1000watt Blog

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The trouble with Twitter

I disagree with Mathew Ingram. I did not use Twitter, blog search, Wikipedia, YouTube and pretty much any other tool I could get my hands on to source news about the tragic events in Mumbai. I resorted to  my RSS feeds from CNN, MSNBC and the BBC.

I guess I’m just not cool. I actually hold schooled journalism in high regard and prefer to get the news from its practitioners rather than the worldwide Peanut Gallery of Tweeters.

Look here at the random coverage of events in Mumbai and you be the judge.

Despite this stream of utterly useless content, Twitter continues to spread like wildfire, especially in real estate where the proliferation of empty, fragmented bits sit like puzzle pieces spread across a card table.

Yes, there are exceptions. But they are just that — exceptional people amid a sea of fatuity.

This might be acceptable when it comes to anonymous Twits that offer slapdash “reporting” on world affairs because, at the end of the day, people can turn on CNN or Fox News and get something reasonably coherent upon which one’s own perspective can be formed. But it is not acceptable when it comes to real estate, where the mainstream media in every market saturate the airwaves with what many in our industry believe is a one-sided, sensationalistic and negative view of what’s happening.

While we have always expressed measured skepticism about Twitter, many have heralded its great promise for this industry. Cast as new kind of broadcasting medium, the great hope of Twitter is that any agent or broker, whether they can write well or not, can offer the marketplace a quick, at a glance, market or neighborhood report. And considering Twitter’s demographics, it offers older agents a chance to connect with a younger audience by reaching them on their terms. On their level. Using a communication platform they relate too.

But that great promise has yet to pan out. Instead of using this tool as a means to leverage valuable insights, real estate has turned Twitter into restroom wall where anyone with their fly down and a Magic Marker in hand can leave behind whatever childish brain fart comes to mind.

Here’s a quick collection of posts taken from real estate people I follow:

Just took my 20th mugshot!”
“31 Awesome Twitter logos for your Blog”
Radiohead says Go To Sleep!”
Shall we all sing along? Sweet Caroline”
“I am about to make stuffing”
“I am about to make sausage”
“Enjoying a glass of Port in my Denny Crane glass”
Ever feel weird taking cell phone pictures in public places?”
“Eating Turkey with my family.”
“Back from Best Buy…now need massive amounts of either emotional therapy or alcoholic beverages…think I’ll stay scarred and get drunk.”

When I think of Web 2.0 and the tools offered in its spirit, I think of the fantastic opportunity given to real estate to corner a market, to claim a neighborhood, to report on breaking local news, hot properties just listed, and to win clients over with wisdom distilled from experience. It never occurred to me that so many real estate folks would choose a different path — or, rather, the same old one: That of tone-deaf narcissism.

And I think: How can this build a brand? How can this help a client? How can painting oneself as someone who cannot even sit through a meal without getting up to report on each bite help earn a living in these hard times?

The great promise of Twitter has fallen so short. Or has it? Perhaps Twitter will provide value as a repository the consumer can sift through to scope out local agents, view their content and form a rather clear sense of who is on the beat and who is so enamored with their own musical play list that matters of real estate seem trivial.

Brokers and agents: You have been given a chance to publish simple, clear statements that will linger on the Web forever. You can either post gibberish or you can choose instead to post content about what’s happening in your marketplace right now that does or could have consequences for your reader. Either way you go, bear in mind, each has the same shelf life.

Which one do you think will provide lasting value to you and your marketplace?

- Davison

 

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32 Responses to “The trouble with Twitter”

  1. Ken Brand says:

    I find myself semi-scoffing at your perspective. That tells me that what you share is trueish.

    I'm a Twitter-er (@KenBrand) and a blogger ( http://www.BrandCandid.com) and a RE Sales Manager. Sometimes I post silly stuff and sometimes I post serious subjects. Twitter is called social media because it's social, it's not called business media, I mix it up anyway.

    As you've wisely shared, you can't go Twittering half cocked, but sharing your transparent self, speaking candidly and blending in a bit of humor goes along way towards building familiarity, comfort and trust.

