Monday, December 18, 2006

Time’s Man of The Year is you…. So What Does This Mean to Real Estate?

Time magazine recently announced that due to the explosion of online social media, its man of the year is all of us that participate and contribute to online content on the web. What this means is that unlike previous history, today’s western world provides an individual voice to every man, woman, and child with an internet connection. Now there are a ton of social, caste, and class implications about that statement, but for those of you who use the internet to promote your real estate services, this revolution may have some drastic implications on how you approach your business.

Over the past few years we have all read that Real Estate Agents need a good REALTOR blog and that if you promote yourself online, a static web site is just not enough. We have also been encouraged to use our real estate blogs to differentiate, provide value, and drive interest in our business. By embracing these new tools, many of us have been able to carve a deep niche into the long tail of our market and attract quite a few clients. However, the man (or woman) of the year announcement is a harbinger of a much deeper wave that is sweeping the tide of human communication. Much like the dot com bubble of the late 90’s, online social networks and YouTube mimics are popping up everywhere. SE's are servicing specific niches and the MySpaces of the world are being subverted by specific media networks that serve very narrow niches and industries…. Let’s remember that ActiveRain is a great example of this phenomena. The wave of social media is overwhelming, but the implication for real estate agents is that their voices may soon get mired and lost in the overpowering static that is created by billions of online blogs, networks, posts, forums, and video sites. If a new blog is created every two seconds and that number is accelerating, it won’t be long before having a voice online will just not be enough to get noticed.

I like this time in online development to the initial introduction of the internet to the public. In its initial stages, the net was used primarily by universities and academics to share studies, papers, data, and researched-based facts. As more and more people jumped online thanks to AOL, Prodigy, and later by NetZero, the use of the net to share data shifted to more of a commerce-based platform. This resulted in the volumes of academic data becoming dwarfed by the explosion in commerce-related activity, and the land grab of every business to have a presence online. After the bubble burst and the dust settled, we had a few mega corporations, a number of bankrupt start-ups, and a society that new how to buy Christmas gifts online. Just to reiterate the point, the landscape had shifted to where it was a lot easier to find content generated by business than it was to find content from academia from a volume of data point of view.

Now we jump to the current age where blogging and social media has given a voice to the average user. Those real estate agents who have been the early adopters are much like the early commercial sites on the net who were competing against the established real estate that was owned by academia. The obvious difference is now it is the voice of the individual which is competing for space against the traditional click and mortar websites. However, the wave is coming in once again. Everybody is jumping on the social media band wagon and the VC’s are funding investment into its growth.

As a result, I predict a very similar wave will hit us within the next few years. By 2008, most people online will subscribe to some form of online expression. Some people may blog, some may post and chat, a few will even create videos and share visual media, but most individuals with an internet connection will express their views online. (The takeaway is that your real estate blog is going to get a lot more competitive) In addition, a multitude of niche-serving social medial sites will pop up to compete with each other for access to the voices of the individual. (Just spend a few minutes on to see how many social networks pop up on a daily basis.) Finally, the business model for the social sites will prove itself in a handful of industries, and those sites that do not generate revenue will eventually fade away.

So what are the lessons to be learned from the past? For the real estate agent, be an early adopter of technology. Create your blogs and podcasts and generate a following while the landscape is still sparse. Also, plan for the future. Include online media as a way to promote your business, but don’t forget the more traditional methods of marketing as well. Finally, look for ways to tie your online community into your off-line world. Connect with the readers of your blog over coffee (in person) and take online social networking into the real world.

1 comment:

Lucy said...

Yes, I totally agree. The new millennium has brought many changes in how we utilize technology. It’s amazing how imperative it is to have computer skills these days, whether you are a cashier at the local grocery or a real estate agent. There are several resources for potential home buyers to search the Internet and find the perfect home, leaving the agent out of most of the legwork. Read the very powerful Swanepoel Trends Report that just came out this month. Agents better you better watch out.