Tag Archives: Tech Tips


How To Keep Your Email Safe And Secure

Your email is your business’s lifeblood these days. Most clients like the convenience of reading their updates on their home, on their title commitment, and everything else through the convenience of email. And, while they may or may not be following safe procedures, it should be one of your primary concerns.

After all, your clients private information is in those emails. Financial records, account numbers, names, and other forms of sensitive data that shouldn’t be released to the public. What if someone guesses your password or otherwise gets access?

There are some very good tips you can follow to keep your email safe. Most of these solutions are simpler than some recipes you’ve been dying to try or some driving maneuvers you perform daily. If you add these layers of security, you can be confident in your email’s safety.

Password Security

The first line of defense against people who’d like your information is to create strong, unique, and unguessable passwords to your accounts. Many people tend to use passwords like “pa$$word1! “ when that’s one of the most easily guessed passwords. Below is a list pulled from CBS News of the 10 most common passwords last year:

 

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. abc123
  6. 123456789
  7. 111111
  8. 1234567
  9. iloveyou
  10. adobe123

 

If you see any of your passwords on here, you should be changing them right now. Those are the most common and they are also the most easily guessed.

Best practice for passwords is to use a random string of letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols of significant length (8 or more characters). It should look more like “1dfGHt#2” than “password.”

If you’re worried about remembering passwords, use a password manager app or sync tool like iCloud Keychain or 1Password. That way, you can generate extremely secure passwords that your phone and/or computer will put in automatically for you while still maintaining the security that you need.

Phishing Attempts

But, a good password isn’t worth anything if you give it away willingly. We’ve all been warned about phishing and spam, and never to click links in emails where you (a) weren’t expecting an email or (b) don’t know the sender. Those maxims are still true but there’s even more to be worried about now.

Phishing is, specifically, the act of imitating a legitimate company’s login screen to get your password. They’re getting good at replicating the official website, too. Here are some common traits of phishing emails, pulled from Microsoft:

  • Threats
    • An email might claim your account will be shut down or important documents will be lost if you don’t take action through their links. This is usually false. If it isn’t, you’ll be notified when you log in to the real service through a link you’re familiar with.
  • Grammar errors
    • Most spam artists are not well known for having good grammar and punctuation. If the email reads choppy or wrong, it’s most likely a fake.
  • Email is “from” a big company
    • Phishers generally don’t want information for smaller, niche websites, so be especially suspicious of emails from the big guys: Google, Facebook, Twitter, and so on.

Follow this rule of thumb if you don’t want to get caught by a phishing scam: if you receive an email from anyone asking you to login, give them your password, or otherwise give up information, do not use their links or give them that information. Instead, if you’re concerned, go to the website they’re claiming to be from yourself by hand-typing the URL into your browser. That way, you can be sure you’re at the right place.

A problem that faces real estate and title professionals in particular are schemes to get you to transfer funds to a dummy account. The emails in question will look almost exactly like real requests for transfers and if you’re not careful, you might end up sending large amounts of money to fake accounts. When in doubt, verify the transaction request with the sender if you know them, or take steps to find out if they’re legit. Use the tips above to recognize and avoid emails intended to steal passwords or cash and delete the offending messages as soon as you can.

Security Questions

Recovery options are also difficult because if you’re vigilant about setting a good password and avoiding/ignoring phishing but make your security questions easy to answer or easily researched, you’ve done a lot of hard work for nothing. When you set up your security questions, make sure they’re:

  • Obscure
  • Not public information
  • Instantly memorable

If you’ve ever revealed your security question’s answer anywhere, ever, don’t use it. Instead, if you’re given the option, make up your own question about something you don’t tell others, or use the question that you’ve never told anyone. Be aware, too, that some image memes that are commonly shared on Facebook are looking for information commonly found in these questions. If you know you use certain details for these questions, don’t publish them on any social media network or tell anyone you don’t trust.

2-Factor Authentication

Some websites (like Google, Facebook, and Twitter) have introduced what’s known as 2-factor authentication. It may sound complex but it’s actually rather simple: they require any password input to have another, smaller password generated by another device. The services I mentioned earlier all use apps on iPhones/Androids to generate the code. If you activate this system, you’ll be asked for a code each time you log in that only you, on your device, can make. That way, even if someone else has your password, the only way anyone’s getting in is if they have your code generator—and they’d need to steal your phone for that.

Stay Safe

The only way that you’re going to lose your data and your email account if you use these tips would be to hand it to them directly. Staying safe has never been easier thanks to the basic tools that we’ve been given from the email providers themselves and the basic tips to maintaining a safe, secure email system earlier in the email: make a good password, give it to no one, don’t log in through links but rather through the sites themselves, and just practice good email management, and you’ll be fine!