    All things being equal, I believe people would rather know more about your personality and it's quirks than not. My observation, the most successful agents I know are not uptight, always on professionally buttoned up robots. They're people people. They're odd and quirky.

    I'm rambling, in conclusion, you're right, Tweets live forever, Twitter isn't for everyone, used properly and wisely, it's a tool and a toy….or as Guy Kawasaki sez, a "Weapon".

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Eric Stegemann says:

    Marc,
    In almost everything you write I agree 100%. Your vision for quality in brokerages is something I wish more people would pay attention to.

    However, I'm going to respectfully disagree about Twitter. If you want to post market data, and give tips etc, that's appropriate in a blog or other similar forum, even facebook etc.

    Twitter is a medium that people don't want to see fact, market update, real estate info, etc. It's a medium to connect with people on a more personal level. Lots of people can post market data on their website, but what person shares similar life experiences?

    Twitter has helped make friends within the industry as well as find people from my area that now subscribe to my market info. They didn't find me on Twitter from my market data posts, they found me because they searched for words like Mac, iPhone, St. Louis, Football info, etc. (I will agree there is a lot of drivel on Twitter)

    Twitter is a place to connect. Not to advertise. Once you connect then you can advertise. You'll notice my Twitter posts are 90% life related, 10% business.

    Think about the receipe postcards, the sports schedules….the newsletters with the agent's family photos… What are the intentions of these? Sharing my great receipe…showing I support the same team you do…I have a family in this area and we love it too…it's building rapport before the sale. Twitter just provides a medium that doesn't require a postage stamp.

    (As far as the news side goes, sure its not real journalism…but it got info faster than CNN or Fox News…I too respect Journalists, being that I once attended journalism school..but Twitter is best described as a massive unedited interview. But it's fast and its constantly updating.)

    So as one of the people with one of the comments listed above….Yes I really do feel odd taking pictures with my cell phone in public….I again respectfully disagree with what you think Twitter should be.

  3. Ed says:

    Judging Twitter based on a sample of average users is like judging Microsoft Excel based on a random sampling of average users that can't create formulas or even sort.

  4. Marc Davison says:

    Great comments guys.

    Twitter offer great possibilities – the greatest of all is a public record of who you are, what you are thinking and yes, what you are doing right now.
    My thought here would be how I could leverage this to my very best advantage so that each syllable stands as testimony to who I am and what I mean to the world.

    I often find that one sentence can hardly do anyone justice. That's my ultimate fear of Twitter.

    Unlike the spoken word that quickly evaporates into space soon after being uttered, your written word lingers forever.

    Wow.

    I wonder if exposing oneself through the posting of mundane slices of a life to make a few real estate friends worth the potential loss of a customer who might evaluate me based upon those ramblings?

    That's what would go through my mind as it does each time I write anything and post it publicly. The jury of public opinion often results in swift judgment.

    Twitter to me is like the wheel when it was first discovered. People gathered around and probably stood fascinated watching it roll down a hill and into a tree. Little did any of them realize what they could really do with it.

    As Ed and Joe point out, judging it by its users would be folly. But its the users that ultimately will make it great.

    And honestly, I never feel weird taking pictures publicly with my phone. Seems like a totally practical thing to do.

  5. Dale Chumbley says:

    As the owner of one of the mentioned "taboos" (maybe 2 or 3?) I stand by all of my tweets. Twitter is a social gathering place and I have met wonderful local people that have become friends who at some point in life will need real estate service. I've been told by several that when that need arises I'll be called on. Some of them I've met initially due to similar musical styles (thank you blip), some due to similar love of great television (thank you Denny Crane). All of this to say, we tend to be attracted to people who relate to us on our most common levels. Some of these levels aren't a constant barrage of real estate facts and figures. It is the real life relationships that sometimes start in the most innocuous ways.

    I do think about every tweet I send (it may not seem that way but I do). I actually mention to friends in my world some of the tweets they make might not always be the best due to the "big picture" audience.

    I appreciate your opinion of Twitter and realize it isn't for everyone. The beauty is, you don't have to use it the same way I do. For me it is a wonderful tool that has allowed me the opportunity to meet whole segments of my local market I wouldn't have met in other arenas. I've also met some of the most amazing people from across the country that I really care about. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a few songs to go play since I've already watched this weeks episode of Boston Legal. ;?)

