Marketing Around the Holidays [Video]

By Jim Droz

At the peak of his career, Jim Droz was the top selling agent in the world, closing nearly 300 transactions and making $1,000,000 annually. He is now a premier presenter on the real estate conference circuit, imparting what he’s learned over the years. He is a strong advocate for the HouseHunt lead generation and nurturing system, and today he’s given HouseHunt an exclusive presentation about what agents should be doing for the holiday season: The Ultimate Holiday Gift 2013.

The real estate market is always slow as the calendar year comes to a close, so most agents view this time as a sort of vacation. By the middle of January, however, the market is thriving again and those who were lazy during the holidays must work harder to catch up.

Repetition in marketing generates brand recognition when buyers and sellers become active again in January. And brand recognition means more income for you!

Ultimate Holiday Gift 2013


This 6-minute presentation covers:

  • When to begin the production phase for 2014
  • How to build personal brand recognition
  • Creative ways to market your brand in October, November, and December
  • How to utilize the HouseHunt marketing systems to jump-start success
  • Increasing your annual income through continuous yearly marketing efforts
  • How to balance holiday work efforts with a family-oriented season
  • Cost efficiency for your year-end marketing
  • Maintaining relationships with previous clients

So grab some popcorn, take some notes, and begin planning ways to leverage what’s left of 2013. We here at HouseHunt look forward to helping make 2014 the most successful fiscal year of your career.

Note: If the video is not working, please click here.

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How Hashtags Help Real Estate Professionals



One of the most common sources of confusion in the social media realm is what that pound key is and why it’s all over every online feed.

What is a #Hashtag?

Twitter was the first platform to popularize the idea of “hashtags.” They define it by saying, “Hashtags mark keywords or topics in Tweets. Think of it like choosing what a Tweet is filed under.” These tags feature no spaces or punctuation, as that would break the link and end up creating an unintentional keyword.

Fun fact: the concept was actually user-created based on old chat room usage of the pound key, not something developed by corporate Twitter.

In a post about sports, you would put a hashtag before whatever team: #Packers, #Lakers, etc. More than a couple hashtags per post is likely overkill.

When you use a hashtag, your post immediately reaches beyond just your own follower base. Click the tagged phrase to see what the world has to say on your subject. Your contribution weaves itself into the fabric of discussions about the #NBA, #Thanksgiving, or even something silly like #ManCrushMonday.

Is It Actually #Practical?

Contributing to a larger dialogue on something has many implications. First, it invites people to be a part of something happening around them. You see this with television: people love expressing their outrage when their favorite contestant is voted off, or consoling each other when a character has been killed off.

Here’s how hashtags help real estate professionals:

On a smaller scale, you can hashtag a conference, presentation, open house, or other event to gauge how people are reacting. Find areas for improvement and gauge prospective clients.

Reach more clients by using hashtags! A recent study by Hubspot shows a post with a hashtag is 55% more likely to be retweeted, which means accessing a broader audience.

Jump into dialogues that are trending (most popular) to show how your business can add perspective to a discussion. For example, if you notice a an HGTV show trending, add your commentary during the show about what’s realistic and what’s not-so-realistic about what’s happening on the screen.

The goal of social media is always interaction. You can search hashtags such as #househunting alongside your #localcity and find people looking for homes right now. Interact with them over online platforms and end up generating your own leads.

Discover what’s happening in your industry by searching topics like #interestrates, #firsttimehomebuyer, or simply #realestate. You’ll see content from industry professionals with popular blogs and resources to keep you on the cutting edge.


Click here for the 26 hashtags every real estate agent should know!

Click Here for an Easy-to-Share Infographic on Hashtags
Click Here for an Easy-to-Share Infographic on Hashtags

Usage on Different Platforms

The ways to use hashtags on Twitter are pretty universal across the social media spectrum, but if you really want to master the concept, here are a few of the key differences:

Instagram: Instagram hashtags are just as important as those in the Twittersphere. A picture with tags gains an average of twice the number of likes and comments. And unlike Twitter, you can tag just about anything your heart desires on Instagram, not just one or two key words.

Google+: If you don’t hashtag your Google+ posts, Google will do it for you, so you might as well have some fun with it! You can use however many tags you’d like on this platform, but Google will only highlight the first three on the post’s sidebar, so only add more than that when necessary. Google search queries now also include hashtagged queries.

