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Austin’s largest venture raise this year will surprise you

(MARKETING) Opcity is the Austin startup making big changes to the ways that lead generation happens in real estate.

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Real estate start up

With the accelerated growth of real estate in today’s metropolitan markets, it’s no surprise that innovation and growth from this is highly valuable. With $27 million dollars in funding, Austin startup Opcity is proving that through and through.

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The company just closed a Series A round of funding, and it is the largest round of funding raised by an Austin startup this year.

Opcity’s pitch

According to Opcity’s website, the startup performs lead generation for real estate brokers, to ensure that brokers receive “the right referral…in real time,” for both buyers and sellers. Traditionally, according to CEO Ben Rubenstein, the process that connects real estate market participants and brokers “has historically been complex and at times extremely frustrating.”

Opcity aims to both simplify and optimize that experience.

They certainly have a point; lead generation can eat up a lot of work bandwidth for brokers. It requires managing multiple marketing channels, both online and offline. So much so, that there are entire Quora threads and articles dedicated to these very topics. Some of them specifically lament the existing pay-for-leads system that exists in the online marketplace, citing how difficult it is to convert these leads into clients.

Opcity assumes this role for these agencies, and all without upfront costs to them; brokers pay up only when the transaction closes.

Not only has the startup proposed a better solution to lead generation, but they have developed it in a city with a thriving real estate ecosystem, and that’s more important than you might think.

“You build a successful venture WHERE the regional economy, market, and ecosystem of experience, talent, and resources support what you are trying to accomplish,” MediaTech Ventures founder Paul O’Brien said. To that end, “Austin (and Texas) are distinct from the coasts given the tremendous room for residential and commercial development, met with demand – as thousands are moving into Texas every day. [It] is the market ideal for innovation in real estate and Opcity helps establish that fact.”

On the up

Texas isn’t the only state catching on; since their launch in 2016, Opcity closed 350 brokerages and over 4,000 agents to work with their platform. In addition to the industry’s top independent brokerage firms, Opcity also works with Century 21, Keller Williams and other classic brands.

That attention caught the eyes of venture capital firm Icon Ventures, who led this round of funding with support from Georgian partners and LiveOak Venture Partners.

The funding will allow Opcity to scale into other markets.Click To Tweet

As this model catches on, it could significantly shape the marketing and communication interactions between brokers, buyers and sellers. Anyone in the real estate industry should be paying very close attention to this journey.

#Opcity

Born in Boston and raised in California, Connor arrived in Texas for college and was (lovingly) ensnared by southern hospitality and copious helpings of queso. As an SEO professional, he lives and breathes online marketing and its impact on businesses. His loves include disc-related sports, a pint of a top-notch craft beer, historical non-fiction novels, and Austin’s live music scene.

Business Marketing

Which social media platform will dominate for marketing in 2018?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Which of the many social media networks will rule as the top social network marketing platform in 2018?

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social media sales engagement

If you’re still Tweeting to market your business or product, you’re way behind the curve.

Most social media influencers think Instagram is where it’s at, according to new research from content marketing firm Hashoff. A survey of 414 influencers in the business-to-consumer market found 93 percent of influencers focused a majority of their marketing efforts on Instagram this year and another 82 percent expect that to carry over to 2018.

Facebook is the secondary point of focus, as 16.5 percent of surveyed influencers devoted most of their time to timelines in 2017. However, after that, efforts fall below 5 percent for other major social networks such as Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest.

So why the fondness for Instagram? Most social media influencers (76 percent) said Instagram has the best tools for creators among all the major platforms. It supports pictures and videos, live video streams, encourages consumer interaction and don’t forget about all the editing tools, rainbow face filters aside.

Some survey respondents (13.7 percent) also said Youtube is the best tool for content creators. While it hasn’t been a top focus for influencers over the past couple of years, use is trending upward. For example, in 2017, only 3.2 percent of influencers said Youtube is their No. 1 social media platform for marketing, but in 2018, that percentage is expected to jump to 12.2 percent.

While social media marketing efforts will always vary based on company type, product and content creation bandwidth, if you are starting to plan for 2018, keep tabs on these statistics. They can be a good indication of where consumers are viewing content, and if you are just starting out, knowing where marketing efforts are most worthwhile can save you time, energy and money.

Overall, consumers continue to be attracted to creative, visual representations of products and services, so take some more photos and save your word-based Tweets for another time.

Just because you have 280 characters to market your business doesn’t mean you have to use them. Give the people what they want.