  6. Teresa Boardman says:

    I agree with some of what you are saying and I disagree with some of it. I see how some of my peers use twitter. As for the "eating turkey" tweets they are appropriate as twitter does ask the question "what are you doing?" If I were to use twitter only to broadcast local real estate news no one would follow me and I would be mis using the tool.

  7. Maureen Francis says:

    I have a current client who met me on Twitter. Showed her houses over the weekend. Going out again tomorrow. Also had another local twitter person (who I have never met) come into an open house I tweeted about to meet me.

    I might get too chatty, but I try to keep to my twitter strategy, which is to meet local twitterers, increase exposure to my local RE blog, and focuse my messages on things that will be interesting to local folks. Yes, I do banter with the RE.net, but, ironicall, I am seeing many of the locals I follow who are not RE related, begin to follow the RE.net twitterers along with me.

    I break your rules, but it my rules seem to be working.

  8. Gus says:

    Twitter is about cool, synthesizing and speed…Don't tell me the whole story…Give me sound bites.(Social Media rules)

    I like your blog, I disagree with you on this one…Great comment from the readers…later

    Gus

  9. Geordie Romer says:

    Twitter is a tool. You can misuse and abuse it, just like a blog, email, websites, cell phones and print media. I have seen agents misuse all of the above and can easily provide anecdotes.

    So far I have metup with 4 total strangers that I have met from Twitter. Two are local journalists and one is an agent from the area that my vacation home buyers live, and the last is a vendor. I have developed relationships with members of the climbing community and expect I will do some exploring with them in the real world.

    Social media is about connecting. If you can use twitter to connect with real people, you can use it to build your real estate business.

    Here are some views on Twitter than I feel do it better justice.

    http://www.chrisbrogan.com/if-i-started-today/

    http://www.twitip.com/benefits-twitter/

    PS. I started following @markdavidson because I thought he was Marc. I know a handful of others on in the re.net have too.

    @geordieromer

  10. Jay Thompson says:

    Marc –

    As always, you provide thought-provoking reflection.

    I don't think anyone could disagree that a lot of what scrolls by on Twitter is drivel.

    But, amongst the drivel, I find it fascinating.

    Twitter is a way to connect with people on a very basic level. It's amazing just how much you can learn about someone — good and bad — in a medium like this.

    Flood the Twitterverse with real estate updates, listings, and self-promotion and you'll swiftly find yourself talking in a vacuum.

    I've got over 1400 followers. I have no idea why. Of those 1400, yes, there are hundreds of real estate people.

    But there are also a couple of hundred Phoenix area residents that have nothing to do with real estate as a profession. I've met many of them "IRL" (in real life) through social gatherings and local events of a common (not real estate) interest.

    Though we rarely discuss it, they all know what I do for a living. If they connect with me, they may one day become clients.

    But that's not why I make the effort to meet them. I make that effort because the more people I meet, the more I learn. About everything. About what makes people tick, about life, and even about real estate.

    No doubt I've stuck my foot in my mouth on Twitter (and elsewhere). People would do well to heed your advice and think before typing. Google never forgets.

    But even with a well intended Tweets (or blog post, or comment) I've likely elicited a response in someone along the lines of, "I'd never use that guy as my agent!". And that's OK. I can't be the agent for everyone.

  11. Robyn Hawk says:

    I have nothing to do with the real estate field – but – on Twitter I follow a huge range of folks!

    I disagree with most of your impressions of the "idea" of Twitter.

    Yes – it is a social site
    Yes – you can hook up socially and progress to a business relationship.

    BUT – I also have NO problem with ads and informational blurbs – in fact I would have loved seeing info about the area I just moved to.

    You never know what the people following you are into your Tweets pretty much form your following – you tweet business, people interested in business will follow.

    Remember when folks first started blogging and when they started offending subscribers with personal opinions – they eventually they ended up with two blogs – one for their brand and one for personal musings.

    There are folks on Twitter w/a personal feed and a business feed (ie. @guykawasaki and @alltop)- why not try both and see which garners the most follows and – more importantly – the most business?