Facebook: Facebook is the ugly stepchild of hashtag usage. Facebook just introduced the feature recently, and it’s been a complete failure of an experiment. Studies have shown that hashtags in Facebook posts actually hurt the virality of the post, so don’t expect nearly as many “shares” on posts with the # symbol in ‘em. The only explanation for this phenomenon is that users recognize Facebook is simply not that kind of social media platform, and they don’t want it to be.

Perhaps the most important rule for hashtags—like all of social media—is that there are no hard rules yet. These are just suggestions, but you could easily find unique ways to capitalize on the pound key or get away with tagging every other word in your post. No matter the end goal, have fun with it.

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What NOT To Do in Online Marketing: Protecting Your Public Image


Public Image

We recently conducted a series on the blog about how to harness the power of social media to successfully market yourself as a real estate agent. This next series will warn you of some of the most common pitfalls we see in online marketing—specifically in the real estate industry. First up: how to protect your public image.

Haters Gonna Hate

WARNING: People on the Internet are not always nice. You will eventually be subjected to bad reviews and/or spammers. It doesn’t help that people get some sense of bravado behind the shield of a keyboard and don’t filter themselves as much as they probably should.

Bad Reviews

What is the Internet if not an opportunity to shout your opinions at thousands of potential listeners? People obsess over reviewing just about anything on the web. And the negative reviews tend to be excessively negative.

No matter the review, your best PR move is to put yourself in a positive light. Note: this isn’t the same as defending yourself or proving the bad reviewer wrong. Reply in whatever public forum the review originally appeared by apologizing that the customer did not have a good experience. Encourage them to contact your customer service team or your private line, and tell them you will make sure to remedy their concern. If the bad review is from a real person (you will find they are usually anonymous), then make it clear on the public forum that you shot them an e-mail, phone call, direct message, etc. in order to begin correcting the issue.

When another customer sees this tactic online, they’re not going to fault you as the agent. Even if you don’t defend yourself or you really did drop the ball with that particular client, the prospective customer will note your professionalism in handling the situation and consider you all the better for it.


These days, spam is so much more than fake meat. One common example of online spam you’ll see is bologna lead forms. People could easily gain access to your online content by filling out a form claiming to be Snoop Dogg, who can be reached at Unfortunately, this is now a very real part of the real estate business. There’s little you can do in response to these leads, but be optimistic that the person got closer to finding their dream home and may end up giving you a call after all. The best thing is to be proactive and find a balance of public and private content that encourages honesty and legitimate buyers.

You’ll also see spam on your social media platforms where some robot or bored individual blasts the comments section with his or her own advertisements and nonsense. This stuff can easily be deleted and it’s usually simple to report the phony account. Leave it to the professionals to handle the spammer’s social media fate.

Nothing New to Real Estate

The real estate industry is not always the best at combating online haters. Tycoon Donald Trump has become infamous for his constant Twitter spats. He’s bickered with Jon Stewart, Cher, Modern Family writer Danny Zucker and more. There are no official reports on whether these feuds lost or gained him any followers, but it is generally agreed that his rants at least lost him some credibility. When your blind fury causes basic grammatical errors and resorts to childish name calling, consumers aren’t likely thinking, “That guy should help me sell my house!”

Donald Trump isn’t alone. We’ve all seen similar faux pas with real estate financial advisor Dave Ramsey and many others. Real estate is a big deal; it’s the biggest investment most people will ever make. That’s why many people hold it so close to their chests. But that doesn’t mean getting defensive or abrasive is ever the right move. Especially in a public sphere like the World Wide Web where people are cataloguing the things you’ll later wish you could take back.

Although social media seems like an easy place to be selfish, it can also be a platform to share the love.

Always reply to people who interact with you. (Or at least give them an imaginary star; that’s oddly vindicating in the Twitter realm.) Use the “Follow Friday” hashtag, #FF, as a way to highlight and recommend other online profiles that you admire. And remember, don’t let spam or bad reviews make you look like the unprofessional one.

