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Social Media Politics Can Suck You Dry

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Great discussions this week on twitter and in the words of my awesome husband and business partner, Rick – (he’s trying to bring this back) …..”things that make you go HMMMMM”. So here’s the deal, we have the concept of “social capital” down —>you have to put in, in order to take out; the more you give, the more you receive; be genuine and transparent for people to trust you……yadayadayada

But what happens when your goal is to take out before you even begin to give? Will your social capital never be regarded as pure? There was great conversation started by Matt Dollinger about Social Karma and yes it got a little weird (I even think I heard the twilight zone music playing in the background at one time). We came to the conclusion, although it’s still in the air, that Social Capital is a way to quantify your presence and the depth of your involvement whereas Social Karma goes so much deeper than that:

Social Capital vs Social Karma
We took the conversation off-line (the 140 characters were so anti-zen) – and that’s when a light bulb went off in my head.  There is so much talk about being genuine and doing things for a greater good without expecting anything in return, but to tell you the truth, most of us are here to make money and to improve our business.  This doesn’t mean we can’t have fun in the process and show our personalities, but I’m not Ghandi or Mother Theresa – I volunteer my time, I raise money for charities and truly believe in the Universal Law and Power of Intention – but my time here has a goal and I have strategies for business as should you.

Your social persona should be the guiding factor in your social media strategy.  I would love for these huge cult-like coach figures to behave differently on-line…..but let’s be honest, why should they be any different?  I would love for celebrities and public figures to be more personable, I would even love for politicians to be more real.  Bottom line is that Social Media gives people more reach (hence the video above) – it’s up to each person to decide what kind of interaction they want to achieve with their audience and furthermore, it’s up to the audience to decide if they want to keep listening or move on to the next person who is actually making an effort to engage.

Sadly enough, and this is where Social Karma comes in, we can also manipulate our on-line character, mislead our audience, put up a false front and create a fake public persona.  When discussing politician’s use of social media, this is what Daniel Rothamel said that still resonates in my mind:

Real Estate Zebra on Politics

OUCH!!!  just because you are out there pounding the social media streets doesn’t mean you have uncontaminated goals, it doesn’t make you righteous or ethical.  I do however have hopes that those of us who have been here a while, will have the power to sniff out the counterfeits.  We, as an audience, have the power to turn the charlatans off.

The day must go on……now off to deal with deceptive mortgage brokers, scheming Realtors and superfluous appraisers.

Ines is all Miami, all the time. A Miami Beach Realtor® with Majestic properties, Ines authors Miamism.com, PrimeMiamiBeach.com, and MiamismPix.com and is always on communication's leading edge. She goes out of her way to engage and be engaged, often using Mojitos to keep the mood light and give everything she does a Miami flavor. You can find her goofing off or instigating trouble at Twitter, Flickr, Facebook or LinkedIn.

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56 Comments

56 Comments

  1. LesleyLambert

    September 21, 2009 at 11:27 am

    It is hard for me to understand how people can keep track of their “personalities” if they act differently online vs. face to face. I am just not that clever, the me you meet on Twitter is the same one you will me IRL. Color me simple, but it makes it easier! Great thoughts!

  2. ines

    September 21, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Lesley, I think some of us made the choice of being the real “us” early on – but it’s not always that way. When you go to SM conferences, no matter the industry, you hear people asking how much of themselves should they put out there. Then you look at different public figures and their business strategies – the tony robins’ of the world (do you think he talks to his wife and friends with the authority and tone he talks to his audience?)

    It’s not wrong, IMHO, to use a different voice for your public persona……we just have to be aware of it – we also have the choice to NOT listen. I am personally tired of pseudo personalities

  3. Elaine Hanson

    September 21, 2009 at 11:35 am

    I was following this conversation on Twitter – a very interesting “listen.” I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to those that share and have helped me to grow my business – they have earned my trust over time. If I can return the favor through a referrral to those people, great! I’m happy to pay it back – or pay it forward. As a business and as a social exchange, it works.
    What a mind-numbing energy drain it would be to try to keep up a persona that is not authentic. What a waste of time.

