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Virtual REBarCamp April 6 - my new presentation on the Impact of Geolocational Media

I’m Presenting At VREBC
I'll be presenting next week at Jim Cronin's brilliant Virtual REBarCamp. Register here and meet me on April 6 at 2:15 in room #4.

My new presentation is on "The Impact of Geolocational Media"

Geolocation is the new social buzz with Foursquare and Gowalla, butTwitter and Facebook are closing in with mobile services. What is the impact of theseservices beyond "checking in"? We'll discuss their strategic importanceand predict their futures.

This won't be a mechanics course on how to log in at your neighborhood Starbucks, it's a high level discussion on the power of geolocation and how it will impact local advertising, online presence and... real estate.

Automating Mobile Services for Real Estate

Chris Thorman who blogs about real estate technology at Software Advice shares leading edge concepts that are aligned with what I see coming down the mobile social media pipeline. Turnkey / automation / service delivery and execution are critical to mass adoption, and when service companies can provide this instantly in one click, they will get customers.

Chris' guest post on an automated mobile service concept:


The real estate technology market has been flooded in recent years with "location-based" applications to help buyers find properties in their area. With little variation, they all work in about the same way:
  • Start an application on your mobile phone;
  • Utilize your phone's GPS to determine your location; and,
  • Have the application retrieve location-based real estate data.
What if a prospective real estate buyer didn't have to initiate an application to get real estate data? What if the data just came to their phone automatically?

Sound far-fetched? Well it isn't. Advertising company Placecast has developed a service called ShopAlerts and we think it has very interesting implications for the real estate industry. ShopAlerts allows users to opt in to receive marketing message on their phone from retail stores that are nearby. For example, a person would sign up for alerts from Old Navy and would automatically receive tailored text message marketing notifications each time they were close to an Old Navy store.

This could work in the same manner for the real estate industry. Users could opt in to receive alerts about specific types of properties. And when they near those properties, they cross a "geo-fence" which prompts an automatic notification to be sent to their mobile phone. 

Essentially, a person lives their life and in the meantime, receives notifications about properties they're close to that match what they want. Is this ideal marketing technology or what?


The problem with social media marketing - it's still push marketing

The sales methodology of the real estate industry is unique. Its sales force, primarily agents and brokers, needs to market themselves widely to a local community in order to capture transactions that happen infrequently. The traditional way has always been a form of promotion, or "push marketing" - advertising, drip email marketing, direct mail, open house guest book trolling. The net effect of a generation of million plus real estate agents trying to get their foot in the door with any consumer has spawned the stereotypical image of the glad handing agent.

With the real estate industry's new found craze for Facebook and other social media as a channel for networking, the same traditional push marketing methods are being recast. Agents slap up Facebook fan pages, write blogs and tweet out their listings with the same messaging either overt or hidden within their conversations - see how good I am and what I can do for you. One trend is Farming 2.0. Agents on Twitter often follow everybody in their hometown hoping on the off chance that they are in the market. The problem with this approach is spammers do the same thing.

The community blanketing approach of say, inviting everybody to become a fan of their Facebook page, may not work with the potential client down the street who wants a professional, not a social relationship with a Realtor. These tactics need to change before the agent's reputation as a flycaster for leads precedes them in their evolving community social space.

What the real estate industry fails to grasp is the concept that the social media makes its participants transparent in the long run. From the consumer perspective, it's obvious that someone is a broker or agent simply by reading their profile on, say, a HomeGain web/blog system or examining their conversations on the social media. The online profile, built and polished for marketing purposes, is always there, and it's unbecoming to promote and push constantly like a never ending commercial. So what should a real estate agent discuss on the social media if not continually blasting away about the great buying opportunity we're in?

At Home Gain Nation March 1, we'll talk about community engagement strategies and how they complement the HomeGain product set. I hope to see you there.

