Internet marketing: the real estate analogy

Can you compare real estate to the Internet? After all, one exists in the real world the other in the virtual world.

One is made up wood, bricks and steel, the other of coding, images and files. But looking at the similarities can help you navigate the sometimes confusing world of Internet marketing and social media.I grew up in South Philadelphia. We looked to the summer. No, not the hot, sweaty, smelly and humid days – we looked forward to heading to the Jersey Shore for the weekend. The “summer rental” at the shore was where the family spent the weekend. As we got older, the summer rental was a place to party. The rental was all about fun. You wouldn’t catch anyone painting, making improvements or fixing things. That was the owner’s job! He’s the one who really cared about his property. But what does this have to do with Internet marketing and social media?Let’s take two pieces of “real estate” on the Web. Your business Web site and a social media site like Facebook, which has about 550 million users and climbing.Your company’s Web site is YOUR real estate. It’s the one you have to continually maintain, just like your home. You have to keep sprucing your site up to boost its value. Your site is where you welcome your guests (prospects) all year long. It’s where you enhance the relationship and educate them about the benefits of doing business with you.Picture going out and networking, then having a meeting at your office. Social sites are the networking platform, your office is your Web site.
Social media sites like Facebook profiles and “fan pages” are rentals. Because you’re not the “owner” you have to be careful of investing too much time and money. Remember, I said “too much.”
Entertainment vs. businessFor a nice chunk of change you’d get a decent rental at the Shore. For a low investment of time and money you can establish a nice presence in social media. While the buzz surrounds social media, the truth is more businesses haven’t grown at all because of social media than are widely profiting. Yes, you hear all the great success stories because those stories make “news.” Those stories are the exception, not the rule.More people use major social media sites for entertainment and to waste time than do business. On my personal Facebook profile I’ll get more responses and comments to a status update about my personal life than my business life (even though they are closely connected).For example, a post about how I went the entire day before I realized I forgot to put one of my contact lenses in got more comments than a clip of a recent TV appearance. The TV appearance is “business” the other is pure personal entertainment. Because of this mindset for entertainment, you can’t jump in and expect to start ringing the register.On the opposite end of the spectrum, sites like the one NHBR has put together,, is more about business and should be treated as such. Not all social sites are created equal!Social media sites are subject to the “shiny new object” syndrome. When the next “shiny social site” takes over, the work you put in to the previous “happenin'” place evaporates. Remember MySpace? This answers the question I had in my early 20s: “Last summer that club was the spot to be, now everyone’s over here – I wonder why?”Keep the real estate analogy in mind as you invest your time and resources in your online marketing. Enjoy your rentals but think like a homeowner.Mike Dolpies, a business owner, author, speaker and Internet marketing consultant, can be reached at 603-286-4864