  4. ines

    September 21, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Elaine,
    It’s not always about not being authentic though – put yourself in the shoes of a celeb like Shaq with over 2.2 million followers (he only follows 567) – imagine the thousands of @’s he gets every day? He needs to have a strategy on who to respond to (if at all). If you see his stream, he’s having conversations, but always with the same people. In my opinion, it would be great for him to respond to a few of his fans every so often. I, for one, tried to engage him many times, taking pics of the dock of his house, the bobble head that was transferred to a local restaurant, wrote a post on the sale of his property……and never heard from him……so I stopped following him.

    So celebs need strategy – but they also need to identify their audience and make a decision on how they want to be regarded on the on-line world. Approachable and real vs the same ol’ same ol’

  5. Ken Brand

    September 21, 2009 at 11:48 am

    You’re right, makes me go hmmmmm.

    Same Human Race Story different space.

    What I enjoy and believe is so powerful, you CAN be yourself, and you’ll attract people who enjoy, appreciate or tolerate it. We all have the power to tune out and filter those that don’t fit us…it’s a beautiful thing.

    But, you’re right, just like IRL, be aware, some people aren’t who they seem.

    Cheers.

  6. The Harriman Team

    September 21, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    When we first ventured out into the social media world 2 years ago, our initial goal was to try to grow our business, nothing more, nothing less. We were neophytes in a young and evolving medium, but our motives were, we thought, simple and straightforward, and we expected nothing else. But…

    along came something called the Law of Unintended Consequences, and changed our social media strategy forever. While we initially just wanted to grow our business, prolonged exposure to various social media sites brought other, unexpected results as well. We were already listening to a host of RE experts on how to improve business, but that’s all we were doing was listening; lurking, if you will. But, we weren’t participating, we weren’t contributing; we weren’t ENGAGING. Nor were we sharing what we learned, but hoarding it like a squirrel hoards nuts. It was only when we started engaging and sharing with others that the true value of social media came to us. We’ve improved our business, but we’ve also learned so much more than that, plus made some awesome friends from all over the US and even other countries.

    Social karma is, perhaps, the biggest unintended consequence of social capital. When you share something on Twitter, do you always expect it to be re-tweeted? Likewise, if you’ve engaged and shared well, do you expect to be included in a #FollowFriday tweet? When you write an insightful blog post on Active Rain, do you expect it to be re-blogged? No, you do these things in an attempt to add value to the medium, in an authentic and transparent manner, not for personal recognition. Social karma results when your actions have positive effects on those you engage with who, in turn, relate those effects to others. Of course, there is the possibility of generating negative social karma as well, but that’s another story…(hopefully this made sense; I’m trying to do 5 things at once and this all sort of just spilled out!)

  7. ines

    September 21, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    ken – to me the whole point of social media is to attract like minded individuals – it is so much easier to do business with people that are similar to me and like who I am (but that’s me of course)….the stiff suit would never fit me.

    pat and wayne – thanks for your thoughtful response. IMO, it is always great to lurk first to get a feel for how things work (and you will agree all platforms are different) – I think you guys define the process of SM and so happy you came to the realization than there is so much more to it than just “growing your business”. I met my best friend through Active Rain and talk to him almost every day – it’s amazing what the power of SM is, and how it can be underutilized.

  8. MIssy Caulk

    September 21, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Yesterday I downloaded tweetdeck. I had been using something else and when they had a new version to download it quit so I said heck, may as well go to tweetdeck.
    As I was adding my FB friends in a column and then my favorites on Twitter, the thought occurred to me, “I wish I had known how to do this a few year ago, I would never have accepted all those “friends.”
    When FB came out with lists it revolutionized my life. I am now so much more in control of who I am talking too.
    You are one of the “best” social networkers I know and a great example.
    You mentioned you met your best friend on AR, that is where I met most of mine and really the launching pad for most of what I know. I still think it is my favorite social network.

  9. Fred Romano

    September 21, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Excellent video! Thanks for finding it and sharing.

  10. ines

    September 21, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Fred – should have mentioned it – @wwwfreesoules shared it with me 🙂

  11. Jeffrey Douglass

    September 21, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    “Bottom line is social media gives people more reach”

    Ines, wow what a statement, how true. Like you said each of us can define what our interaction is and who we wish to interact with.

