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Where am I?

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Somewhere on earth


Searching

Sometimes when I go surfing on the internet I get lost. I get lost walking down the street and driving too but that isn’t relevant to this post.

I click and go from real estate blog to real estate blog and hit a few web sites, and they all have a similar look and feel. Real estate web sites and blogs kind of stand out that way.

Pictures Rule

Posting photos of local places and of real estate can give an agents blogs an edge and really make it stand out from the competition. Photos help create a sense of place. My goal with my blog has always been to make it look like St. Paul so that when people stop by they know where they are and can see that I know my way around the place. They just know they are not in Kansas any more, they have entered my world.

Here on agent genius every post has a photo. We have created a world here too. Filled with pictures of the latest gadgets, and ideas. Our pictures communicate to the readers that a bunch of us got together and started sharing information and ideas with our peers. The blog is bright, colorful, and friendly. I can glance at a page of it and absorb ideas just by looking at the images.

A sense of place . . makes sense

At a recent conference I talked with a couple of the companies that make the big national real estate sites. I told them that they are missing the boat because each of their pages looks the same. The sites have no sense of place. They really don’t have any personality either, each page just has a different set of real estate agent photos on it. Alabama looks pretty much the same as Hawaii.

The internet is just packed full of advertising and it all looks pretty much the same. I mostly tune it out and I am sure others do too. The advantage in having local photos on a real estate blog is that they make the site look less commercial.

Kill the competition

When it comes to competing on the web I think our blogs have an advantage over the national sites. We can create a friendly environment and that sense of place, that attracts home buyers and sellers. Corporations and real estate brokerages just don’t seem to be able to make it look anything but commercial and impersonal. I will even suggest that a marginal photo is better than no photo or clip art.

For bloggers who write for Google it doesn’t much matter how the site looks but for those of us who like to have the readers come back and linger awhile and interact with us, it is a big deal. The internet is for more than words. We can use it to create an experience or environment by using images.

Full time REALTOR and licensed broker with Saint Paul Home Realty Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. Author of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com, Columnist for Inman News and an avid photographer.

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Susie Blackmon

    September 16, 2008 at 5:34 am

    Hi T, great post as usual. I love (and get carried away) with photos and use them a good bit. I am the only regular blogger in my County believe it or not. Trying to build up my content before the others catch on, and am about 10 months into ‘it’ and growing and learning. Need to fine tune while I’m trying to hang on financially. Am so tired of posting the real estate updates (everything still going down) that I’m writing more about community with photos.

  2. Teresa Boardman

    September 16, 2008 at 5:37 am

    Susie – I was one of the first bloggers in my market and I used to worry about someone taking me out of my top spot. It has not happened. I think there are advantages to being first and building up content. Keep at it!

  3. Lisa Sanderson

    September 16, 2008 at 5:40 am

    Teresa: Okay, okay, I’ll do it already. (Been meaning to make a custom header for my blog for some time now but have procrastinated as is per usual for me.) Seriously, your point about creating a sense of place is a great one. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  4. Mack

    September 16, 2008 at 6:22 am

    Teresa, You always seem to hit the nail on the head. Just as we should have multiple photos on our listings we should add photos to our blogs and websites. I heard one time that a picture is worth a thousand dollars. Think about it, when buyers are searching the web for homes if a listing does not have multiple photos it will more than likely be skipped over. Perhaps the same is true for our sites and blogs. I must admit I don’t have a picture on each blog post but I try to have as many as I can.

  5. Teresa Boardman

    September 16, 2008 at 6:35 am

    Lisa – go my child, create!
    Mack – what are you waiting for, grab a camera, or heck even your phone and go shoot something. Daylight is burning.

  6. Todd

    September 16, 2008 at 8:05 am

    A great resource for photos of your local area is Flickr, just be sure to use only photos that are under the Creative Commons license and include a reference of who took the photo. Examples:

    https://flickr.com/search/?q=St.+Paul&l=cc&ct=0

  7. Jay Thompson

    September 16, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    “For bloggers who write for Google it doesn’t much matter how the site looks but for those of us who like to have the readers come back and linger awhile and interact with us, it is a big deal. The internet is for more than words. We can use it to create an experience or environment by using images.”

    a-freaking-men.

