Truth about Facebook and World Travel: Change is Difficult

Sometimes getting used to a new facebook layout is like changing countries while traveling.

Right now, since facebook just did another switch-a-roo there's been lots of moaning and groaning, and tips on how to "make it like it was." I too am guilty of that, when it first changed I knew something wasn't quite write, and I posted a status update grumbling.

Face it, nobody likes change.

Even traveling around the world, by its very nature was changing locations constantly. It always took some time and adjustment to get used to the money, the sites, the sounds, the accents and more. For some it can be daunting, and that's why so many people never quite get up the nerve to get off the couch and take off on that journey.

Change is difficult.

I remember living in Turkey for several months in the mid 90's. I became completely used to the Turkish accented English I'd hear spoken. I knew the cost of a loaf of bread was 1000's of lira. (just pennies to me) I'd gotten used to the Turkish bus system, one of the most efficient ways to travel Turkey, and become comfortable in the country. When it was time to move on to my next location, India, I let the uncertainty get the better of me.

Actually, I let a woman who had traveled India many times get the better of me. Her advice was along the lines of creating fear scenarios in my head. "Don't use the cheap accommodation you'll get robbed. Don't try to buy your own train ticket, pay a concierge at your hotel to go book it for you. Don't eat the local food, you'll get sick, just boiled rice and bananas...." and on and on she went. I'd been traveling in developing nations for 6 months on my own by that point, but suddenly I let this woman's crazy advice create some trepidation.

The unknown, like change, is difficult.

Once I landed in Bombay, I forced myself to discard the woman's ramblings and proceeded to dig in and get used to it. I adjusted to the rupee, the train system, the rich accents, and the sites and in no time I felt at home again.

Pushing off the fear of others is sometimes as hard as pushing off your own fear.

It's the same way with the new facebook. Everyone is so concentrated on trying to make it look like the "old" facebook that they don't realize they are missing something. I've seen many, "How to Make New Facebook look like Old Facebook" postings in the last few days. But it really doesn't. You lose some of the richness if you just simply change it to status update, you lose the spontaneous photo feeds, you lose the links, the articles people direct you to, and miss some of the social networking that's going on.

What you've gained are some of the features people complained they were missing from the old "old" facebook. If you remember back to the last round of complaints, now you get to see who your friends are friending. You get to see the groups and pages they fan, that being your friend and sharing common interests, you may want to fan too.

Sometimes we are so busy trying to keep things the way they "were" that we don't see the beauty in change.

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Cross Marketing and Social Media: Two Peas in a Pod

Cross marketing and Social Media just go together like peanut butter and chocolate...

I work for a local builder who buys local, hires local, lives local and stays local. I also do all the social media for the builder. Lately I've been on a quest to promote local businesses. It just makes sense.

If you employ the 80-20 rule when using social media, you really only want to be talking about yourself 20% of the time. I don't want to bombard you with, "buy a house! Buy a house!"What do you do the other 80% of the time? How about talking about the great businesses that are locally run, the local events that are happening in and around town etc. Now it's one thing to talk about these great venues, shops and restaurants, but it's another thing to cross market.

Cross marketing can be free for the most part. Go out, talk to the people in your community and tell them you'd like to promote them for first you do get looks like you might have horns or two heads. After all, since when is marketing free? But it can be.

Here are a few ideas, that may seem like no brainers to think up, but the implementation does take a little time and commitment. But very little if no money.
  • Promote local businesses on your facebook page
  • Talk about local events in your twitter feed
  • Blog about other businesses in your neighborhood
  • Get out and ask these businesses to do the same for you
  • Have events and feature the goods and services of local businesses
  • If you start doing this for them, they'll want to do it for you
  • Create a link exchange page on your website "These are the People in Our Neighborhood"
None of these ideas cost you anything but time. The results create a stronger more unified community of local businesses and benefits all who are involved. Everyone has limited resources and marketing dollars in this day and age, that's what makes Social Media such a powerful tool.

How are you going to use it? Throw out some more ideas!

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Can't We All Get Along: I Think People Have Lost Their Minds

The current economy seems to have given people permission to lose all common sense. Especially in the realm of New Homes Sales. Apparently as long as you site "The economy" and the current state of the housing industry, you should be able to do anything you like.

