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Content Ownership and Other Urban Legends

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WordPress vs. ActiveRain

First, let me preface this article by saying that I’m not choosing sides here. As one who has invested a considerable amount of time and energy in contributing content on both the ActiveRain Network and my own WordPress blog, I find value in both platforms. I know some wonderfully successful real estate professionals who have utilitzed ActiveRain, and have derived tremendous value & benefit from their involvement there. Conversely, I know of many other RE bloggers who enjoy significant enhanced business through their ‘stand-alone’ WordPress or Typepad blog. My point here is not to elevate one over the other, but to simply dispel some misunderstandings or misconceptions as they relate to the ownership of content.

Content Fairies

There are those who purport the belief that publishing blog content on ActiveRain somehow causes you to ‘lose’ your right of ownership to said content. Evidently, during the wee hours of the morning, the ActiveRain Content Fairies come out and steal your precious literary gems, and sell them to lead generation companies or exchange them for blackmarket Google juice.

Simple Things for Simple Minds?

Many times, these WordPress junkie ‘purists’ make it sound as though any measure of participation in the Rain is a complete waste of time, and should only be reserved for the technology-challenged or simple-minded. It should also be mentioned that these same critics usually have had little or no experience as an actual vested member of ActiveRain.

One of the most common criticisms levied towards ActiveRain is conveyed in this recent comment by a popular RE blogger:

“To me, the main reason you wouldn’t blog on ActiveRain– you don’t own the content. When you don’t own the content, bad things can happen.”

‘Bad’ things happen? Sounds like one of those ghost stories you told as a kid to scare all your friends.

Just What Exactly is Our ‘Own?’

These same folks go on to tell you that if you want to be a ‘real’ RE blogger, that you owe it to yourself to have your own domain, your own host, and your own blog platform, so you can ‘own’ all of your own content. Typically, they recommend that you create your own blog using WordPress.

Well, the last time I checked, the content you publish on ActiveRain IS yours. If you ever want to leave the Network, and wish to migrate your content over to some other location, they will compile your blog archive in whatever format you wish, and you take it with you. It’s yours.

There is, however, some rather heated debates going on in various blogging circles, with regards to employee content. As an employee with a blog, does your content belong to you, or to your employer? Who has final say and control? Would that apply to real estate agents, even though we are technically sub-contractors, and not true employees?

Risk Management

Now some will say, “But what if ActiveRain goes out of business? Or their servers blow up? What happens to your content then?”

Well, the same could be said of WordPress.com, Typepad, or whatever host server you’re using. What would happen if WordPress.org suddenly disappeared?

My advice? Back up everything you write. Create a folder on an external hard drive, and place a copy there of every post. Bad things can happen now matter where you blog!

There are inherent risks associated with whatever platform you elect to use. Each has their own unique advantages and disadvantages. In the end, it’s simply a matter of personal preference, and what best supports/achieves your specific business/marketing goals.

There is no right or wrong, better or worse. Use what works best for you, and results in greater success!

Writer for national real estate opinion column AgentGenius.com, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.

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63 Comments

63 Comments

  1. Jim Cronin

    July 28, 2008 at 11:59 am

    The instant your write something (regardless of its location) it is arguably under your copyright… so the content is yours, unless you have somehow waived that right before you started writing.

    My only concern with ownership is the platform itself.

  2. daniel martin

    July 28, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    As a contributor to my own blog, a multi-author blog, Active Rain, and a few other guest postings I had to wrestle with this very early on in my blogging career. I have to agree with @Rich here.

    Your content will always be yours. You can export it, copy and paste it, or even delete it entirely from almost any platform if you so choose. The issue has become much larger than it should be among those less familiar with the blogger/platform provider relationship (or ignorant bloggers for short).

    As Rich says, back it up and, if you are still paranoid, time stamp it by emailing to yourself through GMail, Yahoo, or one of the others online email providers. This way, if someone “pirates” your goods or it disappears you have the backup and proof of ownership.

  3. Lane Bailey

    July 28, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Good job, Rich.

    I know that I own my A|R directed content. There isn’t anything in the ToS that I can see that says I am releasing that content to A|R. I get a little kick out of seeing that all over the place.

    What I don’t own is the space that content sits in… but that isn’t any different than opening up a store in a shopping center… you don’t own the space, but you do own everything inside.

    And as for A|R going out of business or servers blowing up… that is at least as likely to happen with your host on a “self-hosted” blog. All of that said, I have my A|R blog (and complimentary “outside A|R blog), as well as a dynamic website and my own WordPress blog. By the end of the week it is likely i will have another blog outside of the A|R platform.

    A|R is great, but there are limitations. WordPress is great, but there are limitations. A|R is a great place to learn and build capabilities, and is a great place to rub elbows with peers and vendors. A|R’s Localism is a good platform for creating hyper-local content and presence (I think there is a better one… ;^ ).

    Balance…

  4. Bill Lublin

    July 28, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Rich; I never got the controversy. My first blogging attempts were on AR, but they really didn’t take and being sporadic there would be an improvement.

    My next step was Blogger, where I created MovePhilly and that platform was a little more sophsiticated but still comfortably basic for me. But I did feel the need to grow more sophisticated, and that led me to a self-hosted wordpress blog with REreflections which is still a learning experience for me, but is the most professional look of all three blogs – IMHO. However in the final analysis, you’re 100% on the money when you talk about using whatever works for you.

    In whatever community. Its better to do something then it is to wait and do nothing while waiting to do the one perfect thing.

