Economic downturns have a tendency to create new ways of doing business.
The explosion of social media hasn't escaped the embrace of one of the most social of industries. Real estate firms are blogging, creating personal Web pages for agents and adding Facebook and Twitter to their arsenal of marketing tools.
More than half of the National Association of Realtors' member agents reported using social networking sites in 2010, compared with a little more than a third in 2009. Nearly two-thirds have a Web site and about 10 percent have a blog.
"It is just a different form of prospecting," said Tom Horner, a manager -- and blogger -- with Blanchard and Calhoun Real Estate Co.
Though Augusta's housing market had a better ride through the Great Recession than other metro areas, Horner said it still requires a lot of hard work for agents to get sales. As one of those in charge of the construction of the Greater Augusta Association of Realtors' training facility in west Augusta, he's noticed it is used frequently by agents trying to keep up with the technological changes in the industry, including social media.
Brenda Dansby, of Re/Max Partners in Evans, said new Re/Max agents are indoctrinated in Facebook, LinkedIn and other Web sites in their first week of training. They are setting up profiles on Trulia and YouTube and Google as well.
"There are so many people that want this type of connection. I'd rather be in front of somebody and win them over," Dansby said.
Dansby said she's had her own Facebook page for two years. She estimates she gets two leads a year from all of her Web-based efforts. But that's better than nothing.
"And it's free," she said.
Lindsey Folley, the marketing director for Century 21 Larry Miller Realty in Martinez, said the changes aren't altering the personal nature of the industry, just altering the venue.
"A good way to keep relationships going," Folley said, "Somebody that's already used you as a Realtor, it is easier to keep that relationship than without the Facebook page."
Considering that 33 percent of the younger generation goes to a social media site daily, having a Facebook presence is about being where the customers are going.
"As the home buyers are getting young, that's our target. We've got to find a way to reach them in a different way than how we would normally reach older adults," Folley said.
And that means going mobile, too.
About a month ago, Blanchard and Calhoun included QR codes on the flyers in front of some of its for-sale homes.
A QR code, an abbreviation for Quick Response code, is a two-dimensional bar code that is readable by barcode readers on smartphones. The codes link the phones to open-house information or send the interested person to a Web site that has the home's data.
Realtor.com, the official Web site of the National Association of Realtors, said 13 properties are viewed every second on a Realtor.com mobile app including the Android, iPhone, Windows Phone 7 and iPad.
In May, according to the organization, more than 1 million active Realtor.com mobile app users viewed 35.6 million homes, a 33 percent increase in home views in one month.
Kristin Ellison, the marketing director for Blanchard and Calhoun, said the company is still collecting data on the local use of the QR codes.
The codes will also be a hit for sellers, because the interest in a home can be measured through the hits on the Web site, mobile Web site and links from the codes.
Ellison said it is an inexpensive way to keep up with the times.
Dansby said Re/Max has also introduced the codes.
Century 21 has a mobile phone application that allows listing searches, Folley said.
"People shop by yard signs. People choose homes by the area," she said, which is why the app comes in handy for those driving through neighborhoods.
Ellison said Blanchard and Calhoun also recently incorporated a listing search option for its Facebook page. The company's Web site, blog and social media pages are all linked as a way to market the company.
"Trying to get the voice of the entire company out there," Horner said of blogging. "To help sell Blanchard and Calhoun, there is so much information out there worth sharing with our public and our agents."