3 Online Solutions for Agents to Watch Out For in 2011

Each and every year we see new online solutions or technology that enter our industry, many are raised and discussed here at length on this blog. There are 5 levels of adoption in most innovations and the challenge of many of these solutions is to break through the Innovator and Early Adopter levels and start being adopted by the Early Majority and Late Majority. The last level, The Laggards will only be taken kicking and screaming when everybody else has already adopted the innovation.

With online solutions its possible for an innovation to rapidly move through each level far quicker than the offline world would allow. Look at the use of Facebook and Twitter in our industry. A little over 18 months ago Twitter and Facebook where only being used by the Innovators and the Early Adopters in our industry. That quickly changed and by the end of 2009 it was being picked up by the Early Majority and today we see the start of the Late Majority joining the party.

So it had me thinking whats going to be the big things of 2011 online for real estate agents and early evidence suggests that three big breakouts to hit the Early Majority for 2011 will be Video, Mobile and Single Property Websites.
To breakout to the majority things generally have to change. There is generally and update or a new technology or something that facilitates the change and for my suggestions there is a change that will facilitate that greater adoption.

Video

Video has been used by real estate agencies for a few years. Online video broke through to the majority with the advancement of broadband internet connections to the home and Youtube is now one of the world’s most popular websites. Despite this video has not reached the same popularity in our industry and has remained a niche product only with the Early Adopters.

So whats going to change? Realestate.com.au is about to launch their video product. Domain were first to the punch last year but realestate.com.au are going to be doing it bigger and better and has gathered the resources and man power from around the country under one banner.

This army of video contractors will provide a consistent product across the country but best of all video will be a main feature of the realestate.com.au portal and will finally come of age in our industry. 2011 will have video written all over it and you can smell it in the air. Every article published on Business 2 so far this year includes something about video.

Mobile

Smartphones and Tablets are becoming hugely popular placing internet access into the palms of the people and they are using it to visit our websites. Over the past couple of years some real estate website providers have offered mobile websites to their clients but till now the concentration has been on making the property pages fit a mobile device and not the whole site.

On our website we are currently receiving an average of over 25 unique visitors every day from mobile devices including ipods, ipads, iphones and android devices. By the end of the year I expect that number to triple or even more as these “smarter” phones and web enabled mobiled devices become more and more popular.
What stood out most though was that the majority of visits were to non-property pages. In fact 75% of visitors came from Google to view a non-property page.

If that is how the public are viewing our websites we as agents need to deliver the best experience to them and start offering mobile friendly versions to those arriving with via mobile devices. More and more agents will create 100% mobile optimised sites.

Single Property Websites

I remember creating a standalone property website from scratch for a client many many years and swearing that I would never do it again. Over the past couple of years templated versions have become popular allow agents to create a standalone website in minutes. They have certainly attracted their fair share of Early Adopters in the industry but have struggled to gain a wider acceptance.

TheHomePage.com.au is one of Australia’s newest free portals and the team is thinking outside of the box with many things they are doing. Along the way the team may have found the magical ingredient that will introduce single property websites to a much wider audience and have called it MyPropertyAddress.com.au. With the previous suppliers there was still a significant investment in time uploading and commissioning the website. Whilst it is no longer measured in hours like my original attempt year ago it is still a significant amount of time especially when you are doing multiple property. When you factor in price changes for all of your property the time invested can still be quite significant.

Because TheHomePage.com.au already receive all of your information as a portal (and if you are not sending your properties to them now, I recommend you should) they can make a single property website with literally a couple of clicks.

The result is a professional website with great SEO benefit back to your main website with very little effort. The site will be constantly updated with absolutely no additional time needed at all.

Here are a couple of examples :- http://84teasdaledrivenerang.com and http://224theesplanadeuminabeach.com.