  5. Zak Nicola

    July 28, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Thanks to sites like Google and waybackmachine, owning your content is not really an option. At the same time, locking all your content down so that no one can possibly create a duplicate of your original would defeat the purpose of having it on the net in the first place, right?

  6. David Giesberg

    July 28, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    (disclaimer: I don’t follow RE scene too closely)

    For content ownership, it can be more than a matter of legal ownership – it can also spread to brand ownership. If you have complete control over your brand (like a self-hosted blog) then you are no longer at the mercy of a third party – your brand is YOU, not whoever hosts your content.

    Take music for example, MySpace sites are practically a requirement for any band. You shouldn’t make that your only online home – you need a “base” that you can control yourself, otherwise people will, when thinking about your presence online will think of MySpace, thus diluting the brand that they are trying to build.

    That said, I agree that you need to do what works for you, because in the grand scheme of things, it’s better to have something online than to be intimidated and do nothing at all.

  7. Rich Jacobson

    July 28, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Jim: We should always exercise caution wherever we post. Surprisingly, not everyone is looking out for our best interests!…There are so many opportunities out there these days. We need to be very deliberate and discerning when it comes to investing our intellectual property, and determine where it’s gonna make the biggest bang for our buck.

  8. Rich Jacobson

    July 28, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Bill: Sounds like a great learning curve, trial and error, and eventually finding your fit. There are things I prefer with a WordPress over my AR blog, but both offer excellent results.

  9. Jim Duncan

    July 28, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    The content ownership issue has always been a part of my aversion to AR, but not the major issue. Mine has been the branding to which David speaks; that and the fact that if someone writes something offensive on AR, it is attributed to the entire brand. If someone (me) writes something offensive on my site, I know who is accountable.

    I did not know that AR would package and send the content, though. That’s great news (to me).

  10. David Giesberg

    July 28, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Another thing to think about is that AR gets all of your Google juice, so if you move your content away from AR, you lose out on any links to your content or PageRank that the stuff on AR might have had.

  11. Rich Jacobson

    July 28, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    David: Absolutely we need to be mindful of ‘who’ we align ourselves with, and exactly where our content shows up, within what context. There are obviously platforms where any reasonable RE professional would not want to have their articles show up….

  12. Rich Jacobson

    July 28, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Daniel: It was really great meeting you at REBarCamp and Inman. I especially appreciated your input during the video blogging session. Thanks for your comments here….time stamping is an excellent added suggestion.

  13. Rich Jacobson

    July 28, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Jim: I can totally empathize with your concerns. There is such a huge learning curve on AR, and so many who are just finding their blogging voice. Still, the majority of consumers find us through relevant search terms and the excellent ranking that AR offers. We are enforcing greater accountability on AR, and dealing very swiftly with those who would post anything offensive.

  14. Rich Jacobson

    July 28, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    David: It’s a two-way street. While your content is there, you benefit from the Juice that is generated, and the consumers who find you…

  15. Benn Rosales

    July 28, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    #6 David is a young man I highly respect and admire and his position is exactly mine. Thanks for taking the time David.

  16. Mariana Wagner

    July 28, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    I “get” the whole content-ownership thing. I just can’t find the post on Active Rain where there were the links to the different car dealerships, shoe stores and Ebay stores that accepted AR Points instead of cash, because THAT would be helpful.

  17. Bob

    July 28, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Rich, in your real estate career, have you ever asked the question, “Why rent when you can own?”

  18. Ben K

    July 28, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    I agree with Rich, though I’ve put my AR blog out to pasture aside from an occasional Localism post. In regards to business generation, AR just can’t compete against an agent’s blog, and in my opinion, AR is rather consumer unfriendly. To me, that’s a far more important issue than content ownership in respects to AR vs. WP. Rich also alluded to employee blogging…I was recruited to become a company blogger but I passed since we couldn’t agree over content control as work-for-hire content is owned by the employer and they weren’t budging on that.

  19. Jonathan Dalton

    July 28, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Respectfully disagreeing … sort of.

    Someone posting on Active Rain owns the content in as much as they can delete it, edit it, do with it whatever they will. But the same person doesn’t have full ownership; when Move was going to purchase Active Rain, there was no option for me to exempt my content from the sale (except to delete it, which destroys the point of having it up) or to cash in with the rest of the crew.

    The good folks at Active Rain can’t tell me what I can do with my content. At the same time, I can’t tell them what they can’t do with my content. And thus, I don’t fully own it if it’s there.

    As a side note, I’ve been looking for a place to delete my photos off Localism (which would further the notion that I own my own stuff.) I haven’t found it yet. Could just be me, though.

  20. Rich Jacobson

    July 28, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Bob: Whether you ‘rent’ or ‘own’ the bottom line is still the bottom line. What brings you business? What enriches your life?

  21. Rich Jacobson

    July 28, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Mariana: You never got a copy of the ActiveRain Gift Catalog? I just redeemed my 300K for a new H3!

  22. Rich Jacobson

    July 28, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Jonathan: Point well taken. As stated, there’s inherent risk wherever your content resides. If you want me to have your photos deleted from Localism, just let me know.

  23. Bob

    July 28, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Rich, that was a corporate shill non answer.

    There is, however, some rather heated debates going on in various blogging circles, with regards to employee content. As an employee with a blog, does your content belong to you, or to your employer? Who has final say and control? Would that apply to real estate agents, even though we are technically sub-contractors, and not true employees?