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New Mortgage Rules in 2014: Loans Will Be Harder to Obtain


The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform was signed in 2010, and we’re still trying to figure out what the heck it means. New mortgage rules go into effect January 10, 2014, and there is still a lot of confusion surrounding the updated provisions. While the industry waits for the dust to settle, we wanted to provide you with the certainties of what’s happening, and how consumers can be prepared.

Alphabet Soup

Alphabet Soup

After the housing bubble popped in 2008, the government started scrambling for how to prevent such an economic collapse from happening again. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) put together a set of standards of “qualified mortgages.”

These Qualified Residential Mortgages (QRMs) protect lenders from distressed borrowers. So as a potential home-buyer, don’t expect a loan if you can’t meet the new requirements set by the CFPB. Could a lender give you a loan anyway? Sure, but then they would have no safety net from the government and they could lose thousands if you turn out to be a risk.

Is Anyone Exempt?

The government found a way to exempt itself from its own laws… Go figure.

If your loan is eligible to be sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you are already qualified for a QRM. Also, if your loan is insured by the Veterans Association, USDA, or a couple other government-based programs, you are good to go. These people do not have to worry about the new requirements.

That being said, you can expect all loan programs—even Fannie, Freddie, and the like—to make a shift towards the new requirements. They are only grandfathered into the old rules for seven years, plus they will want to shift regardless just because the new, stricter rules involve less risk for them.

What We’re Up Against

Here are the factors (the first two being the potentially tricky ones) that lenders will consider if you meet the requirements for a QRM:

1. Monthly Debt to Income (DTI) ratios, less than or equal to 43 percent.

2. Current debt obligations: student debt, alimony, child support, etc.

3. Current or realistically expected income or assets.

4. Current employment status.

5. Monthly payment on the covered transaction.

6. Monthly payment on any miscellaneous loans.

7. Monthly payment for mortgage-related obligations: Homeowner’s Association, etc.

8. Credit history.

The total points and fees on a loan may not exceed 3 percent. What exactly qualifies towards points and fees, however, is still very much up in the air.

Student Loan Debt

The Surprising Victims

The new rules generally make sense, and protect the buyer from him or herself in a lot of ways. There are, however, some people who will be unable to obtain a loan in 2014 that you wouldn’t necessarily expect:

• The stricter DTI ratio will make it hard for people with student debt to meet eligibility.

• Retired people with no current income may not qualify, even if they have adequate savings.

• Non-salary workers who rely on recurring bonuses or overtime will have to prove that such supplementary income is completely reliable, in order to balance out the DTI ratio.

• Self-employed and freelance workers will have to prove stability in income, which will likely require years of evidence of various incomes.

• Those who lost their jobs in the recession will have a hard time proving reliable income. Even if they’ve since found work that pays better, it takes years to be considered stable by the new standards.

Collateral Damage

The new rules will block out a lot potential buyers, as seen above. But even if you meet the new

requirements, there will be some unforeseen repercussions.

As details of the new provisions come to light and kinks are worked out in the next several months, loan underwriters are going to err on the side of caution to make sure they cover their assets. You can expect a lot of paperwork. You will have to provide documentation for every imaginable source of revenue or debt to try to qualify for a loan. This will be particularly frustrating if you’ve already been through the loan and home-buying process because it will be so much more intense than last time. No matter how aggravating it may seem, try to stay calm. The lender is not an evil person, s/he’s simply not in a position to budge on what’s required.

You may also find that you qualify for a loan at one major bank, but not another. This is not some government conspiracy determined to ruin your life. This is just what’s bound to happen as lenders figure out the obscurities of the new bill. Until everyone feels comfortable, lenders will exercise caution, which isn’t exactly good news for borrowers on the cusp of the new DTI ratio.

Some lenders have already implemented the new 2014 rules in an attempt to be as prepared as possible. Other lenders haven’t even been trained on the new rules because so many of the rules are still undetermined. So if you thought you’d rush out and get a loan before the January stipulations, you may already be out of luck.

Consumer Strategy

If you have minimal debt and can prove reliable income, go ahead and move forward with your home-buying adventure. But if you think you may have trouble qualifying based on these new rules, your best bet is to slow your roll and focus on either paying off your debt or building a bigger down payment to lower your total interest.

