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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

Use nostalgia as a marketing niche for your business today

(MARKETING) A market that is making waves is found in the form of entertainment nostalgia. Everyone has memories and attachments, why not speak to them?

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nostalgia

Is it just me or does it seem like there is something for everything nowadays? Let me clarify, as that is a rather broad question…

With the way communicating through technology has advanced, it’s become much easier to connect with those who have shared interests. This has become especially evident with interests in the entertainment community.

Entertainment nostalgia

It now seems like there is an event for every bit of nostalgia you can imagine. Autograph shows, meet and greets, and memorabilia collections of all kinds are held in convention halls all around the world. (To give you an idea of how deep this thing goes, there was a “Grease 2” reunion convention sometime within the last five years. Being that I’m the only person I’ve ever met who likes that movie, it’s amazing that it found an audience.)

This idea of marketing by use of nostalgia is something that is becoming smartly tapped and there are a variety of directions it can go in.

For example, the new Domino’s ads feature dead-on tributes to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

What’s your niche?

If you’re a fan of anything, it’s likely that you can find an event to suit your needs.

And, if you want to take it a step further, you can think outside the box and use nostalgia as a marketing tool.

I recently began dabbling in social media gigs that have brought me to a few different fan conventions. One was a throwback 80s and 90s convention that featured everyone from Alan Thicke to the members of N*SYNC. Another is a recurring convention that brings together fans of sci-fi, horror, and everything under that umbrella.

I was amazed by the number of people that came out to these events and the amount of money that was spent on the day’s activities (autographs, photo ops, etc.). I was energized by the fact that you can take something you have a great appreciation for and bring together others who share that feeling. Watching people meet some of their favorite celebrities is something that is priceless.

Hop onboard the nostalgia train

If you’re a fan of something, you don’t have to look too far to find what you’d enjoy – going back to the aforementioned “Ferris Bueller” example, there is a first-ever John Hughes fan event taking place in Chicago next month that will bring fans to their favorite Brat Pack members.

In the same thought, if you have an idea, now is the time to find others who share that interest and execute your vision.

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Business Marketing

5 tips to help you craft consistently high-converting email marketing

(MARKETING) Email may seem too old to be effective but surprisingly it’s not, so how can you get the most out of your email marketing? Try these tips.

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Email marketing

Email marketing might seem archaic in comparison to modern mediums like social media, blogging, and podcasting; however, it actually remains one of the highest converting options marketers and small businesses have at their disposal.

But Why Email?

Hopefully, you believe in email as an effective marketing channel, but in case you have doubts, let’s hit the reset button. Here’s why email marketing is worth investing in:

  • Email is one of the few marketing channels that you have total control over. Unlike a social media audience, which can disappear if the platform decides you violate their terms, you own your email list.
  • Email is considered very personal. When someone gives you access to their inbox, they’re telling you that you can send them messages.
  • From a pure analytics perspective, email gives you the ability to track behaviors, study what works, and get familiar with the techniques that don’t.
  • The ROI of email marketing is incredibly high. It can deliver as much as $44 in value for every $1 spent.

5 Tips for High-Converting Emails

If you’ve been using email, but haven’t gotten the results you’d like to, it’s probably because you’re using it ineffectively.

Here are a few very practical tips for high-converting emails that generate results:

  1. Write Better Subject Lines: Think about email marketing from the side of the recipient. (Considering that you probably receive hundreds of emails per week, this isn’t hard to do.) What’s going to make you engage with an email? It’s the subject line, right?If you’re going to focus a large portion of your time and energy on one element of email marketing, subject lines should be it.The best subject lines are the ones that convey a sense of urgency or curiosity, present an offer, personalize to the recipient, are relevant and timely, feature name recognition, or reference cool stories.
  2. Nail the Intro”: Never take for granted the fact that someone will open your email, and read to the second paragraph. Some will – but most will scan the first couple of lines, and then make a decision on how to proceed.It’s critically important that you get the intro right. You have maybe five seconds to hook people in, and get them excited. This is not a time to slowly build up. Give your best stuff away first!
  3. Use Video: Email might be personal, but individual emails aren’t necessarily viewed as special. That’s because people get so many of them on a daily basis.According to Blue Water Marketing, “The average person receives more than 84 emails each day! So how do you separate your emails from everyone else? Embed videos in your emails can increase your conversion rates by over 21 percent!”This speaks to a larger trend of making emails visually stimulating. The more you use compelling visuals, the more engaging and memorable the content will be.
  4. Keep Eyes Moving: The goal is to keep people engaging with your email content throughout. While it’ll inevitably happen with a certain percentage of recipients, you want to prevent people from dropping off as they read.One of the best ways to keep sustained engagement is to keep eyes effortlessly moving down the page with short and succinct copy.One-liners, small paragraphs, and lots of spacing signal a degree of approachability and simplicity. Use this style as much as you can.
  5. Don’t Ask Too Much: It can be difficult to convey everything you want to say in a single email, but it’s important that you stay as focused as possible – particularly when it comes to CTAs and requests.Always stick to one CTA per email. Never ask multiple questions or present different offers. (It’ll just overwhelm and confuse.) You can present the same CTA in multiple places – like at the beginning, middle, and end of the email – but it needs to be the same call. That’s how you keep people focused and on-task.

Give Your Email Marketing Strategy a Makeover

Most businesses have some sort of email lists. Few businesses leverage these lists as well as they should. Hopefully, this article has provided you with some practical and actionable tips that can be used to boost engagement and produce more conversions. Give them a try and see what sticks.

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Business Marketing

Here’s how one employer was able beat an age discrimination lawsuit

(MARKETING) Age discrimination is a rare occurrence but still something to be battled. It’s good practice to keep your house in order to be on the right side.

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Jewel age discrimination

In January, the EEOC released its annual accounting for reports of discrimination in the previous year. Allegations of retaliation were the most frequently filed charge, which disability coming in second. Age discrimination cases accounted for 21.4% of filed charges. As we’ve reported before, not all age discrimination complaints rise to the level of illegal discrimination. In Cesario v. Jewel Food Stores, Inc., the federal court dismissed the claims of age discrimination, even though seven (7) plaintiffs made similar claims against the grocery store.

What Cesario v. Jewel Food Stores was about

In Cesario, all but one of the seven plaintiffs had spent years with Jewel Food building their careers. When Jewel went through some financial troubles, the plaintiffs allege that they began to “experience significant pressure at work… (and) were eventually forced out or terminated because of their age or disability.” Jewel Food requested summary judgment to dismiss the claims.

The seven plaintiffs made the same type of complaints. Beginning in 2014, store directors were under pressure to improve metrics and customer satisfaction. Cesario alleges that the Jewel district manager asked about his age. Another director alleges that younger store directors were transferred to stores with less difficulties. One plaintiff alleged that Jewel Food managers asked him about his retirement. The EEOC complaints began in late 2015. The plaintiffs retired or were fired and subsequently filed a lawsuit against their company.

Age discrimination is prohibited by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA). The ADEA prevents disparate treatment based on age for workers over 40 years old. However, plaintiffs who allege disparate treatment must establish that the adverse reactions wouldn’t have occurred but for age. Because none of the plaintiffs could specifically point to age as the only determination of their case, the court dismissed the case.

A word to wise businesses

Jewel Food was able to demonstrate their own actions in the case through careful documentation. Although there was no evidence that age played a factor in any discharge decision, Jewel Food could document their personnel decisions across the board. The plaintiffs also didn’t exhaust all administrative remedies. This led to the case being dropped.

Lesson learned – Make perssonel decisions based on performance and evidence. Don’t use age as a factor. Keep documentation to support your decisions.

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