Online marketing gurus can get quite preachy about the importance of social media engagement for businesses. They tell us to get on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn (etc., etc. etc.) and we should have conversations with people before we try to sell them anything. You wouldn’t walk into a cocktail party and ask someone to buy a house before you chit chat and get to know them a bit, right? Right. Got it. We agree! But does all this engagement really help your business? Does hanging out on Twitter all day actually lead to closed deals and real paychecks? Can you sell a house on Twitter? Yes. And yes you can. I asked a few active Twitter REALTORS (should we call them Twitlors? TRealtors?) to explain how they use Twitter, and how they measure their results. Their answers provided a great snapshot of how smart agents are integrating social media into their brand identity and marketing strategies. My opened-ended survey questions were carefully crafted to get these people to tell me the truth about the effectiveness of Twitter, for them (“Don’t sugar coat your answers with marketing gobbledygook!” was what I said without saying it), but it turns out most of them came up with similar answers. The agents I talked to use Twitter for networking, establishing themselves as local experts, and lead generation, which is what I expected. But several of them have also scored referrals and closed deals through Twitter, which is great news! Networking on Twitter is clearly at the top of the most useful feature list of those I interviewed.  “Great networking has come from twitter, for me,” said Scott Panella of @teampanella. “Making connections on twitter, then meeting in-person makes it so much easier to build upon the base that is already established in your business relationship.” Clearly, meeting in real life after getting to know someone online, is a real benefit of networking on Twitter. “There are area Tweet-ups and Meet-ups almost constantly,” says Colin Storm (@ColinStorm) “and several opportunities to meet with small groups of people for specific community and/or business projects. Taking those online relationships and bringing them into real life encounters is easily the best part of Twitter.” Building brand awareness by becoming a local expert is another strategic way Real Estate Agents use Twitter. Buyers and sellers want to know that you know your market. “Twitter’s a great way to brand yourself as the hyper-local expert in your community,” says Ira Serkes (@Serkes)  “I think everyone should set up a Twitter Account – it also provides redundant means of communications with family & friends during emergencies. I also use it for neighborhood centric communications. People know about it, know about you, part of branding.” Lead Generation is a big deal, as any good real estate agent knows, and Twitter has provided measurable results for some of those I interviewed. “I use Twitter mostly for business,” says Sam Miller, (@sammillersells) “and I’m using it in conjunction with my Facebook Business Page as well as my blog, my ActiveRain blog and my Real Pro Systems site. It has helped my SEO rankings, and my site traffic.  Believe it or not, posting links to listings now and then does generate interest and it becomes searchable. “ When I asked Lisa Archer (@LisaArcherRE) if she’s ever seen any leads come from Twitter, she said “Yes, our team is working with 3-4 clients we got from Twitter, right now! I have met so many people IRL (in real life) that I first met on Twitter.” And as we know, people prefer to buy and sell houses from people they know. “I have a listing currently under contract that came via Twitter,” says Colin Storm, “and I just wrapped up a lead for some small office space as well. My network is beginning to think of me whenever they have any type of real estate related question.” Is Twitter a Time Suck? Of course you have to be careful with Twitter, it can be a time suck, like any other social media outlet. “I’m on Twitter every day, sometimes too many times a day,” says Ken Montville (@mdsuburbs) “I joined Twitter because it was the cool and hip thing to do (and I wanted to be able to connect with people in the social media sphere) I haven’t seen any business from Twitter, but there are lots of people I have conversations with. I’ve met some IRL but mostly other REALTORS at conferences. And hey, I’m networking with you right now!” Are there other reasons Real Estate Agents should use Twitter? Erica Lawrence (@realsupportva), a Virtual Assistant with RealSupport, Inc.says yes! “Twitter helps you get superior customer service from various vendors; they reply quickly since they’ve been publicly ‘called out.’ It’s also great for staying ‘in the know’ regarding technology, new products, new services, and talking with vendors about what they offer. It’s great for networking with other agents, driving traffic to your website and blog, and interacting with buyers and sellers on a personal level. I could go on and on. Can you tell I love Twitter? LOL.” Yes, Erica, yes we can! And the truth is, I agree. Be helpful, share knowledge When I asked Chris Smith, (@Chris_Smith) the Chief Evangelist and social media guru at Inman News to give me a quick line about how REALTORS should use Twitter, he said “Ask to help more than you ask for business.” This is a great point from a marketing standpoint, because people who think well of you, are likely to think of you first when it’s time to refer you, or hire you to be their agent. Chris has been helpful to me as I learn who’s who in the industry, and I’m happy to push his content to everyone I know might be interested. According to the 2011 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, the average home buyer finds an agent by word of mouth and typically only interviews one agent while home buyers rank tech savvy as the least important characteristic in their agent. So the bottom line is, you don’t have to be a tech guru to sell houses online, you just have to know how to engage your audience and get to know them, and Twitter is a great way to do it.