    What I love is I can follow interesting and thoughtful folks like @mattdollinger, @kenbrand, @ines and100’s others. While never meeting you in person, I think I have a pretty good idea of who you are and what you stand for.

    In the long run, I believe it is hard to not to have ones real self bleed through any front put up for social persona. In the long run anyway….

  12. ines

    September 21, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Jeffrey – you have no idea how many people I’ve met F2F after communicating through this medium for months and there was not a second of doubt that I already knew them – it is truly priceless. My oldest son used to call my internet friends “fake friends” until he has met a few in person and realizes the relationship is as real as it gets. I guess the fake social personas are the ones not really immersed in the medium.

  13. Bill Risser

    September 21, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Ines,

    I’ve followed you on Twitter for a while and I really enjoyed this post. As I myself lurk and learn, I find myself wondering some of the same things you mentioned above. How do I know real authenticity online? I found one thing that helps is to listen to the message being delivered over time. Every now and then, a different side of a blogger or tweeter shows it ‘s face, and something doesn’t feel quite right…

    I’ll be attending REBlogWorld next month, and I look forward to the opportunity to meet many of the people I follow, friend, and connect with. I’m also very glad your last line about mortgage brokers, Realtors and Appraisers didn’t include Title and Escrow!

    Hope to see you in Las Vegas!

  14. ines

    September 21, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Hey Bill…..stop lurking!!! I’m now following @billrisser on twitter (in case anyone else wants to know) – I’m bummed I’m not going to Vegas, but sure your time there will be well spent. Love how you mention

    and something doesn’t feel quite right…

    because if it smells, feels and tastes like……(ok, I’ll stop there)

    Intuition to me is very important, and I’ve learned to listen

    ….for the record, didn’t mention Title and Escrow because it’s been good in my part of the woods lately (but don’t discount it) 🙂

  15. moises cohen

    September 21, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    I’m so lucky to have found miamism! I’m in San Diego and over the past few days I’ve learned so much from your website, blogs and tweets. The ultimate beneficiaries of social media are customers and people who are touched by organizations and courageous people who look within themselves to embrace change, foster innovation and continuously look outside their companies for trends and opportunities to accept and respond to customer feedback. Peter F. Drucker put it best when he said that “what really matters is commitment to the future, commitment to the customer, and commitment to the process.” We all do what we do not just to make money , but to make a difference. If we stay true to our purpose, the money will always follow. Like I mentioned before, I’ve only been connected to your network you for a few days and I get your message. You just can’t fake the kind of passion that you have, or turn it on in front of the camera. It feels genuine, it feels real and you are incredibly persuasive. I want to work for Miamism!!! hahaha!!

  16. Ines

    September 22, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Moises…..when are you moving to Miami? We have a spot waiting for you 🙂

    seriosly, that has got to be one of the nicest things anyone has ever said – THANK YOU!

  17. Ian Greenleigh

    September 22, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    I would love to completely be myself online, but I have to consider two dynamics:

    1) I’m an abrasive person, I love to argue, and I’m anything but apathetic, even on issues I have no business speaking of.

    2) I work for someone else.

    I might just roll with #1 if it weren’t for #2. I think I’ve found a nice middle ground, and I’m sticking to it for now.

  18. Tim Ryan

    September 23, 2009 at 12:54 am

    I get a lot of social media following by blogging and uploading real estate videos. However I am not pursuing any other personality but a real estate agent in a certain locality with a bunch of experience.

  19. Joe Spake

    September 23, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Just an observation: I was in a seminar last week with one of those self-defined real estate gurus ( visionaries, gods, experts….you fill in the blank), who bragged that , since FB only allows 5000 friends, he had just opened his 4th profile. Is this approach “social” at all?

    And I am my true self on all the platforms I use. It’s a good way for potential customers to pre-qualify me, and a good way for those who know me, or sort of know me, to see that I am for real.

  20. TheHarrimanTeam

    September 23, 2009 at 11:16 am

    That doesn’t sound too smart to me. Plus, won’t FB slap him for having all those profiles? I wonder if that RE “guru/god/expert/kahuna” knows he can do the same thing with a Facebook business page? Maybe someone should hook him up with @MikeMueller…

  21. Matthew Rathbun

    September 23, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Ines,

    Great gathering of thoughts.