You can probably expect the current manual style operators scrambling to get hold of an xml feed themselves to replicate the sheer simplicity. You might also see other companies who already receive or send xml property feeds try and tap into this type of product and join the fray. For now though thehomepage’s MyPropertyAddress.com.au is the only one that I know of that has the process as simple as possible

These are for my mind the top 3 solutions that are on the horizon of making the biggest impact for agents online. The real question is though, are you going to be the Early Majority, the Late Majority or one of the Laggards.

mobile, mypropertyaddress.com.au, Realestate.com.au, thehomepage.com.au, Video

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About Glenn Batten

Glenn Batten is the General Manager at First National Real Estate Nerang and Principal at the First National Real Estate Upper Coomera office and has over 20 years real estate experience and a passion for technology. Glenn has been writing from an agents perspective on industry issues and covering a range of topics on Business2 since 2007.

31 Responses to 3 Online Solutions for Agents to Watch Out For in 2011

  1. Simon Cashman January 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    nice post Glenn couldnt agree more. maybe you should take a look at some of our Property Micro sites; Campaigntrack integrated and enginered with many many features that are completed automated and SM centric. Allot to talk about… heres one e.g.

    7beautydrive.com

    …..drop me a line love to talk more about Campaigtrack(us) for one; Our Active Vendor and Active Agent platforms and more

  2. Robert Simeon January 21, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    Glenn – Happy New Year to you.

    Agreed that video will be the big player in 2011 (actually the dominant) a picture tells a thousand words and a video tells the entire story.

    I see a fracturing of property portals with video given – will a http://www.visualdomain.com.au video be allowed to appear on the REA portal? And vice versa?

    It would be pointless for us to use a REA video as they are no longer dominant in our demographic markets so if our videos could not be uploaded to REA the simple solutulion (and much more likely) in that it would see us then cancel that subscription.

    Video is here as too the reality that many demographic areas now only require the one property portal subscription. Given our traffic these days on REA is close to non – existent there really is no vaild reason for us to continue paying for properties to be displayed when nobody for our markets is logging on there.

    The portals will have their preferred providers so what happens to agents who use their preferred video company? Or, a savvy agent who shoots his own video and wants to upload that to the portals they subscribe to!

    Video has opened up an entirely new “can of worms” – and a can that some will have difficulty worming out of 🙂

  3. Robert Simeon January 21, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

    Regading the websites last year we successfully integrated a secondary website within our main website for properties. Here it is (with video) 🙂

    http://www.rwm.com.au/23princealbert/

  4. Tatiana Mijalica January 21, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    What I like the most about http://www.mypropertyaddress.com.au is that if an agency decides to use individual property websites across all their listings, thehomepage.com.au has automated the process even further.

    The agency literally does not need to do a thing.

    As soon as one of their new properties appears on thehomepage.com.au, the portals backend system takes care of the rest and the agency receives an email confirmation within hours with the new URL that has been created i.e. http://www.33edgevaleroadkew.com

    It works on the same principle as when you feature all your properties on REA or Domain. So simple, no additional work for admin and 100% automated.

  5. Sean Reynolds January 21, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    More and more people are starting to look online for property information, especially house hunting and general research. Anyone who’s anyone is setting up a blog or a forum or some sort of online presence, so it really is the way to go! Personally I believe we saw massive population rise during the past years and interest rates are still low. Most cities saw rises of 20% in property value since GFC. Consequently renters face catastrophic rent rises or better choice of buying property before house prices skyrocket further (already unfolding). Bears tell you we

  6. Greg Vincent January 21, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

    Glenn, your spot on, but even though you’ve already mentioned it, if there was a number 4 it would have to be Social Media. This space is at such an infancy stage within our industry that it is set to take off too this year.

    Disclaimer: I own http://www.HomeWebsites.com.au a site that provides agents with Single Property Websites.

    We have just launched some ‘new’ looks into the mix and have a few extra features.

    Ben Stockdale has made some great inroads since joining TheHomePage.com.au and should be congratulated.

