Archive for the 'Blogs' Category

The critical importance of your online profile

The age of the internet is typified by a whole new vocabulary – Twitter, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, podcasts, YouTube. How many of these words are now in everyday use, whereas barely a couple of years ago they were unknown?

The online world is transforming our lives and in the context of real estate has already transformed the lives of buyers / investors – remember that those starting out on the property ladder today can’t really understand the need for a fax machine. They also had an email address and mobile number long before they were allowed out at night on their own!

Into this new brave world every real estate professional needs to tread – carefully, methodically and with due caution, but also with a sense of Carpe Diem!

Let me strip down some of the components and look specifically at this fairly new phenomenon of social media – the world of blogs, profiles and social networking.

The important thing to keep in mind in terms of social media is that it is just a form of conversation. Conversations are an everyday part of the real estate process and that is why social media is so natural for this industry to embrace.

Every person in the real estate business relies upon and sets out to build a network – a group of people through whom they can seek new business opportunities to secure the chance to act on behalf of a client to sell a property. The judgement people make of your ability will be based on your experience, your expertise and your personality – matched naturally to the professional reputation of your company. All of these 3 facets are something that you build and develop over time. The big challenge is how to share with potential clients your experience, your expertise and your personality as sadly in today’s world, attention spans and free time is a scarce resource. How can you, as people become more and more cynical of traditional advertising communicate with the right audience to make an impression and convey your message with sincerity and honesty?

The first rule is going to come as a shock to some – don’t get “in their face”! Today, people trust people who they find and who they are referred to. They tend to trust less those people who try and get “in their face”. This is not to say that face-to-face contact is not relevant – far from it, in this industry it is critical, but only when you have been “invited” to meet.

So how can the web and the power of social media help you to establish trust and get referred?

First of all the greatest power of the web is that everyone and every business on the web is effectively treated equally – that is because your single web page can be read as easily as any single web page from IBM or Britney Spears! The only thing that actually differentiates you from IBM and Britney is how easy is it to find your page and whether you have something worth reading?

I believe every person in real estate has something worth reading about – local knowledge of the property market, local knowledge of the community, local insight into who is doing what and where. Local information about developments and improvements to your community – schools, parks, shops, transport; as well as valuable facts about what is selling, who is buying. This is the kind of information that you will in past have shared – maybe in a weekly printed newsletter sent to your database, a piece in the local community paper or a regular email newsletter. The weakness of this form of communication; or thinking about it another way, the missed opportunity, is that these communications only reach a limited number of people and end up disappearing within a week as a deleted emails or that newspaper in the bin. How much better it would be to have those words, that insight stored, accessible, read and reviewed by people everyday anywhere in the world.

Imagine for a minute how more credible you would be seen by a prospective client if they could read and review a series of articles on the local community, rather than just this week’s one. They would certainly form a stronger appreciation of your experience, knowledge and credibility and most importantly of all a sense of your true personality.

So given you have this local knowledge and insight what should you do to establish through it trust and credibility? – the ultimate way is to write a blog. Now some people run a mile when a blog is mentioned – fears about what to write, fears of technology, fears of being attacked (verbally)! The fact is that when writing a blog on the web, whilst potentially it could be read by hundreds of millions of people – it won’t be, after all how many people want to read about your local community? Not many; but every one of them could be future client that is the key thing.

Just for clarification a blog is a webpage. It is just a type of webpage that allows you easily (with no great computer skills) to add articles and stories and allow anyone to write a reply or comment to you about what you wrote which can be read by anyone as part of a conversation. To help real estate professionals realestate.co.nz offers a free blog service. It is called “Voices” – real estate voices, you will find the logo for it on the home page of the website – click on it and start to read how to set up a blog – it is free and you can join over 130 other agents from around the country who sense an opportunity to build their profile and generate new business.

There are some key pieces of advice in relation to blogging – be regular and be open. It is best to write something on your blog each week, it does not need to be an essay, more it can be a point of interest or more commonly an answer to a question posed to you over the past few days. The answer you gave at the time was valuable and therefore will be of value to others. Being open speaks to answering comments and also open to commenting on other people’s blogs – these comments are great for getting people back to your blog to read more about you.