    Here’s my thing. I enjoy my Twitter Sphere, but really only ever connected with the first 200 or so followers that I had in 2007 when many of us stated out. Many who are “getting on that bandwagon” missed the point of interaction to the point of it becoming noise.

    DAILY I am bombarded with people trying to make money using Social Media. The only thing I’ve learned to be a constant truth in social media engagement is that not everyone is going to connect with you, no matter who much we all try to be like Jeff Turner. you or Lani. 🙂

    I’ve learned to accept that my online friends have accepted that I’m essentially stupid or they have unfollowed. If my FB and Twitter sphere want to do business with me – great! If not, well there are other who do.

    Great information and thanks for sharing!

  22. Joe Spake

    September 23, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Matthew,
    Good points.
    Yes, most of us would like to be like Jeff Turner, but we are mostly Realtors who can’t seem to grasp Jeff’s concept of “Hunt the deer, not the hunters”. What separates Jeff from the rest of us is that he “gets” hunting the deer, which for him is us. We spend lots of time online socializing with other hunters and often lose sight of our deer – customers, potential customers, and clients.

  23. Bill Lublin

    September 23, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Ines;

    Great post, but I do have a little problem with the whole social karma thing – real social capital is built by doing good for others, not by investing in them. Maybe it was just the 140 character limitation, but no matter what you call it, its really the same thing – I don’t think we need to bifurcate it any further. The whole concept of social capital is more abstract than that tweet would suggest.

    That being said, I agree totally that the real important part of participating in social media is to be genuine. If you adopt that position, you don;t need to worry about what part of your personality you share, as long as its part of your personality and not just a position you want to take or an appearance you want to have. – I value being genuine over transparency – as I say a lot “I don’t care to see how the hot dog is made, but I do want to know that its really all beef!”

    At least we know that with @Ines we always get the real deal!

  24. ines

    September 23, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Ian – for the record…..I like abrasive…..it makes conversations so much more interesting. Working for someone else and having to keep a certain image reminds me of Todd when he became NAR’s social media director —– I always wondered, “will he become a suit?….naaaa…..it’s TODD!; will he stop dropping the “F” bomb?…..naaaaa…….it’s TODD!!” So he was able to maintain his personality, the one we have all learned to love and appreciate while at the same time representing his employer.

    I’m not saying anyone can do that, but I’m saying that someones a company will become its spokesperson, and not the other way around – I totally understand your dilemma and when a certain big brokerage I worked for started having problems with my online communications, I changed companies (their loss).

    Tim – SM is so much more than

    pursuing any other personality but a real estate agent in a certain locality with a bunch of experience.

    It’s about putting yourself out there, making yourself vulnerable to the public and showing what value you add to a transaction before people even meet you F2F – there are MANY real estate agents with experience in your area, there’s only one YOU

    Joe – that’s insane!! FB allows one single profile per person or they will cut off your account (I learned that the hard way when setting up my husband’s account and making a mistake with the email address). It’s not about numbers…….what kind of engagement can you achieve with that? and furthermore, I guarantee those people only broadcast and achieve nothing.

    Matthew, don’t even try playing the stupid card with me! that is absurd! There is a lot of noise out there and it’s easy to cut out (which is one of the things I love) – you know the guy that doesn’t stop talking about irrelevant crap when you are at a party and no matter how many times you move, he’s always there yapping away? in SM, you BLOCK HIM!! YESSSSSssss! 🙂 I have found that grouping my friends helps a lot – the architects, the SM locals, the RE.net, clients……etc. Makes it so much easier to engage – and btw, thanks for putting me in the same cat at Jeff “friggin'” Turner and Lani!

    Joe, I will let Jeff answer that. In my opinion, Jeff is just out engaging because he likes people, it’s not so much as “hunting the deer” – if I could by osmosis, learn just a portion of how to engage people the way Jeff does, my life would be 100 times better. If you have seen him in action, he legitimately cares – will listen to your problem and will come up with a solution that will only bring him joy of knowing he has made a different in your life – no ulterior motive. Let’s try THAT in the Real Estate Industry.