    Do you think Google has any claim to the content of Matt Cutts’ blog? How about MS and Scoble? No. You know that as well, but, hey, way to inject a little FUD by asking the question. Of course I could have assumed wrong and you don’t know the answer to that question, but if that’s the case, then perhaps you are out of your league defining what is urban legend with regard to copyright.

  24. Richard Weisser

    July 28, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Rich…

    There is a certain interdependent relationship between content aggregators and content creators. It is completely symbiotic, and necessary in a SEO world. All benefit from the relationship.

    I have found AR to be very sensitive to the needs of its members, and there seems to finally be some focus on hyper-localism that will benefit those that choose to exploit it.

    So why would I try to beat my head against the wall going up against a powerhouse like AR when I can just post and reap the benefits?

  25. Jonathan Dalton

    July 28, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Appreciate it, Rich, but it’s besides the point. Shouldn’t I be able to take them down myself if they’re mine? (And I readily admit I may have missed the spot where I could do it.)

  26. Rich Jacobson

    July 28, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Jonathan: You won’t get any argument from me on that point. I totally agree. I’m not sure why the process was made one-sided like that. I will mention it to Matt, and see if it’s something we can change. Thanks!

  27. Rich Jacobson

    July 28, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Bob, Bob, Bob…. are you the new Barry?…

  28. Benn Rosales

    July 28, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Barry isn’t here to opine, so let’s keep to the topic and talk solutions. Thanks.

  29. Jay Thompson

    July 28, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    I’ll freely admit that I’ve knocked AR a time or two. It’s not a bad platform. The people that run the AR show are fantastic.

    Here’s my issue.

    My AR blog URL = activerain.com/blogs/jaygt

    My blogs URL= PhoenixRealEstateGuy.com

    Which one brands me better? Which one is me and all me – for whatever that is worth, and which one is 1/100,000 me, and 99,999/100,000 a whole bunch of other people?

    (congrats on member #100,000 BTW!)

    AR isn’t “wrong” any more than my blog is “right”. It is what it is. I do grow weary of the “Google Juice” talk. You *can* get the same effect with your own blog.

    Rich says they will package your content and deliver it to you. That’s great to hear (news to me, but great none the less).

    But that’s AR’s stance today. What happens tomorrow if someone with a ton of money swoops in and buys AR, *and* its content? Can the rules change if someone buys it? Can the rules change if (God forbid) the AR Boys hit hit by a truck and someone else takes over?

    I don’t know the answers to those questions. But I strongly suspect that if some VC firm steps in and says, “Here’s a bazillion dollars, but we want to own the content”, that no one from AR is going to call me and ask my permission…. Regardless of the answer, it’s a non-issue for me and my blog.

    There are countless ways to skin this cat. AR is an option, self-hosted is another. Those are but two of many.

  30. Rich Jacobson

    July 28, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    Jay: With the new outside blogs, you can brand away to your heart’s content, and use whatever catchy domain name you wish.

    People like yourself who are obviously gifted in all things blog-worthy possess the necessary skills and ability to generate/create a viable platform, and make it work. Not everyone is as capable, or has the time. And as you know, it can take time for a stand-alone to gain meaningful traction.

    There are many other benefits to AR besides just blogging, but that wasn’t the point of my discussion here.

    But as you say, there is no right or wrong. It is what it is. You do an excellent job, and it obviously works for you. So just keep on skinnin’ that cat!

  31. Jay Thompson

    July 28, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Rich – you’re far too generous with your compliments. I am just a wanna-be writer who sells real estate. I am blessed in that my lovely bride is one of the best real estate agents on this planet. SHE does the “real work” which frees me up to attempt to write, and exercise marginal technical skills.

    Indeed it takes time, and effort. In significant amounts. It can be very rewarding, personally and professionally. It can also result in massive headaches due to the repeated slamming of ones head into the wall.

    I learned a lot when I was actively raining. Met some great people I still consider my friends. “Cut my blogging teeth” there so to speak. I remember when there were NO blogs on AR, not even an option, so I know it has a lot more to offer than just a blog platform.

    There are some *brilliant* writers on AR. And some horrific ones too. Just like in the “outside” world.

    As with almost anything in life, AR is what you make of it. You guys are to be commended for providing the tools. What people do with that tool is far beyond your control.

  32. Toby & Sadie

    July 28, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Rich,

    The problem is that there are blogging platforms and organizations that once you write it, it becomes property of the company. I was asked to blog on “our national organization’s site” and was honored then realized that my posts were not owned by me, but rather the organization. I still do one per quarter because I believe in the cause I’m blogging on.

    And the common perception for many was that Active Rain was that way. And they don’t let a little thing like the truth get in the way.

    I enjoyed blogging on AR and it was a great way to learn about real estate and get myself established as an agent and find a connection. As a Web 2.0 re agent in an area that is running at 1.5 speed it was refreshing to find the new faes.

    I’ve found that I’ve drifted away from the Rain, in many ways for the sames reasons as Jay. I like having my own voice — and the control over where readers go within in my site.

  33. Daniel Bates

    July 28, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    My advice to new agents out there is to get your own site AND contribute to AR. In the beginning, posts on AR may rank higher than on your site, but eventually your site should rise above AR on individual searches. I see AR (and Localism) as a way to bring more traffic to my site, but because there are other agents there, it’s also competition, that’s why I wouldn’t rely on it alone, it be like linking to all my competitors on my website. In order to avoid duplicate content punishment, I post to my personal site first and then post a portion of my article with a link to the whole thing a few days later on AR. Just my two cents

  34. Rich Jacobson

    July 28, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Jay: Meeting you at Inman last week simply confirmed what I knew to be true about you. The compliments are deserved. But I’m with you,…behind every successful man is an even more successful woman!

