How do we fulfill the promise of Web 2.0 in real estate?
Yes, content. It’s been lost amid the Web 2.0 rave pulsing in our business for the past three years, a party threatened by a harsh dawn of hungover reality.
Let’s be frank:
- Most agent blogs are really bad
- Most brokerage attempts to participate in social media deliver little more than PR value
- Most Web 2.0 plays in the online real estate space have failed to ignite large scale consumer use
Social media is not a cosmetic for fundamental business blemishes. In fact, it may actually aggravate them. A bad blog is worse than no blog. Display of previously unaccessible real estate or community data without intense regard for quality and context does little more than pique curiosity, or, worse, create confusion.
New applications are great, but that’s the easy part. Content creation is the hard part. It’s less sexy, but it is what will win in the long run. This applies both to online real estate companies and brokerages.
A friend of my mine made the statement back in the Web 1.0 boom days that “The truth is, most of the applications out there don’t really work.” Today, we have tons of apps that do work, but too many are empty vessels, beautiful ships light in the cargo hold.
Hello in there …
Let me give you some examples:
Consumers reviewing Realtors. A great idea! Several companies continue to chase it. But has one broken out into widespread consumer use? When you go to these sites, do you, like me, catch a wave of loneliness? The number of real consumer reviews is terribly low. I make decisions based on review sites in other categories like TripAdvisor and Yelp. The Realtor review sites aren’t even close.
Well, Yelp invested in paying people to generate reviews to prime the user generated content pump; they continue to invest heavily in editorial moderation and quality. TripAdvisor spent tons of money on the marketing and distribution needed to reach consumer contributors. Code and content go hand-in-hand.
That’s not happening enough in online real estate.
Intimate knowledge of the community has always been a key element of a brokerage company’s value. Applications for leveraging that value online abound. Yet to this day, there are very few brokerage Web 2.0 success stories.
You can guess why. Blogs thrown up without a commitment to making them useful; shoddy writing; poorly conceived video. A lack of resources for creating the sort of content that creates the magic of “engagement” we all hear so much about.
Most brokers should remove or re-purpose their PR department. Make it an editorial department. “Managing Editor” not a typical brokerage title? Exactly. I am serious. Do it today!
Until this happens, you can expect few meaningful innovations here.
I won’t subject you to another rant about listings coverage on online real estate sites (though that is definitely relevant to my post here), so let’s just look at the larger quality issue. Listings are the most valuable piece of real estate content a broker or media property can display. We have apps for creating listing shows, video listing presentations, mobile listing delivery and more, yet too many listings still evidence few photos, crappy photos, all caps agent comments and just generally bad merchandising.
You can telepathically transport listing alerts direct to my cerebral cortex based on my mood and geocoordinates, but if the content is sloppy, you’re not really nailing it.
What do we do? Brokers, get tough with agents. No more typo-ridden comments and poorly composed photos. You can’t merchandise a listing online? Take your license somewhere else. NAR: Include minimum standards for online listings display in your Code of Ethics. I’m not joking. Getting online marketing right is no longer a benefit or differentiator, it’s a solemn obligation to sellers.
Street of dreams
Online real estate has been like a ride down the Las Vegas Strip for the past three years, an Electric Circus of Ajax, Ruby and Mirrors. It’s delivered some great things, but I am becoming more convinced that it is time to pull off to the side, grab a cup of coffee, and work on fundamentals.
— Brian Boero