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Social real estate brokerage – the vision [ideas from 2008]

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reach out and blog someoneThe Setup: Brokers around the country have had to adopt the idea that their agents are free agents and have big mouths- they like to blog, they want to know what it is, how to do it, and in many cases are attacking it from all directions.

This article was first published on AgentGenius.com on June 08, 2008.

Conferences around the country are absorbing eager agents in high numbers to teach them how to reach their markets in more social ways, and blogging is a fantastic start. Brokers have resorted to flying in folks (even from Agent Genius) to teach their agents the basics as a part of their training- I think this is fantastic, but Brokers are missing a big opportunity to blend this into a part of their overall reputation management, and bolstering their own social credibility.

Listen Up BIG Brokers

Consider an inner office opportunity to provide blogging as an outlet service within your markets. How you ask? Simple. Multi-Author Office Blogs.

Imagine a 20 person office managing a unique city blog. Twenty unique personalities that can log into the wordpress backend while doing floor time and blog about something going on in relation to their niche.

As most offices have agents that specialize in various niches, neighborhoods, high end, first home buyers, and others, it stands to reason that providing them a platform to reach out socially to their markets to demonstrate the strength of their office, brand, or team with your marketing dollars behind it as the incentive.

Here’s How it Would Work

  • Create an office wordpress sub domain, for example views.c21centercity.com
  • Give it a web2.0 neighborhood flavor, nothing overly branded- make it subtle
  • Create simple guidelines, define the mission, what the focus of the blog is-neighbor driven
  • The team would include anyone interested from the office including the office manager
  • Keep the articles rich in information for consumers, focus on longtail searches, not keywords
  • Offer tips, advice, city happenings, and other creative ideas
  • Keep the blog fresh, but do not schedule the bloggers. Instead, have them write advance articles
  • Your office manager can feed the advance articles on slow office days
  • Create a blogroll that allows for immediate contact, but never blog about new listings- instead
  • Have new listings feed on the sidebar
  • Don’t sell
  • Create opportunities to inform rather than close- after all, you’re demonstrating office knowledge

By Far, This List Doesn’t Cover Everything

You should be getting the overall feel of what I am describing, and you should understand that the natural graduation from the office blog you create will be the agents creating their own blogs, but that’s okay. Your focus is your office, and brand- as your agents become comfortable with blogging, let go of the reins, allow it to grow and blossom into what it wants to be. Always avoid the tendency to be political or competitive in your market as losing focus on these things may tell your potential clients that your focus isn’t them.

Humanizing Your Brokerage

Behind that Gold jacket are consumers with licenses that are professional relationship builders. You cannot avoid this valuable opportunity in which to allow these sharp professionals to soften those hard edges of a giant brand.

Socialize Your Brand

When creating your wordpress blog, don’t forget to encourage your agents to create Twitter, and Facebook accounts. Allow your agents professional feeds to be fed via RSS into your wordpress sidebar under contact us. Over time, you’re building trusted relationships and unique opportunities for the client to reach out and touch you, rather than needing to reach out and mail them.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Barry Cunningham

    June 8, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Shhhhhhhhhh…Let them be. Let them flounder and succumb. Most don’t believe in it anyway and true Darwinism shall prevail. We, as are many, are blogging, and SEO’g the heck out of our blogs and by the time they decide to do something and then have the lawyers okay it,a nd then give their agents all the guidelines they don’t want them doing..it’ll be all over.Before they know it we’ll own the market share and they won’t be able to respond.

    You here, INman, BHB, 4realz..we on our show…have long sounded the bell. They did not respond and let’s count them out and show those who DO want to succeed just how to do it.

    So SHHHHHH!

  2. Teresa Boardman

    June 8, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Benn- I think this works out better for the brokerage than for the individual blogger. I like to advertise my own brans.

  3. Benn Rosales

    June 8, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    It’s still smart business.

  4. Broker Bryant

    June 8, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    OK my comment has now been deleted twice because I can’t get past the math question. I KNOW that 4+6 is 10 but unfortunately the system doesn’t agree. I guess that’s my clue to not let my cat out of the bag:)

  5. Benn Rosales

    June 8, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Those pesky (but thank goodness they’re there) plugins, sorry Bryant.

  6. Teresa Boardman

    June 8, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Very smart for the brokers and if I ran an office I would do just as you say and get those agents blogging away. As an agent I would keep my own blog and am not sure I would just the brokers blog for more than a link. Sometimes we take a new idea or piece of technology and use it in old ways. The broker blog would be like the broker web site in that it would look like an obituary page with all those out of date pictures and would be covered with broker logos because that is who they are and what they do.

