Cracking real estate's social media code

Why does facebook flourish?
Why does YourStreet struggle?
Why does Yahoo! Answers thrive?

Search me. And really, who really knows these things? At this point
in the short life of social media, anyone who puts forth claims to
absolute certainty is most likely a charlatan. There’s just not enough
data to support conclusive empirical work; not enough years to create
wisdom. We’re all feeling around in the dark to some extent.

Those trying to crack the real estate social media code are thus
left working the edges. We draw upon other bodies of work to throw our
best sneaky knuckleball at a moving target.

In some ways this is scary. But I like to think that it requires
creativity, intellectual curiosity and risk – in other words, the fun

It is in that spirit that I recommend Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,
by Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, to anyone thinking about
creating social applications in real estate, whether that be neighbor
to neighbor, Realtor to consumer or Realtor to Realtor.

Putnam assiduously (beware: this book is not a page turner)
documents the rapid decline of the American social fabric over the past
four decades. Civic organizations like Rotary have been decimated;
people visit and eat with their neighbors far less; casual social nodes
like bowling leagues and bridge clubs have become antique curiosities
or ironic hipster style statements.

I can’t begin to document the breadth of Putnam’s argument, or the
depth of data that support it, but the bottom line is clear: We form
meaningful connections with others far less than we used to.

You know the question this begs: What makes us in the real estate
2.0 world think we can buck a 40-year trend of social erosion with a
bit of php, some glassy logos and playful avatars?

It gives one pause.

OK, OK … it’s not all gloom and doom, There are rays of hope in
this book. Clues that might guide those of us seeking to build
connections between people around housing. You’ll have to read it to
get all of them, but there is a reason why the number of political
interest groups has mushroomed, or the amount Americans give to charity
has grown, in spite of the larger trend. It’s about reaching people in
ways that are convenient and asking of them only what they can
realistically be expected to give.

I’ll dig into these paths forward in a second post. In the meantime, buy the book!

— Brian Boero