Starting with Community Outreach

Even before we were done building out the InsideBu website, I recommended that Madison start doing some research. And I started by advising him to fill up his sidepanel with links. My logic is that the process of building up a blogroll forces a new blogger to read other bloggers. The fact that it also also has the benefit of building up some good will with prominent local bloggers is just icing on the cake!

Here is the advice I gave him:

In the first week, there is no need for any blogging (although you should be writing a few posts just to get the blogging muscles exercised!). My recommendation is to spend a few hours this week researching the online competition for your area. At the end of Week 1, I would expect for your sidepanel to be filled with a bunch of links! (For background, see this blog post on Linkation!).

To give you an idea of where I’m going, I recently revived a bit of the neighborhood focus on RCG, which resulted in these Neighborhood Roundup posts. You simply will not find as many neighborhood blogs in Malibu (any?), but that doesn’t mean you should slack on the links… In terms of where to start, here is where my gut says should be the order of importance:

  • Local Bloggers
  • Celebrity Bloggers
  • Project Blogger Participants
  • Local News sites
  • Local Real Estate Professionals
  • Los Angeles bloggers

Some places to start looking for bloggers and other sidepanel links:

To see how Madison has implemented these recommendations of Project Blogger, check out the sidepanel of InsideBu!

Steps to Hosting Your Own WordPress Blog

It has been so long since I initially set up a blog on a new server that I had to pretty much re-learn everything in order to build InsideBu. The process isn’t all that hard if you’re comfortable with terms like FTP and database. If not, there are many great blogging options for people who will host your blog for you (The Top Producer team I work with will happily host a WordPress blog under your URL as part of their real estate website product!) and both and Blogger offer good, free blogs (hosted under their URL).

BTW, I feel compelled to mention that this blog post is LONG LONG LONG overdue as I promised it way back on December 15, 2005, but never could put together all the steps into a blog post and never had the need to build a new blog from scratch.

Here are my running notes taken directly from a Google Doc I used to document the process (but cleaned up to add links and delete out usernames/passwords)…

We choose to use Yahoo Hosting because I’ve heard good things from other bloggers about the service. I was less concerned about the price (good hosting options for a blog differ by at most $5/month), and really focused on ease-of-use. I’d heard that Yahoo has a really easy install for WordPress (WP) blogs and that definitely appealed to me!

However, I was immediately disappointed that the blog they install was an old version of WP and not in the root directory. This would mean that I would need to do a manual upgrade before even blogging! OUCH! Anyway, I ended up bypassing Yahoo’s “easy install” option and instead, I installed the latest version of WP from scratch.

The manual install required three extra steps:

  1. I needed to create an ftp user using Yahoo’s admin panel (easy!)
  2. I needed to created an “empty” MySQL database (which also required me to install PHPMyAdmin) and note the name of this database (again, all of this was done through Yahoo’s admin panel)
  3. I needed to install use an FTP client (I used the free and open source FileZilla)

None of these were particularly hard and I noticed that Yahoo provided help files for all three of these tasks should you need that kind of thing.

With the back-end ready, I simply followed the instructions for the 5 minute install of WordPress

This required me to create an admin profile for the blog (again, pretty straightforward).

At this point, was live and functional, but with a generic theme and no plugins…

Here are some of the steps I took to spice up the blog and get it ready for launch!

  1. I installed and activated some basic plugins.
    • To install I simply used FileZilla to drag and drop the files from my hard-drive to Yahoo’s servers. Once configured for a server, FileZilla operates somewhat like the Explorer tool on Windows.
    • To activate, I simply clicked the “activate” button within the “Plugins” tab of InsideBu’s Admin panel.
  2. The plugins were:
  3. I tried to update and optimze the permalink structure, but this screwed up something on the new version of WordPress and I couldn’t find the .htaccess file to update (long story!), so I gave up on this one for the time being and used the generic linking structure (i.e. “?p=33”)
  4. Installed and activated the appropriate theme! In our case, Madison choose Orange Sunrise. This required me to
    1. download the theme
    2. unzipp it
    3. ftp the files to the “themes” folder on Yahoo’s servers
    4. activate it on the wp-admin panel
  5. Create a tagline
    • For SEO reasons, I included the words “Real Estate” and “Malibu” but my phrasing could easily be improved!
  6. Unselect “comment author must have previously approved comment!”
    • Want to do everything possible to encourage comments early and often! 🙂
  7. Organize sidebar items via the widget feature (very slick!)
    • I’ve put links at the very top for now closely followed by comments. As the site gets more comments, I’d flip this order in order to encourage community participation!

Those were my steps to creating a brand-new blog using the free and open-source tools available from WordPress. It is probably too complicated for most agents, but probably not too complicated for many of agents that are reading this blog.

Owning the Malibu Community

About a month ago, I got a call from a friend who highly recommended that I give a chance to a real estate agent who is working very hard to break into the Malibu market. The idea of “owning” a piece of Malibu is somewhat irresistible to me (even if it is only the digital dirt!), so I couldn’t refuse, despite the many wonderful options (or maybe because I had too many wonderful options!)

[photopress:madison.jpg,full,alignright]Anyway, to make a long story short, I met up with the agent for breakfast, had a wonderful conversation and decided to coach him as part of Project Blogger. So, without further ado, I’m happy to introduce Madison Hildebrand and his most wonderful blog,

Probably one of the most appealing aspects to working with Madison is that he already understand how to use self-promotion in the real estate context (he could teach me a thing or two!), so our conversations really get to focus on the ways in which he can use the technologies behind online social networks (we’ve got ideas for Flickr, YouTube, ActiveRain, the Move Blogs, etc. in addition to consistent and inspired blogging!) to build up a healthy online community around a local real estate market. Malibu is an incredibly challenging market where a few big names dominate the local scene. I am thrilled to have this chance to work with Madison to bring this unique market into the digital age! 🙂