    The Single Property Websites space has been steadily growing in uptake but now as agents struggle with the ongoing fight for supremacy on the major portals (using Feature All options etc to try to make sure their listings get noticed) I’m pleased to see that there are a lot more agents who are now looking for better ways to stand out from their competition.

    Just a quick word of warning about Single Property Websites if I may?
    One thing agents should not get confused by is the difference between a stand alone, dedicated website hosted on its own domain name and a sub-domain with URL forwarding.

    I know an agent who went out to a listing and told the sellers that they were going to give them a website for their property and showed the seller a sub-domain. The seller was in IT and the agent ended up with complete egg on their face.

  7. Sandra Connors January 21, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    I was thrilled to read your article, but was then disheartened with the same fear as Robert. Will our client’s videos be no longer welcome on REA?

    After over 30mins on hold with REA and diverted to many different departments, no one was able to answer my question.
    All I spoke to in fact admitted they new nothing of this launch.

    Obviously our company is a small fish in the Property Video arena, but our clients are still REA’s clients. I look forward to hearing from their Marketing Department within 24hrs as promised!

  8. Robert Simeon January 21, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    Sandra – Domain have subsequently told me that they will *NOT* be adopting a “walled garden” approach with video.

    This point does require clarrification from all property portals.

  9. Glenn Batten January 21, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    I think the smart play would be for the portals to be open to videos generated through each other. Where the pressure may come to bare is in the total spend. There is only so much that can be spent by owners or agents on advertising and if video becomes popular then you have to wonder what will get cut. A second portal or more print?

    I can only hope that each of the portal will treat video of all sources the same. I believe that Domain did give special treatment to their own video with large play buttons but that has since changed… can anybody actually confirm this? We will have to wait and see what REA do.

  10. Glenn Batten January 21, 2011 at 6:12 pm #

    Simon,

    I was unaware that you had access to xml feeds from the majority of agents in place already. I thought you pushed data out for your clients only?

    The unique part of the thehomepage offering is if an agent was using a website provider that had no single property page solution they can leverage the typical feeds that are already in place between the major data sources and the portals.

  11. Glenn Batten January 21, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    Greg,

    Social Media has hit the masses. The percentage of offices with some sort of Social Media presence is probably around 30 to 40%. That takes it well and truly past the early adopter stage. The problem with Social Media and real estate is that many agents are not doing it well and are not doing it efficiently. In fact there is only a handful of agents that you could say do it very well and then its really only one solution like Facebook.

    I am rapidly coming to a conclusion that there is not one agent using twitter well with clients.. I asked the question probably about 6 months ago and I personally checked out every twitter account that was suggested as being one of the best. When removing the spammers, porn links, affiliate marketers and other real estate agents there was very few left. If you then removed anybody out of the immediate area very few people had over 50 possible local followers.

    If you know of an agent that you believe that can stand up to the above scrutiny and boast large levels of local followers then let me know. There has to be at least 1 doesnt there ?

    Blogs and Facebook… different story. There are big success stories there…

  12. LetPropertyRentProperty January 22, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    I also think consider the tight squeeze these days that more landlords will be turning to online letting agents or sellers using online estate agents to reduce their costs saving them significant amounts of money.

  13. Greg Vincent January 22, 2011 at 9:10 am #

    Glenn, there are lots of agents who are dipping their toe in but there are only a few who are actually in there swimming with the tide. I haven’t seen a good example on Twitter that I would be happy to share as an example of what to do because I haven’t seen anyone really embrace the geo-targeted capabilities of Twitter search.

    The same could be said about Facebook and Blogging. There are only a few that a consumer would even want to follow, fan or subscribe to. Therein lies a golden opportunity for the Innovators and Early Adopters throughout 2011 to build a strong base of localised raving fans who are connected and engaged with your brand.

    Adopting the other 3 online solutions, Video – Mobile – Single Property Websites will also help to provide better online engagement and create a USP for the Early Adopters.