 

Actionable Tips

Follow these basic tips to stay safe through your email:

  • Trust no one
    • Any email coming from anyone you don’t know or any company from whom you’re not expecting an email is suspect. Don’t click those links.
    • Any legitimate web service or company can verify those requests. Call them or send an email directly to your contact, not by “reply.”
  • Use good passwords
    • Get rid of simple passwords and those “123456” codes—they will get you into trouble.
    • Passwords should contain:
      • At least 8 characters (the more the better)
      • Symbols, numbers, and both upper and lower case letters
      • A jumble of letters that can’t be found in a dictionary
  • Use additional account protection
    • Services like Google’s Authenticator and other forms of two-factor security make it harder for phishing and brute-force password hacking. Use those services.
    • Don’t make your security answers public information—if it’s used to secure an account, keep it to yourself.
  • Use good judgement
    • If an email feels wrong or is unexpected, confirm and verify it. It’s usually too good to be true.

Monitoring Your Brand Image

As professionals, it can be difficult to keep track of what’s going on in the world we live in. From the vast social networks that we must keep track of to the niche sites where our businesses might be talked about without our knowledge, how can you keep your eyes on what’s being said—and how can you use that information to make your business better? reputation poster

Google Alerts

One popular way of monitoring your image is to use Google Alerts to ensure that you’re always on top of what Google sees—and we all know that Google sees just about everything. Put your name into the box, set your email to receive the alerts, and you’ll be on your way. If there’s something new that Google finds, you’ll hear about it as often as you like. That way, if something happens in one of the remote corners of the web, you’ll know about it.

Social Media

You can track your image on social media channels mostly by making sure you maintain a solid presence online. The internet is not shy about telling you exactly what it thinks, good or bad. If you give people an outlet to pour out their experiences, good or bad, you’ll hear about it. In fact, some companies have taken to proactively diagnosing and fixing the problems while engaging entirely through social media channels. Listening to social media for your name or business name can be as simple as searching through Twitter, Facebook, or your preferred network’s search function, but you might consider using a solution like Hootsuite to set up search terms on each network that it will monitor and create a dashboard for. It might make it simpler for you to be listening for what people are saying about you.

Location Websites

A big one that people don’t generally think of is to be monitoring sites like Yelp, Google+ Local, and other map-based sites where people might be tempted to leave bad reviews or say bad things. Make sure that in your search of the internet that you keep sites like these in mind. It’ll help you in the long run because not only is it good to claim your locations and keep the info up-to-date, you’ll be able to head off customers who didn’t use the proper support channels to let you know about the problem.

Overall, monitoring your online image is easy once you get the hang of it. In fact, most of it is automated thanks to tools like Alerts and Hootsuite. Don’t let it distract you from the goal of providing the best client service that you can.


The Social Media Cheat Sheet

All of the social media outlets are recommended for your business. They’ve become a force that’s not just for sharing your personal life with your friends but for sharing your professional life with your clients.

Facebook on computer screen
This is how our Facebook looks.

Images, too, have become key to interacting on the social web. As our devices have grown more powerful and visually stunning, the use of images has risen too—to the point of being a necessity.

We don’t need to convince you that you need images, we’re sure—the numbers bear that out. Engagement on photo posts is far, far higher than on text posts. The Internet is a visual medium. But how do you use the images in a way that promotes your business and shows that you know your tools?

Part of it is knowing the image size you’ll need. Below we have a list of image sizes (in pixels) that show the optimal size for images to be seen, clicked, and responded to. All dimensions are listed Width X Height. 

The Big List For Social Media Image Sizes

  • Facebook
    • Cover Photo: 851×315
    • Profile Photo: 180×180
    • Link Image: 1200×627
    • Regular Image: 1200×1200
    • Milestone Image: 1200×717
  • Twitter
    • Header Image (new profile): 1500×1500
    • Profile Photo: 400×400
    • Image for Tweets (recommended size): 880×440
  • Google+
    • Profile Photo: 250×250
    • Cover Photo: 2120×1192
    • Shared Photos: 800×600
  • LinkedIn
    • Profile Photo: 200×200
    • Cover Photo: 646×220
  • Instagram
    • Profile Photo: 161×161
    • Image (Desktop Lightbox): 612×612
    • Feed Photo: 510×510
  • Pinterest
    • Profile Photo: 600×600
    • Pins: 600xinfinite (photos can be as long as you like, but width is fixed at 600px)
    • Pinboard Thumbnail: 220×150
  • YouTube
    • Profile Photo: 800×800
    • Channel Art: 2560×1224
    • Video Thumbnail: 1280×720 (720p resolution if using a screenshot from your video)

Using these guidelines can and will help you to promote your business because you’ll quickly improve your social media prowess and make your business look more beautiful and appealing to the average social user.

