I love paying for apps. Why? Because when I do that I encourage developers to build more cool apps for me…Anyway, the main point here is that it’s not the app store that’s screwed up: it’s our expectation that developers should work for free.
Aligning website landing pages with targeted social media marketing channels will yield higher on-page conversions (as defined by increased showing appointments, chat requests, 1-800 number call-ins, etc). The challenge many real estate marketers face today is effectively managing the flow of social media traffic with an eye towards ROI. It’s a multichannel marketing issue, which starts with controlling user client and potential client expectations so to avoid the “mishmash syndrome”.
The mishmash syndrome occurs when all sources of traffic to your website converge without any clear indication from whence they’ve come combined with no clear indication as to what they’re to do once on the site. Confusion reigns, frustration mounts, bounces occur. In other words without controlling the expectations of the originating inbound users it’s very difficult to align on-page calls to action to users’ needs and expectations. In fact, your website may–at first glance–look something like this:
Controlling expectations could be as simple as clearly defining what types of information you’ll engage in on a specific social media platform. For example:
clearly indicate on your website to follow you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn for specific information
set up a LinkedIn professional group or Facebook Page where you’ll focus your information and interaction around a specific topic like real estate investment advice in the age of REO
begin slowly migrating your Twitter updates to centralize around a cloud of topics or invite current followers to “subscribe” to a new Twitter handle that will focus exclusively on this “topic cloud”
start using targeted Facebook ads to drive traffic
By doing something like the above you’ll let your sphere opt-in to specific channels which thus frees you to narrowly focus on the specific themes or topics you’ve identified. Once you’ve begun engaging new or migrated followers via these defined channels you can begin tracking flows to your website and testing and optimizing the website to meet these users’ expectations.
For example, let’s assume you have a call to action on your website home page something like this: “Join our new Facebook page for real estate investment and REO advice” (as opposed to simply saying “Join us on Facebook”). As you begin to gain fans to this specific page you have a fairly high degree of confidence they’re there for a specific purpose and you could initially provide studies, market stats, reports, essentially any base level research and information regarding real estate investment and REO and ask for comments and feedback regarding these posts. This builds authority and credibility.
Once you’ve developed a healthy degree of dialogue (i.e., engagement) you can begin driving people back to your site for targeted activities, for example: “Just listed a sweet foreclosure investment property” with a link back to a landing detail page specifically targeted at this Facebook fan base and their Facebook friends, perhaps even with a welcome message like “Thanks for visiting us from Facebook, glad you’re here” (a simple script that recognizes the originating URL should do the trick nicely). And then knowing that this fan visitor is likely comfortable with “tech” perhaps your primary “contact me” call to action is a prominently displayed and colored button that says “Click this button to text me if you want to set up an appointment”, with a thank you message after the click like “Thanks for texting me, I’ll text you back shortly and we can set up an appointment. Make it a great day.”
These types of tactics go a long way to realizing a 1-to-1 dialogue. These tactics allow you to focus on a specific niche, target an engaged clientele, position you as an expert to this clientele, and close the loop in a manner that’s satisfactory to this clientele.
Chris Brogan interview Excellent interview with Chris Brogan on how he’d run an airline and implement some social web karma; great insights, well worth the 9:58 investment of your time. The interviewer, Shashank Nigam, CEO, SimpliFlying, asks some really good questions. My comment after listening to the interview: That was seriously cool.
Semantic Web This post re-confirms to me that the semantic web (i.e., Web 3.0) is still a ways out from being widely deployed, yet absolutely filled with so much promise and visionary thinking.
Vyoom Interesting TechCrunch profile of Vyoom, which is a social networking site that gives you redeemable points for your participation. The more points you accumulate, the more stuff you can buy. Not sure whether this will work as a stand-alone application/concept, but could certainly see this applied in a rewards program under a major brand (e.g., Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program).
Metrics Here is a great primer on RFM analysis, which I believe has applicability to social media marketing. The foundation of RFM is something that can drive the establishment of engagement metrics as well as allowing marketers to do a better job at managing the social media marketing channel.