Further reading:

on Active Rain:

on Media Transparent:

My Early Days on the

Todd Carpenter did a nice job chronicling the birth of real estate social media at

This is my contribution to these early days that I sent to Todd for his article:

I met Larry Cragun at Inman 2006, who proudly proclaimed he was a real estate blogger. That got me started on blogging (my first blog article), and I've always called him my blog godfather. Teresa Boardman showed me enough of the ropes to blogging to be christened "blogmother" (Teresa, I still feel bad about the Weenie crisis that got you unfairly labeled as some sort of misanthrope, but it is still the funniest thing three years later).  My first "virtual friends" (in 2006, everybody was in awe of the idea that friendships could be made by machine) Joe Ferrara, Jeff Corbett, Jim Cronin, Mary McKnight, continue to be social media lights.

In August 2006, Teresa sent me an Active Rain invitation. Active Rain profoundly changed blogging into the conversation machine you now see on Facebook. The series of quick comments "Great article!" became more a salutation than a continuing discussion point. Real estate bloggers in late 2006 became (term usually attributed to Greg Swann) and Real Estate 2.0 (oops, Redfin seemed to have trademarked that term and caused this Real Estate 2.x hoopla). The first Inman Bloggers Connect in the summer of 2007 was the christening of the blogger IRL events that have now become industry standard with the REBarCamps.

In retrospect, it's easy to see the real estate industry leads other industries in the adoption of social media (called "blogging" in 2006). Up to 2006, blogging was the province of techies and a burgeoning teenage crowd creating MySpace profiles (arguably a type of blog). Real estate agents jumped into blogging primarily for marketing purposes, but they stayed for the chatter. You won't see any other industry with more 50-somethings on the social media.

I applaud Todd's initiative to chronicle the early of real estate social media. The most profound manifestation of all this is: the history is all written, it takes a curator like Todd to publish it. Social media is the quintessential yearbook.

Ten Real Estate Predictions for 2010

Here are ten 2010 predictions for real estate. I listed 10 predictions for media in 2010 at my social media blog Media Transparent.

1) Curation is the new marketing

At Media Transparent, I called this "Curation is the new Syndication". Positioning yourself as the community conduit curating local real estate news to your client base is the new marketing.

Mass media used to rule syndication, now anybody can curate and present content across a panoply of social media platforms. Curating breaking news is key to readership – it’s the reason why people follow CNN, Marketwatch or engadget. Twitter has distinguished itself as the forefront application for breaking news, and anybody can use Twitter Lists to curate Twitter feeds by topic, geography and industry. Curation tools, like Publisher for hyperlocal news, are being developed for local content publishers.

Curators are the new news editors, and the window is open to create new media properties. Curated local media will be a focus because there’s a media void that both national media and independent journalistic efforts are now trying to fill.

This slideshow describes how real estate professionals and brokerages can leverage curation of local news to engage their immediate community.



2) Facebook is the new website, and it looks more like a Reader than marketing collateral

25% of all pageviews in America today are on Facebook.Although writing a blog is the best way to propagate ideas and expertise, it's only one piece of a comprehensive online presence. More people we will be exposed to and read blog articles through Facebook and their brethren social networks over actually visiting the blog site itself.

Facebook itself does not serve the traditional role of an informational website where people can see what you do and assess whether there is a business opportunity. The consumer decision to form a business relationship will, in part, be predicated by your "lifestream", the aggregate stream of content that Facebook and Twitter continuously display. What you do and say over time is what you are, and that is howpeople will get to know you and your work. It's a revolutionary marketing platform that just came into being.

3) Posterous is the new blogsite

Principally because Posterous makes news curation easy (see #1 above)

4) Video becomes an accepted media of communication

Online video has been a tricky proposition for real estate professionals because viewers have consciously (and unconsciously) setvideo production standards at TV quality levels. Amateurish or adhoc attempts at video production can make a bad impression. The spawning of localized video production companies like TurnHere and more locally, I Sell Boston TV are servicing the need for quality production.


The explosion of personal video propagated by the confluence of mobile video device adoption, instant video sharing apps (, a number of Twitter video apps, Facebook) and YouTube, have palpably lowered viewer standards. Video has transitioned from "collateral" media to communication media, where nobody gives a second thought to production quality. The message becomes more important than the media.

Everybody intuitively knows that video is the perfect media for describing real estate, neighborhoods and local news. Video is easy to post on Posterous, Facebook and Twitter, and in 2010, savvy real estate agents are free to use video liberally to deliver messages without spending resources on production.