Feel free to bookmark this guide to the social media recommended image sizes in case you need the numbers again. Happy marketing!


#TechTipTuesday: Are Your Listings “Smart” Enough For Your Buyers?

smart home banner

One thing that we’ve noticed recently is that the whole world is getting interconnected. First it was our computers, then our phones, and now home gadgets are getting in on the action. And it’s not just the gadgets you’d think should be hooked up, either. Here’s a list that we found scouring the internet:

  • Coffee machines
  • Washers
  • Dryers
  • Thermostats
  • Refrigerators
  • Cooking devices
  • Water purification systems
  • Light switches
  • Light bulbs
  • Home security systems
  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Garage door openers

And that’s just a small portion of the information we found. While some of them might seem silly (the light bulb one comes to mind), it’s also something to notice: more and more appliances are converting, and if your listings have them, they can become selling points just like features on a vehicle.

Convenience

These devices make life even more convenient than they were before. Instead of garage door openers that were unreliable or home alarm systems with codes, now we have Wi-Fi enabled devices that don’t miss an infrared beam or a security system that doesn’t need a complex code but a simple authentication on your phone. And the lighting and coffee? Well, imagine not needing to get out of bed to start your coffee in the morning. Convenience started this industry, and it’s not going away any time soon. Home listings can benefit because being ready for this kind of automation is a great selling point.

Security

But it’s not just convenience that keeps this trend going. It’s also a matter of security. Our mobile devices contain a lot of information about us and, because of this, we keep them closer to us than our keys. Using a mobile device to unlock doors or turn off security alarms, then, is a matter of security because we can choose when and where to unlock doors and systems—or call the police and emergency services clandestinely. There’s even a Wi-Fi enabled fire alarm that you can set up your emergency plan and it’ll notify you if you ever need to put that plan into action. It’s a safety feature that your buyers will want in your listings—and will pay more for if it’s installed.

Demand

The demand for these devices is going up. The term “internet of things” is starting to trend because the devices we all know and love are starting to network together for everyone’s benefit—including your buyers and your listings. Because of this interesting trend, we’re starting to see the potential of a smart listing making more money. People have been buzzing about it for years but the practical, affordable application of this idea is finally starting to come to fruition. Now that it is, you might consider advising your buyers to add some of these simple gadgets—if practical—or at least ensuring that they can be hooked up. Being prepared means better opportunities for both you and your listings.


Communication With Clients: Learn To Speak Digitally

iPicnic | ©JD Hancock via Flickr | CCBY
iPicnic | ©JD Hancock via Flickr | CCBY

These days, cell phones and revolutions in how we all communicate and interact mean that older methods of communication with leads and clients are not as effective as they used to be. This can be dangerous for those of us who don’t have a strong background in using these devices or who are heavily accustomed to the tried and true methods employed by professionals for many years.

text message quick response

This isn’t just a long-distance telecommunications phenomenon, either. The evolution of communication has bled into standard communication and has changed not only how we send messages to each other but how we speak, as well—and not knowing the differences can make all the difference.

Rule 1: Be Concise

We’ve noticed that people don’t pay attention to others if they’re rambling. The internet is an enormous source of knowledge, but the overload of knowledge works against it: people don’t have the time to read everything. 

NPR recently took advantage of this principle for an April Fools prank, using the photo and metadata of an article to suggest that people don’t read. Many people protested, commenting about how they do read and how it was offensive for NPR to think that way. However, if you click and read the article, it lets the reader in on the joke. The offended people commenting didn’t read the article. And there were many people offended, too.

The same is true for your clients. They don’t have the time to waste on you if you’re not providing solid information, whether that information is a blog post on your website or a listing. Say what needs said and stop.

The takeaway: speak clearly and quickly; don’t waste time.

Rule 2: Be Prompt

The expectations of communication have changed, as well. Not even 20 years ago, answering machines were common because unless we were very well off, instant replies and instant communication were not expected. 

This has changed. The internet and the ubiquitous nature of cell phones mean that your reply is expected extremely promptly—often within minutes. If you’re waiting longer than an hour to reply, even if just to let them know you’re busy, you’re most likely losing business. To the modern professional of any age, time is money and waiting for excessively long periods of time is detrimental to business.

While this might seem like it’s an invasion of your life, consider how many things you get instantly these days and how you expect quick replies from those companies who have your business. You’re no different. 