  35. Eric- New Orleans Condos and Lofts

    July 28, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Hey you can use both sites and enjoy both formats. On one you meet agents and eatablish relationships. You own blog is more about just local real estate and what makes you town different. Few people would value my content and I am content to blog on both. The more time is spent on my own blog because its what I like to do. I enjoy getting to page one of google, I enjoy the feel of getting a PR4 blog. Its called pride in ownership.

    Many folks will never venture out from one. I would never have started a blog except I stumbled on Active Rain a couple of years ago because my website buddy wanted some points.

  36. Jim Cronin

    July 28, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    How do you cancel an account with AR? I’m not trying to cancel mine (it never crossed my mind) but I know someone who is trying… they are no longer in RE. Honest.

  37. Rich Jacobson

    July 28, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Jim: Yeah, sure Jim…..whatever!….

    Just kidding. Have them contact me directly, and I can help them delete their account…

  38. Bob

    July 28, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    So why would I try to beat my head against the wall going up against a powerhouse like AR when I can just post and reap the benefits?

    They are only a powerhouse because agents empower them. Most agents are in business for themselves. Why then subjugate your online marketing to someone else? Why rent when you can own? Why build equity (content, links, traffic, etc) for an entity you don’t control and could one day be your competitor?

    There isn’t a post you have on AR that ranks that you couldn’t get to the same spot on your own. Google will only display 2 results from the same domain, so even the stuff you do have that ranks can get aced out by another on AR if they know how.

    What I don’t own is the space that content sits in… but that isn’t any different than opening up a store in a shopping center… you don’t own the space, but you do own everything inside.

    The rental space analogy really only extends to the hosting. With a shop owner, even one renting space in a mall, you own the name, which is its identity. With a shopping center I can also assign my rental agreement if I negotiated it originally with any forethought. Not sure AR lets me do that with my profile or “content”.

  39. Rich Jacobson

    July 29, 2008 at 12:47 am

    Bob: There are many other viable reasons/benefits for participating in ActiveRain besides simply publishing content. As I’ve stated here, and others have concurred, there is value in both directions.

  40. Bill Lublin

    July 29, 2008 at 1:26 am

    Rich – you are a brave man for taking this one on – The fact that AR can attract talent like yours is indicative that there is certainly some value there 😉

  41. Rich Jacobson

    July 29, 2008 at 3:28 am

    Bill: Not necessarily brave, just attempting to offer a fair & balanced perspective. I get tired of those who unjustly malign tools that can be helpful and beneficial to one’s business. It was great meeting you at Inman!

  42. Eric Blackwell

    July 29, 2008 at 4:15 am

    Rich –

    I am coming late to this one. My case would be this. You have a FINITE amount of time to blog. Where you blog is about priorities. With MANY agents spending hours a day blogging, it is a BETTER use of their time to be creating THEIR online presence and building LOCAL relationships online (IMHO) and building THEIR brand than to worry about posting on another site that is owned by others. It is not about Good vs Bad. It is about Good vs Better. It is about priorities.

    So when we are talking about the MEAT and POTATOES consumer focused gems that occur to you late at night and that separate you from others…those IMO are better put on your own domain, where they will attract links and attention that will be with you FOREVER. The thing that you did not guarantee anyone in your post is that AR will always leave all links to your post EXACTLY pointed where you want them to be–a not so unimportant distinction between the two options.

    That is where the Rent vs Buy comes into play.

    That having been said, I DO spend some time each day around the watercooler and talking “shop” in an effort to learn and see what is up in the industry. That is better accomplished (again JMO) here and at BHB. Than at AR….but that is merely my taste. I like Benn and Lani’s format better. So let’s ask a philosophical question.

    Forget the local consumer facing content. Let’s talk in terms of agent education and interaction (watercooler). Can you make the case why Benn should post all of the content of THIS blog on AR? I mean…the content still would be his, right? Arguably you get more traffic there, (for now…). Benn: Would it be to your advantage to do so? How is this different with consumer facing content than with realtor facing content.

    Additionally; Benn can and should go over and hang out in AR…the purpose of which would be to build his reputation and have people eventually come over here and get hooked on AG as well or instead of AR. Rich, that is your intent in being here is to influence this audience, NO?

    Whatever principle we apply to industry facing blogs, we should also apply to consumer facing blogs IMO,,,and vice versa, no?

    Thoughts?

    Best;

    Eric

  43. Glenn fm Naples

    July 29, 2008 at 6:39 am

    To me AR can offer someone the chance to interact with other agents and possible get some referral business.

    I am not prolific writer as some of my esteemed colleagues here.

    What I did find was that the traffic generated from AR to my site did match the effort and time put into it.

    The straw that broke the camel’s back occurred when an individual left the county they were blogging about to another county (about 200 miles away) and later moved to another location about 1,500 from the original county. During this period of time the individual kept their profile in the original county, only because they appeared in a number one position for the county. Frankly, IMHO, this is an abuse.

    The question remains as to what happens when a buy-out occurs with AR and will members be allowed to do whatever they want with the content?

  44. Broker Bryant

    July 29, 2008 at 6:43 am

    Ahhh….the dreaded content ownership debate. Everything I have ever written is on my hard drive. I definitely own that. Then I choose where to place that content that will give me the best chance to make money off of it. I am not an aspiring writer. I’m a real estate broker. The value of my content is in the amount of business that it brings me. Active Rain is a great platform to use to get MY content out there so it will attract business.