5) Local business will be live and die on review systems

Review systems are the hyperlocal killer app. Why are reviews at the consumer tipping point? Mobile apps like iPhone's Yelp application make it easy to post reviews on the spot.  Google Maps, Yahoo Local and Yelp (see screenshots) all have commercial utility because they contain enough reviews to be credible. In fact, there are now so many real estate agent reviews, that it's become critical to maintain a 5-star review!


The natural inclination of any consumer search through Yelp is not to find the 5-star review, but to find out why somebody did not receive a5-star review. The problem with a blemish review is simply the doubt that it plants in the consumer mind, particularly one who is comparison shopping. That nagging feeling of second guessing happens to anybody who reads one poor review for a camera or a car, and it forces them to delve deeper into qualifying their choice.  On the other hand, perfection passes with flying colors and has become the standard on review sites. It's a hard reality.

6) Alert systems, like program trading in stocks, become the critical component to any asset transaction.

The real time web is pushing business society into a new value paradigm that rewards those who can react instantly and systematically to opportunities. Mobile devices eventually won’t need “refreshes” to alert; they are always on and by extension, almost coerce its owner to be “always on”.

Remember the quaint old days of 2006 when lead response time was considered a key to success?Customers transacting real estate will demand real time service across the spectrum of the transaction, from discovery (new listing), to due diligence to closing processing. Real estate teams and professionals who systemize the distribution of breaking housing news for their local client base (give), and respond to their requests (take) will attract business. Alas, 2010 will be the year consumers demand alerts from their broker/agents, but very few agents know how to set up simple alert systems for their client base. Reason? 99% of agents still focus on the sale over the service they provide to their clients to get to the sale.

7) Webinar ubiquity

Webinars are social media too. They are already changing the landscape on how people meet for business on the cheap, and worry the airlines.

  2009 British Airways face-to-face campaign

Current webinar systems like Webex are still too difficult to use.Within 2010, some company will develop a simple to launch, one-click web meeting system that can broadcast live discussions across ad hocparticipant groups. Call the concept adhoc webinars. Why will this work? Webinars can become venues like happy hours where groups can meet and share. The key is ease of use, anybody should be able to participate so weekly scheduled meetings can expand as more people know about them. Imagine Robert Scoble producing a one-click webinar party every Friday afternoon to discuss ideas – he would essentially have an interactive TV program that can be produced on the fly without studios and cameras.

Virtual socializing is the natural evolution to social networking because it’s location independent. The best example in the real estate world are Real Estate Tomato produced virtual REBarCamps that aggregate speakers and audience together in a virtual national conference.

8) The recession and the death of retail is altering consumer perceptions on how they do business

It's a foregone conclusion across the media that commercial real estate will continue to flounder in 2010. The recession has gotten consumers used to searching for deals,and the best deals are now online without the retail markup. Retail is resigning itself to accommodating the online buyer with bricks and clicks models that turn retail outlets into showrooms. Retail stress is noticeable...San Francisco's prime Metreon complex has an indoor farmers market on the first floor. Simply put, it's hard for us to imagine the slow disappearance of retail because malls and strip malls seem ubiquitous. Even perishables like grocery shopping can potentially be automated to online service if there is quality control and service standards. Retail needs a new business model that justifies their inevitable overhead markup, and that seems elusive.

It's easy to extrapolate the business of real estate brokerage to the economic climate of downsizing.  The accelerating acceptance of online commerce by the consumer just reinforces the common refrain: "they're all online, so you should be there too".

9) A new era of open social media (the adjective “social” will soon be redundant)

Facebook and LinkedInare closed networks simply because they require confirmation of“friend” status. Frankly, it’s just too much manual clicking to accept a lot of friends. Twitter has distinguished itself as an open network that can amass networks of millions of followers, and is the application closest to a personal broadcast media. Facebook certainly sees the power of massive networks (being the biggest one itself), and in order to compete with Twitter’s broadcast power, will unveil similar broadcast functionality. Simply put, in 2010 Facebook will create an opt-in setting that allows users to open their status updates to anybody who wants to follow them. Becoming a Facebook Fan today is similar but statuses can’t be filtered within the main feed. Once 350+million Facebook broadcast systems are potentially unleashed, they can be curated categorically like Twitter Lists and conversations more conveniently filtered. Yes, Facebook already has Friendfeed as the model, but it needs to be simpler to use, and will likely cede to a new Facebook open network product.