The takeaway: respond quickly with solid information—even if only to say that you’ve received the message. 

Rule 3: Be Mindful

The differences that the market faces can seem insurmountable, especially when it deals with changing the way that you do business and how those social expectations have shifted with little warning. But, learning to speak “digitally” in what used to be an analog world isn’t too terribly difficult—just keep your clients in mind, how they operate, and how they define the relationship. If you work to define it your way, you’ll get clients who think like you do—and that number is on the decrease.

Don’t just assume that one way of doing business is best because that’s the way it always worked. Remember, 20 years ago print ads and billboards were more effective than this thing called the internet. Now, computer monitors and phones are the billboards. Things change—and so must we if we want to keep getting business. 

The takeaway: pay attention and adapt.


#TechTipTuesday: Instagram and Real Estate

Instagram Glyph
Instagram glyph

Instagram remains one of the most popular social media networks because of the gimmick it uses to get attention: the entire network is based on photography, both artistic and commercial. This seems like it should lend well to real estate (and we think that it does), but here in Tampa as well as in a lot of places it lacks a lot of agents. Considering that data is showing lower ages for new homebuyers (a demographic that’s also more likely to use Instagram), the opportunity to reach out to home buyers on Instagram is huge.

Instagram and Your Listings

The most obvious use of Instagram’s services is to photograph and detail your listings. While there may be some concern about filters and other modifications to photos of listings, you can add a disclaimer that they’re modified photos—not to mention that it’s expected in the medium. And the reach you’ll get if you use the social medium to find leads is huge—especially if you find some people with follows to boost your posts with likes and, if you’re lucky, sharing it with their friends.

There’s no “re-instagram” button, so you have to build your network the old-fashioned way: by reaching out to clients and people with captivating photos. (There also those pesky hashtags, but as long as they’re descriptive people will find you.) And we know that some of your listings have great curb appeal—why not show it off? There’s enough food and selfies to last all of us for a while.

Instagram and Your Business

It’s not just about listings, either. Instagram is a social network, meaning you’ll have to talk to people. While your listings should be prominent, it shouldn’t be the only thing you post. If you find yourself taking a lot of photos at events and while out and about, you can build your following by showing off who you are when you’re not “on the clock.” 

Reaching out to others is easier when you’re connecting on a personal level. Remember the new world we’re living in is profession second, person first. No matter what kind of business you do, people want someone they can trust. Is your professional image a carefully manufactured and curated cardboard cutout, or is it your personality shining through the professional armor? Take some shots of your next outing, live a little, and gain followers—and possibly leads.

Instagram and You

Finally, we need to mention that the point of Instagram is to share photos and videos of amazing and interesting things, whether they’re listings, events, or even what you had for dinner. But, like any other passion or outlet, mediation is key. If you’re always on Instagram posting images and other distractions, you’re (1) taking away from your ability to do work and (2) overloading what followers you do have with photos. Be smart about how you use your photos and Instagram might be the untapped market you’re looking for!

Below are some examples for great photos for real estate on Instagram:


#TechTipTuesday: Google Goggles Saves You Time

Far be it from us to shill for another company, but Google makes some really interesting gizmos, from good software for telephones to the hands-down best email system that’s ever existed. But, there’s a nifty tool embedded in the Google Search apps on iPhone and Android as well as through their web interface: Google Goggles.

google goggles
Google Goggles logo

If you see something that you’re curious as to what it is—like a strange-looking bug outside a home or a nifty looking decoration—you can just point your smartphone’s camera at it and Google will do its best to find what you’re looking for.

While it might seem pointless at first, imagine how much easier finding something could be if, while you can’t exactly describe it, you can just take a picture of it? It’s especially handy if you’re showing a home and a client asks what something is—it might not be your home but if Google can find out, why not use it?

There are other benefits, as well. The Goggles search links to the regular Google search page for it so not only can you identify something, but also do research on it. If your client wants to know how good a certain appliance is, you can pull it up without knowing about it and get the information they want in real time. If you want to know how trustworthy a company is, snap a picture of their logo and check the reviews.

We know that you’re busy people, so we figure that having a tool like that in your pocket might help you be more efficient (and, therefore, more successful in your showings). If the only limiting factor that you have is not having the information, changing that is as simple as pulling out your smartphone and taking a picture. Happy Tuesday!


Tech Tip Tuesday: August 27, 2013

 Top 3 Mistakes Realtors Make Using Youtube

Following up on our original article, YouTube for Real Estate, we’re covering the most common mistakes real estate agents make on YouTube. By avoiding these mistakes, you can fully take advantage of YouTube and grow your business through the power of creating and sharing video content.

