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The Future of Real Estate Blogging

I started blogging about real estate in September 2007 – whew, going on three years now! In 2007, 2008 and 2009 I attended Blogger Connect conference prior to the full Inman Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco (which I attended July 13-15, 2010).  I have been busy learing about the cutting edge in real estate brokerage and technology the last couple of days! Great stuff.

This year Inman launched Agent Reboot instead of Blogger Connect so on Monday, July 12th I listened to the morning presenter at the San Francisco Hilton and then headed off to interact with friends at REBarCamp (an un-conference) held at Fort Mason in San Francisco.  This was my forth REBarCamp (second in San Francisco) and it was smaller than last year when there was not competition from Agent Reboot.  Nevertheless, assembled this year were some very well known voices in real estate blogging:  Jay Thompson, Ginger Wilcox, Kelly Koehler, Kris Berg, Heather Elias, Rob Hahn and Dale Chumley to name just a few.

Blogging is but one of a number of facinating topics discussed at Agent Reboot, REBarCamp and Inman Connect.  More on that later.  Here are some of my thoughts and gleaning from this past week specifically about the future of real estate blogging :

The Context– Joel Burslem’s (1000 Watt Consulting) July 9, 2010 blog post entitled The Death of The Real Estate Blog was the springboard for lively discussion among these REBarCamp rockstar bloggers.  The resounding consensus was that blogging is very alive and flourishing, although some of context is changing:

  • Facebook and Twitter are getting more play because of their growing dominance.
  • The ease of use of Facebook’s like button has resulted in not as many people now leaving comments or doing back-links compared with last year.
  • Successful blogging is only one element of social media such as Facebook and even traditional marketing such as email and face-to-face meet ups.  Facebook (which is more for non-real estate social connections and entertainment) is collecting  lifestyle preferance data and will become a strong search player.
  • Human aggregators are playing more than feed readers.

The Hub– For most of these successful blogging real estate agents, their blog is still the hub of their online social media strategy and they are getting most of their business from it. Real estate bloggers want to own their own content on a WordPress platform and use Facebook to drive visitors to their blog.  Some such as Derek Overby recognize that Facebook has become the hub where many people start their day.

CMS – Blogs are viewed as content management system rather than a lead generation systems.  Blogging real estate agents are using their blogs to connect and keep in contact with people they already know.

Connections– The best Realtor bloggers are trying to create connections with people not just to create business. Broadcast is one-way communication, but bloggers are skilled at encouraging two-way communication.  A good blogger is a good listener; I always love to hear from you! Blogs are good vehicles to communicate personality and humanize content.

Content – Content itself does not create connection. Content itself is not king in real estate blogging. Content does not automatically communicate personality. Using a culinary metaphor good real estate blogging is the difference between the special magic created by a chef like Bobby Flay and just food.

Content farms – Joel Burslem asserts that these are starting to gain better optimized search engine results for the biggest websites; but I think they may not be effective in generating real connections. Interesting writing and content will generate readers; canned content will not. Keyword packed content may get SEO ranking, but it will not yield desired results. Blogging is not a mercenary activity!  Many bloggers at REBarCamp stated they would continue to blog even if it did not result in immediate business.  Not every blogger has the talent to attract readers, but those who do will create loyal fans.  The message must be right for our readers not just for Google.

Community – The homebuying process is all about choosing neighborhood and community before choosing a house. First homebuyers drive around and select neighborhoods they like and then buy the best house you can afford there. The community connections communicated in a blog are important – mom and pop and the intangibles of community are in there. Passion creates community  you can tell when someone loves where they live!

Hyper-local – Many developer apps and boutique Realtor websites such as M Realty now focus strongly on the neighborhood. One of my favorite brand new lifestyle and home search tools (soon to be on my blog) is SpatialMatch.  In my opinion, hyper-local is an important part of the future of real estate blogging that generally has been under-utilized.

365 Things to Do – Dawn Thomas, Dale Chumley and others have made a name for themselves blogging about things to do in their local area.  This raises questions for bloggers wanting to copy the idea for their local area: will the idea be just an overdone fad? Do they have the commitment to stay the course?  What will they do after 365 days?

Finding Your Voice – Blogging helps real estate agents see our world more clearly and heightens our interest of what’s happening in our community.  If we are astute, we really get to know what is important to consumers and can serve them better.  Finding your blogging voice is beyond journalism, which teaches one to be objective and not express personal opinions, so some bloggers have to develop new skills so that their writing is expressive, engaging, entertaining, has a clear point of view and is thought provoking.  The public is looking for authenticity and people who will speak the truth as they see it and not just Realtor hype.

News Aggregation and Curation– There is a trend toward curation of local news content as people look for other resources than their newspaper to get their real time local news. Some online magazine style blogs such as A News Cafe have multiple writer and are supported by advertising.  Others are neighborhood resource centers.  Established aggregator platforms such as ActiveRain will wane as individual users decide to blog on their own WordPress platform and server.  Magazine or Newspaper WordPress blog themes will emerge in addition to more traditional real estate websites that primarily address only three concerns: home search; what’s my home worth and what’s happening in the market.

Video and Podcasting – this has been talked about for years, but few Realtors have mastered this skill. Mobile devices and improved bandwidth will make this even important.  Look for more of this from me in the future.  Architectural photos are important in engaging interest in the community.

Summary – Real estate blogging is changing, but it is not dead. The future of real estate blogging has to be more than an “add-on, marketing widget” that agents can buy off the shelf, add to their arsenal and increase their effectiveness without a time commitment. Periodically writing in a standardized company-provided blog platform will have little effectiveness for the individual agent (although it will help the SEO of the company) unless writing is done regularly with passion and is a natural expression of their personality. Most bloggers want to control ownership of their own blog content.

Because blogging is time consuming there will be more multi-user real estate blogs in the future with agents, managers, corporate staff and guest contributing writers.

Neighborhood focus is a big part of the future for successful real estate blogging. The more finite the geographic area or niche the more likely smaller blogs will dominate SEO through long tail searches.  Blogging is the current expression of older, traditional neighborhood farming through direct mail and newsletters.

I would love to engage and continue this conversation with you online or offline or help you anyway I can.  Let me know your thoughts

Rick Bonetti | Alain Pinel Realtors | 408-857-8800 | rbonetti@apr.com