  14. Vic January 22, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Glenn,
    A great post, together with Greg’s affirmation that social media should also be included. I can just see portal owners, agents, video producers and web developers scrambling to bring together packages that will leapfrog the “bits and pieces” approach that is currently out there. Maybe it will take a completely new web presence with the complete gamit of resources to bring it all together.
    Individually I do not see any “one” organization which has pulled it all together. Thehomepage, being a relatively new operator, may be the one to break from the pack and do it. The “big Three” are miles away from doing it and adds further weight to the argument that they are becoming dinosaurs in the industry.

    We are putting off some innovations at present in the hope of getting our future leapfrogging beyond 2012.

  15. Tatiana Mijalica January 22, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    With regards to the social media

  16. Glenn Batten January 22, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    My only thought is that the industry does not have to “watch out” for social media in 2011. We have been blogging about it for years now and the industry will be all over it again in 2011 but for my mind it is well and truly here and unlike the other three, a lot of agents are trying it already.

    Don’t get me wrong, most, including ourselves need to improve their use of it either through better efficiency or education.

    Think of this another way..

    Go and ask the next 100 hundred agents you meet if they are on facebook, twitter or are they blogging. I reckon 90% will know what you are talking about and around 30 to 40% will already be using one or more of these tools and another 30% or so will have a plan to use them this year.

    With the other three try and ask the same question and compare the results. Very few would be using them or have a plan to implement them in 2011.

    I think they are at different stages of innovation acceptance in our industry. Social Media has gone past the Early Adopter stage and is well and truly entrenched in the Early Majority. Social Media is like websites use to be. In the late 90’s a lot of agents had one but not too many were that good 🙂

    This article was more about the products being used by the few that by the end of the year will be start to be picked up by many more.

  17. Vic January 22, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    Glen,

    Iv’e got to disagree with you. Are you suggesting that 4/5000 agents are using twitter and facebook? Maybe in the close circle of “advanced” agents that you mix with are ahead of or up to the game 🙂 but I will bet that most that are in your category that “have heard about it” are not using it or if they are have no real understanding of how to reach their required audience, and I’ll also bet that unlike Robert S, the smaller % that are using it do not have the discipline of use to make it effective.

    The key is to use all new innovations to develop a raving fan base (Greg’s quote) via social media: and so far only a small % are capable of doing it.

  18. Greg Vincent January 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Glenn, I agree that there are a lot of agents who have Social Media accounts but when you say that ‘Social Media is like websites used to be’, to use that website analogy to explain where I see a lot of agents currently with their SM.

    Many agents have the domain name registered…some have the domain hosted…some have a website with some content…but only a handful have done anything about optimising the site to get relevant traffic & conversion.

    I suppose this is where I see the difference & the golden opportunity for agents in 2011.

    Tatiana, those that say don’t post listings are missing the point of the whole exercise. People love going online to look at property, especially in Australia, but I agree it can’t be the only thing you post (boring) otherwise they may as well just go surfing on the property portals or subscribe to their Property Alerts.

    Be interesting and interested is the key.

  19. Tatiana Mijalica January 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    With the mobile component, I have noticed there are now quite a few apps now available from iTunes from various agencies. Most of these are no different to mobi sites with an app attached.

    I’m afraid I am missing the point on these for individual agency apps and would love to know their download numbers.

    They are all the same and have exactly the same features i.e. only a search function. The only one with a difference is Toop & Toop that has successfully integrated Toop TV into theirs.

    I would be surprised to see a consumer download an app of a particular agency when they can download the REA/Domain and see all the listings available in their search area.

    Personally, I feel apps will only be viable when they are able to bring in additional functionality to the current simple search and to be both Android and Apple compatible.

  20. Glenn Batten January 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    Vic,

    Feel free to disagree all you like..

    I said 30% to 40% would be using one or more of either Twitter, Facebook or blogs. Not 4-5000 using Twitter AND Facebook.