    Bill, I had the same problem with Social Karma as you did because I didn’t see them as separate things but one in the same. The difference, after a lot of discussion is that Karma deals with the whole picture and with no goals……you will get what you deserve. Where capital just measures your interaction. I wish Matt D would come in here to explain his take, since he does it from a coaching perspective. I think we can agree, that we are the real deal on line than in person

    …..I will part for now, since vicodin is talking and may read this later and laugh 😀 You guys ROCK!

  25. Jeffrey Douglass

    September 23, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Ines, Years ago my old friend @CoachTomFerry taught there is only one you, all of us real estate agents have one thing that is unique, and that is our personality, life experiences, and what @mattdollinger says, the you factor.

    Social media allows us to magnify this beyond our wildest imagination and allows the prospect to get to know us way before they pick up the phone or send an e-mail. Blogging day by day builds out on-line personality – which by the way should match our off-line personality. That is why to be successful long term in social media – you have to be fairly aligned in the real world and the on line world.

    I don’t know Jeff Turner and have never spoken to him. But I have lived some of his on-line experiences with through a trip to Yosemite and his very interesting tweets.

    Thanks for the great article and resulting discussion, this is what really gets me excited about Twitter, blogging, and SM.

  26. mlapeter

    September 23, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks for the post Ines. I think it takes everyone a while to find their groove with social media… I think just as in the real world some agents are people persons and some are more analytical… we can’t all be “gurus”, some of us are just us.

  27. Joe Spake

    September 23, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Yikes, don’t get me wrong about Jeff. I was just echoing his words about social media marketing. If anyone in the social media world (real estate or not) deserves the title Guru, it is Jeff Turner.

  28. ines

    September 23, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Jeffrey – you got it! not only showing the “you” and what makes that unique, but the ability to show the value as compared to the thousands of others. I’m dying to meet Tom Ferry in person so I can make up my own mind about his on-line and off-line persona…..stay tuned 🙂

    miapeter – gurus are overrated IMHO, being “just you” is what the consumer wants to see. Dropping the formalities and the scripts and being real – it’s why this medium is so powerful

    Joe – totally got you, was just adding to your analysis for those that don’t read beyond the lines

  29. tomferry

    September 23, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Ines … so are we meeting at BarCamp SD or what? Looking forward to the opportunity for sure! I know Jim Marks et al’ (is that how you spell that???!!!) will be putting on a great event for everyone.

    TF

  30. Jeffrey Douglass

    September 23, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Okay Ines, so Tom and I want to know, San Diego in November?

  31. ines

    September 23, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    @coachtomferry So looking forward to meeting you in SD Tom – also putting up a great one with Jeff “da’ man” Turner – I have a feeling you will not disappoint #justsayin’

  32. ines

    September 23, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Jeffrey and tom – yes to SD (maybe to rebarcamp) – don’t know if I”ll be able to leave for that long

  33. tomferry

    September 24, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Jeffrey and Ines … game on! Mojitos anyone???

  34. ines

    September 24, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    BIG SMILE over here @coachtomferry 😀

  35. Bill Lublin

    September 24, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Ines – That’s where I have the problem wth the capital/karma thing – When you build capital it isn’t about that direct save one get one type of thinking – Its about doing the right things because they’re the tright things – and because when you do that you can impinge on others – and karma works the same way – the concept of karma is easily explained by the phrase what goes around comes around = and is based on the philosophical concept that we earn our rewards (and our position on the ladder if new incarnations) by the actions we take in our current life. Which is obviously the same type of concept as social capital-
    To talk about social karma as if its spiritual and social capital as if it is not (which is certainly is) is just ocnfusing to me (but then again I’m just not that bright – )

    Maybe we need to have the conversation in SD over mojitoes – Its only a little over a week since Rebarcamp Miami and I already miss you and Rick 😉

  36. ines

    September 24, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    Damn I miss you @BillLublin – we need to think of a fun presentation to do together in one of these barcamps – we would totally rock it!