    So really the issue is not so much an ownership issue as it is a control issue. Well my opinion is that as long as I have the “original” content, on my hard drive, and I have the ability to delete elsewhere, then I truly do have 100% control.

    Blog content is really nothing more than bait. The value is in what we catch.

  45. Jay Thompson

    July 29, 2008 at 7:05 am

    “and I have the ability to delete elsewhere”

    What if AR were bought and you lost that ability to delete?

    Someone may say, “Oh we’d never agree to sell on those terms”. That’s easy to say now, less so when there are millions of dollars dangling in front of you.

    Through this thread we’ve already discovered you have to contact AR directly to 1) delete YOUR photos from Localism and 2) delete YOUR account from AR.

    So what f the ownership changes? The terms change? Then who do you contact?

  46. Jim Duncan

    July 29, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Regarding Jay’s comment, Rich – what does the license say about transfer of content ownership should AR be bought out? Even if I were to have every copy of everything I have ever written (I do), the content would still be there for the new owners to commoditize the content.

    AR can be extraordinarily valuable for those who buy into the culture and participate, of this there is no question, but I think it would be a better tactic (IMHO) to address this.

    One question from ignorance – what percentage of ActiveRainers do you think are as concerned about content ownership as the non-Rainers are?

  47. Rich Jacobson

    July 29, 2008 at 8:43 am

    Jay & Jim: I can’t argue with you. As stated previously, there are inherent risks associated with anywhere you publish your content. Some risks are obviously greater than others. In the event or possibility that AR is ever sold, the TOS does state that the respective successors and assigns, are granted a non-exclusive right of access and use of the content, so long as attribution of the original source is provided. However, it also states that such agreement is only binding until the content has been deleted/removed. I think it’s highly prudent, whatever direction you choose, to back-up your content on a separate hard drive, and as Daniel suggests, even email it to yourself so a time stamp is created.

    Jim: I would suggest that the people who are vested members of AR, and are enjoying the benefits of their involvement there, are less likely to voice concerns over content ownership than those who have had little or no experience there.

    Let me ask you guys a question: Do you think it’s reasonable for every agent to possess the ability/time to create their own WordPress blog?

  48. Benn Rosales

    July 29, 2008 at 9:00 am

    #47 Rich, absolutely. Every agent to mean every agent that blogs. I won’t say every agent ‘should’ blog. 😉

  49. Jim Cronin

    July 29, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Let me ask you guys a question: Do you think it’s reasonable for every agent to possess the ability/time to create their own WordPress blog?

    Rich, this is where we come in 🙂

  50. Mariana Wagner

    July 29, 2008 at 9:47 am

    (banging head on wall repeatedly at this very moment)

  51. Rich Jacobson

    July 29, 2008 at 9:52 am

    Eric: You’ve contributed some really excellent thoughts to this conversation. You’re right. Our time IS valuable, and all the more reason to make wise, prudent ‘time/dollar’ decisions regarding our online involvements, and consistently measure/monitor their ROI. I don’t think anything will ever compete with a ‘well oiled’ local blogsite. Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of creating, maintaining, and achieving measurable success with one. Actually, there’s been some informal discussions about how AR and AG could best support each other. AR can tend to be a rather ‘isolated’ or ‘protected’ environment, and there is the need to expand the members horizons out into the greater blogosphere.

  52. Rich Jacobson

    July 29, 2008 at 9:54 am

    Watch out, Mariana. That’ll leave a mark!

    Jim: Excellent timing and seque, my friend!

  53. Bob

    July 29, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Rich, you wrote, “Do you think it’s reasonable for every agent to possess the ability/time to create their own WordPress blog?”

    and

    “Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of creating, maintaining, and achieving measurable success with one.”

    A bit condescending, don’t you think? Is that the target then for AR – those agents not capable of doing this on their own? Do you actually think it is that hard to handle a WP setup, or do you believe that many agents are just too stupid so they need AR?

    IMO, if they are capable of posting anything intelligent on AR, they are capable of learning how to handle their own WP site. Don’t make it about time, though, or else we have to address the time management issues that goes with accumulating points in the 6 figures.

    You have repeatedly written that only those who are ‘vested’ in AR are capable of understanding the value of AR. Can you please define what it means to be vested in AR? What Is that minimum number of points, or comments, or posts? I need to hit whatever that minimum ts so my comments here have validity.

    For the life of me, I don’t understand your position.The whole mission of agentgenius is to empower the agent.The WP tutorials here are among the best I have seen anywhere. The blogging expertise can’t be touched, and there are a few of us that could teach anyone with a blog how to beat anything they have ever posted on AR in the search engines.

  54. Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra

    July 29, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Ok, so the comment mentioned by Rich was mine, actually. I’ll stand by it. When you don’t own the content, bad things can happen.

    By “bad things” I mean things that you wouldn’t want to happen if you could have a greater degree of control. Folks mentioned the potential Move sale, that merely highlighted the potential for “bad things.”

    By “own” I mean completely control. I sometimes think of AR as an apartment as opposed to a home. Sure, you have complete use of the space and you can arrange your furniture however you want to, but if a new landlord comes in. . .

    Look, I like Rich, Bob, Matt, Jon, everyone I have met from Active Rain. At Connect, I finally had the chance to really spend some time with them, which was a good thing. As much as I like them, I also know that Active Rain is a business. There is always a chance that the current Active Rain folks could move on and I wouldn’t like the folks who replaced them. I don’t think I need to even mention by name the recent RE blog company fiasco that brought that possibility to light. . .

