Social media … can't live with 'em … can't … How would you finish the punch line? Can't live without 'em? Can't kill 'em? However you would finish the sentiment, the fact of the matter is that you are going to have to make peace with them some way or another! Social networking is the newest, simplest form of low-cost marketing. The entire world is on social networking sites and the bottom line is that, as a real estate professional, just like any other business group, you should be marketing yourself and your services where your customers are. And, don't look now, but they are all on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. There are some even on ActiveRain, but, they mostly use it to direct people to their Twitter and Facebook pages! Here is the reality of doing business these days … everyone looks for you on the Web and on social networks before they pick up the phone to call you. They use it to assess whether you're personable, trustworthy and responsive. There is nothing wrong with it. It’s just a fact. Your chance to make your first impression happens without you even being there these days. Here's how the process goes: An interested prospect starts by Googling you … colloquial parlance for putting your name into a search engine. Then, they look for you on Facebook. If you say you're on Twitter, they look for you on Twitter. If they think you two can possibly do business together, you'll get an invite via LinkedIn. Then, and only after passing those tests, you will get an e-mail or a phone call. You must be present and you have to be strong! If you invite your prospects to Twitter and they discover that you haven't tweeted in three months, your credibility is gone. Poof! If you aren’t going to tweet, don’t even refer people to your Twitter account. Another note about social media: Whatever you do, and however you do it, THOU SHALT NOT BE BORING! Inject your personality into everything you do. Be yourself. Share about your life. If your only online interactions are about interest rates, new listings and begging for more friends, #fail. Even if you work more on the transactional side of real estate, being active on these social networking sites not only creates more opportunities to sell property, but also provides the opportunity to help more clients succeed in reaching their real estate goals. If you're really want to demonstrate that you're a leading resource, you'll want to create a personalized "Fan" page too. It's customary for these to be more business-driven. Use your business or fan page to be more "hardcore" with your real estate practice. When you start networking socially, you will build better personal relationships with people you already know only as acquaintances and meet people whose paths you would never have crossed otherwise. In regards to your current client base, you can get to know their needs better. The relationships and influence that you build on social networks improve (even create) your reputation and enhance your value as an expert. The wider your circle, the more chances you have to add to your business. Social networking has revolutionized the way businesses function today and has become an indispensable part of every successful marketing plan. Frankly, we're approaching a day wherein you will not "exist" if you cannot be found easily online. Still resisting? As some futuristic figures have reminded us, resistance is futile. Remember, however, business is still about personal connections. We are just doing some of it differently. Think of social media as the new town square. Be present. Be yourself. And you'll benefit. If you do it right, it will be fun, too! This article was co-authored by Tonya D. Bradley. Mark Anthony McCray is chief executive officer of Houston, Texas-based First Capital Commercial Finance and an associate with Managed Mortgage Investment Fund (MMIF). First Capital is a commercial mortgage banking firm that helps clients leverage millions of dollars in financing for their real estate acquisitions, developments and investments. MMIF is a direct lender specializing in short-term private mortgage financing and equity investments. He may be reached by phone at (832) 566-2001, e-mail [email protected], follow Mark on Twitter @markmccray or visit www.markanthonymccray.com. Tonya D. Bradley is an entrepreneur and paralegal in Houston, Texas. She is the managing member of TD Bradley Business Group LLC and owns a few businesses, including Essential Effects Marketing & Promotions, a Web and graphic design company. She may be reached by phone at (713) 965-7306 or e-mail: [email protected].