  7. Barry Cunningham

    June 8, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    C’mon BB…you know you were using Poinciana math..:)

  8. Benn Rosales

    June 8, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Teresa, true and false on old fashioned. I addressed it, and if they chose to operate in a 1.0 way through a 2.0 venue it will shine through like sunlight into a dark hole- my advice to them is to take my advice- do it my way, not theirs.

    This concept would also work for the local blog of a mobile brokerage as a device to generate web opportunities.

  9. Benn Rosales

    June 8, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Angles – the office agent who may be basically a no name on the street (if they work it correctly) will benefit from the influx of marketing dollars by the broker and could potentially become a household name socially. I think there are many many ways an agent could expand their voice locally by use of the brokerage blog. Imagine the longtail local searches with your name on them in with such a high ranking blog.

  10. Matthew Rathbun

    June 8, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Great starting point for brokers. I was just writing a post about Brokers who still aren’t getting it… I feel it’s the responsibilities of those who knowledgeable to share with those who aren’t. It will make the industry, as a whole, be better received by the consumer. Not every agent is meant to be a social media god, but everyone should know about the tools that are effecting the industry.

  11. Teresa Boardman

    June 8, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Benn – yes I got your point, it is just that I have seen some broker blogs and they are not thinking outside the box but merely applying their old models to blogs. On some level I beleive that for marketing small is the new big (to quote Seth Godin) and that an individual has an advantage over an office full of bloggers. To me the very essence of the kind of blogging I do is my voice, which is a conversational tone written on a log that looks like St. Paul without looking commercial. I have seen it imitated but it doesn’t work that way.

  12. Daniel Rothamel

    June 8, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    This is a very good issue to address, and not a moment too soon. I think I remember reading something recently from Jim over at the Real Estate Tomato about launching a brokerage blog. I think he has created a platform that will do it.

    We are doing exactly this in our brokerage, but since we are only 3 (related) agents, I’m not sure if we count. Although, if we were to ever add agents, you can bet your bottom dollar that we would be doing exactly what you are talking about. Sure, agents would be free to maintain their own blogs, but getting everyone to contribute on the brokerage blog would be a great thing. Heck, you could even link to all of you the blogs of your respective agents and pass around the Google juice.

    Great idea, I’m sure it will lead to even better discussion, but when will we see it actually happen?

  13. Bill Lublin

    June 8, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Benn – You read my mind.

    We have had only one or two agents out of several hundred even think about blogging, and many of them were unclear aboput who to write for or what to write about. As a result, there was lot of conversation without direction and little execution.

    We’ve just started setting up the structure for a Company MU Blog to create some authors in our agency and to help some of the new agents find their voices. Once we introduce them to web 2.0, those who wish to will be able to create their own brand, and in the meantime, we’ll create an on-line community (hopefully like the one here) where people can express themselves, grow their businesses, and create an online camaraderie while learning and teaching about themselves, the company and the industry. It should help the company, the agents, and the communities we serve.

    Thanks for the outline. I have already sent it to my marketing director who has been charged with implementing the plan (with a little help from me)

  14. Daniel Rothamel

    June 8, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Broker Bryant,

    Don’t feel bad, AG was inexplicably black-listing all my comments for like two weeks back in the early days. It ain’t personal. 🙂

  15. Bill Lublin

    June 8, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    BTW I forgot to point out that Jay Thompson has just launched one for his firm as well.

  16. Ken Smith

    June 8, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    Interesting idea, but I think you would have a very hard time getting agents to stay committed.

  17. Benn Rosales

    June 8, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Ken, in every big office you have what I refer to as the desk daisys- they love the office, live in the office and love office things, typically, they’re the ones that love the office meetings, plan the office parties, and somehow manage to get every walk-in. I would wager the Daisys would pick up the slack!

    In offices the size of Jays or Daniels this will sizzle.

    Bill, if I can help, let me know.

    Daniel, can’t wait to see the finished product.

    as for Jay, I wasn’t aware, but I can’t wait to see what he cooks up.

    I’m not a reader of the re tomato (great blog themes though), nor seth godin, but he has cool book covers.

  18. Todd Carpenter

    June 8, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    A small boutique brokerage here in Denver does this.

    blog.liveurbandenver.com

    I agree with Teresa that, for the most part, agents would be best served to blog on their own. However, if you have a group of people who would only write one or two posts a month anyway, a group blog might be better for them.