In this upward-swinging economy, home values are only going up and interest rates will follow suit. It is understandable if you feel like you absolutely cannot wait to purchase your first or next home. If that’s the case, and you have just a bit too much debt, consider a private loan. An example of this would be if a family member or friend could pay off some of your debt so that you qualified for a mortgage loan, and then you paid them back personally. If a parent pays off your car, you could suddenly qualify for a mortgage loan. Repay the parent with your normal payment plan, but have it wiped clean from your credit. Then you are spared if the lucrative economy brings home values up in the amount of time it would have taken you to pay off that debt.

A broker may be a buyer’s best friend under the new policy. A broker will have the consumer’s best interest in mind while maintaining a solid grasp on the new policies. S/he will understand if and when a lender is being unnecessarily stingy.

Mortgage Rates

Large-Scale Effects

Many people will suddenly not qualify for a mortgage loan in 2014. Even those who do qualify will have to go through a much more tedious process. And there will be general trepidation on the part of lenders while they figure out the nuts and bolts of the new rules. Expect all of these factors to temporarily stall the housing market progress that has taken years to rebuild. Luckily, this will likely be short-lived as buyers and lenders quickly adjust.

Once the dust settles, however, the market will only benefit from these new conditions. Everyone can be more confident in their investments in 2014. Home-buyers will know they’re not getting in over their heads with loans they’re entrusted with.

Many lenders have been operating under restrictions similar to what is about to become law ever since the economic collapse. It is very likely that the general public won’t even feel the new rules. No matter the potential frustrations, the new provisions will allow you to move into your new home with insured buyer confidence.


HouseHunt extends special thanks to broker Cindy Chung of for providing us with the most up-to-date information about the 2014 mortgage rule changes. We encourage you to visit her site and utilize a broker as you move forward with the buying process in the coming year.

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Google Places for Realtors


Google Places for Business

As we mentioned in last week’s installment of our Social Media Series about Yelp, it’s important to claim and manage your business’s unclaimed listings that are already out there on the internet. Similar to how iPhones use Yelp (via Siri) to find the best local businesses that fit a user’s needs, Android phones index Google Places for Business listings to do the same. Since 28% of users are searching for brokers or local agents using their mobile devices, it’s important to find and claim your Google business listing today.

Unfortunately, Google can be confusing. There’s Google+ Personal Profiles, Google+ Business Pages, Google Places for Business, and Google+ Local. So which ones should you be using for your real estate business?

We’ve already discussed how to and why you should use Google+ Personal Profiles and Business Pages, so today we’ll focus on Google Places for Business. What’s the difference, you may ask? A Google+ Business Page is a social media tool, a place to interact with clients, other real estate agents, join communities, etc. On the other hand, Google Places for Business is essentially a Google Maps listing. Meaning, when people search Google Maps to locate your business, your Places for Business listing will come up.

Like Yelp, it’s likely Google already has your business listing on the web, but it’s important that you claim and manage it. First, type in your business’s address into Google. Once you locate it on the map, click the red pointer icon to see the exact marked address and then hit “more info.” This will take you to the Google Places for Business page for that location. Scroll down and hit “Manage this page” in the “Is this your business?” box. This will direct you to a log-in page for your Google account. Once you sign in, you’ll be asked to verify the business as your own and agree to the Terms and Conditions of the site. If you can’t find your business by typing in the address, you can go directly to the Google Places for Business home page to get started.

Once you’ve claimed the business as your own online, Google will send you a postcard with a code to verify that the location and site is indeed yours to manage. Once you’ve received the postcard, entered the code and your Places for Business page has been confirmed, it’s time to start managing your page. From the sidebar you can access your Listing; this is where you can update the business name, address, contact info, category, hours, description and add photos. You can access your Google+ Business Page, AdWords Express, Offers and Insights (like Google Analytics) accounts from the sidebar as well.

Furthermore, you’ll be able to see any reviews that have been written about your business on the page. Unlike Yelp, you can’t respond publicly to positive or negative reviews, but you can contact the reviewer personally through their Google+ profile. Simply go their profile, and under the Posts tab, click “Say hi to [name of reviewer]” under Hangouts. As outlined in our “Battling Bad Reviews” article, it’s important to keep your composure when responding to negative reviews of your business.

