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Blogging: HyperLocal Engagement

This past week I was immersed in three conferences for real estate professionals in San Francisco – all of which included discussions of blogging.  I spent the morning of July 12th at Inman’s Agent Reboot and Monday afternoon at REBarCamp.

  • Agent Reboot was designed to bring real estate agents and brokers up to speed about social media – blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • REBarCamp is an “un-conference” gathering, were social media and blogging experts interacted with each other more informally.
  • Inman Real Estate Connect , held July 13-15, 2010 was geared to real estate brokers, marketing directors and technology people.

Engagement –The word that stood out to me at all three venues was engagement – the word applies to Facebook, blogging, corporate websites, home search, mobile technology and was even reflected  in the different format styles of the conferences.

Gone are the days of personal agent branding, static agent billboard websites, and push marketing.  Consumers are less interested today in an agent’s self promotion; the younger your clients, the more this applies.

Today’s Realtors need to learn the art of engaging friends and clients in a more friendly, indirect ways.  Consumers are turning off to one-way broadcast efforts in favor of two-way conversations.

I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with leading edge social media, real estate technology and management experts; here are some overall highlights and impressions from last week:

  • Facebook– Usage of Facebook now exceeds Google searches with 540 million unique visitors per month and 570 billion page views per month.  It is a media for lightweight engagement – casual, social, episodic contact, not for pitching listings!  Likes, shares and comments are three primary ways people engage with content posts, pages, photos, etc. on Facebook.  EdgeRank gauges how people interact with a piece of content; engagement is what places posts in the Top News feed rather than the broader Most Recent feed.
  • Twitter – This short (130 character) communication is where people inspire, share, educate and entertain their followers.  This too is about engagement rather than pitching your listings.
  • Blogging – Yesterday I posted about the future of real estate blogging.  Again the theme is engagement.  Encouraging engagement is akin to the practice of not moderating blog comments before they are published (managing the risk of not being able to control with the benefits of serendipity).  As a sidebar, a REBarCamp blogger noted that she needed to regain her voice, having been overly influenced by the voice of others preoccupied with the task of managing risk ; she knew that a more free expression of her opinions would makes for more lively conversation and engagement.
  • HyperLocal – With geo-coded, locational smartphone apps such as Yelp, FourSquare, Gowalla and blog/website apps such as SpatialMatch, there was a strong emphasis on Hyperlocal.
  • Websites – Brokers engage visitors primarily by home search engines, market valuation, financing and relocation.  The trend is toward lifestyle and hyper-local search criteria.
  • Mobile – Smartphone technology, particularly the IPhone, IPad and other technology solutions currently in design have already changed and will further change the way we engage with the web, other devices and each other.

Engagement at the Conferences– equally interesting to me was the format/style of engagement of the three events, which themselves are a metaphor for shifts in relationship between clients and real estate professionals.

  • Agent Reboot and REBarCamp – The first day I was struck by the contrast between a polished performance (putting your best foot forward, marketing approach) and the very casual, social, interactive engagement that springs from online and personal face-to-face authenticity, vulnerability and honesty.  Many of us sort of knew people online, but had yet to meet face to face and interact on another level.  Polished marketing still has its place, but today’s consumers are short on trust and like to get to know with whom they are going to doing business.  The internet is now often the first point of contact.  Friends of friends expands our sphere.
  • Un-programmed Programing– The main Inman conference started out with Brad Inman’s rambling interview of Craig Newmark, which had a semi-planned  interruptions by audacious text message questions from the audience projected on the screen behind the speaker and an unplanned  confronting member of the audience (upset about politics and the continuing poor state of our economy). To his credit, Brad seemed to enjoy the sparks and candid confrontation of his friend Craig and rewarded the audacity rather than squelched it.  This engagement added spice, but was not comfortable for control freaks.
  • Broad range of speakers and attendees –the Inman conference successfully brought together contrasting groups of people to engage with each other (brokers, marketing professionals, technology experts, entrepreneurs and vendors, but only a few agents like myself).  There were the:
    • casual, friendly, open, young entrepreneurs who boldly experiment with breakthrough technology to engage people and make them loyal clients and evangelists to grow their business on their behalf
    • hip, youthfully exuberant brokers with panache – brashly making end run touch-downs around sleeping corporate giant real estate firms
    • leaders of some presumed stogy institution, who gave wonderful and surprising visionary riffs
    • supremely professional, thoughtful and well prepared corporate strategists
    • very young  techies in T shirts and hoodies, somewhat awkwardly nerdy, but brilliant and articulate
    • well groomed, pin-stripped, stylishly trendy and slick
    • those representing a very focused and well disciplined but cold lead machine mentality – it’s all about numbers: lead generation, capture and conversion
    • vendors with thinly veiled, self-serving sales pitches for their technology system and training

What was thankfully missing from Real Estate Connect?

  • preoccupation with the continuing problems of foreclosures and short sales
  • doom and gloom about persistent lagging recovery in employment

Other take-away buzz words from the conference are: HyperLocal, Mobile, Social, Real-Time, Community, Apps, Maps, HTML5, Curation, Consolidation, Integration

Orchestrating a successful real estate conference must be like the fine art of using a chef’s recipe: having the right ingredients in the right proportions and sufficient spices (not too much so that the dishes are overpowered) to make the memorable dining experiences – managing chaos and encouraging serendipity.

Managing a creative and productive real estate office must be somewhat like herding cats  (who don’t know if they want to be outside or inside) with very different personalities and skill set , but are lovable all the same and we would not choose to live without them.

Attracting friends who may become clients involves taking risks and engaging by authentically revealing your personality in such a way that others will grow to know you  and trust you.

What do you think?  Leave a comment.  Engage in the conversation.

Rick Bonetti  | APR Referral Network | 408-857-8800 | DRE#01237009