  8. Jack Leblond

    September 16, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    I hope you folks don’t get tired of this….Write for YOUR reader and content is *KING*! The more content you can add to your sites that describes your local market, the better off you will be. Photos do a great job of capturing eyes on a page, and if tagged correctly – they had better be – they are great at capturing the attention of the robots too.

    T – You comment about being first is great, Google and the others give bonus points for the age of sites. Those that or older and more established are presumed to be of greater value.

  9. Karen Goodman

    September 16, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    As a new blogger last November, I really didn’t get how important pictures were. Some posts had pictures, some got clip art, some got nothing. As I started reading more blogs I realized that I really preferred the look of blogs that used photos instead of clipart, and I almost always skipped longer posts if there weren’t any pictures (still do!).

    I’m getting ready to move by blog to WordPress from P2, and spent countless hours last week searching for pictures that I could sub for the clip art in the older posts. None of my posts now have clip art, and every future post will have at least one photo.

    I’m also planning to have plenty of local photos on my market report pages to highlight local attractions and the style of housing you can find in each part of town.

    Thanks for reassuring me that all the hours I’m spending shifting my focus is time worth spent!

  10. Dan Connolly

    September 16, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    I have gotten some good photos from istock dot com. They are about $1 – $1.50 each for a license to use them on your website or in your blog. It’s a sliding scale depending on the resolution of the picture. The smallest (300 x 400 px) are around 1.50 to download. To me it seems worth it here and there for the right picture.

    I have many of my own pictures on my site, but the occasional shots like a hand reaching up from a pile of bills, or a light at the end of a tunnel, or hundred dollar bills floating down from the sky, these kind of images can go a long way to making a point.

  11. Karen Goodman

    September 17, 2008 at 8:05 am

    Dan – I try not to pay for photos since it all adds up. I found two great sites that I use for most of my photos.

    https://www.stockxpert.com/index.phtml – full size versions are available for purchase, but small photos are free; the size isn’t always big enough but other times small is ok when I just want to highlight a subheading
    https://www.sxc.hu/home – larger pictures that are free, not as good selection as stockxpert but still have some real winners

    I also usually check Microsoft clip art and search for photos. They have some good pictures for free too. I haven’t had much luck digging through flckr, but did find a great fireworks picture and some perfect shots of local attractions.

  12. Don Drew

    September 17, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Pictures of blogs that you’re writing about…hummmmm not since they starting writing about Britney Spears has putting a picture with the words been such a great idea!

  13. Teresa Boardman

    September 17, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Karen and Dan – I use some stock photography too. There are shots that I need and don’t have. It is worth the money

  14. ines

    September 18, 2008 at 7:59 am

    It’s no secret that you an me are visual people and the photograph or image is important to us – how do you feel about those that argue that pictures take away from the content and are fillers when the content is not substantial? (I know how I feel about it, but I’d love to get your take)

  15. ines

    September 18, 2008 at 8:00 am

    btw – is it you and me? or you and I? (that’s one of my “english as a second language” flaws)

  16. Teresa Boardman

    September 18, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Ines – sorry to say I am not much of a gramarian. 🙂 To the people who say that pictures take away from content, I say pictures are content and that the internet is visual and that people who may be interested in buying real estate like to look at real estate. I am of the a picture is worth a 1000 words school. But pictures should for the most part be related to the post or maybe just the area. Ines I could write an enitre post on this subject. BTW I am using your blog in my presentation in Vegas tomorrow as an example of a blogger who uses photos. Make sure you have a pretty one up on Friday.

  17. ines

    September 18, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Just what I thought – don’t worry….I’ll take care of you with my Miamism Fridays 😉 and I’m flattered

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Business Marketing

Video is necessary for your marketing strategy

(BUSINESS MARKETING) As technology and social media move forward, so do marketing opportunities. Now is the time for video content social media marketing!