    I like Rudy and the folks I met from Trulia, too, but I won’t be blogging there, either. Same reason.

    I originally started my blog on Typepad. I moved it. Why? Because I didn’t like the degree of control that Typepad did (or did not) afford to me. I felt chained up, like I wanted to do more with it, but couldn’t.

    I just believe that, given the opportunity, one should exert as great a degree of control as possible over the content one creates. For me, that means I use WordPress, and host it myself. Heck, if I had the time, money, and skill, I would go so far as to control my own hosting, servers, code the thing from the ground up, etc. But alas, I do need to practice real estate. . .

  55. Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra

    July 29, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Oh, to answer Rich’s question:

    Every agent? No. But then again, I’m not particularly concerned with “every” agent. First and foremost, I am concerned with THIS agent , and then I am concerned with agents who actually give a damn about their profession (like the ones who check in here at AG). For those agents, it is most certainly reasonable. They are able to do it, even if they don’t know it yet. They are able to do it just like they learned how to do all the other things that were, at one time, completely foreign to them, but have now contributed greatly to their success.

  56. Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra

    July 29, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Wow, I mangled my last comment. My bad.

    Hmmm. . . looks like I need some HTML practice. 🙂

  57. Rich Jacobson

    July 29, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Bob: I appreciate how you put words in my mouth. I am not being condescending in the least. And my comments here in no way suggest or imply stupidity on anyone’s part. I am a realist, and my observations are based on my everyday involvement with other agents, both here in my local market, and with those I come into contact with on the Network. AR provides an excellent precursor for those who migrate over to a WordPress platform. Many of our members have done so, but many others remain. There is room/accomodation/need for both.

    Here’s my position: ActiveRain isn’t the Purple Pill ‘Cure-All’ to remedy the world’s woes. But it does offer significant benefits to those who wish to participate. One Size doesn’t fit All, and involvement on ActiveRain isn’t for everyone, but it does offer a variety of something for everyone. Creating your own local WordPress blog is another excellent strategy to pursue, and if anyone wants help setting it up, they should just give you a call.

  58. Broker Bryant

    July 29, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Jay, I guess I just can’t see where it matters. It really is just a bunch or text that just happens to be my copyrighted material. In the slim chance that my content was “hijacked”, where I could no longer delete it, do you really think that would hold up in a court of law if I decided to pursue it? After all it is still my copyrighted material. I just think this entire “ownership” issue is really a non- issue. I write blog articles for Pete’s sake I’m not Hemingway! If all disappeared tomorrow I’d just write more.

    Now having said that, If folks are depending on blogging for the bulk of their business then it would be foolish to have all of their content in one even if that one place is a WP blog. The biggest reason is because it limits how many spots you can have on the front page of Google. 2 per site. Personally I have 6 sites. This gives me the ability to have all 10 spots for some searches.

    With all of this concern about “control” what happens when Google decides to just have PPC on the front page? Or they decide that the new knol.google will dominate the front page? What if all the page rankings and serps mean absolutely nothing in the next year or so? These things can and WILL change.

    So whether you are placing content on AR or your own WP site, if that’s all you’re doing, your business is at the mercy of outside forces.

  59. Lane Bailey

    July 29, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    #38 Bob RE: ownership of the name…

    Through the “outside blog” product, you actually DO own the name. In fact, A|R (to my knowledge) offer domain registration, so they couldn’t hold it hostage. So, I think that analogy holds some water. Of course, if you didn’t have back-ups of the content you have created, and a new owner were to lock everyone out, then there could be an issue. However, that new owner would also be killing himself to prove a point, as they would lose all of the content creators… effectively rendering the platform useless for generating future content.

    And just like a retail establishment, I make sure that I have my goods in multiple locations. I syndicate some of my content to A|R, and other content is specific to some of my platforms.

  60. Lane Bailey

    July 29, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    And lest anyone think I am the shill for A|R, there is a bigger and possibly uglier issue…

    Truthfully, if I were with A|R, the debate about content ownership is one that I would welcome. After all, the law would side with the creator of the content, not the platform, and as long as their position is that the content belongs to the author, and is only presented there by choice, it is an easy argument to win.

    But, the argument that they can’t win has to do with monetization. Obviously, the platform is currently free to use. A|R has made a commitment to keep the platform free to the users… but instead of having to swim upstream against the Terms of Service and the law, changing the site to a pay site is only a philosophical change. At any time they could have a change in philosophy and decide to charge agents for being there. So, at that point, all of the work that has gone into the blog has to be unwound…

    And while the final effect of either a “pay to blog” or “content take-over” is the same, the pay to blog scenario is much more likely.

    That said, there is a price that I would be willing to pay to stay on A|R… but I’m not saying. And, just to keep Matt and Jon from getting too many ideas, RE Agents are a cheap bunch, and few would pay to play.

  61. Melina Tomson

    August 2, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    As a relative newbie to the blogging world (10 months), I am with BB on this one. I have a blogger (rather than WP) blog that is my localized blog. The thought of changing over at this point…ugh…

    Honestly, if I hadn’t spent a lot of time reading blogs on AR, I wouldn’t have learned about AG, or BHB, or the idea that I should have my own blog outside of AR.

