Web 1.0 vs. Web 2.0
As I understand it, the primary difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 as it relates to websites is the opportunity that it presents to interact with visitors to your blog and build “connections” to them. Humans tend to connect through communication, which underscores the importance of working towards earning comments if you’re interested in building a “community.”
Without comments, your blog is a web 1.0 website.
As a real estate blog writer, comments from readers should be important to you for several reasons.
• Comments provide an opportunity for you to get to know your readers while they get to know you
• Comments and questions challenge you to better understand your business and your real estate market
• Comments provide important insights (for you and your clients) into how prospective buyers and sellers are feeling about your real estate market
• Comments make it obvious to all who visit your blog that it’s a happening online destination and not a baron electronic wasteland
• Active online discussions deliver lots of user generated content which makes your blog more interesting, and improves your opportunities with search engines
If you’ve convinced yourself that comments really aren’t that important I’m hoping to renew your interest in going after them. If you’ve already had some success at building a “community” through your blogging efforts I’m looking forward to hearing what worked for you in building it. Please share. I’ll start.
Defining your reader
I recognize that there are some writers who have had success at appealing to a broad base of readers. Somehow, they seem to have a knack for generating content that is engaging for both agents and consumers. I’d suggest that these bloggers are our most skilled colleagues and it takes a very special talent to be successful with that approach. If you’re an average writer, like I am, you may be better off to focus tightly. If that’s the case, I’d suggest that real estate consumers are probably the best market to pursue. 🙂
If you haven’t already done so, read Teresa Boardman’s excellent post, “There are Comments and Then There are Comments” which makes some important points about how comments from other agents may do more harm than good.
More here in this Inman News story titled, “Ending the Cycle of Realtor on Realtor Action” that stresses the importance of You Engaging Others (YEO), namely real estate consumers.
Selecting content that will generate discussion
Given my tight focus, every post that I write on my blog must pass the following test. “Is this post potentially interesting to a Saskatoon home buyer, home seller, or home owner?” I know that many agents feel that statistical information is boring but my best discussion building efforts revolve around them. Using statistics provides an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of your local real estate market, and all three of the desired readers that I’ve identified above are interested in them to some degree. Statistics provide an excellent foundation for discussion and they’re fairly easy to write about. I’ve found that a “weekly review” of market activity provides an on-going source of material and a good reason for readers to return regularly. Posts like, “12 steps to prepare your home for showing” definitely have their place, but they’re not likely to result in a lengthy discussion.
We can all use a little help from our friends
Early on, as I was beginning my on-going quest to learn about blogging I came across a post written by Ardell DellaLoggia. I was most impressed by the lengthy thread of comments that followed her post and I told Ardell so. She responded by saying, “Don’t be too impressed. I asked them all to come.” Hmmm. Smart!
The hardest part of getting feedback is getting it started. Consider that initially your readers have no idea who else is reading, if anyone, or how their comments may be received. Why not ask some of your friends to support your blogging efforts and to make some comments on your blog. If your other readers see comments they’ll be far more likely to contribute to the discussion. Asking your friends to say certain things obviously isn’t cool but there’s no good reason why they can’t participate in your community and assist you in building it.
Ask readers to comment
I often meet people who bring up my blog, sometimes describing themselves as fans (blush). I always ask them if they’ve ever commented, and as Teresa suggests in her post they most often say “no.” I always tell them that I’d appreciate their feedback the next time they drop by and I know that these invitations have brought me some new comments. If you can get them to comment once, they’ll often become regular contributors.
Participate in the comments section
Revealing myself in my posts is often difficult because of the subject material I use. I do my best to participate fully in the discussion once it’s underway and this is where I find my opportunities reveal to my readers who I am as a person. I encourage and answer questions, and I ask questions of those who comment. Remember, the same human relations principles apply to online relationships that apply to those relationships you enjoy in your offline life. People appreciate being appreciated. Thank them for contributing, treat them respectfully, and let them know that their thoughts and opinions are valuable to you and others who read your blog. At the same time, don’t hesitate to let problem posters know the rules. While it’s important that your visitors feel free to express themselves, they are on your property and you have a right to set some guidelines.