Anyone interested in exploring and discussing graphic design issues should consider visiting this site. It’s an excellent compendium of thought-provoking topics and trends related to graphic design. Cutting through social media chatter will depend more and more on effective design to engage people once they’ve stepped past the social media veneer.
I find the debate curious. Universal McCann’s 2008 Wave 3 study points out (page 22) that 17.8 million people in the UK have read blogs; this 17.8 million represents 32.1% of the total 16-54 population (in comparison 60.3 million people in the US–33.2% of the total 16-54 population–have read blogs). It seems to me–based on the anecdotal comments of the UK journalists in the video–that UK traditional news media has metaphorically walled itself up and studies blog culture with a telescope, as opposed to latching on to the interesting facets of blogs that attract readers and then combining these facets with traditional journalistic norms and ethos (during the debate some very sound and rational points were made about the role “traditional” journalism has in terms of checks and balances, fact checking, etc). Nevertheless, some very powerful apps and news platforms could result by embracing social web norms. For example, why not take an EveryBlock approach (see Russian Hill) and combine that with traditional beat reporting on the more nuanced and interesting stories cited in the raw data feed. Indeed, one could use EveryBlock data to track patterns which could form the basis for an investigative reporting series.
A visit to slide number 27 of the Customer Development Model presentation offers a succinct and cogent illustration of a consumer-centric product/service development process. The key elements of the slide: Build, Measure, Learn integrated in the overall development life cycle. If I were able to question the UK journalist panel, I’d ask a couple of questions: Do you know of any UK news company to have empaneled a group of consumers that routinely gather their news from blog sites so as to find out why these consumers like these blogs and how they use the blog information in their daily lives? Do you know of any UK news company that has analyzed what apps or smart phone devices their consumers use on a daily basis and how they would like to have news integrated in similar ways on their devices? The answers to these questions begin the consumer-centric design journey.
Finally, this article makes a compelling case as to how certain facets of the Customer Development Model can be a disruptive factor in the real estate industry.
Here’s a good history of SEO since 1999, which is valuable to understand how things have changed over the last 10 years. Change is a constant with the Internet and SEO…what “worked” yesterday may not “work” today. Thus, focus on passionate, relevant, and niche content as a way to ground your SEO efforts on a solid foundation. My opinion: relevant, niche content will remain king for SEO.
I’m starting something new this week. My goal is to compile a weekly short list of quality resources about blogging, social networks, and social media coolness.
Blogging: The FutureBuzz is one of the finest blogs I’ve found discussing how to market your blog and blog posts. Adam Singer, really takes the time to dig deep into issues. His posts take some time to read and digest, but you’ll be a better blogger for taking that time.
Facebook: This post discusses a new Facebook app that lets you choose which Twitter updates to sync to Facebook. TweetDeck also has a nifty feature that lets you do the same. Both are easy to use; the former app, however, requires you to add the hashtag “#fb” to any post you wanted synced to Facebook (useful if you want to add your posts to the “#fb stream” that’s searchable)
Sending photos to Twitter is fun. Currently, the leading app for this is TwitPic. A competitor to TwitPic is on the horizon. TwitGoo has quietly launched a competitive service. I have not tried this yet, but it seems well-positioned to give TwitPic some competition.
Random social media coolness:
One of the hottest topics in social web is “crowdsourcing“. The issue is meaty because if the concept plays out favorably, brands conceivably will begin releasing more engaging and consumer centric products and services. This article discusses the broader concept as to whether creativity itself can be crowdsourced. For a previous discussion of creativity and innovation see my earlier post.
Although many real estate brand managers have embraced social media and are pushing their executives and agents to start a blog, join Facebook and LinkedIn, etc, many are still reticent to step into the space. Questions like these are fairly common: “What if someone says something bad, or posts a rude comment, or is just really nasty on my public page?”, “How can I keep out the competition?”, and “How can I control what’s being said?”