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video content

As an entrepreneur, you’ve surely heard the phrase “pivot to video” countless times over the last few years. It’s the path a lot of media companies are on, but even brands that aren’t directly talking about this pivot have increased their video production. This shift stems in part from studies showing users spend more time on pages featuring video content. Social media has also played a significant role, and recently, new social platforms have made the pivot to video even more important.

Snapchat and TikTok are leading the social video sector as emerging social media platforms, but the audiences for these platforms skew especially young. The content on these platforms also tends toward the meme-worthy and entertaining, raising the question: are these platforms a good use of your time and resources? The answer depends on your industry, but whatever your field, you can certainly learn from the pros dominating these new platforms.

The promotional angle

One of the primary ways that businesses use video content across platforms is by creating promotional content, which range widely in style, cost, and content, but there are a few strategies that can really help a promotional video succeed.

First, a great promotional video hooks the viewer within the first few seconds. Social media has shrunk everyone’s attention span, so even if your video is on a longer form platform, the beginning has to be powerful. Having a strong start also means that your video will be more flexible, allowing it to gain traction across different platforms.

Audience matters

What you’re promoting – what your business does and who it serves – plays a critical role in what kinds of video content you make and what platforms you use. TikTok is a lot of fun, and it’s playing a growing role in business, but if your entire audience is age 30 and up, there’s not much point in trying to master the form and build a viewership there. You need a sufficient youth-heavy market to make TikTok a worthwhile investment, but Snapchat, which also serves a youth-heavy market, might be a different story.

Even if you don’t intend to make heavy use of Snapchat, the platform recently made a big splash in the video sector by opening up its story tools to other platforms. That means businesses will be able to use Snapchat’s tools on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where they may already have an audience. It will also make crossover content easier, allowing you to maintain consistent branding across all platforms. You may never download Snapchat proper, but you may soon be using their tools.

It’s all about strategy

However you choose to approach video content, the fact is that today video is a necessary part of your content marketing strategy. In part this is because, while blogs aren’t going anywhere, and short-form social media is definitely ascendant, both make use of video, but that’s not the only reason. Video is so powerful because it’s deeply personal. It makes your audience feel that much more closely connected with you and your brand, and that alone is enough to change buying patterns.

Another key advantage of video is that, consumers genuinely enjoy well-made videos. Unlike blogs, which most users will typically only seek out if they need information, there are brands out there who are known for their video content. They’ve found a way to hook viewers and make them feel like they have two products: entertainment and whatever it is they actually sell. You, too, can do this with enough creativity and today’s social media tools.

It’s critical that you don’t let your brand fall behind on video right now, because if you even stop for breath, you will be left behind. As TikTok and Snapchat have made clear, video doesn’t stop for anyone. At this point, video isn’t the future of social media or ecommerce – it’s the present.

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Business Marketing

Marketing amidst uncertainty: 3 considerations

(BUSINESS MARKETING) As the end of the COVID tunnel begins to brighten, marketing strategies may shift yet again – here are three thoughts to ponder going into the future.

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Open business sign being held by business owner for marketing purposes.

The past year has been challenging for businesses, as operations of all sizes and types and around the country have had to modify their marketing practices in order to address the sales barriers created by the pandemic. That being said, things are beginning to look up again and cities are reopening to business as usual.

As a result, companies are looking ahead to Q3 with the awareness they need to pivot their marketing practices yet again. The only question is, how?

Pandemic Pivot 1.0: Q3 2020

When the pandemic disrupted global markets a year ago, companies looked for new ways to reach their clients where they were: At home, even in the case of B2B sales. This was the first major pivot, back when store shelves were empty care of panic shopping, and everyone still thought they would only be home for a few weeks.

How did this transition work? By building out more extensive websites, taking phone orders, and crafting targeted advertising, most companies actually survived the crisis. Some even came out ahead. With this second pivot, however, these companies will have to use what they knew before the pandemic, while making savvy predictions about how a year-long crisis may have changed customer behavior.