    As for the

    Its about doing the right things because they’re the tright things

    In a perfect world….I would agree…..but we are far from perfect – there’s always an ulterior motive and the fact that you CAN build social capital gives many reason to even attempt to do it. (and I know you said “tright” while putting a peace sign on your chest btw)

    I think we should definitely take this conversation to the next level over mojitos in SD – I’m game 🙂

  37. Jonathan Dalton

    September 24, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Life’s so much easier when you’re a schmuck online and #IRL. 🙂

  38. Hal Lublin

    September 24, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Ines – I have to agree with you, but the term “ulterior motive” has such negative and duplicitous connotations that I think it may be too harsh a term. You may be out there with the intention of earning business and a strategy to do so, and adding value may be a big part of that strategy. However, from the interactions we’ve had, I believe that you do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do – making that a part of your business strategy makes you IMO an even better person since you’ve found a way to reach clients without sacrificing your values, electing to INTEGRATE them instead.

    The truth is that EVERY good deed carries some alternate benefit to the doer, whether it’s social capital they’re looking to build or just the feeling they get when they’re helped someone. While there are many people who have, will and do exploit this, our intuition (as you point out) can help us to sniff out the fakes.

  39. Ann Cummings

    September 24, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    I am just me, online and in real life, and I can’t imagine not being that. That would be too much work to me, and what happens when people meet you in real life and you’re nothing like the online persona you’ve ‘built’?

    Most people that I’ve been interacting with online over these years have been exactly as they are online. Sadlly, some have been quite disappointing when I got to meet them. Those people that aren’t ‘real’ are the ones missing the boat, in my opinion.

  40. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    September 24, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    @papagrande – And to you, my schmuck friend I say only one thing……CUPHOLDERS!!! 🙂

    Hal – of course I use “ulterior motives” for dramatic effect but if you really think of it – the whole bandwagon of people that have been jumping on twitter lately are doing it for one reason only. It’s nice when you can be genuinely nice and get something in return (it’s the reason I like SM so much). I think back when I joined twitter in May of 2007, I was testing a tool, a communication tool and had no idea where it would go or what I could achieve with it (neither did the founders btw)……some of us try different things with the hopes that it will develop into something useful for business, which ultimately IS an ulterior motive.

    Ann – and I am soooo glad for it (that you are who you are and that I am lucky to have you in my life)

    Matt and I also discussed the use of SM for fundraisers and charitable causes and I have learned first hand the power and amazing results we can get. Now let’s get our heads together and develop a kick ass idea for the benefit of a great cause – but our social capital together, no name attached to the cause and run with it! who’s in?

  41. MikeMueller

    September 24, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    What a great conversation. Social Capital, Investment, being real …

    To me, SM is just the start of the conversation. I follow everyone on Twitter and FB who follows me yet there’s no engagement with many of them (yet).

    Technology (like Seesmic Desktop) allows me to filter and slow down the quickly moving stream of Tweets and FB updates to a manageable 100 peeps I really care about. I miss most of the crap from the spammers and Broadcasters.

    When they’re ready to start a conversation – I’m all ears!
    Comments, DM’s, @replies, Google Alerts, etc. are always monitored and always responded to.

    Looking at all the Peeps above. Aren’t we just preaching to the choir?

    (I like the guy with 4 personal profiles)

  42. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    September 24, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    SM is to you you what Mojitos is to me 😀 ……the start of conversation (thanks for ruining the fun Mike…..of course we preach to the choir……but we know there are plenty of lurkers learning and absorbing)

    Maybe we should all go hit multiple personality dood just for fun

  43. Matt Dollinger

    September 25, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Ines,

    Wow. I wouldn’t have thought that our short (but meaningful) conversation would have generated this much buzz. I personally think you definitely made me sound more concise and knowledgeable than what I heard coming out of my mouth! Rather than take away from the awesomeness of your post, I am trying to finalize a follow up post that will take my perspective.

    Thanks again Ines… this is great.

  44. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    September 25, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    @MattDollinger …..I think you would agree that we cannot waste those “short, but meaningful conversations” 🙂 It was great food for thought and the analysis keeps blowing my mind – can’t wait to read your post.

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Ethics

The problem with a self-policing industry: you have to be a narc

Ethics violations in the real estate industry can make or break a Realtor’s career, depending on the severity, so it would stand to reason that all would be mindful of the rules, but there are always individuals in the field that act as if the Code of Ethics is irrelevant.