    The last stats I seen were 6.9m Australians over the age of 18. I can’t see why agents would not be taking up social media any less than the general population and in fact I reckon they might be more than the average.

    Lets be clear, I dont think agents I “mix with” are any more advanced than any others.

    But… to check my guess.. I went in and searched just the Facebook Pages for First National Real Estate and found 20% of the membership would have gone to the trouble of setting up a Facebook Page.. In addition to business pages you also have to remember that many setup the business as a facebook personal profile or a Facebook groups. On top of that you also have thousand of individual accounts (sorry.. but I am not counting them all) that come up under the specific term “First National Real Estate”.

    If you were to select some other groups you will have even a higher takeup especially smaller groups. example… A search on Barry Plant shows probably close to 100% have Business Pages. There is also well over 200 Ray White offices alone just with active Business Pages.

    Now that I have actually done some searches I reckon its easily possible that 30% of real estate offices would have a presence on Facebook alone.

    Vic… Maybe its the agents you mix with that are not so Facebook friendly.. 🙂

  21. Vic January 22, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

    Glenn,

    Good to see you haven’t lost your sense of humour but you have lost your arithmetic skills. If 20% of First Nat agents only, have a facebook presence, it is likely that 50% of those are not using it effectively. Would you give me that point? Then if this was extrapolated across the agent community it could mean only 10% are making good use of social media.

    I think you are trying to dazzle us with your white shoes:)

  22. Glenn Batten January 22, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

    You are kidding right..??

    I said I “reckon” and “probably” 30 to 40% will have a presence…..will already be using twitter OR Facebook OR Blog. I did not say they are using it well or even how they are using it, just that they are.

    You challenge my numbers so I did some quick checks as really they were just gut feelings.

    I check just one feature (business pages) of just one of the three social media solutions (Facebook). I find that just looking at two national groups and one smaller group there is about 400 agents listed. When you consider agents are also using Facebook by:

    1/ Listing their business as a personal profile
    2/ Setting up different Groups
    3/ Engaging clients just using their personal profiles

    I reckon it’s safe to say that the real number of agents using Facebook for these three groups well north of the 400 figure. IMHo if you add the missing data in and then extrapolate it out you will hit 30% in Facebook alone.

    Then you have to consider that Twitter and blogging have not been factored in.

    But you take my 20% and half it because not everyone is using it effectively….. but that is not the claim you were trying to discredit.. . You are ignoring those agents that were not counted and changing the rules on what was.

    I also said the Barry Plant group was close to 100% but you did not want to use that for your magic halving.?? I wonder why. 🙂

    Vic, I reckon my numbers are pretty safe…… but since you want to apply the extra criteria of using it effectively I actually think your 10% is way over. As an industry we are using social media and we getting better but still have a long way to go……

    As to giving you your “point” go and read my comments again. I have said that from the start…you must have missed it 😉

  23. Vic January 22, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    Good arguments Glenn. The point I was trying to defend is that the use of social media should be included as a must for the industry to tackle in 2011, and your arguments just seem to confirm that point. Anyone can set up facebook and twitter but that does not mean to say they have reached the adopter stage. It would, in my humble opnion, have reached that stage when they effectively use it and it seems that on this point we agree.

    Yes I did miss “your point”, sorry, seems like we do agree on the point then.

    The Barry plant group at 100% seems to me to indicate that this franchise group is really taking it seriously. But two things on this score I’d ask: how many agents in the group and what % of the total Australian market do they represent. My last count was 80 offices which at best represents .75%(at most) of all Australian agents. So to factor in this miserly .75% to support an argument in extrapolation, doesn’t add up to me.

    If you get a moment have a read of Andrew’s post “agents -where the hell are you”, on our blog, thetide.com.au and you’ll see our experience.

    I hope you can see that I’m not knocking your post- which is a great one- but I’m just simply adding social media to the adopter stage. If my argument hasn’t convinced you, it matters little, I’ll still respect your view.