    BTW – I am @aflyonthewall on Twitter.

  12. Marc Davison says:

    Gang,

    Great, great comments. I hope you all know that I completely value your opinions, especially the ones that take issue with mine posted by those of you who I follow on Twitter (over 100 real estate folks) because in my mind, you are the ones who set the stage for the success and failure of new ideas in real estate.

    This is a learning experience for all of us as we each tread across the new waters of innovation. The fact that we all throw each other life lines make this conversation and others like it so darn important. Not too mention cool.

    I won't discount the benefits this application brings into your lives. In fact, if it is bringing you new business, pay no attention to my concerns over it because you are probably doing Twitter correctly.

    To a fault perhaps, I am hyper focused on image and believe so strongly that measuring every thing you say and do against the brand you are trying to create as a professional is paramount to success regardless of who is reading (consumer or industry professional).

    Over the past 13 years, I've seen real estate take liberties with the web and reveal things about themselves that fly in the face of smart maketing and communication. My concerns are that for some, Twitter can easily take someone well past the the line of convention.

    CB radio is like that. Its filled with gibberish. But buried in the noise are reports of traffic hiccups and smoky sightings that create the ultimate value for this medium.

    I am listening and reading your comments and growing in my thinking on this with as much respect and diligence to your positions as you have so often given to mine.

    It takes two sides to make a coin. My guess is together, we're going to increase the value of this one.

    Marc

  13. Jim Marks says:

    Marc,

    Although I understand the jest of your post and I often espouse the importance of Realtors being valuable AND relevant to the Web 2.0 consumer, its important to also note that since the advent of Real Estate marketing, the number one source of business for most Realtors is their "Circle of Influence." A Realtors circle of Influence is his/her friends, professional contacts, acquaintances, etc. Up until just a few years ago (maybe 5) this was always the most difficult segment of a Realtors marketing target to increase. It just took a lot of time. Parties, Mixers, Chamber of Commerce, etc. With the advent of SM, Realtors have a new (and enjoyable?) way of reaching out to prospects…AS FRIENDS. Followers will slowly learn the Realtors personalty and join this valuable circle… If we look at the twitter comments you illuminated (and my guess is, you did not look for the most flattering,)

    Shall we all sing along? Sweet Caroline"
    "I am about to make stuffing"
    "I am about to make sausage"
    "Enjoying a glass of Port in my Denny Crane glass"
    Ever feel weird taking cell phone pictures in public places?"
    "Eating Turkey with my family."
    "Back from Best Buy…now need massive amounts of either emotional therapy or alcoholic beverages…think I'll stay scarred and get drunk."

    even these comments give one an idea of WHO these people are, what they do, and how they live. This is information that you gain over time about friends, and NEVER information you gain from market reports and real estate guides. More and More, people want to deal with someone they trust. A friend. And SM, including Twitter has given Realtors a new way to reach out and show their knowledge, and their personalities.

  14. Todd Carpenter says:

    I've watched people try your method. These are the same people who now say twitter is for losers.

    Before you decide what you're going to say on twitter, you need to figure out what people are coming to Twitter to read.

  15. Marc Davison says:

    I hear ya Jim and I buy the argument completely. Since I am not an agent and therefore not in the market of building agent friendships that may result in referrals, I admit openly, I miss this key factor that is worthy of note.

    I would succumb completely to the argument if this were a closed platform similar in a way to Real Talk where the conversations between professionals are kept between professionals.

    But these posts are public so I question the lack of paranoia if you will.

    You know, this transparency thing is awesome but there are some land mines.

  16. Marc Davison says:

    Never said it's for losers Todd. I said, it's a public place that features private dialogue and I question that real ROI value of posting what you are doing right now and how that creates a value add to a consumer.

    Receiving an SMS stating that you are eating dinner, is something I question as how it builds value for real estate folks. For the most part here, I am being schooled on why that is important. Despite that, I am completely comfortable trusting my beliefs and feelings, judgments and observations before posting and more than trusting in the friends I have here to educate when I stray.