Once your page is set up with the vital listing information, you won’t have to do much maintenance. Therefore, with minimal effort and the added potential mobile and SEO benefits of having your Google Places for Business listing claimed and personalized, adding this site to your real estate business’s list of websites is a win-win.

Please leave any questions or comments below, and tune back in next week for “How Hashtags Help Real Estate Professionals.”

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What NOT To Do in Online Marketing: Cell Phone Laziness


Cell Phone Laziness

We recently conducted a series on the blog about how to harness the power of social media to successfully market yourself as a real estate agent. This next series will warn you of some of the most common pitfalls we see in online marketing—specifically in the real estate industry.

Your Phone Should Make You Efficient, Not Lazy

We’ve all seen it: “Sent from my iPhone. Please excuse brevity and typos.”

I know this is a well intentioned signature, but it comes across as laziness. Turns out iPhones don’t make you incompetent to the point of being unable to edit the few sentences above. The most effective signatures state clearly who you are and what you can do for your customers, then list ways to get in touch with you. There are even ways to have a link to your website in your signature. Some phones carry this feature automatically, others may require the assistance of a free app. Make sure to do a test run before you start sending e-mails with the new signature.

It helps your relationship with the consumer when you provide your personal number and allow texting for the most convenient communication. In today’s tech-savvy world, you want to be available whenever a consumer may need assistance, even if it’s via mediums like text messaging. Just make sure you always come across as an authority in the real estate industry. Avoid lazy phrases that often slip into text threads. Don’t say you’re “otw,” just spell out that you’re on the way!

Also, real estate professionals seem to love the phrase “OOO” in their automated replies. It stands for “Out of Office,” but it’s annoying to clients for multiple reasons. 1) Just write that you’re out of the office. It’s a few extra characters for you to type and it’s much less work for the consumer because they don’t have to decode your silly lingo. 2) Being out of the office isn’t even a valid reason to be unavailable anymore. It’s 2013! Leverage technology, including that nifty little phone, to make your office mobile. If a client can’t get the answers s/he needs when s/he (thinks s/he) needs them, s/he can easily move on to someone more dedicated.

Your Phone Should Make You Efficient, Not Frazzled

A funny thing happens with efficiency: it starts as a concept to allot free time, but then we end up filling that newfound time with more work. Your phone, like social media, should make you more accessible; it should open up more dialogue with prospective customers. It should not, however, become a thorn in your side.

If your phone is being used properly, you should be able to have constant communication without always having your nose buried in the device. No message should go unanswered before bed, but that’s simple with convenient tools like text messaging.

You can even use Google Voice to set up a completely separate number that can be treated as a work line and is transferable between your office and cell. This will take only a few minutes to set up and will make you feel more organized when the lines between work and home start to get blurred. Furthermore, it will keep any crazy and/or needy clients at bay.

It is estimated that as soon as next year, the Internet will be accessed more through mobile devices (phones and tablets) than through desktop computers. There’s no denying the need to bring your business online. The tricky part comes in when figuring out how to use your cell phone as a tool for proficiency, not as a way to take shortcuts that reflect poorly on you or lead to more work down the line.

Check back next week for what not to do in order to protect your public image.

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Yelp for Realtors


Yelp for Realtors

It’s possible that someone already posted a review of your real estate business on Yelp or Google, but you still need to claim your business and maintain accounts on both sites in order to promote yourself as a legitimate business. Marci James, Social Media Manager at Obeo, stated that 28% of people search for brokers and local agents using their mobile devices. The reason this statistic is so crucial is that iPhones use Yelp (via Siri) to find the best local businesses that fit a user’s needs. Therefore, if someone is searching for a local agent on their cell phone and your business isn’t claimed on this site, you might lose a potential client.

The iPhone not only uses Yelp listings to provide local business recommendations, but both the “info” and “reviews” tabs from Yelp point to millions of Yelp listings when searching within Apple Maps. Clicking on one of these will take you directly to Yelp’s page for that business. Therefore, given the droves of iPhone users out there, it’s important your real estate business is one of these listings.

To create your free Yelp account, head on over to the Yelp for Business Owners website and input your business name and address to see if your business is already on the site. When you locate it, hit “Claim” and you will be directed to create an account using your first and last name, email address and password. Once you have verified your account, it’s time to set up your profile. Include the essential information (hours, website, etc.) and fill out the “About This Business” section with information about the history of the company, those that work there, and what makes it stand out in the world of real estate. You can also upload as many pictures as you like to your page (including photos of sold properties, agents, partnering brokers, the office building, etc.).