New rules seem to dictate that you should be able to ask new homes sales agents to show you property at all hours of the day or night regardless of site hours, or the need for appointments. And you can now offer anything you want if you invoke the claim that the company must be going bankrupt...with of course, no facts to support this argument.

I think people have lost their minds.

First and foremost, New Homes Sites are businesses. That may sound like a no brainer, but for some reason some real estate professionals as well as some consumers have forgotten this. There have always been actual operating hours for new homes sites, just like most other businesses. Yet I've heard lately, "What do you mean you can't meet with myself and my client after 6PM on a Saturday to show a house? Don't you want to make a sale?" Not to mention those who want to meet at 7 on a new home sales site during the week... Well why antagonize and behave as if we don't want to make a sale?

Do you think if you question our work ethic that will allow you to get your way?

Do you call up a store who's hours list that they close at 5:00 pm and say, "What do you mean you won't come back in, ignore the fact that you have a family, and come in and work at 6:30 for me? Don't you want to make a sale?" Meanwhile when I ask why normal hours won't work I usually get a list of any number of other things that are taking priority... buying a home is important. If that's not your priority that day to do it during business hours how serious are you? Now don't get me wrong, we'll stay late on just about any day to write a contract, but that's not what is being asked of us. That's like saying I'm coming in to browse, why won't you hold your store open for me to look around?

In some cases we can't keep regular office hours on our sites, so these become by appointment only. We don't just arbitrarily make our communities by appointment only. It's not because of some kind of innate laziness on the part of our sales agents. Sadly, because of major downsizing we don't have full coverage for some of our communities. Now this may not be ideal, but with the current economy, and a smaller staff, that's just the way we are able to cover all our communities at this point in time. "Appointment only" shouldn't be foreign to real estate agents. After all, you can't just show up at a resale home that someone lives in and show it... you need to give people some advanced warning. Does that mean they don't want to do business or make a sale? No...that's just common courtesy to make an appointment.

My personal favorite ridiculous comment is, "I know you have to sell this house. Your company is in trouble." Really, so you are standing in my office telling me my company is in trouble? Trouble compared to what? We sell homes every week and are continuing to build. If you mean all builders have slowed down and that is troublesome to them, then true. But if you mean we're declaring bankruptcy, that simply isn't true. Just imagine someone sitting in your office or calling you on the phone and saying, "I know your company is going out of business and you need to make a sale..." Get a grip people...we aren't going anywhere. If this is your reason to offer an insanely low offer to the builder and expect that he should have to take it, you need a bit of a realty check. Then we really would be going under if we accepted some of the ridiculous offers people want to pay for our homes.

We wouldn't still be in business today if we were operating at a loss and taking whatever we could get for our homes. We are not having a liquidation sale, we are in business to make money. What do you do? If your company is not making a profit will it still be around next year? Why should a builder pay someone to move into his homes? Especially if that builder is still operating, building, and selling?

While the rules have shifted a bit for some new homes sales offices it doesn't mean we are not doing business. It doesn't mean we don't want to make a sale, and it certainly doesn't mean we are going out of business. Just because our hours of operation have changed, and some communities have become by appointment only, does that mean we should all be disrespectful to each other when we can't get that instant gratification we are used to having?

Can't we all get along in the home sales industry? Keep working toward a recovery and respect our own time as well as others. Am I asking for a Utopian Real Estate Society?

I think I'm just asking for the use of a little common sense and common courtesy from both buyers and professionals.

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Youtube Reality Check: No Limits, Watch Nick Vujicic

Youtube is crowded with entertaining mindless videos of cats caught on ceiling fans, manatees bumping into aquarium glass, and giant slides that will land you in a kiddie pool of water...but every once in a while you come across a gem that brings tears to your eyes and teaches you real life lessons. This is why social media can have such an amazing impact on our lives.

I used to teach kids team building, leadership development, self-esteem building, goal setting and so much more, all in the guise of summer camp. I had the good fortune to work for an amazing program called ActionQuest. This teen summer program was a 3 week program filled with fun and sun in the Caribbean aboard 50' yachts while scuba diving every day...what more could you ask for?

