Redefining Community - from Hubs to Spokes

With over 50,000 members, Active Rain continues to do one thing better than any other real estate site: introduce real estate professionals to the concept of online community. The discovery of how one can develop close relationship online with other bloggers is intoxicating and it's evident in all those comments on Active Rain blogs. I believe most non-bloggers view blogging solely as a time consuming journalistic exercise; Active Rain and blogging opens their eyes to a new paradigm in networking and referral systems they didn't know existed.

New blogger Marian Bennett writes an article about her surprise at how blogging opens her world to new communities. For veterans, we can relate (hey if you read her article, send her a comment!). Marian admits to how overwhelming Web 2.0 and social networking seems at first glance.

I recently noticed a sentence that encapsulates the new community paradigm
The continous partial community is described by Schultz : “we are spread very thin and what we end up with is nothing like a traditional idea of ‘community’ but more of being partially connected continuously to a number of hubs through a variety of complex spokes.”
Real estate professionals need to blanket market their area of influence (i.e their physical community). The traditional way is "brand advertising" - shopping carts, print ads, mailers, followed by developing referrals within their traditional communities - Lion's Club, churches, schools. This takes a long time and only reaches a small subset of the total potential market. Social networking connects the real estate pro to far more diverse communities (hubs) via relationships that extend beyond their physical sphere (spokes). What do I mean by diverse and beyond their social sphere? A Realtor can be exposed to a big subset of the community through her high school son's Facebook account... and connections made this way are credible. In theory, more close connections are made more efficiently and quickly through social networking.

It's still theory because the social networks haven't reached the tipping point where they are used to find a Realtor. But they will. Social networks like Facebook are positioning themselves as personalized search engines. If someone needs to find a Realtor, they will first check Google as an impartial source to see who is out there, but will then refine the search by searching through their friends' Facebook groups and their contact lists. Finally, the search may reveal a coincidental physical connection - graduation from the same college, a fellow parent at the same school - that will catalyze an introduction... and that first meeting will be completely natural because both parties will have some sort of common bond (unlike responding to ad blindly). Finding these serendipitous connections is much easier when armed with social networking data... and we all know how important coincidences are in life.

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