Now blogging may not be for everyone – if you feel that you have neither the written skills or your don’t have the time then there is one thing every person in this industry must have. They must have a web page that can very simply provide a “picture” of what they do and who they are. That page needs to be “indexed” or put another way need to be seen on a Google search page. So imagine the situation – someone this week will search your name – they will search on Google looking to find out about you; because they will be meeting you this week for that appraisal meeting. You need to have a page that they find that provides them with a clear, open and professional view of who you, what skills you have and why they should be considering you in helping them sell their house.

That page could be your blog, it could be a page on your company website, it could be on Facebook. The only issue with your Facebook page is that it probably is more likely to be about your family and friends – what this person wants to find out about if the real estate professional. Again in an effort to help this industry build online profiles we have built on the realestate.co.nz website a place where you can have your own profile page – a place where you can write about who you are, what you do and what your expertise is. Because this new profile page is on the realestate.co.nz website it is then clear that this profile is about you and your role in real estate – it is also right next to your listings as well.

To build this page – just sign in to the Agent Pro page – you will find a link at the foot of every page on the website. All of course for free to help you build your profile.

The key message is to think of the web as a vital means for you to be advertising your skills 24 hours a day to as wide an audience as possible with a clear message that you are the most experienced, authoritative local expert – good luck and get online now to build your profile.

August 16 2009 | Blogs and Online marketing and Social Networking | No Comments »

Blogging – when to know that you are spending too much time on it

I sometimes think there will an emerging organisation “BA” in the same vein as “AA” – yes we (well I) could succumb to blogging overload and need a dose of therapy provided by Bloggers Anonymous!

But seriously the question is key – how much time should you spend blogging and when should you say enough. I blog because it drives traffic to realestate.co.nz and now to Zoodle. It is critical in search engine optimisation and establishing an audience who can respect and appreciate the conversations established on a blog. I also honestly love blogging, it is relaxing and satisfying.

But I am employed to run a website – it is different if you are an agent out there trying to juggle the roles of business advisor and online marketer. So to help you establish how much time to devote to blogging I would encourage you to read this great post by Teresa Boardman entitled “When blogging goes too far“.

Teresa is a highly respected blogger from St Paul, Minnesota – she is a realtor and balances the two roles magnificently. I have had the pleasure of attending the Inman Connect conferences which Teresa actively contributes to.

This article was published on the Inman News site, however it is only accessible to subscribers which I think is a shame – I have allowed you access to the full article as a pdf with due and appropriate attribution to both Teresa and Inman publishing – both of whom I have a huge respect for and as a subscriber to their website I hope they can appreciate my intent in sharing this with key readers of this blog across the NZ real estate industry.

Have a read and be inspired to add blogging to your marketing toolkit.

February 19 2009 | Blogs | No Comments »

What should not-so-busy real estate agents do?

This post is not intended to be flippant, it is just the question asked by one of the great marketeers in the world today – Seth Godin.

Seth is something of a maverick as typified by some of his book titles “Meatball Sundae” / “Small is the new big” / “All marketeers are liars” / “Purple Cow”. His views are classically very left field and personally I like what he suggests.

So with this inĀ  mind I would recommend a read of the blog of the same name “What should not-so-busy real estate brokers do?” – in it he recommends starting a newspaper. Strange as this may seem it is all about a real estate agent being the centre of local knowledge. As for the concept of a newspaper – Seth actually recommends an email version, for me – a blog is a the answer. So give it a go and use the Voices blog platform to start your local news feature.

As for a recommendation of Seth’s many books – read “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable” it is great.


January 22 2009 | Blogs and Online marketing | No Comments »

Connect SF08 – Bloggers Connect

Inman Connect SF08Bloggers Connect forms the first day of the Inman Conference as one of the threads of activity available to participants, the others being Foreclosure Programme and Internet Marketing.

As a starting comment there were 2 really powerful messages today from the sessions which I want to share at the outset.

1. I get Twitter! – I first heard about Twitter last year and thought that is a bit geeky and kind of ignored it. Well 12 months later, I can see a value that is beyond the banal voyeuristic world of “following others”. I sat today next to a lady who was twittering throughout the sessions – she would almost verbatim capture the content just like a stenographer in a court room – the only difference being that the messages are limited to 140 characters and perfect English is not obligatory!
Twittering at the Connect conference The point being was with her and others the Twitter world was being exposed to the “ramblings” of the Inman Conference which means in NZ you could be following the twitter conversations live – such was the “noise” of twittering at the conference that the conference tagged twitterings (called tweets) reached a ranking of #4 in the world for some of the day!

