Blogging Guidelines and FAQ
HawaiiLife.com and the Blog are proven to attract sellers and buyers. Use the HL blog to promote your listings and expertise as a Realtor. We are glad so many of you are participating in blogging. Here are a few blogging guidelines that must be adhered to...
Why Your Blog Matters
Your blog makes a difference. It puts you in front of a customer who is generally further along in the home buying process than phone or website leads. A blog inquiry often moves more quickly to closing than a general inquiry. These customers found your blog through a long-tail google (or bing, etc.) search for a particular kind of property; they know what they want, and are actively seeking it.
Blogging is a trust-building opportunity with potential customers. When you share specific, valuable information about a niche area, you are perceived as an expert on the subject. Customers are likely to seek your services as they search for the kind of properties about which you are sharing specific knowledge. Blogging is an art - a practice, just like Real Estate - that you can perfect over time. Blogs don't need to be perfect, but you do need to publish them. It's typically the least expensive lead you can generate for your business (No referral fees due to Hawaii Life) - all it requires is your time.
Don't feel limited to writing only about real estate. While your seller expects you to blog about your new listing, you can also write about anything pertinent to life in Hawaii. Our blog informs the general public about what it’s like to live here, and about real property. Generally, the more “life” that a subject holds for you, the more your blog will draw the reader’s attention.
The first line of your post should reflect the title of your blog. Web writing is different from academic or book writing. On the web, we don’t waste time; we get to the point, quickly. Your title should state your main message, and your first sentence should back up that message.
For example, if your blog is titled, “Home Sales in Kalamata Are Off the Hook,” the first sentence of your blog should read, “Home sales increased 900% last month in the glorious town of Kalamata, as buyers followed the calls of the Menehune to its hillsides.”
Insert a photo or video at the top of your post, either with or without a line or two of text above it. Use pretty pictures to capture the reader's attention. Please see below for instructions on how to insert photos.
Avoid using language that is cliché and contrived to evoke fantasy images without consideration to the customer's worldview, and that may alienate people who call Hawaii home. A few examples of words to NOT use:
“Making your dreams come true.” “This is your dream home.” “Shangri-La” “Must-See!” “Piece of Paradise”
What differentiates Hawaii Life from the competition and enables us to build trust with customers is our focus on content rather than “fluff.” What our customers want most is relevant, useful, and interesting information - not commentary that may come across as spam. Our job is to help customers obtain information they need to make decisions about buying and selling real property. The importance of brief, straightforward, and truthful information cannot be overemphasized. So, draft your blogs to offer information as you would want to receive it – honest, straightforward, and concise.
Link to Your Personal Site
You can include one (1) link to your personal site within each blog post. DO NOT include more than one (1) link to your personal site/blog/social media within a single blog post.
Things to always include
1. Designation. Always include your designation. The Hawaii Life Standards for Designations are:
- REALTOR Spelled out with (B) or (S) designation
- REALTOR Spelled out with (A) or R(A) - Oahu only
- When possible spell out Broker, Salesperson or Associate (Oahu only)
- Place designations visible underneath or next to the agent's name
REALTOR(A), RS-12345 (Oahu Only)*
Important Designation Note: these are REALTOR designations which has nothing to do with the license number:
- RS is for all the islands and stands for Realtor Salesperson
- RB is for all the islands and stands for Realtor Broker
- RA is only used only on Oahu and stands for REALTOR Associate (which is a REALTOR that is not a broker)
2. MLS number. Always include an MLS number for the property you are talking about. The MLS number should be formatted like “(MLS# 12345)” and should immediately follow your first description of the property. Example: This Kalapekacooey home (MLS# 12345) is a must-see for its intergalactic flowers.” Link “MLS# 12345” to the MLS description of the property, found through our website. Do not, however, link the parentheses around your MLS number. If you don't include an MLS number, we must hunt to find it, and this slows down publishing time.
What To Avoid
- Don't post without permission.
Give your fellow brokers and agents the courtesy of getting their permission before you write about one of their listings. Here's why: Sometimes it takes years of relationship building to get a listing. Sometimes, sellers hire the listing agent, not the company. So, when someone who isn't the listing agent writes a post about the listing, especially without the listing agent knowing about it, it can create undue tension with the seller(s).
- Don't speak for others.
When it comes to company announcements, don't speak for the company or other agents. Focus on the inventory, the real estate market, the lifestyle, etc. Don't write posts about the company being nominated for or winning an award, or being mentioned in the press, etc. Those events should be announced by the principals and/or the leadership. And, as always, if you have questions, just ask your BIC before you write the post.