Once reviews are written, or if you already have some on the page, respond via private message or public comment. When responding to bad reviews, it’s best to send the user a private message, but with positive reviews, reply with a public comment expressing your gratitude for all to see. Yelp asks you to not solicit reviews, but to let those that have had memorable experiences using your service respond on their own. This is also why reviews written using links to a business’s specific Yelp page are flagged as solicited reviews and may not be seen by the public.

Yelp also has what they call “filtered reviews.” Yelp uses an algorithm to filter through reviews and publish the most trustworthy ones on a business’s page. “Trustworthy,” to Yelp, means reviews written by a person who has some clout on the site—meaning they’ve written more than one review (the more reviews, the more trustworthy). The reviews that Yelp deems not-so-trustworthy (like the ones written after following a direct link to the page) don’t end up on your business page, but can be found by clicking the “Read filtered reviews” link at the bottom of it. These reviews aren’t factored into the business’s overall star rating.

Yelp also allows businesses to monitor page traffic. Yelp Metrics functions a lot like Google Analytics, allowing you to see how many views, user actions, and yelp ad clicks you’ve had. It also shows you a breakdown of user actions, including mobile calls, user-uploaded photos, directions to your business, clicks to your website and Yelp bookmarks.

With 117 million unique visitors and Yelp’s mobile application being used on 11.2 million unique mobile devices per month in the third quarter of 2013, it’s crucial your business be on this site. More exposure means more business, and more business means more commissions and referrals!

Feel free to leave any questions or comments in the box below, and check back in next week for our Social Media Series installment on Google Places for Business.

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What NOT To Do in Online Marketing: Social Media Boundaries


We recently conducted a series on the blog about how to harness the power of social media to successfully market yourself as a real estate agent. This next series will warn you of some of the most common pitfalls we see in online marketing—specifically in the real estate industry. What we’re focusing on today is social media boundaries.

Pitfalls of Online Presence
Don’t end up like this guy.

Keep It Personal…

Show off who you are through whatever modes of online media you tackle. This is a surprisingly hard concept for a lot of people to grasp. The temptation is to go into “business-mode” with educated jargon speaking strictly about your profession.

There’s an old mantra around election time that people are likely to vote for the candidate that they could most picture themselves shooting the breeze with. A similar principle applies to real estate. People will hire the agent that they feel like they can relate to, and who understands their values and concerns. Customers want to know they’re not just a number. A house is likely the biggest investment they’ll ever make, and they want a friend to help them through the process, not just a businessman/woman.

Plus, a cool thing about real estate is that it turns out you can make just about anything seem relevant to the industry. Here at HouseHunt, we provide “virtual tours” of available listings. They’re really just slideshows of the estates, but we add some fitting background music to introduce you to one of our favorite artists-on-the-rise. And when the HouseHunt social media department was devastated by Breaking Bad coming to an end, we shared specs on the real estate used in the show.

…But Don’t Get Crazy

The goal of a personalized online presence is to seem approachable, not to let any random person get all up in your business. Don’t let people think it’s a robot behind the content they’re seeing, but also recognize when you’re not on your personal accounts.

Save your political soapboxes. There’s no denying the success of real estate tycoon Donald Trump, but there’s also no denying how polarizing he’s become since he started using his Twitter account as a medium to bash anyone who disagrees with his conservative views. The only difference between you and Donald Trump is that he has the money to get away with being polarizing. Your goal should be to stay accessible to any potential clients.

While you’re at it, avoid the other big clichés of social media: Don’t post pictures of your feet or take selfies, etc. Again, there’s generally nothing wrong with these kinds of updates (actually there’s always something wrong with posting a selfie), it’s just that it’s not the best use of your professional platforms unless you’ve found a creative way to tie them into your business.

Social media isn’t meant to be a commercial. People have no reason to click the “Follow” or “Like” buttons for a commercial. Social media is an opportunity for interaction, and that’s only going to happen when you talk to your following in a way they understand while maintaining an authoritative voice in your field.

Check back next week for what not to do when operating your business from a mobile device.

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