    I think WordPress MU would be a ideal platform for a broker blog. Then each agent could have their own blog, but all of the posts would also show up on the main broker blog. Matt Fagioli of Diamond Dwellings worked with the Tomato to build their broker blogs with MU.

  19. Jay Thompson

    June 8, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    What you’re outlining here Benn is almost exactly what I’m envisioning Phoenix Real Estate Home to be. It’s brand new, and we’re just starting to add agents to the brokerage. Many are already well established bloggers and I suspect I may get some hesitation from our agents to post on PREH for fear of “diluting” their existing blogs.

    However, I think we can eventually turn it into a nice platform for all of us. Kind of a “the sum is greater than the parts” sort of thing.

    We’re still working on a “direction” for this particular site. There has to be a way to leverage it into additional exposure for us.

  20. Jay Thompson

    June 8, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    Benn wrote: “as for Jay, I wasn’t aware, but I can’t wait to see what he cooks up.”

    Dude, you need to read Phoenix Real Estate Guy more often! 😉

  21. Benn Rosales

    June 9, 2008 at 12:00 am

    When I have personal time, I do, I swear. Rather than buy me beer next time I see you, how about a box of personal time.

  22. Benn Rosales

    June 9, 2008 at 12:01 am

    It’s 1am and I’m still working- gimmie a break!

  23. Jay Thompson

    June 9, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Benn, don’t get me wrong, I like you, a lot. But if I come across a box of personal time, I’m keeping it!

  24. Broker Bryant

    June 9, 2008 at 6:14 am

    OK let’s try again….where’s my calculator.

    I’ve recently launched a social netwrok for my market area. I’m not soliciting business on it but am usuing it to get more in touch with folks in my market. The business will come later. I’m also in the process of hiring agents and taking my company virtual. My virtual office is being set up as a social network with blogs, forum etc…

    So I completely agree with your post.

  25. Ken Smith

    June 9, 2008 at 9:43 am

    BB glad you got your calculator out, was wondering what you hadn’t shared before.

    Benn there are always those that sit around the office, but they still don’t like doing anything that smells of real work. They typically don’t need any income from their real estate “business” and just enjoy sitting around talking to whoever will listen. I think your idea is great, just think that most offices would have a hard time making this work.

  26. Paula Henry

    June 9, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Benn – I am thinking along the lines of BB – setting up a virtual brokerage. I can see great benefit in allowing agents to post to a company blog. I envision agents writing about local happenings and real estate in their area of expertise, giving online visitors a “true” look at neighborhoods and communities around the city. Therefore each agent would benefit from their effort.

    I’m not sure it will work. I have asked lenders and my team members to blog; they don’t. Statitics show not many agents continue a blog, if they even start.

    I’ll ask Jay after a couple of months.

  27. Eric- New Orleans Condos and Lofts

    June 9, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    I would rather have my own blog and do my work. My broker would charge the agents for the leads or find some way to make some more money for the agents. That is just the way I see it.

  28. Benn Rosales

    June 9, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Eric, that is a huge concern and possibly the biggest reason I wrote the post- it would be a huge failure to go at it from any other direction then to stay local, stay human, and allow the agents to do what they do best – grow relationships.

  29. Janet

    June 17, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Excellent post. If only some of these old-school brokers would do 1/10th of your suggestions.

  30. Nicole Boynton

    July 28, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    We are working on just this sort of thing at https://SkyRealtyAustin.com and we have seen tremendous results. The key is finding a way to relate to your audience by blogging about areas and neighborhoods that you have in depth knowledge of and a passion about. Your blog will ring true with readers because your enthusiasm will shine through and provide a true “connection” to the reader. We have about 45 agents in our office that enjoy and specialize in different areas so it makes sense for us to blog about the parts of town we know and introduce them to our readers with our own personal stories. I am very lucky to be part of an office that is making Social Brokerage a reality and even better, they don’t charge you for the leads generated by the blogs! Check us out and if you are in Austin you should considering joining our team!

  31. Bryan Thompson

    January 11, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Benn, I see that the last comment on this article was from July 2008. I’m interested to know, have you seen a difference in the social brokerage idea since that time? Are there any markets where this may be better than others.

    I work for an association of Realtors in Missouri, and I would dare say 10-15% of our agents (because I work with them all the time) are actively engaged in social media as a part of their business – mostly Facebook. But I would say only 6% actually use it correctly and to its real potential.

    Are there some brokerages that have implemented these ideas?

  32. stephanie crawford

    February 2, 2011 at 2:21 am

    If I were to start a brokerage, I would do exactly what you are proposing here. And in a few years I may do just that. I’m curious if you could site any WP MU blogs that are already doing this well.

