Like it or not, social media is here to stay. And, as we reported in a previous post, it’s changing the way real estate business is conducted. Social media can help income property investors manage properties, network and even find new tenants – but these useful tools come with potential pitfalls.

Even if you don’t know your Twitter from your Facebook, chances are your potential tenants do, especially if you’re renting properties in college towns or vacation spots. Being able to find your way around the social media world can help establish a professional identity, or brand, as an entrepreneur, connect with helpful people and services, and keep up to date with developments in your market.

Professional networks like LinkedIn can help a new investor/entrepreneur establish a business identity that’s helpful when building a new business. LinkedIn, Google+ and other networking-oriented sites allow you to connect with an array of people in fields related to yours – other investors, real estate professionals and financial advisers, and even housing professionals such as builders and contractors.

Twitter sounds frivolous and in some ways it is – but those 140 character posts and information sharing tweets can also put you in touch with professionals in a variety of fields for learning, problem solving and just plain chatting. Twitter works fast in real time, too – widely used on mobile apps, you can stay on top of property deals, connect with lenders and find potential tenants virtually anytime.

Even that old standby Facebook can be useful. A 2012 study of social media use in real estate found that over half of home sales in that year involved the internet in some way, with social media pulling a significant share of the action. Through Facebook people find properties, refer professional services and rate the performance of providers. You can even create a Facebook page separate from your personal page just for your investment business activities.

Social media has also changed the landlord-tenant relationship. A recent survey found that landlords are increasingly turning to social media to screen tenants. Checking a prospective tenant’s Facebook page could yield information that sends red flags. While it’s legal to do that, a landlord must be careful that there’s no violation of fair housing laws involved – for example, if you learn your prospective tenant is gay from his Facebook profile and then refuse to rent to him.

Just as property owners can check tenants out on social media, renters can also investigate prospective landlords. With sites like RateMyLandlord alongside the usual outlets and easy access to cell phone cameras and video, it’s easy for a disgruntled tenant or prospective tenant to “flame” a landlord all over he Internet. And once that genie is out of the bottle, it’s hard to regain control of your reputation and your brand.

The tools of the new media offer tremendous assets for real estate entrepreneurs to do as Jason Harman recommends – get educated, take action and stay in control of the investment process. But it’s essential to tack charge of social media with a professional profile and behavior – before it takes charge of you.  (Top image: Flickr/webtreands)
Five Social Media Tips for Landlords.” Rocket Lease Blog. 8 Jan 2013.

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