    At least for me at this point. AR still ranks me higher than my own blog does (getting closer). I’m sure this will shift and change as I get more posts up, but for starters, the “google juice” of AR is powerful. I can see why people “wean” themselves off AR after a while, and change the style of post they use there.

    I sydicate my non-AR blog to several sites and typically have 2-8 spots for a local community in my area on page 1 of Google. I’m with BB. AR is another tool to help me be “everywhere” for consumers. I’m not one of those that love to blog. I do it for business.

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Business Marketing

The rise of influencer marketing and its effect on digital marketing

(BUSINESS MARKETING) More businesses are planning to invest a larger part of their marketing budgets on more relatable, branded content and influencer marketing.

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Influencer speaking to camera for marketing segment.

The digital age has created more savvy consumers, and the barrage of advertising on top of the plenitude of content online can be a lot. Many consumers have learned to hide ads or they simply scroll past them to their content of choice. Most business owners know that digital marketing is a crucial part of any ad strategy, and branded content and influencer marketing continues to grow in the market, because consumers see that it’s different from traditional advertising.

Hardly anything stayed the same in 2020, and traditional advertising also has shifted. Advertiser Perceptions reported on the trend for 2021, based on a survey from late 2020.

“More than half of advertisers using paid branded content and influencers say doing so is more critical than it was a year ago. Throughout the second half of 2020, 32% increased spending on branded content and 25% spent more to back influencers. They’re now putting 20% of their digital budgets into the complementary practices, which is more than they put into any other digital channel (paid search is 14%, display 13%, paid social 12%, digital video 12%).”

The benefits of branded and influencer content are that you are speaking to the consumer where they already are, when you choose an influencer. The people who follow their accounts are more likely to trust that the influencer would only share something they like or use themselves. The best matches are when the influencer marketing fits nicely into the kind of content, the voice, and any specialties they already deal with.

The word “influencer” as well as the concept rubs some people the wrong way. Marketers see the value, though, as influencer marketing can be effective if done well, and the cost to hire them is often less than a traditional ad campaign. If I want to know about food in a city, I’ll follow the hashtags until I find a local food blogger or micro-influencer whose style I like. Then I’ll seek out those restaurants when I visit. Sure, some of the meals are comped, but the truth is that food bloggers and influencers like to share their food recommendations. I have been influenced this way more than once, and not only for food. I am not alone in this, either, which is why it’s an important part of a marketing strategy.

In influencer marketing, the content creator is then given free rein to create within their own style, voice, and persona. They need to connect with their audience in an authentic, familiar way without creating a dissonance for their followers between their public page(s) and the brand. The level of trust is fairly high with influencer marketing, and many influencers realize that promoting something crappy or something outside of their area of expertise or recognition hurts everyone involved.

The power of storytelling comes into play here, as with all good advertising. Branded content is specifically all about the story, often the story of the business’s philosophy or some lifestyle aspect that goes with the brand’s vibe–or is so off that it goes viral. Some branded campaigns join into or build off of conversations already happening in the wider world. The purpose is to have people engage with the brand, with the content, build awareness, encourage conversations, sharing, comments, all with the long term goal of fostering a positive image of the brand so that down the line, they will become consumers.

Think of 2004 Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, based on a study showing that around 2% of women saw themselves as beautiful. The widely studied, award-winning campaign featured women of all backgrounds and body types, without airbrushing and Photoshopping them into a narrow vision of “beauty.” While some people hated it, many loved it and applauded the brand for treading into traditionally uncharted waters. Among haters, fans, and people who weren’t sure what to think, the Dove Real Beauty branded content campaign generated conversations. The campaign also encouraged women to feel good about themselves and lift up other women. One could argue that the campaign you could argue that the Real Beauty campaign was a forerunner to the currently popular body positivity movement, which started gaining traction around 2012. Dove increased sales by at least $1.5 billion in the first ten years the branded content campaign ran.

The goal of branded content is to raise awareness of the brand, but the path from point A (creating the content) to point B (brand awareness, ultimately leading to better sales) is not a straight line. Brands are paying attention to grabbing attention, aka building brand awareness via more upper funnel marketing than lower funnel.

One thing that marketers are looking for now, however, is almost eliminating the funnel. With the mind-boggling increase in e-commerce since the beginning of the pandemic, clickable sales capability becomes important in any kind of marketing, including influencer and branded content. It pays to listen to customers, to find an influencer who meshes with your brand’s purpose, and to create thoughtful branded content that isn’t out of line with your core product or service.

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Business Marketing

Need design help? Ask a Designer offers free peer-review for better design

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Good design is more than just slapping some fonts and colors together. Ask a Designer promises free design advice on their new website.

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A white sign in an urban setting reading "In Design We Trust" with glowing yellow lights above.

With the necessity to create and maintain an online presence for our businesses nowadays, content creation is essential. One impact this proliferation of content has had on entrepreneurs, bloggers, and small businesses is that many non-designers have had to take a stab at design work. Sometimes this works out for the amateur designer, but often it could be better: More effective, accessible, and appealing. This is where Ask a Designer comes in.

Creating designs online can be fun, but your average Canva, Squarespace, or WordPress user, for example, has no more of a sense of design than the man on the moon. Design work encompasses so much more than just slapping some words on a stock photo and calling it a day. While there are truly incredible and helpful free or inexpensive DIY design and business tools out there, nothing beats the power of knowledge and experience.

Ask a Designer provides one more level of professional review and counsel before a business owner puts their DIY (or even paid) design work out there for the world to see—or worse, not see. As a writer, I have always valued editorial reviews, comments, and feedback on my writing. Second eyes, third eyes, and more almost always serve to improve the content. It makes business sense to get as much feedback as possible, even better to get expert feedback.