    My idea would be for each agent to have their own individual page (perhaps pages if they wanted them and were willing to customize) in addition to the main blog. The agents could point their vanity domains to their page if they were so inclined.

    I’d love to see a format where the entry page became “sticky” for the whole website. For instance, if a prospective client entered the website through Agent Anderson’s page, any IDX registration or contact inquiry would be routed directly to that agent. If they entered through the main page the inquiries could be rotated or sent to the broker for follow up depending on the neighborhood that prospect searched.

    Benn, have you seen anything like this in action?

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Business Marketing

How becoming better listeners eliminates our culture’s growing isolation

(BUSINESS MARKETING) We have all be frustrated by someone who doesn’t listen to us; so why not make sure that you are taking the steps to not be them, and be better listeners.

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good listeners breed good listeners

We all want the same thing: to be heard. In this digital age, we’ve created an endless stream of cries for attention via comment sections, forums, and social media feeds—shares, retweets, tags, videos, articles, and photos. Worse, our words echo in our digital bubbles or specific communities, doing nothing but making us lonely and isolated. However, in the midst of a divided political climate, we can all stand to strengthen our ability to listen.

Me? A bad listener? What are you trying to say? I got enough flaws to worry about and don’t wanna hear about another skill to improve. Oh, the irony.

“Bad listeners are not necessarily bad people,” assures Kate Murphy in her new book You’re Not Listening. “Anyone can get good at it. The more people you talk to, the better your gut instinct. You’re able to pick up those little cues. Without them, you’re not going to get the full context and nuance of the conversation,” she says in an interview with The Guardian’s Stephen Moss.

Our bad listening aside, we can all remember a time when we weren’t treated with the attention we craved. Moments where you’d do anything for the person you’re conversing with to give a sign of understanding—of empathy—to validate our feelings, to acknowledge the vulnerable piece of ourselves we’ve entrusted to them is cared for. Nothing is worse when we’re met with blank expressions and dismissive gestures or words. These interactions make us feel small and lonely. And the damage can stay with us.

So what can we do to ensure we’re the listeners we’ve always wanted from others? Being a good listener does take time, energy, and tons of practice. There are easy tips to keep in mind:

  1. Show you care by making eye contact and putting away your phone.
  2. Patience. Everyone opens up on their time.
  3. Ask open-ended questions. Yes/no responses inhibit the flow of conversation.
  4. Repeat what you’ve heard. This clarifies any misunderstanding and validates the speaker.
  5. Give space. Let the conversation breathe—silent pauses are healthy.

By becoming better listeners, we show care. We become curious about and empathetic towards others, leaving our bubbles—we become a little less lonely.

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Audio branding: Is this the next big boost in brand recognition?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Brands have invested heavily in audio branding in 2021, here’s how that is changing up the branding rankings for businesses.

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Person at audio mixing table, preparing audio branding

Media consumption and engagement with brands across digital platforms is increasing, according to sonic branding agency amp; and companies investing in audio branding are creating a significant competitive advantage. The Best Audio Brands (BAB) index created by amp uses 5 key criteria to measure audio investment performance: Customer recognition, customer trust, customer experience, customer engagement and customer belonging. The agency claims that companies investing in high quality audio assets for their brands have gained ground by establishing a recognizable audio identity.

Michele Arenese, amp CEO said, “Making a brand heard is more important than ever before. The past 18 months have accelerated the importance of sound and voice as vital elements of the brand identity and customer experience toolbox. Meaningful and purposeful brand communication takes advantage from a ownable and authentic sound ecosystem.”

For the second consecutive year, Mastercard ranked highly across all key criteria measured by the BAB and topped the list. Other brands that fared well on this year’s index were Netflix, which moved up 27 places by using it’s famous “ta-dum” more widely and Coca-Cola which collaborated with Tyler the Creator and invested more in bespoke music. In addition, 5 new brands to make the top 10 this year were Audi, Mercedes, Netflix, Hyundai and Siemens. The highest climbing brands were in the financial sector: HSBC, American Express and J.P. Morgan. The highest climbing sector, however, was beverages followed by automotive. Brands that dropped in the rankings this year were Google, Amazon, Colgate, Goldman Sachs, and Danone.

Björn Thorleifsson, Head of Strategy & Research, amp said: “This year has shown that those who were already embarking on their sonic branding journeys have increased their lead on trailing rivals – now clearly falling behind. Given the evolving ability of sound to reach consumers whatever the device or channel they’re on, we expect to see increased investment from brands looking to stand out amongst the online noise. There are already best practice examples from leaders, such as Mastercard, and we’d encourage those who want to improve brand recognition and even performance, to adopt a little less conversation on sonic branding, and a little more action.”