  17. Eric Stegemann says:

    Marc,
    I agree that there are some comments that might be inappropriate for Realtors to use in easily accessible searches. Heavy drinking, drug use etc, all can turn off a large portion of clientele. (See this Article from Agent Genius written by Teresa Boardman http://agentgenius.com/?p=6717 )
    They had another similar post about your online reputation in general.

    But I think there is plenty out there that very well might turn off a small portion of people, but a large contingent of people will agree with and feel more connected about….For Example: I just tweeted about the movie A Christmas Story being on TNT. Within a minute or two I had new followers, and over 100 tweets were made about the movie being on in less than 1 hour.
    It's not about real estate but it helps me connect. From that tweet you never know I could get a referral.

    Twitter is New Media in the truest sense. And people will definitely learn there are things they shouldn't say if they live in the public light (politicians, Realtors, etc) but even private individuals should be concerned…Many companies are Googling and checking profiles on facebook and myspace before hiring. But those same comments that can be drivel "eating turkey with my family!" or "Enjoying a nice quiet evening with my wife" or mentioning a sports team something like would make a potential buyer or employer feel great about their candidate but rarely will it turn someone off. (One caveat I think though to that is mentioning political preference. I witnessed numerous people get unfollowed on Twitter and Facebook etc because they got too aggressive with their commentary.)

  18. Marc Davison says:

    Thanks Eric. This taps into my concerns about Twitter. Believe me folks, I gave the reality that employees, employees, clients, customers do indeed check Twitter to check you out. And that's the trouble with it. It's public. Hence, my concerns.

    But you also raise an interesting point about the potential value of drivel.

    For the longest time, corporate communication was handled by PR professionals, schooled as I was, militant about each word, each slogan, each and every sound byte.

    Communications is now completely in the hands of anyone with a keyboard and Twitter account and the rules are indeed changing. I cited this over a year ago in this article I wrote – http://www.1000wattblog.com/2007/06/what_are_you_do.html – about Twitter before real estate went jiggy over it. Please read because I think I had some very high hopes for Twitter and displayed a deep sense of what this could become.

    The freedom this new media affords everyone is great but I see it loaded with the caveats as you dictated. Those who break the rules, will learn hard lessons.

    New rules of the road are forming. Drivel may in fact be in.
    Mmm.

    The new rules regarding new media is a throw caution to the wind, say whatever comes to mind, connect with others on simple, human terms, make friends along the way and bank that it will lead to business.

    This really warrants a serious study because if that's the case, I do plenty of mundane things all day that I would never consider posting, but maybe I should.

    I continue to maintain my concerns but I am keeping an open mind about this.

    As for me now, I am going to the gym to work out and think through my next article titled – The trouble with Facebook.
    :)

  19. Eric Stegemann says:

    Marc,
    Let me add one final comment: being from what I've begun to call "the facebook generation" at age 25 I can assure you that people my age care about the drivel. I want to know if my friend just posted new pictures of his recent trip, or what movies she likes, or that someone is spending a quiet evening at home. I think it's best termed as new age interdependence, but I care that people care to know about me, just as I care enough about people I know to want to know about them.

    This is ground breaking stuff…Those that get it and understand how to harness those desires will be the new ultra rich of the 21st century. It's a new generation of relationship marketing and it's going to be mandatory in the years to come.

  20. Kevin Tomlinson-Miami Beach Real Estate says:

    I've read here that some agents may have gotten clients from twitter; BUT, being an agent myself, I know that if the time spent "twittering" were used in other more traditional prospecting methods–more clients-probably many more-could have been gleaned.

  21. Rob Hahn says:

    Marc (and peeps!) -

    Great discussion here; not sure why Twitter drives so much passion both for and against, but it does. :)

    Here's what I'm musing on. Had a long discussion with a friend recently on "social media" and so on. For the record, I am a skeptic on "Web 2.0" — think the term is bunk altogether. Is Twitter filled with much drivel (like my blipstream of random euro-trance music)? Sure.

    At the same time, I can't help shake the central lesson of Cluetrain Manifesto: Speak with a Human Voice.