ActionQuest sounds like a luxury retreat for kids on the outside, but in reality it is an amazing growth experience. Not just for the students, but for the staff members as well. Sometimes I learned as much from the teens as they did from me. I'm sure on day one, many really had no idea what they were in for... Oh they thought it was all about sunbathing, scuba diving and sailing. Along with the cool stuff came all the responsibilities to keep a boat moving. Cleaning and maintaining the boat, cooking meals, trimming sails, checking engine oil, plotting the course, studying for the exams, and so much more made up their daily routines. It's not just a vacation, but a total life experience. Some of these kids had never cooked macaroni and cheese nor cleaned their own toilet before, let alone sailed a boat or dived in the ocean.

So much to little time. Many came back year after year because they fell in love with the program and it took them outside the every day. Now many of those teens I once worked with have gone on to do amazing things. Some are marine scientists, environmentalists, some travel the world, and climb mountains. One student I had several summers in a row, who was dealing with anger issues, turned his frustrations toward restoring an old sailboat. He pushed his limits toward growth and change and graduated with honors, aspirations and will be going on to a graduate degree working in African nations. It just blows me away when I seem many of my "kids' " (Not so much kids any more) status updates on Facebook.

I hope in some small way I took part in that ripple effect that moved them along their journey.

I loved seeing the light bulbs click on. I loved seeing those ah ha moments. I loved seeing them stretch their imagination and discover that boundaries are limitless. If you can dream it you can do it. These were always my mantras on programs like ActionQuest because these were the precepts I lived by along on the travel road.

When I stopped living a life filled with adventure and working in jobs that motivated kids, I began to get caught up in the everyday. It was easy to forget the lessons I taught. It was easy to slip into a life that accepted limitations. This can happen without thought wen you live by rote repetition -- wake-up, make breakfast, go to work, come home, sit on the it all over again--dreams are easily lost.

It's so easy to find yourself saying, "I can't do this..." "I can't do that..." "I wish I had done..." It becomes easier to feel trapped in a job, or a situation and not be able to see your way out. I know I'm lucky to have experienced what it is like to live my dreams. Thus, it's not a far stretch to recapture that desire. (but it still can be a stretch when mesmerized by the everyday)

When you begin to forget that the limits are as far out as your dreams can reach, when you begin to see the confines of your life contain you, you might be lucky enough to come across a gem like this on youtube. Then you can thank social media for connection you back to the things that really least that's what I did.

Seeing 2 short minutes can re-align your perspective.

For all those people who say they "can't..." For anyone who has ever had a bad day and let it continue for a year or more. For anyone who has ever quit before reaching their goal. For anyone who is afraid to try new can't miss this short clip.

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Are Jobs in Sailing And Real Estate Both 24 Hours A Day?

Why is it so difficult at times for buyer's agents and new home sales agents to get on the same page? We all share a common goal, to help someone find their dream home. Doesn't that makes us on the same team? Yet at times it's like we are in two completely different professions.

As an Online Sales Consultant for a new homes builder I deal with many different people all over the world on a daily basis who are searching for homes. I help individuals and I assist their agents. Since I provide information on all 14 of our communities, I try to provide the best and quickest responses I can to all inquiries.

That's not always easy. And it's even more difficult when so-called real estate professionals behave less than professionally. In our current economic condition, you'd have to live under a rock not to know that the home building industry is one of the major players taking a hit. Building companies have gone under and merged left and right. Those that haven't disappeared or become absorbed, most likely have suffered severe downsizing to weather the storm. That is our current situation. In the past each of our new home sites were manned by 2 agents, but now we have 2-3 sites per agent. With less agents there are far more fires to contend with per person.

My timing was impeccable. I joined the real estate industry just at the beginning of the downturn. Before that, I was blissfully sailing and diving in warmer climates. The only fires I worried about were REAL fires. The three scariest occurrences on a boat, are fires, sinking and man overboard. (No man falls overboard in calm seas and sunny blue skies) Working on a boat was a 24 hour affair. I worked watch rotations, 4 hours on, 4 hours off or other variations and even when I slept I was still attached to the boat. When I wasn't "working" I was still surrounded by the people with whom I worked. There is no private life on a boat, very few people are able to maintain relationships let alone families.

I thought when I left boats things would change...

