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The DOs and DON’Ts of Building Real Estate Relationships in the Digital Age

It’s incredible how much technology has changed our world, even in just the last five years. Electric cars are on the rise; 3D printers are churning out shoes, prosthetic limbs, and violins; and smartwatches are tracking people's sleep and fitness.

These rapid developments in technology feel overwhelming sometimes. You wonder if smartphone addiction is a real medical affliction, if self-checkouts will make cashier jobs irrelevant, and if you’ll ever be able to escape the dings and pings of notifications coming from your phone, your computer, your watch—even your refrigerator.

Technology is also wonderful. Long-lost relatives are reunited through viral Facebook posts. Online forums make troubleshooting software a thousand times faster. And you can push a button stuck to the inside of your pantry and have a crate of Pringles delivered to your doorstep in 48 hours.

Technology is deeply ingrained into our lives. As a real estate agent, how does technology impact one of the most “human” aspects of your work—the art of building relationships?

Is technology helping or harming our relationships?

There are differing opinions on how technology impacts our relationships. An article in The Wall Street Journal—Is Technology Making People Less Sociable?—shares insights from two experts on the topic.

Larry Rosen, professor emeritus from the Department of Psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, says, “If we are constantly checking in with our virtual worlds, this leaves little time for our real-world relationships.”

On the other hand, Keith N. Hampton, a professor in the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University, believes technology is actually enhancing—not replacing—our relationships.

Taking both of these academics’ opinions into account, this blog post will cover the DOs and DON’Ts of building real estate relationships in a world rich with technology.

So, let’s talk tech + relationships.

DO stay in touch with people from different periods of your life.

Facebook launched the year prior to my high school graduation, guaranteeing that I’d never lose touch with my hometown friends. Now, 10+ years later, I know who got married, who has kids, and where everyone went on vacation this summer.

Thanks to social media, things that once kept us from maintaining relationships—time, geography, and busy schedules—no longer separate us.

Use social media to stay connected with the people who matter to you and your real estate business.

DON’T let virtual relationships replace real-world relationships.

The downside of social media is that we sometimes fail to spend time with those people in person. We let our virtual relationships give us a false sense of connection. But face-to-face is always better.

Technology like social media, email, and texting should be used as a supplement to what is most important: face-to-face (or over the phone) conversations. Send an email to invite a past client out for coffee, or text a lead to schedule a phone call. (Then, use our 8 strategies for better conversations!)

And take Rosen’s advice: “We must examine our technology use to ensure that it isn’t getting in the way of our being sociable.”

DO build a more diverse portfolio of relationships.

One of Hampton’s arguments in favor of technology is that it allows us to meet people we wouldn’t normally meet in the real world.

People are meeting their future spouses on Match.com...so why can’t you meet your future clients through local Facebook and LinkedIn Groups? Join some groups based on your interests, add value to the conversation, attend group meetups, and build new friendships! (Just remember, no soliciting in these groups! That's a sure way to get the boot from the admin.)

DON’T try to express empathy through a digital platform.

It’s tempting to handle difficult situations through the safety of our keyboards. But conversations that require empathy shouldn’t be delivered through email, text, or social media.

Regardless of the situation—whether it’s telling your client the buyers pulled out or “breaking up” with a vendor—you’ll be able to better express your empathy if people can hear the tone of your voice.

According to Rosen, “while empathy can be dispensed in the virtual world, it is only one-sixth as effective in making the recipient feel socially supported compared with empathy proffered in the real world. A hug feels six times more supportive than an emoji.”

DO get more information about people.

Social media makes it easy to gain some surface-level information about people, which can then be brought up in conversation in the real world. When you connect with people on Facebook, you learn about their families, pets, hobbies, and even their favorite restaurants through the photos and posts they share.

So the next time you meet up with your client in person, you can say, “Your dog sure is a handsome fella’...” or “Wow, you’re a pretty sick wake-boarder!”

DON'T run from technology.

Instead, embrace it! You need to stay on top of the latest apps and social networks your potential clients are using to communicate, because those are more ways you can meet them or relate to them. Not on Instagram yet? Give it a shot! 

It's also important to understand your digital competition. Keep an eye on real estate websites like Zillow so you can monitor their latest capabilities and figure out ways to compete.

DO manage healthy relationships with hundreds of people.

One of the most valuable tools a real estate agent can use to assist in building relationships is a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Here’s how you can use a real estate CRM to build and maintain great client relationships:

  • Build an online database of all of your contacts and their information.
  • Set up reminders to tell you when/how to reach out to them and what to say.
  • Save templates for different types of emails and text messages.
  • Create workflows that pull it all together, automating your reminders, emails, and text messages..

Technology provides us with incredible tools for connecting with more people in less time...but with the wrong attitude, it can also cause us to neglect our relationships.

The key is to find a healthy balance. Use technology to stay ahead in the fast-paced world we live in, but continue to do what has always worked best—focus on building relationships in person, in the real world.

Sammy Harper

Sammy Harper is a regular contributor to the Realvolve blog. In addition to a decade of digital marketing experience, she's spent the last five years immersed in the world of real estate and CRM. Fascinated by the real estate industry and inspired by agents’ stories, she vows to provide only the most valuable of content to help agents thrive.


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