These are relevant concerns and may stem in part from a generalized mistrust of consumers’ ability to “properly” “understand brand message”, or from feelings of insecurity in the worth and veracity of one’s brand. But sweating the minutia over message, taking a parens patriae like attitude towards the consumer, and adopting a defensive posturing towards one’s competition as a way to temporarily stave the social media tsunami actually play into the hands of any competitor who’s already joined the social media party.
Do you believe in the transformative power of your brand?
Do you believe that your brand is better than your competition?
Do you believe in what you’ve built?
If the answers are no, then read these books as starting points to rejuvenate your brand: The Black Swan, Purple Cow, and The Art of the Start. If the answers are yes, then set your brand free with social media. Spreadabilty is the key, and one of the most efficient ways to accomplish this is via social media.
If you believe in your brand, use the recently updated Facebook Page platform and Home page lifestreaming features to spread your message to your friends, core constituency, and clients. If you believe in your brand, use Twitter like Comcast does via its @comcastcares profile to engage customers and solve customer service related issues. If you believe in your brand, embrace the fact that maybe one of your competitors will “fan” your Facebook Page but then use this opportunity to overwhelm them with the greatness of your brand and use this platform as a subtle recruiting environment. If you believe in your brand, figure out creative and low cost buzz-worthy tactics to get a spotlight on your greatness (look at the buzz that @doverbey created at SXSW: he’s using a wordpress blog as a repository for 100 video interviews and promoting it via Twitter while attending SXSW…and now he’s in the SXSW buzz spotlight as a participant, rather than an attendee).
Social media is here to stay. And the longer you wait to begin using social media to spread your brand message, the the more opportunity your competitors have to spread theirs at the expense of yours.
The digital train is tearing down the tracks and has no signs of slowing. Every industry is being reshaped by the expectation that everything should be digitized. Add digital hungry consumers with web devices, NetPCs, Kindles and smart gaming consoles and you’ve got a multichannel marketing and distribution train wreck.
1) Strategically embrace Web 2.0 and facilitate consumer control over certain elements of an overall marketing plan
Supporters’ blogs and You Tube postings were also brought inside the campaign through the website, where the online team could help consolidate the energy and contacts generated by them.
2) Test, measure, refine, roll-out; keep what works, ditch what tanks; no “sacred cows”
[The new media team], meanwhile, was constantly testing different versions of its call-to-action pages, including requests for donations and voter registration. Did more people respond if it included video or text? Should the sign-up prompts be on the right column or in the center? Should they have a “learn more” button or direct sign-up? Once they discovered the most effective version, they replaced all the others with it. Among their lessons: Video can sometimes be a distraction rather than a help.
So why are many real estate brokerage web sites so un-blog-like? It seems to me that if consumers are familiar with blogs, frequently read and interact with blogs, brokerage sites ought to adopt “blog-like” functionality on their web sites so as to give consumers modes of “familiarity” when they visit (it’s probably safe to say that consumers interact with non-real estate sites on a much more frequent basis and, thus, their expectations for best-in-class web site experiences are set by these non-real estate sites).
For example, brokerages could create a popular search cloud. Similarly, firms could create a listings type cloud based on property type, location, lifestyle, time-on-market, foreclosure, and price. As demonstrated by Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” product recommendation success, consumers want to know what other consumers are doing and thinking. Thus, a search cloud lets consumers take a pulse of the market by quickly perusing the cloud. Second, a listings cloud quickly lets consumers see what type and how much inventory exists without having to perform a search to get this information.
One click into either cloud quickly sifts the database and returns a results set to the consumer, and from there he/she could further refine a search; thus, reinforcing that the firm’s website is functional, speedily returns results, and respects consumers’ time. Further, these two features would go a long way towards giving consumers something “familiar” while enhancing real estate website functionality and data accessibility. All of the above combines to increase marketing penetration and consumer loyalty.
Owyang delivers an excellent summary of Facebook’s new “Engagement Advertising” tool. This tool seems well-suited to real estate brands that want to showcase a particular niche or market they serve, particular the “Fan Style” ad targeting luxury verticals (it could also be interesting to allow the Facebook community to “gift” someone a $50,000,000 property to generate buzz on that property using the “Virtual Gifts Style” ad platform).
