I have scrutinized hundreds of real estate brokerages online now. Offering slicing constructive criticisms this last year, giving examples of "how to", even barbequeing a few impertinent old school practitioners, all these genuine efforts have only showed moderate successes. Some nice emails, sincere questions about how to make things better for broker and client, but still the home buyer or seller has little or no great representation online. And forget about mobile.
So, it's time for a wake up call. Oh ye of tiny listing thumbnails and lip service social engagement, hark! The following is a for real instructional, even a challenge to "would be" investor types. Take it from an old Internet hand, everything I say below can be done. I know, you are a bit curious, and my writing style, while flowing, is wordy, so here is a one minute instructional for taking over real estate online one-market-at-a-time.
First, the SERPs can be pretty much bought. If not outright via a good SEM campaign, then good old premium content and SEO strategy. Throw in some news, cutting edge site design and compliance, and especially some SM and user value, and Bingo! Trulia and Zillow move over. You see, there really is no one else out there. Okay, one or two to compete with for your attention -buyer or seller - but very few. In the startup world, venture capitalists or even my pals at the tech blogs might as for "differentiation" for a real estate startup, let's call our new "baby" Rooofus - all your property needs under one rooof, with a big R for you know what, and an extra o for good measure! Later on we'll stack those o's into a nice pile of smileys for a good logo. But for now.
Imagine a real estate website that does not show off white space and banner ads, but the home you want to sell, to buy. Fast, efficient, no nonsense, but imminently capable of answering your questions. Imagine following the link in the image below, and instead of a classy New York hotel, you find a Grand Rapids Realtor, selling houses, hooked to you via this site, social media, smart devices....
99.999 percent of real estate websites suck. Even the once in a lifetime octagenarian who takes his great grandson#s advice and looks for his retirement fishing cottage online, is apt to leave the web in disgust on venturing to what agents these days call Internet presence. I won't argue this point, and please don't be so obtuse as to come argue yourself either. To tackle this aspect we simply engage some friends of ours in the hotel marketing space, WIHP (World Independent Hotel Promotions), work out how to scale their Convert hotel booking strategy for real estate listings, then build out for each of 50 markets in the US. We can start with Atlanta maybe? To get the picture, look at a recent press bit my company Pamil Visions PR helped out WIHP with.
You see, WIHP Hotels was a successful Paris company, content with lapping up all the boutique and exclusive little gems in and about Paris, then outward to Budapest, Prague, Spain, blah blah, and Capri, Sicily, Argentina, and, and New York City! That's right, good news travels fast and the nicest boutique hotels in Manhattan, re-vamped as the Library Collection, bottom line "intelligently leveraging and executing with tools like WIHP's Convert marketing suite, will be a virtual tsunami washing over what's out there now. All you have to do is put a good roof over a leading edge plan, make it safe and warm inside, and.. Let's move on.
Okay, we just bought Roofus.com. Our pals over at WIHP in Paris have converted Convert. to engage perfectly any home seller or buyer, to show off an "experience" of the place being bought or sold, a value so concrete in digital form as to exactly portray what we are selling... Now what? People have to see our new and wondrous landing pages, now don't they? Enter WIHP Hotels again, along with the rest of our network, our own SEO and SEM capabilities, and WIHP's landmark adwords and other search engine marketing capabilities, media buy capablilties, and Pamil Visions media outreach capabilities (or Blueglass Interactive, MWW Group, Waggener Edstrom, whoever you choose to do the PR and marketing) Bingo! It is not rocket science once you have a nice storefont.
The same 99.999 percent of Realtors who even venture online to offer up their wares, and engage in social media practices, appear to real web experts as sociopath wanna be's for the most part. Just having a Twitter and LinkedIn account, tweeting every day about how wonderful you are, this does not make you or your business expert at anything. If it were up to me, anyone still doing hard sell social on Facebook or Twitter for their real estate company, should be forced to hold up a sign like the one below.