2. Blogging and online is now firmly a part of the toolkit of a smart realtor – it is not the whole toolkit, as a slight shift from a year or 6 months ago when you would have thought that blogging was everything there seems to be a return to a balance of online and offline connections and networks which each supporting each other to build an agents business.

Anyway back to the sessions.

Here is a note form digest of comments and thoughts shared in the sessions:

  • The best source of articles for blogs comes from your audience – listen to what they talk about and then provide them with this content or information. Spend time listening.
  • When it comes to blogging as a local agent – don’t regurgitate the market stats which are available from other sources give buyers and sellers reasons to buy and sell, help them better understand the market through interpretation rather than share data.
  • Blogs will fail if they become too ego driven, in some ways they are not about you but more about your community and your audience.
  • Try and spell check – whilst there is a tolerance for occasion grammatical errors, be conscious that too many errors or bad grammar can lead people to get frustrated in reading articles.
  • Be patient – it may be many months of starting to blog before you ever get a call that has come from your blog, equally once you have a well established history of blogging this counts hugely for you for the future in terms of leads.
  • It is very unusual that the leads that you secure from a blog come from people who comment, it almost is never these people, however people who comment are important they are the value referencers who add credibility to what you say and who you are.
  • You will attract an audience related to what you write about, if you write about foreclosure sales (mortgagee sales) then you will likely attract an audience of people looking to buy these type of properties or distressed sellers, you will not get people looking for lifestyle properties – this is the facts of life of search engines.
  • If you want to drive traffic to your blog you need to go out into the online community – to sites / blogs that are read by your audience (non real estate blogs) and post comments on those blogs – that way you extend your circle of influence and people will link back to you.
  • The old adage of the web that “Content is king” still rules, however without links content is lost in hyperspace – so create links to your content on your blog on other peoples blogs.
  • Use your blog actively as a marketing reference tool for your own website and social networking sites – your profile pages. Add links to your “best” or most popular posts so others can see what your expertise or opinions are.
  • Engage with your community; for example your school – your blog is a media and the principle of the school may well appreciate for you to interview them to tease out local issues where you can leverage your blog to engage a wider audience – kind of a social service. In addition the likelihood is that when published your article will be circulated within the school community opening up your blog and therefore by inference you to a wider audience, in effect you become a local newspaper.

All of these great thoughts and ideas follow a similar path and neatly fit within a new 3 letter acronym! – wouldn’t you know it – YEO, it replaces or complements SEO (search engine optimisation) and stands for You Engaging Others.

This concept and phrase was coined by one of the speakers today Jeff Turner, however I would recommend you reading the wisdom of another of today’s great speakers Nicole Nicolay who has written a great post – The secret to blog sucess: YEO, You Engaging Others

July 24 2008 | Blogs and Social Networking | 4 Comments »

Usage of material on Unconditional blog

I was asked the question today regarding permission to use material published on the Unconditional blog, so I thought I would share this information with others who also may want to use some of the material.

There is a simple principle here – it is attribution – I am very happy to allow people in the industry to use and share the information on the Unconditional blog (and this blog if appropriate). There are 2 ways of doing it:

1. If you want to use an article in an offline newsletter which is printed them please copy and paste the whole article. The article should be referenced and attributed to “The Unconditional blog (www.unconditional.co.nz/blog)”.

2. If you want to use an article in any form of online – be it an email newsletter or another blog, then please respect the principle of online links. Feel free to quote and reference the article (rather than take the article in full) and provide a link in your message to the article. You can take any images and graphs as long as you link them back to the blog post. All images used on the Unconditional blog have been purchased royalty paid for their use on Unconditional in that article, please do not copy and use them in other articles.

If you have any other questions please never hesitate to call me 021 610 510

July 24 2008 | Blogs and Photos | No Comments »

Blogging from Connect

I am now in San Francisco, here to attend the Real Estate Connect conference later this week. The format of the week is pre-conference unofficial blogger day session tomorrow organised organically by a group of 30 bloggers mainly from the US at something that has been called RE barcamp. Barcamps are a tech event held by geeks usually as an organic meeting exchange – so we had to have RE Barcamp!!