This paper argues that allowing consumers to “co-create” or “co-author” products–i.e., directly engaging and encouraging consumers to participate in new product development processes–taps vast wells of creativity while exploiting certain cost efficiencies in terms of labor. Similarly, this paper explores how Web 2.0 will fundamentally (has fundamentally) changed the manner by which companies must brand themselves. Gone is a command and control ethos. Emerging is an empowerment and transparency ethos:
engagement replaces interruption
diversity and self-expression replace conformism and unity
the media of the masses replace mass media
granular insights and rich data replaces generalisation
Storytelling is one of the most important marketing concepts in our Web 2.0 world, argues this TrendWatching briefing paper. The key is helping consumers tell other consumers a version of the story that stays true to tenets of the brand.
As more brands (have to) go niche and therefore tell stories that aren’t known to the masses, and as experiences and non-consumption-related expenditures take over from physical (and more visible) status symbols, consumers will increasingly have to tell each other stories to achieve a status dividend from their purchases. Expect a shift from brands telling a story, to brands helping consumers tell status-yielding stories to other consumers.
The briefing paper argues that as niche marketing pressures increase, creating brands that are truly unique is a necessity; yet, these brands must increasingly rely on consumers to “market” the products (ala the Godin Purple Cow argument). Thus, experience marketing is a must have, with “status storytelling” acting as the catalyst, driving towards having consumers create and nurture status spheres:
Transient Spheres (consumers driven by experiences)
Online Spheres (social status as determined by who connects to whom)
Eco Sphere (i.e., praising Prius drivers while scorning SUV owners)
Giving Spheres (charitable giving)
Participative Sphere (participation is the new consumption
Other salient tidbits from the status storytelling paper are finding conversation starter icons (like t-shirt designs, weird pins, funky Kleenex boxes, etc) and “life caching” and “life casting” concepts (aligning your product with platforms like uStreamTV).
How do you launch a Web 2.0 media campaign? You don’t. If you’re thinking of “launching” “campaigns” in the Web 2.0 media space, you’ve broken your legs out of the starting gate.
How does a corporate brand manager “launch” a Web 2.0 “campaign” to counter (or embrace) a consumer-generated product review like Dirt Devil vs Electrolux found via the “dirt devil mvp comparison to electrolux” Google search (clicking the page 1, position 1 result takes you to the video product review). Let me repeat this: for the search phrase “dirt devil mvp comparison to electrolux”, the first organic result on Google is a consumer-generated YouTube video. How does one forecast for this eventuality, and account for this within the deliberative, plodding, and corporate-controlled product development and roll-out plan? All the push-marketing tactics cannot totally devalue the kitschy product review from a real consumer who’s having a good time making a video. Will “I” trust the brand, or the consumer?
Here are some considerations while pondering the the concept that brands are no longer in control:
Step 2: Step into the abyss. Yes…join a social network. I started with FaceBook. To follow the progress of building a community from the ground up on FaceBook, follow/join the Mighty Tour de Nez FaceBook Group I started about one of the country’s most exciting, innovative, and competitive cycling events. The key take-away with respect to the TDN is that even though this event has been going for over a decade, draws record crowds and record pro cyclists, building a community on the Web does not happen overnight. To see the power of an established Group, look at the Ironman FaceBook Group. Also, while you’re on FaceBook, add me as a friend and I’ll add you back.
There will be no online real estate revolution. No tipping point. No tidal wave of change. Just a slow rising tide that swells almost imperceptibly, carrying upon it those who seek, in time, the higher ground. citation
This viewpoint has some synergy to Yale finance professor Robert Shiller’s comments Feb 25, 2008 that lower home prices operate as a net benefit for society. I also agree with Brian that there really is no “killer app”.
But researchers and entrepreneurs are doing great work in creating applications to exploit Web 2.0 communication mediums. For example, this lecture proposes a system for automatically defining communities in social networks, and this lecture details how messaging and surveys could be analyzed to define communities.