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An animated discussion on ethics training

“Does anyone else find it ironic that NAR – the trade association for Realtors – has to mandate that members take an ethics class every four years?” An agent who attended one of my company’s broker opens yesterday posed that question to the wine and cheese grazing attendees. Of course, that opened up an animated discussion on the value of etchics training and the lack of enforcement when the rules are violated.

One agent volunteered that the guy sitting next to her in her last ethics class played games on his cell phone and then cheated during the test at the end of the class. Seriously, dude? You cannot even pay attention long enough to pass what should be the easiest test you’ll ever have to take in your career? Perhaps he was just seeing how far he could push it by cheating during an ethics test, to see if anyone else around him caught the extreme irony there. None of the other agents around him – including the agent he cheated off – turned him in and the instructor didn’t notice.

This same agent later called one of my sellers and tried to convince him to break a listing contract with me, because he had a “guaranteed buyer” in the wings. The seller was an attorney, and this bozo tried to get me cut out of the deal, offering the seller a reduced fee to dump me. The seller held firm and directed the agent to call me, then the seller called to let me know about the conversation.

“But you know if you file something the other agent will know.”

It gets better. After the deal closed, I requested paperwork from our local Board of Realtors to file an ethics complaint. The person in charge said, “But you know if you file something the other agent will know.” Gee. Really? I asked her to send the paperwork over anyway.

I called the seller/attorney and asked him to repeat the conversation to me, because I was documenting it to file a complaint. He turned wishy washy on me at that point and his story changed from “The other agent tried to get me to dump you as the listing agent to cut you out” to “Well he really only asked a few questions and I told him to call you. He probably didn’t mean any harm by it.” So there goes my star witness, who doesn’t want to rock the boat.

I didn’t file the complaint. I resorted to the “turn the blind eye but never trust the sleazeball again” path. And that is what happens to almost all ethics issues I hear about / see in person.

That’s what happens when you have a self-policing group of “professionals” who would rather not “narc” on a fellow agent. After all you’re probably going to end up on the other side of a deal from this guy some day, right? The guy in my example has sold two of my houses since that run-in. Why tick him off by filing a complaint and going through all that hassle? If he stops bringing buyers to my properties then my sellers ultimately lose, right?

Boiling down the CoE

The NAR Code of Ethics takes up pages and pages of tiny print, and it runs each year in their trade magazine (I think it’s the January issue). Does anybody read that? Probably not many. I’d argue none of us ever should have to read it again. Simply follow this advice instead. The thousands of words in the Code boil down to one thing: Do unto other agents, and consumers, and clients, what you would have them do unto you. It’s the Golden Rule. Simple. Well, obviously not, for many agents and brokers.

The sad part is the agent in my example had no clue how close I was to filing that compaint, and if he did know he’d probably scratch his head and wonder why his actions were “wrong.” Making us take a one-day class every few years won’t “make” the unethical agents suddenly operate ethically. Most of them just don’t get it.

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Ethics

Ethics hearings in private a disservice to consumers?

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Fight Club and real estate

For those of you that saw the movie ‘Fight Club’ you’ll remember that Rule #1 is “You do not talk about fight club,” followed closely by Rule #2, “You DO NOT talk about fight club.” Which, believe it or not, brings me to today’s topic: The Real Estate Code of Ethics and Arbitration. Article 17 obligates Realtors to resolve fights disputes with another Realtor through arbitration (not litigation). Arbitration is conducted at the local board level, and I am not aware of a local board that doesn’t require arbitration to be confidential.

I respect that public internecine warfare amongst Realtors isn’t in the interest of our industry, and doesn’t belong in the public spotlight. I’m not here to advocate the collective airing of our dirty laundry. That said, I wonder if our collective agreement to keep our concerns confidential can inadvertently harm the consumer and ultimately makes all of us look a little shoddier?

To find the first arbitration guidelines created by NAR and distributed as a set of suggested rules for boards to follow, we have to travel all the way back in time to 1929. NAR’s first Code of Ethics & Arbitration Manual wasn’t created until 1973, and it credited a 1965 California Association of Realtors version as its model.