Think Brick And Mortar

As much as online businesses played a key role in the pandemic sales landscape, as the months wore on, people became increasingly loyal to local, brick and mortar businesses. As people return to their neighborhood for longer in-person adventures, brands should work on marketing strategies to further increase foot traffic. That may mean continuing to promote in-store safety measures, building a welcoming online presence, and developing community partnerships to benefit from other stores’ customer engagement efforts.

Reach Customers With PPC

Obviously brick and mortar marketing campaigns won’t go far for all-online businesses, but with people staying at home less, online shops may have a harder time driving sales. Luckily, they have other tools at their disposal. That includes PPC marketing, one of the most effective, trackable advertising strategies.

While almost every business already uses some degree of PPC marketing because of its overall value, but one reason it’s such a valuable tool for businesses trying to navigate the changing marketplace is how easy it is to modify. In fact, best practice is to adjust your PPC campaign weekly based on various indicators, which is what made it a powerful tool during the pandemic as well. Now, instead of using a COVID dashboard to track the impact of regulations on ad-driven sales, however, companies can use PPC marketing to see how their advertising efforts are holding up to customers’ rapidly changing shopping habits.

It’s All About The Platforms

When planning an ad campaign, what you say is often not as important as where you say it – a modern twist on “the medium is the message.” Right now, that means paying attention to the many newer platforms carrying innovative ad content, so experiment with placing ads on platforms like TikTok, Reddit, and NextDoor and see what happens.

One advantage of marketing via smaller platforms is that they tend to be less expensive than hubs like Facebook. That being said, they are all seeing substantial traffic, and most saw significant growth during the pandemic. If they don’t yield much in the way of results, losses will be minimal, but given the topical and local targeting various platforms allow for, above and beyond standard PPC targeting, they could be just what your brand needs as it navigates the next set of marketplace transitions.

The last year has been unpredictable for businesses, but Q3 2021 may be the most uncertain yet as everyone attempts to make sense of what normal means now. The phrase “new normal,” overused and awkward as it is, gets to the heart of it: we can pretend we’re returning to our pre-pandemic lives, but very little about the world before us is familiar, so marketing needs a “new normal,” too.

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Business Marketing

Advertising overload: Let’s break it down

(BUSINESS MARKETING) A new study finds that frequent ads are actually more detrimental to a brand’s image than that same brand advertising near offensive content.

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Advertising spread across many billboards in a city square.

If you haven’t noticed, ads are becoming extremely common in places that are extremely hard to ignore—your Instagram feed, for example. Advertising has certainly undergone some scrutiny for things like inappropriate placement and messaging over the years, but it turns out that sheer ad exhaustion is actually more likely to turn people off of associated brands than the aforementioned offensive content.

Marketing Dive published a report on the phenomenon last Tuesday. The report claims that, of all people surveyed, 32% of consumers said that they viewed current social media advertising to be “excessive”; only 10% said that they found advertisements to be “memorable”.

In that same group, 52% of consumers said that excessive ads were likely to affect negatively their perception of a brand, while only 32% said the same of ads appearing next to offensive or inappropriate content.

“Brand safety has become a hot item for many companies as they look to avoid associations with harmful content, but that’s not as significant a concern for consumers, who show an aversion to ad overload in larger numbers,” writes Peter Adams, author of the Marketing Dive report.

This reaction speaks to the sheer pervasiveness of ads in the current market. Certainly, many people are spending more time on their phones—specifically on social media—as a result of the pandemic. However, with 31% and 27% of surveyed people saying they found website ads either “distracting” or “intrusive”, respectively, the “why” doesn’t matter as much as the reaction itself.

It’s worth pointing out that solid ad blockers do exist for desktop website traffic, and most major browsers offer a “reader mode” feature (or add-on) that allows users to read through things like articles and the like without having to worry about dynamic ads distracting them or slowing down their page. This becomes a much more significant issue on mobile devices, especially when ads are so persistent that they impact one’s ability to read content.

Like most industries, advertisers have faced unique challenges during the pandemic. If there’s one major takeaway from the report, it’s this: Ads have to change—largely in terms of their frequency—if brands want to maintain customer retention and loyalty.

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