I was fortunate to be able to attend the Real Estate Connect Conference in San Francisco in July, as well as a RE BarCamp and the Property Portal Workshop the same week … Peter asked if I could give my impressions, so here are my main five takeaways from the week.
1. SOCIAL Engagement
Your real estate market place is conversing, learning, sharing and living on social networks. There’s no debate about having to be there, it is more about how to engage (probably the word I heard most all week).
- 107 trillion e-mails were sent last year, 89% were spam. (Trend: email is dying, the younger gens don’t email anymore, they connect via social networks)
- There are 1.8bn email accounts, but now 3bn social accounts. Social overtook email a year ago.
- By Christmas 2012, Facebook will have 1 billion members.
- 14% of people believe advertising, 90% believe personal recommendations in the social space (Trend: do less advertising, do more work in the social space)
- 75% people share a good recommendation with a friend
- 58% of business discoveries are from friend recommendations
However, be warned – don’t just jump in without thinking. People out there are more confused than ever; you need to give them clarity, brevity and direction.
The local real estate agent should think of themselves more as a media company. Your job is not to be better than another broker, but to be better than the local paper’s journalist.
For the best example of customer service done via social media, Google “Peter Shankman Mortons Steak House”’
2. The World’s gone MOBILE
You need to design your web site (your whole customer experience online) for mobile, not the regular PC.
Mobile is a priority because your clients are using it, and this trend will increase. Within two years, there will be more surfing the Net on a mobile device than a regular PC.
People’s app phones therefore become the device they want them to be – to help them work, play games, contact their friends and make new ones, even to play a musical instrument (see ‘Ocarina’ app). Apps like ‘word lens’ translate anything you point the phone at, even translating in the correct font and colour!
- 82% use Internet to research, 25% include mobile for research
- in the States 1 in 6 real estate queries are now on mobile = 16%.
- however 4 in 5 businesses are not ready on mobile – that’s like only being open on Tuesday!
- consumers love clicking to call. 60% of these searches end up with a call to the business. 60% visit.
- Mobile users are more engaged (that word again), are 1.6 more times to email an agent, 3 times more likely to call agent than PC user (they have a phone in their hand after all)
- Mobile users 2.5 more likely to look at the property page than PC users
- 2 times as likely to visit agent site (yet most don’t have mobile sites set up!)
- 5 times more likely to share on social networks than PC viewer
3. Everything’s Going TOUCH
The PC is dead, we are post PC.
This move to tablet is a big change, it’s like going from DOS to Windows, from silent to talkies, from black & white to colour.
Mobile app phones and tablets (like the iPad) are fundamentally different devices. You can’t design for all 3 screens. The experience and context are different.
The ‘draw’ tool on realtor.com’s iPad app allows the user to touch the screen and draw (with your finger) an area of the map they are interested in. The area shades in and properties fly in. An ‘InBox’ listing the same properties opens on the left and you can interact with either.
The ‘scout’ tool on the same app allows you to drive through a neighbourhood with the information updating in real time as you drive (obviously the passenger has the iPad, you are driving!)
Once you have experienced the tactile nature of the iPad, the keyboard and mouse of a regular PC does not seem so great anymore.
4. LIFESTYLE Search
Property & business searching has been pretty much the same in 15 years – you click for regions and suburbs, price ranges and bed/bath and hit the search button. This is (when you think about it) a very crude database driven result, and is not thinking about things from the customer/user’s point of view.
With property searching for example, few people know the post codes, and people don’t start with bedrooms and suburbs anyway, it’s more commute times, schools, near a park, … Consumers have been going off and seeking this information and then getting back to the portals to search for properties, now the portals and real estate web sites need to have this embedded. These sites will be the ones of the future.
People are looking and thinking about lifestyle 18 months before they move house or change job or buy a business. It’s only in the last few months they actually look at houses or the businesses concerned. So start with lifestyle.
The best site doing this is Nabewise.com – a site set up last year in New York, which has now covered over 18 US cities.
Another site doing this well is Walkscore. They calculate a score (out of 100) on how walkable the local amenities are to it. Unbiassed referrals are more higher praised, and now agents are mentioning the ‘walkscore’ rating in their ads.
5. Your Online REPUTATION
In these days of instant blogging and social networking, anyone can write anything they like whenever they like, to anyone, anytime.
The same way we love Google so we can find the best camera or car, read reviews and such, so the public will use it to find the best real estate agent.
Don’t think you can turn your back on this – people will talk about you anyway. If people are angry they will post. They will vent on Twitter. There are far more people buying and selling their property than there are real estate agents. So there is much more chat ABOUT real estate agents than the chat real estate agents create.
What can you do?
– the most important thing is join in, engage (that word yet again) and not retreat
– use your Facebook community page and Twitter account, and blog local
– monitor: set up google alerts (google.com/alerts) – set them up for your name, your business (with various misspellings);
– Use Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to check on relevant ‘streams’ of chat
– if you get a negative, engage respectfully and see if you can put it right. If you turn them around, they will become your best advocate.
– deliver as many pages that you control as possible so you own the first few pages of Google.
How to do it wrong?
Don’t Streisand yourself. In 2003 she sued a photographer over photos of her house (he had innocently photographed her house in one of 12,000 published photos of the Californian coastline), but this became the story. “Streisanding yourself” then became a term. Freedom of speech is popular on the web, and if there is an attempt to restrain that, it is very unpopular. This really back fires. It ends up Streisanding.