As attention spans get shorter, especially on the internet, messages need to be clearer and presented earlier in order to engage viewers. One of the most common mistakes real estate agents are making on YouTube is creating videos that are too long. From our research, 1 minute and 30 seconds, give or take, seems to be the ideal length of a real estate YouTube video. After your video(s) have been posted for a period of time, you can even use YouTube’s Analytics feature to gauge exactly how long your audience watches your video(s). This will allow you to further fine tune the length of your videos based on your audience’s attention span.

While this point may seem obvious, it is one of the most commonly made mistakes on YouTube. A real estate agent will make a video, post it, then question why the response has been less than desirable only to find out they forgot to place their contact information clearly in the video. Placing your contact information in your videos can and should be done in a few different way. Your contact information should be verbally stated in the video, edited directly into the visual content, and placed in YouTube’s description area. Additionally, your contact information should be added to caption/description/message areas whenever you share your videos on other networks and platforms.

Using video to promote your business does not stop at YouTube. This would be a shortsighted strategy and yield little results. Unfortunately, real estate agents make this mistake frequently. Real estate professionals should start their video promotion with YouTube, but also take advantage of other mediums of communication to continue marketing their videos. Realtors should also be using Facebook for real estate, and this is one of the first places videos should be shared once they’re uploaded. Email is another very important medium to utilize when sharing videos along with posting the video on your website. Finally, your videos should be shared on other social networks like Google Plus and Twitter. By not sharing your video(s), you’re limiting the reach of your marketing, while sharing your video in multiple places increases reach exponentially.

Source: Michael Darmanin, SellState


Tech Tip Tuesday: August 20, 2013

Social Media Tips for the Real Estate Industry

One of my favorite things about being a social media marketer is that every industry is different.  Some industries go with social media like peas and carrots. However, others have yet to fully embrace the benefits that social media marketing can bring. Real estate is one industry that seems to be dipping their toes into social media, but has yet to dive in. Some real estate companies are making an effort at social media , but it’s a bit halfhearted and nothing done halfway will be successful.  I thought I would share some tips from my past experience working with real estate companies in the social space.

Create Trust

Looking for a new home to buy or rent can be incredibly stressful and people are very likely to turn to social sites for recommendations of realtors. How many times have you seen your friends on Facebook ask if anyone needs a roommate or if anyone knows a good realtor? Studies show that people trust recommendations from peers way more than marketing messaging, so why not place yourself amidst the people you are hoping to serve? By striving to create trust, you are not only opening yourself up to be recommended, you are also setting yourself up to be the choice of the person who received no social recommendations and has to go on their gut instinct. How can you create trust as a realtor? Show people who you are! Highlight your staff, your policies, your previous clients or anything else that a potential client might ask. Do your best to answer questions before people ask, THIS creates trust. Of course, you don’t want to bombard people with information about you or your company, however tactfully helping people to get to know you will help them to trust you.

Provide USEFUL Information

While you definitely do want to make it easy for people to get familiar with you on social sites, that alone won’t cut it. You have to show them you know the ins and outs of your business. Be sure to incorporate industry information that would be useful to someone looking for a new place to buy or rent. This can be mortgage rates, where the highest/lowest rent can be found, highly rated developments and even home decorating ideas. By diversifying your content with useful information, you will not only be trusted but will also be top of mind when it comes time for the potential client to choose a realtor.

 Use the Right Tools

One major social media mistake I see in the real estate industry is either not using each platform properly or simply setting accounts and waiting. If you are in real estate and you do NOT have a Facebook business page, stop what you are doing and go create one. Business pages allow you to leverage Facebook advertising options and insights. These are vital to your social success. To truly see the return on your time spent on social sites, you have to be using the tools available to you appropriately.

Get Creative

Realistically, after you have successfully placed a person into a new home there won’t be much communication between you. THIS is where you have to get creative. Provide your social communities with creative content to keep them engaged. Show them unique decorating ideas, ugly homes, expensive homes, life hacks and anything else that you think is interesting. If you can keep them hooked, you are likely to get their recommendation.

Don’t be Afraid to Sell Every Now and Then

With all of this talk about creating trust, being useful and getting creative, we should also remember that the social accounts are meant to generate interest in real estate listings. Don’t be afraid to highlight your listings periodically. Be sure to point out why the listing might be perfect for someone looking for a new place to buy or rent.  If you are strategic about when you publish content about your listings, you are likely to see a great response from the community. From experience, people will actually message you asking for more information.

By: Nathan Mendenhall, Social Media Today