For example, an experienced web designer should have a good idea of how to incorporate and test for UX and UI purposes, thus making the user interaction more functional and pleasant. A skilled graphic designer knows what colors go together for aesthetic appeal, accessibility, and even the psychology behind why and how they do.

Take logos. Pick a color, image, and font you like, and go for it, right? I’m afraid not. There is a lot of data out there on the science and psychology of how our brains process logos. There are examples of logo “fails” out there, as well. Consider the uproar over AirBnB’s logo that many thought evoked genitalia. Or the raised eyebrows when Google changed their color scheme to one similar to Microsoft’s palate. Just search for “logo fails” online to get an idea of how a seemingly innocent logo can go horribly wrong. I haven’t linked them here, because they would need a trigger warning, as many of the worst examples can be interpreted as some sort of sexual innuendo or genitalia. Searchers, be warned.

It always makes good business sense to use professional designers when you have the option, just as it makes sense to use professional writers for copywriting and professional photographers for photography. After all, if you have the chance to get something right the first time, it saves you time and money to do so. Rebranding can be difficult and costly, although sometimes rebranding is necessary. Having a designer review your design (whether logo, WordPress, blog, or other) could possibly help you from missing the mark.

How does Ask a Designer work, and is it really free? It’s super easy—almost like designers had a hand in it! Know what I mean? First, you go to the website or app and enter your question. Next Ask a Designer will assign your question to the appropriate type of designer in their network. Within 48 hours, they’ll get back to you with feedback or an answer to your design question.

While Ask a Designer is available to anyone to use, the website suggests it is especially helpful for developers, teams, junior designers, and business and product owners. They suggest, “Think of us as peer-review in your pocket.” The team at Ask a Designer will provide feedback on specific projects such as websites, logos, and portfolios, as well as answer general questions.

Examples of questions on their website give a good idea of the scope of questions they’ll answer, and include the type of feedback they provide. Sample questions include:

  • “How do I choose colors for dark mode?”
  • “I’d love feedback on a logo for a restaurant.”
  • “I’m an industrial design student and I’d like to move into automotive design. What are some resources that can get me to where I need to be?”
  • “Please send me some feedback on [website link].”
  • “How can I use my brand fonts on my website?”
  • “I’m a full stack software engineer. Are there any resources you could suggest for me to level up my design or UX skills?”

Ask a Designer is new, and so they currently list 2 design experts, each with 20 or more years of experience in their fields. They promise to add more “desig-nerds” soon. It may sound too good to be true, but from what they state on their website, this expert design review service is free. Considering the other excellent tools out there with some free components out there for business, it is possible that this is true. Whether they will add a more in-depth paid version is yet to be seen. In any case, it’s worth trying out the app or website for your burning design questions and reviews.

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Business Marketing

6 tips to easily market your side hustle

(BUSINESS MARKETING) It can be hard to stand out from the crowd when you’re starting a new side hustle. Here are some easy ways to make your marketing efforts more effective.

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side hustle marketing

Side hustles have become the name of the game, and especially during these turbulent times, we have to get extra creative when it comes to making money. With so many of us making moves and so much noise, it can be hard to get the word out and stand out when sharing your side hustle.

Reuben Jackson of Big Think shared five ways that you can market your side hustle (we added a sixth tip for good measure), and comment with your thoughts and ideas on the subject:

  1. Referrals: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!
    If you’re going to make a splash, you have to be willing to ask for favors. Reach out to your network and ask them to help spread the word on your new venture. This can be as simple as asking your friends to share a Facebook post with information that refers them to your page or website. Word of mouth is still important and incredibly effective.
  2. Start Where You Are
    Immediately running an expensive ad right out of the gate may not be the most effective use of your (likely) limited funds. Use the resources you do have to your advantage – especially if you’re just testing things out to see how the side hustle goes in the real world. You can do this by creating a simple, informational landing page for a small fee. Or, if you’re not looking to put any money into it right away, create an enticing email signature that explains what you do in a concise and eye-catching way. Check out these tools to create a kickin’ email signature.
  3. Gather Positive Reviews
    If you’ve performed a service or sold a product, ask your customers to write a review on the experience. Never underestimate how many potential customers read reviews before choosing where to spend their money, so this is an incredibly important asset. Once a service is completed or a product is sold, send a thank you note to your customer and kindly ask them to write a review. Be sure to provide them with links to easily drop a line on Yelp or your company’s Facebook page.
  4. Be Strategic With Social
    It’s common to think that you have to have a presence on all channels right away. Start smaller. Think about your demographic and do some research on which platforms reach that demographic most effectively. From there, put your time and energy into building a presence on one or two channels. Post consistently and engage with followers. After you’ve developed a solid following, you can then expand to other platforms.
  5. Give Paid Marketing A Shot
    Once you’ve made a dollar or two, try experimenting with some Facebook or Twitter ads. They’re relatively cheap to run and can attract people you may not have otherwise had a chance to reach out to. Again, the key is to start small and don’t get discouraged if these don’t have people knocking your door down; it may take trial and error to create the perfect ad for your hustle.
  6. Go Local
    Local newspapers and magazines are always looking for news on what local residents are doing. Send an email to your town/city’s journal or local Patch affiliate. Let them know what you’re up to, offer yourself for an interview, and give enticing information. The key is doing this in a way that your hustle is seen as beneficial to the public, and is not just an ad.

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