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Business Marketing

Buffer’s four-day workweek experiment: Boost or bust?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) After trying out a four-day workweek last year, Buffer is moving forward with the format going into 2021, citing increase in productivity and work-life balance.

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Man working in office with headphones on, making use of flexible four-day workweek.

The typical five-day workweek is a thing of the past for Buffer, at least for now. The company has decided to implement a four-day workweek for the “foreseeable future.”

Last year, the company surveyed its employees to see how they are dealing with the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic and the anxiety and stress that came along with it. They soon learned employees didn’t always feel comfortable or like they could take time off.

Employees felt guilty for taking PTO while trying to meet deadlines. Juggling work and suddenly becoming a daycare worker and teacher for their children at the same time was stressful. So, Buffer looked for a solution to help give employees more time and flexibility to get adjusted to their new routines.

Four-Day Workweek Trials

In May, Buffer started the four-day workweek one-month trial to focus on teammates’ well-being. “This four-day workweek period is about well-being, mental health, and placing us as humans and our families first,” said Buffer CEO and co-founder Joel Gascoigne in a company blog post.

“It’s about being able to pick a good time to go and do the groceries, now that it’s a significantly larger task. It’s about parents having more time with kids now that they’re having to take on their education. This isn’t about us trying to get the same productivity in fewer days,” Gascoigne said.

Buffer’s one-month trial proved to be successful. Survey data from before and after the trial showed higher autonomy and lower stress levels. In addition, employee anecdotal stories showed an increase in worker happiness.

With positive results, Buffer turned the trial into a long-term pilot through the end of 2020. This time, the trial would focus on Buffer’s long-term success.

“In order to truly evaluate whether a four-day workweek can be a success long-term, we need to measure productivity as well as individual well-being,” wrote Director of People Courtney Seiter. “Teammate well-being was our end goal for May. Whether that continues, and equally importantly, whether it translates into customer and company results, will be an exciting hypothesis to test.”

Trial Results

Company Productivity
Buffer’s shorter workweek trials showed employees felt they had a better work-life balance without compromising work productivity. According to the company’s survey data, almost 34% of employees felt more productive, about 60% felt equally as productive, and only less than 7% of employees felt less productive.

However, just saying productivity is higher isn’t proof. To make sure the numbers added up, managers were asked about their team’s productivity. Engineering managers reported that a decrease in total coding days didn’t show a decrease in output. Instead, there was a significant output increase for product teams, and Infrastructure and Mobile saw their output double.

The Customer Advocacy team, however, did see a decline in output. Customer service is dependent on customer unpredictability so this makes sense. Still, the survey showed about 85% to 90% of employees felt as productive as they would have been in a five-day workweek. Customers just had to wait slightly longer to receive replies to their inquiries.

Employee Well-Being
With more time and control of their schedules, Buffer’s survey shows an increase in individual autonomy and decreased stress levels reported by employees. And, the general work happiness for the entire company has been consistent throughout 2020.

What’s in store for 2021?

Based on positive employee feedback and promising company results, Buffer decided it will continue the company-wide four-day workweek this year.

“The four-day work week resulted in sustained productivity levels and a better sense of work-life balance. These were the exact results we’d hoped to see, and they helped us challenge the notion that we need to work the typical ‘nine-to-five,’ five days a week,” wrote Team Engagement Manager Nicole Miller.

The four-day workweek will continue in 2021, but the company will also be implementing adjustments based on the pilot results.

For most teams, Fridays will be the default day off. For teams that aren’t project-based, their workweek will look slightly different. As an example, the Customer Advocacy team will follow a different schedule to avoid customer reply delays and ticket overflow. Each team member will still have a four-day workweek and need to meet their specific targets. They will just have a more flexible schedule.

Companies who follow this format understand that output expectations will be further defined by area and department level. Employees who aren’t meeting their performance objectives will have the option to choose a five-day workweek or might be asked to do so.

If needed, Fridays will also serve as an overflow workday to finish up a project. Of course, schedules will be evaluated quarterly to make sure productivity is continuing to thrive and employees are still satisfied.

But, Miller says Buffer is “establishing ambitious goals” that might “push the limits” of a four-day work week in 2021. With the world slowly starting to normalize, who knows when a four-day workweek might reach its conclusion.

“We aren’t sure that we’ll continue with the four-day workweeks forever, but for now, we’re going to stick with it as long as we are still able to hit our ambitious goals,” wrote Miller.

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