Posted by: realtormarkpalace | September 1, 2010

Tech It Up a Notch

Tech It Up a Notch

Nine strategies for doing more with the technology and Web sites you already use.


"Less is more." It’s an unexpected stance on technology coming from practitioner Brian Copeland, a self-proclaimed "100 percent mobile agent" who doesn’t go anywhere without his iPhone, MacBook Pro, and MiFi compact wireless router.


But that’s just the thing, says Copeland, CRS, of Village Real Estate Services in Nashville, Tenn. Those three tools are his tech arsenal. His laptop gives him access to client information, online services, and Web-based documents, while his iPhone also regularly serves as a camera, a financial calculator, a digital compass, and even a copy machine. (That’s right, a copy machine—in lieu of making a photocopy, Copeland recently took a snapshot of a buyer’s earnest-money check and sent it via e-mail to his office for record-keeping.)


"I’m constantly out of the office connecting with new people," says the avid conference-goer, "but because I leverage technology I’m always in touch and getting work done." 

Because Copeland uses just a few pieces of hardware, he says it’s possible to become an expert on each tool. "It’s my opinion that you should use very little technology, but use it very well," he says. Yet such a measured approach is rare, says former real estate pro Doug Devitre, who’s now a technology trainer with St. Louis–based Doug Devitre International.


"A lot of people invest in technology because they perceive it to be a quick solution, but they never make time to learn everything it can do," says Devitre. "We try to learn small pieces of everything rather than mastering the things we use most often."


To help you get the most from your technology, we’ve rounded up expert tips, shortcuts, and resources. Time to start learning!





1. Tap Into the knowledge that surrounds you.

Looking for a great new real estate app for your BlackBerry? Trying to figure out how to incorporate cool graphics into your PowerPoint presentation? There are ways to boost your knowledge with minimal spending and frustration.


Befriend the geek. To find out about shortcuts, new apps, and shopping tips, ask the geekiest friends you have, Copeland says. "Find those people who love sharing their knowledge of technology. Let them know you love this stuff. That’s how I found out about some of my favorite applications."


Subscribe to niche blogs. If you don’t have geeky friends, then find geeky blogs. "Usually there are one or two people who are considered the authority on a tech topic and are always serving up fresh material," says technology trainer Devitre. For example, the blog MyTechOpinion provides real estate specific tips for social networking, smartphones and more.


Do an online search. "Type your tech question into Google and nine times out of 10, you’ll find the answer in a blog forum," Devitre says. Other helpful places to search: and


Pose your question to a group. Join real estate groups on LinkedIn (the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® has an active group of more than 17,000) and ask your industry-specific tech questions, says John Mayfield, CRB, e-PRO, broker-owner of Mayfield Real Estate in Farmington, Mo. ActiveRain and the RealTown network are also good communities for soliciting ideas.


Just play around. The best way to learn a new tool is to start using it. "Test the waters," Copeland says. "I remember the first time I used Twitter, I was scared to death. Now I’m tweeting multiple times a day. We sometimes have a fear of trying the obvious."





Facebook is the most popular social networking site among REALTORS®; 76% use it.


2. Engage your audience on Facebook.

In July Facebook topped 500 million active users, and it’s a safe bet that many of your clients and prospects are among them.


Create a page for your business or community. Go to and click on the "Create a Page" link on the lower right side of the page, beneath the "Sign Up" button. If your community or neighborhood doesn’t already have a page, consider starting one. It’s a great way to get your name out to the people who live in your market.


No hard selling. "Buy, buy, buy" messages are a turnoff, says social media expert Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era (Pearson Education, 2009). Instead, post locally relevant updates about real estate, your niche, and your community.


Post and tag interesting photos. Everyone loves photos, so take lots of them! Tag your fans to draw them in and make them engaged. Copeland uses his iPhone to take photos of his clients’ "Sold" signs, then gives the photos an artsy retro look with the Hipstamatic iPhone app. After he has tagged the photos, his clients sometimes choose the image as their profile shot.


Look for life-stage clues. Read what your fans are saying about themselves on their own pages. Is someone recently engaged or pregnant? Such clues could signal that they’re ready to buy a house, so drop them a note reminding them that you’re available to answer their home buying or selling questions.


Give them a reason to come back. Provide incentives to keep clients visiting your page—an interesting news tidbit every day or a link to coupons at area businesses. Charles Nelson, owner of the national chain Sprinkles Cupcakes, would post a password for free cupcakes several times a day. Since that effort, the company’s fan base has grown tenfold to more than 141,000.


Send your Facebook friends a quick wall message with a subtle reminder that you’re a REALTOR®. Download the free Scribblez app, developed by the Center for REALTOR® Technology, at





3. Leverage the cloud.

Mobility is the name of the game in real estate today. Even if you spend time at an office, customers in the field expect information from you right away.


That’s where you can benefit from "cloud computing," Mayfield says. The term generally refers to applications that are based on the Web rather than being tied to a computer. E-mail, photo sharing, and social networking are popular examples, but there are also a number of document-sharing applications that allow you to create, edit, store, and share documents on the Web.


Through these services, you can access your documents anytime and anywhere, as long as you have an Internet connection. Mayfield notes that Web-based storage is especially convenient if you have a tablet computer, which doesn’t have as much memory as a traditional laptop or PC. "If you’re using the cloud, you can literally take the iPad out of the box and it’s useful." He recommends Google Docs, which has document templates including checklists and contact forms. You can access the documents from anywhere and share with people you choose. Mayfield also uses Google Calendar, which he set up to automatically sync with Microsoft Outlook.


Another way to leverage the cloud is through Dropbox, a free file sharing and online backup service. There is a charge for extra storage and other add-ons. After downloading the software, you can drop files into a designated folder on any of your computers, and that file will be available from any computer you’ve installed that software on. You can also use shared folders to collaborate with others, and you can control who can access those folders.





Internet Explorer is the primary Web browser for 86 percent of REALTORS®, followed by Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, AOL, and Safari.


4. Browse the Web more efficiently.

Most of the time you spend on the computer is probably on the Web. Here are some ways to create a better viewing experience and find what you’re looking for faster than ever.


Change your view. On most browsers, you can make the text on your screen larger or smaller by pressing the Ctrl and + or Ctrl and – keys, respectively. To scroll down a Web page without using a mouse, just push the space bar; to go back up, press the space bar and the Shift key at the same time. Or, if you’d like to open a new browser tab, just press Ctrl and T.


Avoid toolbars. In general, you should stay away from downloadable toolbars from any site, even well-known and useful ones like Yahoo! and Google. Apart from cluttering up your browser, toolbars tend to use a lot of memory and slow performance, and they typically don’t provide nearly as much functionality as the sites themselves.


Use bookmarks. Cataloging your favorite Web destinations can save you time. To bookmark a site in Internet Explorer, press Ctrl and D while on that site. In Firefox, click the star symbol on the right side of the location bar (where the Web address is). Firefox also allows you to categorize bookmarks by keywords, meaning you can navigate to the site simply by typing an associated term in the location bar.


Search a page fast. If you’re having trouble finding information on a Web page, simply press Ctrl and F. A "Find" bar will appear somewhere within the browser window, allowing you to type in the word or phrase you’re looking. On Firefox, search for a word on a page by pressing the forward slash (/) key.




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