On Wednesday the conference starts with a Bloggers Connect session through till 3pm when the conference starts. That runs through the remainder of Wed, all of Thursday and half of Friday – as ever a jammed schedule of which you have to make trade-offs as to what to attend.

I have chosen this year to blog from the conference on 2 formats – rather than just one ! – this blog which is very much an internal blog within the industry I will use to share observations and insight into the US market and developments online – it will be a bit “bitty” but hopefully interesting and insightful.

I will use the Unconditional blog to post a couple of observations which will summarise the conference from the public’s perspective sharing what I think the trends observed at the conference and the new technology ideas.

Check out the schedule of the conference and let me know if there is anything here which may be of interest or question you have always wanted to know about the US market or online.

July 22 2008 | Blogs and News | 6 Comments »

Real Estate Trends Report 2008

Real Estate Trends report 2008This annual report by Stefan Swanepoel is a US based report but aside from one of the key trends regarding the MLS (Multiple Listings Service), the content and implications of these 10 Trends are as relevant to NZ as they are to the US, UK or Australia. The commonality is the fact we all operate in a commission based market place and are all entering a cyclical downturn. I have summarised the key trends from the report and added my take on the implications of these to the NZ market.

#10 Shattered Glass – Women, the Youth and Minorities Step Up to leadership Roles

This trend speaks to the opportunities opening up to segment customer groups through representation of minority groups in the population – we are a rich and ethnically diverse country and will continue to be so. In the US this speaks to their growing Hispanic influence. Equally the appeal to the new generation X&Y as well as women’s role in property buying need to be thought about in target marketing of real estate.

Turning to the internal structures in the industry – the influence of Generation Y. The strength of women in positions of seniority in the real estate industry. The considerable age skew of current agents in the industry; all of these are really challenging issue – but equally rewarding opportunities for anyone looking to build a career in real estate.

The take-out here is the need for the industry to change – embrace change and exploit change. Key questions for NZ real estate would be around targeting the varied ethnically diverse population as well as capturing and retaining a younger base of future agents to better serve the next generations.

#9 Thought Reform – the DNA of a new breed of Real Estate Professionals

This trend is so timely. With this changing market the skill set of a competent and professional individual is so key. What degree of additional education will be needed to better understand the needs of the consumers of the future? – “Agents are no longer order takers and are looking to acquire skills to build their business” – Bill Shue, President, RealtyU.

This trend is so clearly facing all of those in this industry as I wrote recently on the Unconditional blog “A tough year ahead for real estate agents“.

Clearly this issue of continuing education and the application of CPD as part of the proposal in new Act is high on the attention of policy makers, the education providers and REINZ such that to be looking ahead to a long and successful career in real estate requires a clear strategy for continual training and learning.

#8 Clash of the Titans – Power brokers flex their muscles

It will come as no surprise that what is being seen in the US in terms of polarisation of the market to the major groups and franchises has been witnessed and continues to be witnessed here in NZ. The report examines 10 of the identified Power brokers who are not purely based on scale; but on metrics such as growth, innovation, internet strategies, industry profile and consumer awareness. Reviewing these key players in the US market highlights some of the indicators of who in NZ may be the Power brokers of the future locally.

#7 The tug of war has started…again – The evolving and changing real estate business model

This trend has such relevance to NZ as we have witnessed this year a number of challenges to the traditional real estate business model the majority of which have been focussed to the costs of service. We witnessed the rise and fall of The Joneses, in areas of the country 1% players have established a foothold and other models will continue to appear. The US equally has had these players in one form or another as well as more challenging models involving lead generation operators feeding off the MLS system and pure play internet operators. One thing is certain this industry will continue to see challenges to the established business model and smart operators will be looking for the clues as to how to adapt and grow.

#6 Gone in 60 seconds – Identity theft and data security runs rampant

This trend is global and needs to be thought about by every operator in this industry whether it is email lists or online transactions and office PC’s – security is everybody’s concern and needs vigilant application.

#5 In search of productivity – Growing market share on a slippery slope

As is a key theme for this year’s Trends report the outlook for the real estate market in 2008 is bleak, and from research carried out at the end of 2007 the top 5 issues facing agents in the US are:

  • Too few buyers
  • Unreasonable price expectations by sellers
  • More informed consumers
  • Too many agents
  • Subprime loan fallout

Substitute “credit squeeze and high interest rates” for subprime in this list and I bet you that would be the top 5 in NZ today. In searching for productivity gains for agents the focus on the opportunity of maximising technology and the use of the internet should result in some of the following strategies advocated in the report.

