A couple of years after I started blogging for my real estate business, I wanted a way to target a specific group in my area. Here they were the baby-boomers who were retiring to Zephyrhills,Florida. Though many were going to my blogs to search for homes, find community links, etc. The blog did not give them the chance to actually participate and get into the everyday things that were happening in town.
I considered starting a bulletin board system for them to use. Though many here are over the 70 year mark, it is amazing how adept many of them are at using the computers, e-mail, and other programs. I spoke with a friend of mine in South Florida whose partner set up webpages, and he suggested the company I went with, BulletinBoards.com I was surprised at how easy it was to set up and I now have had the Zephyrhills 55+ Bulletin Board in operation for almost 3 years now.
I did make a few mistakes at the beginning. Here we have several subdvisions and I set up a forum (you can have up to 8 total) for each. Not very practical and I had to leave some off. So I redid the board to make it more useful. Now you can see there are categories for: Local News & Events, Health Discussions, Events Inside Subdivisions, Events Outside of Subdivisions, Travel Ideas, Yard Sales, Items for Sale/Items Wanted, AND of course a category reserved for my real estate issues. This last one I have limited so that only I can post items there. I did that to avoid the problems Craig's List got into. Since I am paying for the board and I am a licensed REALTOR, only I can post homes for sale, etc.
The rest of the board is moderated so that before any post appears, I get to see it and approve it. The program also has a profanity filter you can fire-up so that any "no-no"s can get caught. You can make the board strictly for posting and viewing, but you can also allow people to reply to posts and even reply to replies (threading) if you like. From the manager's page you control all of that. You can also put your picture, company logo, and contact information on it. That is the big reason for providing the board in the first place, right?
If you visit my board by clicking here: Zephyrhills 55+ Bulletin Board you will see that most of the posts appear to be from me. Actually, a lot of my participants are hesitant to post their own messges and are afraid they will mess it up so they e-mail me the info and I post it by cutting-and-pasting. But during the winter season when we have more of our snowbirds here, the board gets more personal posts. I think in a younger community you might get even more participation. But I see things in the paper that are happening and posters at community clubhouses so I add the info myself. Things like the Elks having roast beef dinners on Fridays, Bingo at Colony Hills on Wednesdays, a Yard Sale down the road on Saturday, etc. I also have established a good relationship with some of the main community groups in Zephyrhills, and they keep me fed with news items for area residents.
It used to be we would all get a free throw-away paper each week in our yards with this stuff in it. Now that has mostly stopped. So you can provide a great alternative for your community. And if I am already typing news and items into this blog or my other ones, it takes no real effort to get them into the bulletin board. See my hint below.
A little hint here. If you blog, once you have written a post, you can usually convert your rich text into HTML code, then you can copy-and-paste that to the bulletin board when you need to, and all of your pictures, highlighting, links, downloads, get placed on the board in a matter of seconds. They are still stored back on your blog, but the board will go and get them anytime someone clicks on them or opens that post! Some of you probably already do that if you have more than one blog. Why retype everything and redownload pix when you can use the HTML code to move it all in one move? Even embedded video should transfer that way. How much easier could it be?
They even have a calendar feature you can activate so participants can see the month's events on one page! I do not use it since it is just a bit more than a lot of my participants can handle or want to deal with. But your groups may be different.
At the start, I made everyone register to see the board. But you know how you hate to have to do that when you are online. While I was doing that I would get about 15 views a day. I finally took off that rule, and now I regularly get nearly 100 hits each day. Both my customers' comments and the automatic visitor counter confirm that. Not bad!! Since they do not have to log-in, they can stop by and see what is new. And hey, the whole idea is to get my name out there in one way or another. Isn't that why we put our names on pens? Everytime they click on my page, there I am!
BulletinBoard.com, the company I use for my board can be found at: Click Here to start your own Message Board The price is good, certainly less than any print advertising you will do. And a big plus is that if you have a problem with the board, you call the number at the bottom of the screen and you will speak directly with Al Bennett who is a whiz at fixing stuff. Very friendly and ready to assist you. That is important nowdays. I even suggested that he put in a box when you wrote a post where you could indicate the number of days you wanted the post to stay online before being automatically deleted. Guess what? Within 2 weeks, there it was! Now tell me you get that service from REALTOR.com or your franchises' webpages. NOT! There are surely other companies out there you can try. However, I can tell you, the service from the folks at this one is what sold me on them and has kept me using them.
So why not try it out? Be the sponsor for your subdivision if it is a large one. For your whole town if it is a small one. Could also be useful for your club, museum, church, social club, veteran's association, etc. The public gets a free place to advertise stuff and see what is going on in their communities and you get some very cheap exposure. What do you have to lose? Start Your Own Bulletin Board Today!
Feel free to call me at:813-783-4444 or e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about my experiences with my bulletin board. I will be happy to tell you how it has worked out for me.
John Elwell - REALTOR
Bill Nye Realty, Inc.
Licensed in Florida