- Don't re-post other people's articles.
We don’t want any copyright violations (see below). Feel free to summarize articles you find and to offer your opinion, but then include a link in your blog to the original article itself.
- Don't promise or predict the future.
The word "investment" should be avoided when possible and there should never be a promise of future income (ie: agent saying this listing is a great investment, it gets rental income that can cover the mortgage). To be safe, rather than say, “I’m sure you’ll make a million bucks off this vacation rental,” offer only the facts such as, “this vacation rental has seen a steady flow of income over the past five years.” Likewise, don’t state as a fact that a particular home will sell soon. You can, however, offer your opinion as a guess. (E.g., “my guess is that this price reduced luxury home will sell this week.”)
- Don't violate the Fair Housing Act
This is particularly a concern around the protected category of “family status.” We cannot use the word “family” or “ohana” or emphasize the proximity of a property to a school, for instance. Other protected categories are race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and handicap. In accordance with federal law, our blogs cannot show a preference for a member of any one of these groups over another.
- No blasting or overt criticism of a Cooperating Broker's listing
Pay attention to the words you use in your advertising, MLS Remarks, and when you're talking with clients.
Below is a list of other words that you should completely remove from your vocabulary. Take this seriously, because the consequences of violating the Federal Fair Housing laws are serious.
1) "Family" and/or "Ohana" (There's virtually no way to use these words in marketing that doesn't violate Fair Housing Laws. There is one exception - when a property is officially zoned "ohana" by the county. These are few and far between.)
2) "School" (Same as above)
3) "Turnkey" (Really? does it have my special electric toothbrush that I need?)
4) "Investment" (What if I lose money? Is it an investment then?)
5) "Income" (Even if you're selling a rental with a great history, this is extremely risky territory to put in writing. Don't do it)
6) "Local" (You know what I mean)
7) "Hawaiian" (Unless you're talking about a specific individual, which is extremely unlikely in advertising copy for a property)
Sensitivity to copyright law and trademark law is especially important when it comes to blogging. Agents affiliated with Hawaii Life cannot copy or post on their blog any information which is copyrighted without giving appropriate credit.
Do Not Copy Articles
Do not copy and paste other people’s articles into your blog post. Rather, if a particular online article has sparked your interest, feel free to write about that article, offering your own thoughts and ideas, while being sure to provide a link to the original article.
An article yesterday in the Honolulu Advertiser stated that penguins are invading Hawaii. Below are my thoughts about the supposed penguin invasion, and why we really ought to be more concerned with the rhinoceroses emerging from Mauna Loa Volcano on the Big Island.
Do not copy text from the MLS and use it in a blog post. Make sure you create new, unique content for your blogs.
IMPORTANT: Please make sure you own the rights to or have permission to use any photo in your blogs
Photos we CAN use:
- Your own photos
- Photos you have permission to use from owner/photographer
- You can purchase the rights to use photos from certain sites that sell them
Photos we CAN'T use:
- MLS Photos
- Photos from the Internet (Google images, etc.)
- Photos from another website
Refrain from using photos with a trade name stamped across their face. Exception: Photos stamped with “RAM” (Realtors Association of Maui.)
Other Important Tips
- Keep it short. Make your point and make a graceful exit. We want to keep the reader’s attention, rather than lose them in long articles.
- Use subheadings. Break up paragraphs/content throughout a blog post by including subheadings. These allow readers to easily skim through your blog. They should be used each time you start talking about something new, or change the subject, and should summarize what the paragraph or section is about. For best results, make them interesting, but short and to the point.
- One space only between sentences. Normal writing has two spaces; web writing has one.
- Use bold and italics minimally. Otherwise, it’s overwhelming for the reader’s eye.
- Describe properties as “1 bed / 1 bath” rather than “one bedroom and three bathrooms” or “two bedroom home,” etc.
- Link to your past posts on the same subject. You can reference, for instance, “my past blogs about green building,” and link those words to the last blog you wrote on the subject.
- Create a link to the words “contact me.” Rather than “call me” or “e-mail me,” write “contact me” and link those words to your agent profile, found by going to “Company & Services” on HawaiiLife.com, then clicking on your island, and then your photo.
- Put the period and/or comma before the closing quotation marks.
- 'Correct:' “The big pig looked at the funky chicken.”
- 'Incorrect:' “The happy cow jumped over the rainbow”.
How To Publish Blogs
HawaiiLife.com and the Blog are proven to attract sellers and buyers. Use the Hawaii Life blog to promote your listings and expertise as a Realtor. Here’s how to get started.