Why are these studies important to real estate professionals? Because in about 18 to 24 months the viable models derived from this type of research will see market application. In turn, this means you can then use those models to communicate more effectively with a Web 2.0 audience when the housing market rebounds and consumers–who’ve been feasting on Facebook, MySpace, etc, in the interim–will expect you to communicate with them in a “Web 2.0 savvy” manner.
The salient part of Parmet’s insight lies in his admonition to brands everywhere to embrace social media as a consumer engagement tool. He cites an example of hoteliers griping about Tripadvisor exposing service failures at their respective establishments. Parmet advised these service providers to embrace the brutal feedback, make the required changes (if valid), and then openly engage these “gripers” in the Tripadvisor forum. Nine times out of ten, he says, consumers will respect these efforts and turn into brand evangelists.
Real estate firms can use these same strategies to promote their brands, particularly around luxury or otherwise unique properties or locations, as well as their unique service value propositions. This said, why don’t real estate firms do the same as Tripadvisor? Homthinking, of course, already does this. But what if a real estate firm allowed consumers to openly rank its own agents. Not only would this be a PR-worthy event, but it would certainly elevate the service level of the agent base within the firm.
How many agents would leave the firm because of this? Who knows. A more interesting question is how many would stay with the firm? Likely those who are confident in their own abilities, knowledge, and skills; basically, the weak flee while the strong remain. Who ultimately wins? The consumer. And if the consumer wins, chances are high that the consumer’s loyalty will remain with the firm that has the most transparency and the strongest agents.
Where is the real estate industry on this chart? In terms of brokerages, arguably it’s between 2005 and 2006. Many real estate firms still encourage their agents to pursue off-line sphere of influence strategies (i.e., volunteer at the local charity, pass the business card around, wait for the call, etc) without a similar focus on Internet strategies. Indeed, many of these same firms are extremely uncomfortable with encouraging their agents to contribute to blogs, community forums, etc, due to fear that an agent will say something inappropriate, or whatever. And forget about these firms providing a company-funded blog platform for its agents!
Unfortunately, these risk averse attitudes drive marketing myosis.
What is social media? Wikipedia has a good answer. Why does social media matter? For the real estate industry it matters because the whole business of selling real is about engagement. And social media, at it’s core, is about engaging consumers immediately. Real estate firms who do not invest in social media devices aimed at engaging consumers directly or reinforcing the firms’ local expertise are at risk of sliding into irrelevancy.
What’s one of the easiest ways to begin the conversion? A corporate blog that is owned by the firm but also owned by the agents (in terms of content contributions). Why does this matter? This lets the firm’s agents demonstrate their local knowledge, superior marketing accumen, and reinforce their superior service value proposition. Why does this matter? Because consumers are going to “test” the firm’s claims by searching for validation of these claims. What better way to validate a firm’s deep local knowledge than to have an archive of such in a blog?
What’s an example of a great corporate-sponsored blog in real estate? This blog clearly demonstrates the firm’s local expertise, market knowledge, and marketing acumen, while giving its agents a platform to shine.
Step 1: Just understanding it. In this regard experience is the best instructor. Start by creating a LinkedIn profile and then get immersed in Active Rain or Trulia Voices, as voyeurs or members. These venues offer rich playing grounds.
Step 2: Find a blogger who’s singular passion is dissecting the process. As an emerging medium, early adopters keep the bog well-irrigated with creative ideas, foutainhead-like musings, and general full-throttled reasearch. Martin Reed does a great job at this. Of particular usefulness to understanding core concepts are his posts on basic concepts and resources and his monthly top posts page (valuable given it’s stream-of-consciousness threads). Another great resource is Matthew Sherborne. Follow his twitter marketing campaign journey to gain a blow-by-blow analysis and learn from the way he parses the process. Finally, Tranparent Real Estate has very cogently and concisely explained Web 2.0, and its relevancy to real estate professionals. The first post details the core concepts; the second post argues, in part, that social networks will fuel a collective intelligence that will apply pressure on professions to justify the value of their expertise.