Social Media – Buzz Word of the Decade!!

Yes it is true! – social media is here to stay and personally I believe the impact on the real estate industry has only really begin to be felt.

Social media is not a technology matter it is entirely a social matter, it is abut what we all do everyday – communicate as we are social creatures. All social media does is allow through the application of technology the ability for us communicate with more people more efficiently and do it whilst leaving a very clear path and readable footprints which can assist us all in building credibility, respect and importantly referrals.

Don’t just take my word for it though – read the thoughts and ideas of Stefan Swanepoel. Stefan is a leading researcher, analyst and writer on all matters concerning real estate. He has just completed a new book aptly titled “Social media report 2010”.

The book is published in early October and whilst I have not as yet had the opportunity to read it, given Stefan’s pedigree of annual Trends reports I would have to heartily recommend this book.

I have got my order in – why don’t you take advantage of this earlybird offer. The retail price is US$79.95 + shipping and handling.

If you order online now and use the promo code: Friends you can get a 46% discount – you will pay just US$43.05 + shipping and handling.

Here is the synopsis of the book by Stefan:

Communication, collaboration, networking, marketing, sales – as we knew it a decade ago, heck even as we knew it last year, will never be the same again.

Our lives are being radically and exponentially changed by Social Media and Social Networking.

This shift is not happening like many of the business trends detailed in my annual Swanepoel TRENDS Report over a 5 to 10 year period, but rather in an accelerated time frame – probably two to three times as fast.

Many traditional forms of media we have been using for decades are being eclipsed with growth, membership numbers and adoption rates that we have never experienced before.

Consumers no longer want or trust advertising to the same levels as a decade ago. Today they want to talk to other consumers directly, create a discussion and validate for themselves what they want or believe.

If you feel confused as to what this means for real estate agents, don’t worry you’re not alone. I have literally received hundreds and hundreds of emails, posts, facebook comments and tweets about Social Media and what it could mean to the Real Estate Industry.

Therefore I have decided to write another report (similar to my annual Swanepoel TRENDS Report) but to dedicate the entire 120 pages of this report to only addressing Social Media and Social Networking.

Here are some of the items the Report covers:
• Where to Start with Social Media?
• Finding your Target Market Online
• Social Media Rules of Engagement
• Best Practices and Tactics
• Finding Social Balance Online
• Top 25 Social Media Networks
• How to Manage your Time?
• Finding Social Media ROI

We have even added a special 10 Day step-by-step Action Plan for Realtors®.

Mel (my co-author) and I have finished our research and writing and the Report has gone to print. It will be ready for distribution on Monday October 5th, 2009.

September 01 2009 | Social Networking and Special offers | No Comments »

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 »

Little by little, bit by bit we are transforming real estate!

This may seem a somewhat arrogant statement, but the serendipitous experience of two communications today give me confidence that at last the NZ real estate industry is changing in a positive way to embrace the web. The first occurrence was as a consequence of a presentation to did first thing today in Tauranga to an assembled team of Harcourts salespeople from Advantage Realty.

The presentation was as ever to share insight to the power of the web in real estate marketing and endeavour to encourage all agents to embrace the web and build an online profile. The audience were great and the response in questions was excellent. To my surprise later in the day I was sent this photo by the MD of the company with this comment:

“thought you might like this photo, this agent would be or has been the most techno ignorant agent in our company and after your presentation arrived into the office with a computer and said ‘I refuse to be left behind!”

Little by little we are changing the industry!

Then later in the day I came across this great article on Inman News from Marc Davison of 1000Watt Consulting which really speaks to the similar challenge faced over there in converting agents to the benefits of social media. Just 3 out a group of 400 this guy had been speaking to actually practiced social media to build their business. For me the really compelling comments came at the end of the article:

  • The first time you receive a comment to your blog telling you how good your post was, you’ll be amazed at how much time you’ll find to write another one.
  • The first time a long-lost friend from college locates you on Facebook and coincidently happens to be in the market to buy a home, watch how fast you start “friending” everyone you’ve ever met throughout your life.
  • The first time someone posts a question on Twitter about your community and you respond seconds later with precise info that turns them into a follower, notice how your slogan — which has sat dormant on your business card forever — begins to glow.

Little by little, bit by bit – the change is happening and will happen as this industry goes through a transformation.

PS – if you want to attend one of these presentatios then check out our ‘On-the-Road’ blog for future dates and times around the country.

June 10 2009 | Online marketing | No 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 »