  • Google should be a part of every real estate professional’s online strategies and placing high on organic search results has become a fulltime job rather than a part time dance.
  • As the majority of consumers are shopping online, prime, expensive retails locations are no longer critical. The dollars saved can be better spent in enabling the consumer to find you online.

How can I disagree with these recommendations – how can you?

#4 Four weddings and a funeral – The changing borders and boundaries of MLS

Now this one is not of true relevance to NZ, having said that whilst we do not operate an MLS in NZ the underlying issue of data management and the provision of comprehensive information is important. The market of consumers searching for real estate is seeing an ever more informed consumer, and as an industry this insatiable appetite for information pertaining to property and neighbourhoods needs to be addressed so the agent can remain truly relevant in the future.

#3 The new digital currency – Livestock, Land, Gold Oil and now Information

For real estate, information is key and online is the arena in which real estate operates – the past couple of years have seen enormous changes in the online real estate space – to quote the report “web traffic has replaced walk in traffic”.

Print media spend by US real estate companies are dropping and online investment growing.

This will be seen in NZ in the next year – it will happen. It is hard to swallow as the industry of real estate and newspapers have coalesced so closely for so many years that separation will be so hard – this brings me to my favourite quote of the report.

“I can’t find a single large real estate brokerage firm in 2007 that says print advertising really works….but I can easily name dozens who still spend the majority of their ad budgets on newspapers. It’s like a chain smoker battling lung cancer, while still smoking two packs a day.” – Sami Inkinen – founder and COO of www.trulia.com

#2 Pop goes the weasel – The housing bubble tightens its grip

It is called the subprime crisis and the flow on to the US economy and the world economy is so well reported that this trend does not need to be detailed. Suffice to say that as the US has lead this trend it has yet to show any indications of bottoming out. The ripples spreading across to NZ have been felt in the past 4 months and will rock our boat for the rest of this year, as to 2009 I am not going to stick my neck out any further – you know your local market best and you will see the trends earlier than I will.

#1 Two worlds; one industry – The evolution of online communities and networks

The web as we have seen in this report and in our daily lives in real estate has begun to transform this industry, what is key is understanding the evolution of the web from browsing to searching to sharing. The concept of web 2.0 is something I have been discussing, presenting and advocating for the best part of 9 months with the implementation of social media, this is the future of real estate marketing.

The trend is towards blogs as the platform for real estate agents to profile themselves – to demonstrate their “subject matter expertise” and to create meaningful dialogues with past present and future clients. We have provided the Voices blog platform to enable any agent to create a blog – to enable them free of charge to embrace this trend and demonstrate to a global audience and to their clients down the road their skills, knowledge, expertise and passion for their chosen career.

Social Media traffic on realestate.co.nz

The value of the Unconditional blog to the realestate.co.nz website is already well established. As part of a comprehensive approach to social media on realestate.co.nz incorporating the Forum and the Voices blog platform traffic to this area of the site continues to grow exponentially hitting 9,000 unique visitors in June.

This is just the start of the evolution of online communities and networks. I saw a great quote from an Australian real estate presentation last month from a speaker from Deloitte:

“Traditional agents will not be replaced by technology…they will be replaced by agents with technology.”

July 14 2008 | Blogs and News | 8 Comments »

Embracing the internet

I know that I have used the expression “real estate agents will not be replaced by technology, they will be replaced by agents with technology” quite a bit this year to highlight the fact that this industry needs to embrace the changes brought about by the internet.

This approach is most succinctly articulated in this blog post from Teresa Boardman on Inman News titled “Consider the internet an ally“. This is simply one of the best presented perspectives on the issue of the changing role of real estate professionals here in NZ and overseas. As one reader commented “If I ran a brokerage, this post would be mandatory reading for all my agents”.

She stresses that withholding information that today is so freely available is counter-productive; accept the fact that the world is typified by informed consumers who as buyers have just as much information as you have, but sell the fact that what you have is experience – unique and valuable experience to be able to interpret facts – not just to hoard facts.

The fact is that in the future agents that act as information brokers will be replaced by agents acting as professional advisors – a far more lucrative and respected role and profession

June 27 2008 | Blogs | 1 Comment »