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Business Marketing

Find black-owned businesses to support via this app

(BUSINESS MARKETING) The volume of black-owned businesses is on the rise, and supporting the community has become even easier with this app.

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The U.S. Census Bureau reports that from 2002 to 2007, black owned businesses increased 60.5 percent. Today, it’s estimated that there are over 2.6 million black-owned businesses in the United States.

Black-owned businesses stabilize communities by providing jobs, paying taxes and keeping money in the community where they live. The black community has a buying power of over $1 trillion, but much of that money is spent outside of black communities.

The more money spent with black owned businesses, the more jobs are created; the more money is returned to the community; the more stable families become.

Mandy Bowman saw a need to support black businesses and entrepreneurs. In 2105, she created an app, Official Black Wall Street, the largest directory of black-owned businesses. The app is available in the AppStore and on GooglePlay.

Currently, it lists more than 1,400 verified businesses that are owned and operated by black entrepreneurs.

Consumers who use the app can get an alert when they’re near a black-owned business. The app lets you bookmark your favorite businesses. When the business updates or puts out a new offer, you can also get an alert.

As a black business owner, you have opportunities to advertise your business, and you can even message customers right through the app, another way to reach out to prospects. Promote sales, special offers and promo codes in the app.

It’s fairly simple to add your business. Create an account and enter your information. Consumers can even enter businesses that qualify. Although the app seems to be more for brick and mortar businesses, but online shopping opportunities are listed too.

We encourage black businesses to add a listing to the app and for all people to download the app and support the community.

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Business Marketing

TINA.org is helping the FTC crack down on Kardashian-esque influencers

(MARKETING NEWS) The Kardashians are just five of the seemingly endless amounts of influencers companies are using for marketing but TINA.org is over their tactics.

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A brand could find no better influencers than the Kardashians – the family who proved that you can get famous just for, well, being famous. Each Kardashian sister has an astronomical number of followers, making them obvious trendsetters.

That’s why brands pay the Kardashian sisters – Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, Kendall, and Kylie — tens of thousands of dollars a pop to post pictures of themselves on social media using their products.

Perhaps you find it hard to believe that the Kardashians stop by Popeye’s Chicken to grab a to-go meal before boarding their private jet. Regardless, the Kardashians, and the brands who pay them to pump their products, would prefer that you believe that these endorsements reflect the Kardashian’s actual preferences, rather than the paychecks they receive for posting them.

The Kardashians have been attempting to make their endorsements seem more “authentic” by totally disregarding Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules that require influencers to disclose when their posts are paid endorsements.

In August of 2016, Truth in Advertising (TINA.org) filed a complaint about the Kardashians to the FTC, saying that the (in)famous sisters had “failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose material connections to brands or the fact that the posts were paid ads, as required by federal law.”

After receiving a finger-wagging from the FTC, the Kardashian sisters corrected less than half of the posts, generally by adding #ad to the post. The remaining posts, according to a recent TINA.org follow-up investigation, either have not been edited at all, or contain “insufficient disclosures.”

For example, some posts now read #sp to indicated “sponsored” – as if anyone knows that reference. In another tactic that also got Warner Brothers and YouTube influencer PewDiePie in trouble with the FTC, the Kardashians are posting their disclosure information at the bottom of a long post so that users will only see it if they click “see more.”

The Kardashians have also been posting disclosures, but only days after the original post. Considering that the vast majority of viewers comment on or like posts within the first ten hours after it’s published, most of them will never see the disclosure when it’s tacked on days later.

Some of the “repeat offender” brands, who came up both in last year’s complaint and in the recent review, include Puma, Manuka Doctor, Jet Lux, Fit Tea, and Sugar Bear Hair. This time around, the Kardashians have also failed to disclose sponsorship on posts promoting Adidas, Lyft, Diff Eyewear, and Alexander Wang.

TINA.org found over 200 posts on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat where products are promoted without the Kardashians letting on that their raking in big bucks in exchange. The organization has notified the Kardashians, the brands they represent, and the FTC.

The FTC has recently been cracking down on deceptive influencer marketing, targeting not only the brands, but the influencers themselves.

In April, the FTC sent letters to 46 social media stars reminding them of their legal obligations to disclose, and followed up with 21 letters in September warning the influencers that they had until the end of the month to disclose sponsorships, or face legal consequences.

“The Kardashian/Jenner sisters are masterful marketers who are making millions of dollars from companies willing to turn a blind eye to the women’s misleading and deceptive social media marketing practices,” says TINA.org’s Executive Director Bonnie Patten. “It’s time the Kardashians were held accountable for their misdeeds.”

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