Now I find myself on land. I awake in the morning, work out, and have a cup of green tea. The first thing I do is check my work email. I answer emails while eating my breakfast and then go to work... then answer more. I walk out the door at work, and when I get home the first thing I do is log on and see if I have more emails. I never quite turn off my job until I go to bed at night.

Sailing taught me a strong work ethic, one I've carried through my current existence. I'm available 7 days a week until 11 at night via email. But not by phone. I only have office numbers which are listed on the website and those are limited to office hours. Recently I had a real estate agent complain that our site agents, and myself, are not always available by phone all the time. This so-called professional, told me that he answers his phone at all hours unless he's in the shower....unless he's in the shower? I hope he's not answering while he's on the toilet!

An agent like this does not respect his own time, and in turn does not respect our time. Many real estate agents do not set boundaries and expectations. New Homes agents do have set hours, and always work beyond them to some degree. Our agents take appointments outside of site hours all the time with in reason. It is a constant balancing act of family and work. We are not always going to be available by phone. And everything does not need immediate attention. That's just a fact. Most people shopping for houses don't work 24 hours a day, so why should the expectation be set that we should? And why is it set up by the buyer's agent?

At times I feel like we are at war with the buyer's agents. Some constantly act as if we do not work hard. With my current work schedule, I'm traveling from community to community. I have messages left on several phones with the best way to reach me for quick answers, my email address. Yet I get nasty messages like the one I found yesterday. A buyer's agent accused me of not wanting to sell a house since we had such limited site hours. His voice dripped in condescension as he said,"Maybe when you decide to work on weekends you might make some sales. " Then he continued on with more complaints and insults. It was not just what he said, but the tone that caused me to snap.

I could not hold back. (Well I did hold back, but I did not ignore his rant nor did I apologize) I called him back, and very politely explained that I was the internet sales consultant working at that particular community 2 days a week, another community 2 days a week and the office one day a week however I was available 7 days a week via email to set an appointment for him. And I reminded him that all of this information was on the voice mail. I politely reminded him that he preferred to berate me rather than use another form of contact to set an appointment. I called shame on him, saying, "In this current economic climate all builders have been hit hard and we are highly understaffed. If you had contacted me through any of the numerous means left on the voice message I could have set you an appointment on the weekend." I proceeded by saying, "There is no need for you to leave a rude message, you spoke your peace and now I've spoken mine." I would not have done this to a client, but I feel that as a real estate agent going through his own struggles in the industry, he needed a reality check.

The truth is, the builder is running lean staffed. Everyone works multiple jobs within the company above and beyond their call of duty. But there couldn't be a more dedicated bunch of people keeping my builder floating.

Contrary to the less than professional voice mail I received, we do want to sell homes, and we do sell them on a regular basis each week. Most people understand the situation that has been dealt to us and work within those parameters. And I think it should be apparent to anyone who visits our sites that the last few employees standing have heart and believe in the communities, the homes and the company. We take the insults and the rude agents in stride because we know we are lucky to be one of the builders still standing.

But sometimes you need to make sure the professionals are all on the same team.

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Facebook Vacation Tip: Diving in the Turks and Caicos

New Media and incredible vacations... I never would have thought they'd have much in common until recently.

When the Aggressor Fleet hit 1000 fans on facebook they offered a special $1000 trip on the Turks and Caicos Aggressor. For a diver, a trip on any of Aggressor's 12 luxury liveaboard dive boats is probably on the short list of trips we'd love to take. So when they offered an amazing deal of more than 50% off the normal rate in celebration of 1000 fans on fb, I couldn't pass it up!

Last week we took off to Turks and Caicos to test the waters of the Atlantic and experience a vacation filled with cruising sharks, majestic rays, soaring walls, and amazing memories of dive travels around the world, all courtesy of a great fb tip off.

For more details on the diving and travel itself, check out my travel blog, Random Gypsy Ramblings.

I'll have posts on Random Gypsy Ramblings all week recounting diving and travel from Cuba to Zanzibar. Keep an eye out for these posts. Shark Encounters of a Third Kind, Playing Chicken With A Shark, Finding the "G" Spot in French Cay, Fluffy The Lion Fish Far From Home, Aggressor: From The Caymans to West Caicos.

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