    Could the challenge going forward be to let the professional mask slip a little bit? To stop worrying about "brand image" (as I am also wont to do, being a marketer) and worry more about exposing the authentic person (or persons, in the case of a corporation)?

    It goes against everything I was taught about brand management, and yet… there's something there….

    -rsh

  22. Joseph Ferrara.sellsius says:

    Some tweety observations:

    Twitterers communicate more than 140 characters. Heck, a twitpic can be worth a thousand words :)

    Links, which I give and take, are part of the new journalism, if you believe some folks.

    Twitter may make for easier (viral?) transmission of news. I call it the IPL (internet party line).

    Yes, there is drivel, as Jay points out, but hell, life is full of it. Divise a means to filter.

    Hey Hahn you blipster, lets grab a drink.

  23. Aaron Petty says:

    I try not to use a knife to turn a screw because I am liable to dull and or damage the knife and not turn the screw. But when I what to deliver a relevant piece of information to a group of people that are looking for me to delivery it to them Twitter is the tool. My followers are not asking me to play reporter they are tuning in to what I say I will offer them: one tweet a day of relevant information of our local market. Best of all as a follower:

    1) I opt in
    2) It comes to me and I am mobile
    3) I opt in
    4) I have been watching and listening thirty second commercials for thirty years and "viewing" product and service ads that are shotgunned at me with a lack relevance to my life/style
    5)I opt in
    6)I can opt out

  24. Marc Davison says:

    This conversation has caused me to think long and hard about this topic.

    I am convinced and always have been that Twitter has legs.

    I am now convinced as a result of reading your comments, that some of you are using them to walk in real estate.

    I think creating friends online based on shared experiences and alerts is cool and way for you guys to connect.

    Perhaps you, agents, brokers have a language all your own and have found a way to cultivate this hum into a level of connection and communication that I don't understand.

    But I don't have to understand it to appreciate the fact that if alerting each other about things you do all day can develop friendships, then by all means I can change my tune about that. But I'll hold back the song I suppose until that friendship and time spent creating it, creates revenue. I mean, isn't that what this is all about?

  25. Missy Caulk says:

    I am probably on Twitter a lot less than most, I just get too distracted and hours can slip away.

    I like Twitter for the links that send me to peoples blogs or news.

    I started following local news sources and now many are following me whereas they have lots of followers and follow very few.

    I have met many people there that I did not know through my real estate blogs. I feed my posts into it but if that is ALL I ever did, I don't think I would be using it to its full potential.

    I was speaking at the KW office here in Ann Arbor and someone tweated they were coming to hear me speak and then a huge tech guy from Ann Arbor showed up too.

    To me the benefits far out weighs the concerns, but then I'm not a big drinker and haven't got into the blip thing. (yet)

    One other benefit to me, is to be able to twit with authors like Paul Cheney and Guy, Now how would that have happened without twitter.

  26. Peter Fletcher says:

    If you took one or two sentences out of almost any conversation and placed them into another conversation the sentences would make little or no sense. And that's what Twitter does – from the perspective of an observer. But from the perspective of a participant the experience is different because there's context to each of the conversation snippets. Through this shared context the snippets make sense. This snippet style conversation is common in the real world where we may hold a stake in several conversations at a party using bits and pieces from each to keep ourselves up to speed with what's going on in multiple conversations. If we want something more meaningful though we break away into a more focused conversation. Twitter=party, blog=DandM.

  27. Joseph Ferrara.sellsius says:

    Consider also the applications built around twitter that add to its value for business. I'll give 3 examples and ask your readers to add more:

    1. twitterlocal– a way to tap into conversations and build relationships with those folks in your market

    2. tweetbeep– like Google alerts, it's a way to have your ear to the ground. For example, if you cover certain condos in Miami and set up a tweetbeep for them, you are there to add to the conversation whenever it arises

    3. twitterfeed— if you believe syndication of your content is useful, then use Tf to automatically send your latest blog post to the community–

    For my clients who use these tools, they've seen their daily blog visitors increase, as well as their subscribers and twitter followers.

    Hope this helps.

  28. Ed says:

    Judging Twitter based on a sample of average users is like judging Microsoft Excel based on a random sampling of average users that can't create formulas or even sort.