As a new friend just commented on a Skype call, "you call these revelations a Stroke of sudden wisdom." Of course he was not talking about running across some "would be" social media real estate guru, but the wisdom of knowing most don't get it or are too cheap and lazy to really accept engagement, this is a revelation all home buyers and sellers should take to heart.
If your agent does not take seriously the most powerful selling and communicative conduit since TV, what does that say about you paying he or she a percentage of your hard earned home equity to... to do what? Hope and pray somebody drives by and sees their sign? Uh hum. Back to our instructional. I showed off some genuine social media gurus on Everything PR News just the other day, ask them if I am lying!!!
Let's put it this way, anyone who knows their business on the social networks stands a million times greater potential for selling your home online, than some agent in Hoboken with a dilapidated website no one sees. Think about it, and start thinking about integrating all the stuff I am putting out here. Be a social media socialite. You can continue reading, try and absorb all this, or go visit Nicole Nicolay at MyTechOpinion, and get the tools to try this for yourself now. Nik Nik basically tells the same story only nicer and more friendly.
The wise and the wise-cracker out there is saying about now; "Yeah fine, but where do I get the money for all this?" Listen folks, my partner and I, with a very small team, write, edit, and/or publish 6 media outlets, contribute to a dozen more, service more than a dozen PR clients, operate no less than 50 social media accounts, and handle the day to day of running a few business ventures. It's about commitment, investing time and money. And yes, the rationale that says "if he is so smart, why doesn't be just take over?", this old adage is relevant. And there you have it.
For what the average idiotic Silicon Valley startup gets in investment to be a flop, we could take over just about every real estate market in the world, online, with hardly a whimper. That is unless Trulia and or Zillow, or maybe some Big Daddy property boss decided to hire it done. Even then, there's not doubt in my mind, not an inkling, that a large segment of real estate visibility online could be had quite easily. There is no one in the way! Imagine a sort of Ask.com meets TechCrunch, meets About.com, linked and interfaced with a near flawless and experiential site in all the major cities, then interlaced with every smaller one.
It sounds interesting, fantastic, to good to be true, impossible, doesn't it? What if somebody I send to read this is an Angel Investor? What if sayings like "Content is King" - “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” by Steve Jobs - “The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what makes it so powerful.” by Jonathan Zittrain - the reaching dogmatic that is Internet jargon, what if it is all true. Is Zillow the best there is? Hmm. Come on, I dare you, investigate how lame some of these markets are.
“The Internet has been the most fundamental change during my lifetime and for hundreds of years.” – Rupert Murdoch
This rant, this appeal, this plug for contemporaries in Paris or New York, it is not about what you may think. If you considered that I would like some VC out there to call me up and say; "Let's do it!" - you would be right. If you also considered people like me just want to see if done, see if better, then you would be correct too. A lot of us are just sick of seeing mediocre efforts, both for clients and for the businesses that fuel our economy, our lives. It's about time somebody just led, followed, or got the hell out of the way. All that stands in the way of a multi-million dollar online real estate win is execution.
You are welcome WIHP and all the others I plugged here, and/or gave ideas to. Maybe you have an itch to create the next cool thing, a better way for John and Jane Doe to sell or buy a home. Maybe. Let's see, I think anybody with a little investment can be the next real estate tycoon.
Watch the video below.
Image credits: Andrius Repsys & Fotolia, BortN66 - Fotolia.com, and Thomas Pajot - Fotolia.com.
great article Phil, and a point that I've been trying to make to my local brokers for years. Part of the problem is that brokers depend on their franchise brand to provide a cookie cutter website for each office. Individually brokers focus very little on internet marketing, and most do not understand even the basics. The result is that the big national names, move.com, homegain.com and realtor.com capture all of the leads and sell them back to the brokers who are totally unaware that they are being taken advantage of when the internet is concerned.
Thanks Donna, spot on, and you should know if anyone does. This does not just go for real estate agents, but for business in general. I am just appalled that Realty is this goofed up.
With about $300,000 I could lead the SERPs in any market anyone can name. At least get in the top ten. Some people are really missing the boat here.