LinkedIn can open itself up the same way. Since LinkedIn is a more industrial network, value would be derived from curated lists developed by users based on industry or discipline. Although LinkedIn Groups encourages industry conversations, they are generally sparse and hard to follow if one has joined many Groups.

Once networks open up, conversations become even more multi-channel than they are today. A Tweet that gets syndicated across Facebook, LinkedIn, and other networks will provoke dialogues characteristic of each network. Clients like Tweetdeck and Seesmic see this coming and have integrated multi-channel monitoring systems. In the latter part of 2010, evolved versions of Google Wave and the Google OS, and possibly Facebook, will provide the same multi-channel operability integrated into their offering.

10) Social networking becomes a true coffee shop experience

Just one year ago, people were complaining about Twitter noise and their relevance of its conversations about what they're eating at that very moment. Then in March, Facebook launched their live news feedthat updated conversations in real time. By year's end, most of the conversations on Facebook are now strikingly personal, with uploaded pictures of that evening's dinner accompanied by a flurry of comments("looks delicious!") and Likes.

I, for one, didn't see this trend. The "coffee shop" conversation is a form of social intimacy that works to cement relationships. Does it work for lead generation? Generating new relationships is what social media does best, so the answer is likely a soft "yes". The only problem I see is the time committed to chatting. The message has now become the media.

I'm making my principal New Year's resolution to join these conversations on a personal level. I'll start with "I liked Sherlock Holmes better than Avatar".

Society's new intimacy - it's surprising to me

One of 2009's biggest trends was real estate industry adoption ofsocial media marketing. What I find striking is the intimacy of thesocial interchange:

(Conversing about a chain restaurant on the opposite coast... it is just like a cafe conversation...)

The real estate industry, one of the most socially networked societies in part for the purpose of building business, is becoming a bellwether for how people interact in a new society. The new intimacy surprises the same people whose first impressions of Twitter was "why are they telling me their daily life stuff?". In fact, it's now the norm to weave the details of daily life onto the Facebook / Twitter lifestream.

I had not thought of using social media as my personal life stream.That reflects my personality, which reflects the Japanese cultural norm of not talking about yourself. Many of my relatives and other Japanese we know are also bewildered at daily chronicling, as if it makes no sense.

However, I'm starting to see how life streaming eventually becomes a diary. You're in essence writing a book about yourself in real time, for the rest of your life... I think that long term view is intriguing. One of my New Year's resolutions is to try to life stream more, albeit in the guise of a diary. Here's my family:

Baby steps

Be a part of the Mortgage Revolution

We're looking forward to being a part of the Mortgage Revolution... register now - Atlanta January 10-12

Attend HomeGain's Ask the Experts next Tuesday December 8

We'll be discussing strategies for community engagement. December 8 9:00am PST... thanks to Louis, Jessica and HomeGain for the opportunity for a high level discussion...


Yelp: 5 Star Perfection is the new Standard

Yelp is now so widely used as a consumer review system for real estate professionals that a 5 star review has become de rigueur.

The natural inclination of any consumer search through Yelp is not to find the 5-star review, but to find out why somebody did not receive a five star review.

The problem with a blemish review is simply the doubt that it plants in the consumer mind, particularly one who is comparison shopping. That nagging feeling of second guessing happens to anybody who reads one poor review for a camera or a car, and it forces them to delve deeper into qualifying their choice.  On the other hand, perfection passes with flying colors and has become the standard on review sites. It's a hard reality.

Virtual Real Estate BarCamps should happen monthly

Kudos to Jim Cronin's @retomato and their crew for a successful Virtual REBarcamp. Webinars are a convenient and efficient way to get social media education out to the community and I'm hoping it becomes a monthly institution!