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Commercial real estate and social media in 11 words

I have been reading a lot online about so-called social media expertise and all these folks who purport that they can make me a better and more successful lawyer because of their skill at marketing via blogging, Twitter, Facebook and the like.

This isn't to say there aren't a few people out there whom I think have legitimate knowledge and even expertise when it comes to social media.  But I think that, more often than not, the real experts are not so much the ones who advertise themselves as authorities and try to sell you services (again, there are exceptions), but rather the folks out there in the real world who are just doing it.

I do not consider myself a social media expert, guru, ninja, black belt, maven, or anything like that. But I have been at it a long time; longer than most, now that I've thought about it thanks to a recent Twitter exchange.

My blog turned four years old last month without any fanfare.  But my time in social media goes back beyond that.  In the real-time format, my experience with social media goes back to about 1995, when I was on AOL as a young lawyer and hosting regular chats about the OJ Simpson murder trial.  (And yes, I predicted the "not guilty" verdict. Everyone thought I was crazy.)  And I started participating in bulletin boards and online discussion groups back in about 1988 on Prodigy, CompuServ and other boards.  Yes, I feel old.

So, without further ado, here's what I think are the eleven most important words when it comes to social media  for real estate professionals (and, for that matter, just about everyone) based on my years of social media experience:

  • Be yourself. Even though it is the Internet and people (usually) can't see or hear you in real time, people can spot a phony at 100 characters.  Don't pretend to be who you are not or put on some persona.  This isn't Second Life, after all. Don't approach social media as solely a money-making enterprise, because people will figure it out.  Look at it as a way to connect with the world initially without spending your life savings traveling the world.
  • Be genuine. This is a corollary to being yourself.  Again, a BS artist is usually spotted a mile away.  Social media is not about selling things, at least not for me, because I tune out the blatant salesmen pronto.  And don't sugar coat things.  Tell it like it is, as Howard Cosell used to say, although I do like to say things in a nice way whenever possible because that's just genuinely who I am.  And people appreciate honesty, even when it hurts a little; e.g., "Dave, you're really fat, you know."
  • Be generous.  Take an extra minute to help a friend or an acquaintance. You never know when the person needing the help will be you.  Respond to requests for (non-confidential) information, to talk to people or meet them for coffee, lunch, or whatever. 
  • Share.  Give credit to others.  If you have an insight about something, or know or think something the rest of the world ought to know, and it is not confidential or anything, such as a piece of news, your reasoned opinion, or anything, say it.  When I hear about things from different points of view it makes me a better person, which brings me to the educational words. (Also, retweet the good stuff!)
  • Learn.  Guess what?  Social media is not all about you.  It is about you and all the people you interact with and all the people they interact with, and so on ad infinitum.  And you don't know it all.  Take time to learn from others.  You will not regret it, because their collective experiences will blow you away.
  • Teach.  Like sharing and being generous, you need to give back.  We all know a lot about something.  Tell us so we can learn from each other.  But try not to do it in a preachy way.  I remember being in chat rooms many years ago with a certain now-prominent celebrity who thought that s/he was the smartest person in the room, knew more than the rest of us about the law and was going to teach us dummies a lesson.  A lesson was learned, all right.
  • Have fun.  I saved what I think is the best one for last.  Don't treat social media like a job, even if happens to be your job.  By being yourself, being genuine, being generous, sharing, learning and teaching, you should or at least ought to be having a good time at it.  Revel in the collaboration at the keyboard and at all you have taught and learned and experienced.  And then step away from the computer once in a while!  After all, life is too short not to have fun.
I know I am not a high-priced social media consultant, and I am not looking to be one.  But I wanted to share my decades of the social media world with all of you and tell you what has worked for me.  Has social media made me rich and famous? No.  Has it made me smarter, a better lawyer and allowed me to connect with a ton of great people?  Yes, and I'd do it all over again!