Facebook, your brand, and the company you keep

Recently, I shared some thoughts on Facebook here. And subsequently raised questions regarding Twitter here.

I view Facebook with some measure of reserve. It’s catching on big in real estate and, while it holds great promise, the stampede to its banks may cause many to overlook the crocs that lie in waiting.

While I believe it’s a place to establish an online persona — and a far better one than the “About You” section of your website — there is also something undeniably bizarre and counterfeit about it that fuels my wariness.

Facebook began as a college directory, and, in that guise, the friend network made sense. As it moved beyond the collegiate environment, I toyed with the idea of Facebook as a new White/Yellow Pages that not only offered contact information, but a personal look at those listed and what they’re about.

And I thought that was pretty cool.

But over the last year, as Facebook has finally caught on in real estate, I am getting more and more creeped out by the “Friend” thing.

Many of us are guilty of willingly accepting strangers asfriends” on Facebook. And Facebook does not offer a way to distinguish between a true lifelong friend, a casual friend, a client, a reader, a prospect, a stalker, etc. You might think, big deal. But next time you go check someone’s Facebook profile and notice they have 3,000 friends, I wonder how honest of a representation you’ll find that to be.

Through this mish-mash of associations, those who are really your true friends — those whose own brands and reputations stand as testimony to yours by virtue of a true connection — become diluted.

For the casual Facebook user, this might not mean a darn thing. But for a real estate person who intends to derive professional value from it, one who is seeking ways to offer a more transparent look inside their business and themselves, I not only question the value of surrounding oneself with hundreds of strangers called friends, I worry about the potential adverse affect this might have on the very reputation you are trying to build.

I’m not the only one dwelling on this. Meezoog, a startup out of Israel with a core focus on dating, has built a social proximity meter into its platform dealing precisely with this issue. Unlike LinkedIn or Facebook or most social networks that allow us to play in the six degrees of separation game, Meezoog believes that placing a value on our connections is not only important, but serves to enhance the trust which, in their world, the one of dating, could lead to compatibility.

In our real estate world that very same trust leads to building a better brand.

This is an interesting and consequential development in light of the user generated love-in that has characterized the Web 2.0 phenomenon.

I won’t deny the success many in real estate have had scraping Facebook’s surface for business and or marketing opportunities, much like I won’t deny the success some have had scraping bus benches, shopping carts, bus tours and magnets combing for opportunity.

But I worry about the mark all these things place on the balance sheet of our brand P&L. After all, you are the friends you keep.

What if we could evaluate our Facebook friends and categorize them according to who they really are in our world? That would be great. As it turns out, Meezoog plans to offer their proximity meter to other social platforms such as Facebook, which would allow users to do something close to what I am suggesting.


As we continue to show and tell ourselves on the grand online stage, we should be be careful about who joins us.

– Davison