Appalling conduct

I can think of two instances in the past year where I was so appalled by the conduct of a fellow Realtor that I went to the trouble to inquire about how to lodge a Code of Ethics complaint with my local board. After weighing the time required to make a competent complaint and comparing it with the best case outcome (a closed-to-the-public hearing in which they were found to have violated the code of ethics), I decided not to pursue a complaint in both cases. My association’s bylaws (and probably yours) give it the power to discipline any member based on the results of a Code of Ethics hearing, “provided that the discipline imposed is consistent with the discipline authorized by the Professional Standards Committee of the National Association of REALTORS® as set forth in the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual of the National Association.”

“Sanctioning Guidelines” – (Appendix VII of Part 4 of the 2011 manual for the very curious), guides member boards to impose disciplinary consequences that are progressive and fair, taking all considerations into account. Sample first-time disciplinary actions include suggestions of a letter of warning, a fine (amounts range from $200 to $5,000 depending on the severity of the violation), and attendance at relevant education sessions. Not to sound defeatist, but a confidential letter of warning and a fine of around $200 doesn’t seem like an outcome worth investing much of my time in.

Practicing in the internet era

Given that we live and work in the internet era, and review sites like Yelp abound, it seems a bit odd to me that a local board might know of an agent with problem behavior that is documented yet choose to make that information unavailable to consumers. My understanding is that the results of a code of ethics hearing are confidential with disclosure authorized in a few situations, none of which deal with informing the public.

Many of my fellow colleagues feel that the best response to a bad agent is to be patient and give them enough time to work themselves out of business. I can respect and understand their hands-off approach. But what about the damage that individual does to our industry as a whole? While we whisper, warn in confidence and know amongst ourselves how awful they are, the public doesn’t get the benefit of our perspective. Deprived of it, they turn to consumer review sites like Yelp.

How do you think we, as an industry, can help consumers in their quest to find a trustworthy agent?

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Realtors, we really need to get over ourselves already

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A letter from the child of a Realtor.

Real estate now vs. 1987

In Real Estate, some things are always changing, like financing, education, laws, rules and technology. The two that will always remain constant, as long as they are within the law, are following our clients’ directions, and working with their best interests in mind.  I’m not sure we always follow through with this, though.

Some of us knowingly take over priced listings.  Some of us take listings that are out of our area of expertise.  Some of us won’t show short sales or REOs.  Some of us won’t show homes with low co-op splits.  Some of us don’t have Supra/e-Keys, and miss out on those listings entirely.

Putting our interests first

When these things occur we are putting our own interests first, not our clients’.  We may think that by having as many listings as possible is a good thing, that’s what we’re taught after all, isn’t it?  It may not matter that some are overpriced, eventually, whether one month or four months down the line, the price will be reduced.  It’s just a matter of time and money, for our clients, after all.  The same can be said when we take listings outside our area of expertise, just to add on to our inventory.  If we don’t know what we’re doing, on a short sale listing, for example, it will only cost our clients a lot of time and money.  A lot.

By eliminating certain houses our clients see, that may already fit their criteria, we’re taking away their choices.  Distressed sales account for close to 40% of the market.  This is probably higher in some local markets.  There is no legitimate way to ignore roughly 1/3 of the homes being sold.  Co-op fees are often a touchy subject, especially when they are, not “enough.”  If everyone utilized a Buyer Broker Agreement that stipulated what their fee was, the issue would take care of itself.  Not being able to access listings with the use of Supra/e-Keys is a choice.   Choosing not purchase one will mean agents will not be able to access Fannie Mae (and eventually, probably additional Gov REO homes) along with the listings that are already using them.

Our priorities versus theirs

We totally need to get over ourselves already.  We are not bigger than our clients.  Our priorities are not more important than theirs when it comes to the actual listing and selling of homes.

Recently, my awesome parents dug through a few boxes and rounded up one of my first art projects. About 25 years ago I did the poster featured above about my Mom, and her Real Estate career.  It was for an Open House (no pun, honest!!!) for the elementary school where I attended first grade.  It was just, what she did according to me way back then.  Things are way more complicated now, than when I was six.  There’s a heck of a lot more paperwork for one.  But the same basic principle still applies.

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