Social media has exploded, and it isn’t too late to get on the train even if you aren’t an “early adopter.”  One of the most interesting – and widest used – social media formats is Twitter. It’s the second most popular social media site (after Facebook), and is one of the 10 most viewed web pages in the world.  It’s a simple concept that can be used to pique people’s interest in a number of ways.

A quick reference point is in order here.  Twitter is like a text message to the universe, limited to 140 characters, in which you can stream your consciousness to the world, promote yourself or your product, start or join a conversation with millions of strangers, or find something you’ve been looking for.  You can be direct in your tweets or you can just put your information out there.  The hashtag – you know it as #– in front of a term creates a searchable category so you can be part of an internet conversation.   And that’s what makes Twitter interesting – the hashtag.

So, what does the hashtag do for you?  The hashtag allows similar conversations to be grouped together – meaning that if you want to know about open houses this weekend in Washington, DC, you can search it easily on Twitter;  #openhouse #WDC #WashingtonDC.  Twitter users set up their accounts to follow specific people or to follow specific topics.  A clever real estate agent can use the # to create a niche market by including it in all pertinent tweets: “#Openhouse #Saturday 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, #WDC #WashingtonDC. 1-4 PM Fresh cookies!”  That’s about 90 characters that will be seen by anyone who is following the person who wrote the tweet, is following #openhouse, is following #Saturday, is following #WDC or is following #WashingtonDC.  The more people who are following a topic and see your tweets in there, the more followers you gain, meaning the more people who see your message.

One common fear is that it’s difficult to be clever or pithy in 140 characters or less.  You don’t have to be; you can tweet a link to a website, tweet a photo, etc.  Add a photo of the property in the tweet used above, and your followers will know which home to look for.

One last thing about using Twitter: there are over 500 million Twitter users worldwide, with over 140 million of them in the United States. They are increasingly upwardly mobile, college educated, accessing Twitter from a smart phone, with a median age of 31 and income of more than $60k – just like the typical US home buyer.