  24. Matthew N January 23, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    What good reason would anyone have to follow a Real Estate agent on Twitter?

    Twitter accounts are hardly used, twits not very much read, and when they are read it’s more about discussion within a community or industry as opposed to a bunch of avid consumers hanging on some person’s every word.

    Facebook will also be largely ineffective for most. Altitude Real Estate is the only one that I’ve seen that could be described as effective.

    I’m not trying to be a Luddite, but social media is for socialising. The huge waves of hype that flood marketing and branding blogs about social media simply doesn’t jell with my experience as a consumer.

  25. Greg Vincent January 24, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    Matthew, it’s a shame you feel that way because Social media Marketing can help the right agents build a huge profile.

    A similar question could be asked as to why would somebody subscribe to an agents newsletter when they can search Google for information?

    It’s about being able to build engagement & trust online and Twitter, Facebook, etc allows for an agent to extend their marketing reach very easily.

    Twitter also allows people to converse with others without having to be confirmed as a friend like you generally have to on Facebook.

    It’s also a simple, fast, effective publishing tool for sharing good content on the web PLUS it’s a search engine in its own right PLUS it gets indexed on Google and can help to build your personal profile online and that’s amongst other things that Twitter and some of the apps can do.

  26. Matthew N January 24, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    I agree that with application and a serious dedication to value-adding Facebook will be a gold-mine for some agents as most normal people use it. Twitter on the other hand is an echo chamber…

    Value-adding is the one big key for gaining momentum in social media… most seem to miss this.

  27. Trevor January 24, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    I think Matthew N makes some good points. I read recently that the average Twitter user is likely to be Gen X, while Facebook is more for Gen Y. I’m not sure that Gen Y (as a stereotype) care as much about real estate as the older human beings, while I’m not sure that Gen X would view Twitter as a marketing/sales medium (again with the stereotype, sorry).

    That said, Social Media is a great addition to an agent’s media mix. At the end of the day, it’s about the best medium to reach your target market and delivery doesn’t always equal readership or trust in the medium.

    *My usual disclaimer – even though it’s been a while between posts – I would for Fairfax*

  28. Trevor January 24, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    Sorry – I WORK for Fairfax – and am a lousy typist. 🙂

  29. Tatiana Mijalica January 24, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    I love this video that depicts the sentiments of many about Twitter!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=putQn89TQzc

    Twitter is fantastic B2B and my own website receives at least 750 click throughs each month that have come from Twitter.

    In the B2C space that agents are in I track post interactions and property interactions on behalf on my customers.

    The post click throughs are tracked via Analytics on the Agents blog, down to the post that was read and its popularity.

    The property click throughs are tracked via Analytics on the Agents website, down to which property was viewed and its popularity.

    As compared to Facebook traffic, the Twitter traffic is admittedly smaller, but is steadily growing. It

  30. Owen Biddle February 16, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    My clients use single property websites because it’s way for them to put their listing ahead of redfin, zillow, and trulia in google search results. All they need to do is follow these seo tips http://openhouseadvertising.com/educate/tips/seo_property_website_tips, which work for any property website.

  31. Nicholas Rait March 6, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    I find the MyPropertyAddress.com.au idea interesting but I’m not sure its practical or particularly good value.

    Glenn do you know what happens with the individual webpages once the property is sold?

    Does the webpage sit there forever providing a continued SEO advantage to your primary website (from a page with high page rank)…or does the page get pulled?

    If the page stays…what happens if you get a re-sale situation where another agent has previously sold the same property?

    I’d actually like to see a real estate office boldly take all of their properties off the internet. They could proudly say “None of our properties are online – to register for exclusive access to our private stocklist call us on xxxx-xxxx”

    Of course they would need pretty substantial traction in their area already, and its a bit of a risk but its so against the grain I think it could be an awesome buyer magnet.

    Ahh well, scattered thoughts.

    Nic

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