REALTORS®
Launched: Feb. 2008
Mission: To make our weekly association news, TAR DIGEST, more accessible and, above all, more easily searchable than it has been in the past.
Popular topics: 1) Reprints of Legal & Ethics Hot Line questions and answers and similar legal updates or alerts. 2) Tips on new or useful resources, Web sites, and tools available to members.
Activity: We post a new edition of the DIGEST on our blog four to five times a month, plus special updates. Comments are rare because members who wish to comment on something still tend to use e-mail rather than post a comment or question publicly. Between 6,000 and 7,000 of our members have subscribed to receive e-mail updates from the blog.
Benefit: The easy-to-remember URL makes it very easy to tell folks where to find it. After the initial setup, a blog is fairly easy to administer, and posting is very similar to composing a Word document; no great computer skills are needed! Having a more attractive printable version of our online posts has also been a plus. Members like the online archive and search. The free e-mail and RSS distribution of our weekly TAR DIGEST (through Feedburner) has given us a significant financial savings at a time when we really needed it! Wordpress, the engine on which the blog is built, has proven to be an excellent and easy-to-use platform for publishing.
Tips: Focus the majority of news or items in every posting on what members want to hear, not what you want to tell them, because content drives readership. We learned long ago that members will stop reading or unsubscribe from association newsletters if they feel they are constantly being “pitched” to buy or attend something. We’re sold on the use of blogs and RSS feeds for updates and news dissemination to members.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, REALTOR® magazine
Launched: Jan. 2008
Mission: To talk about important industry issues and to seek reader input upfront in order to enrich our coverage.
Contributors: All of the magazine’s editors contribute. We’ve also invited contributions from members of NAR’s Communications Committee and members of the association’s nar.realtor team. Over time, we’ll see which contributors are the most passionate, and we may decide to create new blogs to amplify their voices. In fact, we already have three other blogs: one featuring voices from the magazine’s Young Professionals Network; one spotlighting new real estate books; and one focusing on design and staging.
Popular topics: Anything to do with short sales, FSBOs, and social networking. Recently, we asked our members to talk about the future of the print edition of REALTOR® magazine and we drew some really interesting comments—albeit from members who are already committed to online technologies.
Activity: So far, we’ve posted 191 entries and received 269 comments (plus a lot of junk e-mail, which we filter out)—so we’re posting about 12 entries a month. But once we switch to a more user-friendly blog platform, we’ll be posting at least once per day.
Benefit: We interact with more members. We’ve also used blog comments in our print magazine editorial, and found story sources.
Plans: We’re switching from Moveable Type to WordPress, which is easier to use.
Tips: Write with passion and promote your content with passion. We offer RSS feeds of all our blogs and tweet about new entries on Twitter. Keep entries short, post often, and link back to other blogs and Web content. Like everything else in life, what you put into your blog determines what you’ll get out of it.
Virginia Association of REALTORS®
Launched: Jan 2008
Mission: To engage members who don’t or won’t come to events or participate in a more traditional way. We see it as a way to bring the conversation to them, rather than asking them to come to the conversation.
Contributors: 80 percent of the posts are from staff, but members and others also guest-contribute, including NAR CEO Dale Stinton.
Popular topics: Anything that stirs up a controversy, like single agent dual agency and just about anything ethics-related. Our all-time most viewed post is one about how rising gas prices are actually good for REALTORS®.
Activity: We post about 20 items a month and receive just under 100 comments per month.
Benefit: We’ve attracted a lot of innovative members into VAR committees through our social media efforts. VAR has also received national recognition for our social media initiatives. That’s free publicity and helps reinforce the VAR brand as a leader in the industry.
Tips: Running a multiauthor blog is a lot more work than you think. Keeping everyone motivated to post, moderating comments, implementing new features, responding to members about posts, and so on is time-consuming.