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