Consider writing less frequently
Say what? I’ve found that each new post on my blog seems to have the effect of wrapping up the discussion in the previous post. I last posted on Sunday at 11:20 am. At this point, there are 58 comments to the post. If I post again today that discussion would likely conclude with about 65 comments. If I let it remain in the spotlight for a day or two, the discussion will most likely continue for some time and the content continues to grow with little effort on my part. If I have more than one topic that I feel must exist in my archive I will often post them both in quick succession, essentially sacrificing discussion in one for the sake of the other. The post that strikes me a having the better chance to spark a discussion is posted after the other.
I’d love to hear your ideas on how you’ve been successful in getting readers to comment.
July 28, 2008 at 4:08 pm
Remembering to be “social” and having a genuine interest usually gets the conversation going. The way I see it, readers (and comments) are what make your content matter. Without them, we’d be a lost thought in cyberspace. So it’s important for me to take an interest in them to continually gauge what topics they might be interested in.
How do you get them to engage in the comments? I take e-mail questions and other questions for the day-to-day and turn them into a post (I keep the person’s name and e-mail anonymous). I think that’s a good way to bring the conversation back to your blog and show readers that you care to take the time and be responsive….
July 28, 2008 at 4:42 pm
Excellent thoughts and a great idea in paragraph 2. Thanks for sharing.
July 28, 2008 at 5:09 pm
Norm – your blog is a case study in how to get local consumer input. I’m insanely jealous (Diane Cohn’s is another shining example). You’ve provided some great suggestions.
I’ve seen some of the “stats discussions” on your blog and the “consumer” input is amazing. I’ve never been a real stats fan (maybe too much of stats in a previous life. That, and others in Phoenix do it better than I ever did) but maybe I’ll revisit…
July 28, 2008 at 6:10 pm
Today’s my day to respectfully disagree …
Even without comments, the mere opportunity for readers to take up the conversation makes it a 2.0 site. Whether they choose to do so is another story.
Or, as was discussed last week, few (if any) of us who have garnered clients through our blogs ever saw those clients comment before choosing to contact us.
July 28, 2008 at 6:29 pm
East Coast, West Coast, sure. Middle with no coast? Not so easy.
July 28, 2008 at 6:55 pm
Thanks very much. I stumbled across Diane’s blog the other day and added her to my reader as someone I’d like to follow. Whether one chooses to use stats or not, some kind of market update seems to keep people coming back long after they’ve purchased. It’s probably the same curiosity that has us checking on the performance of our money investments on a regular basis.
Thanks for the feedback. You make some good points, and yes, I am willing to concede that the “opportunity” qualifies it to be a 2.0 site. I think it’s fair to say that most bloggers appreciate and enjoy feedback from readers and that some would like to enjoy more of it. Just hoping to provide a little encouragement to those who would like to do some work in this area.
July 28, 2008 at 7:00 pm
I respectfully disagree completely. Web 2.0 just means that anyone can easily publish to the Internet using web2.0 tools like blogs, or social networks. That wasn’t so just five years ago.
Dan Green, doesn’t allow comments, and Active Rain gives away points for them. If I had to choose, I’d take Dan’s method everyday. I allow comments, but don’t do anything to encourage them. When someone comes along with useless comments, I delete them. If you don’t like it, go start your own blog. That’s the magic of Web 2.0.
I have a retail level real estate blog in Denver that gets mad traffic, but rarely any comments. Listing agents contact me, telling me that their client is insisting their home be featured on my blog in order for that agent to get the listing. I’ll watch on woopra where one person will surf 50 plus pages of of my site in a single sitting, only to watch another come along 10 minutes later to surf 60.
That blog has helped me network with dozens of local real estate agents. Real estate agents are my clients. I don’t see any reason to change what I’m doing, just to get more comments.
I hope I don’t sound to harsh Norm. I think it’s awesome if you can build a community of readers through comments. It’s just that I don’t see comments as a vital component to marketing real estate in a web 2.0 world.
July 28, 2008 at 7:05 pm
Let me put it this way Norm, in the midwest, we’re still explaining to most what a blog is. What is most interesting, is we find that our consumer found us via longtail result. So regardless of whether they understand what a blog is or that they can participate, we’re still driving results and in the meantime educating consumers as to what the blog is. I do preach not to pay attention to what may appear as empty seats- the show must go on for that one or two in the balcony.
July 28, 2008 at 7:06 pm
You thought I had gone and I was but this post required..compelled my attention. Was going to come in blazing but Todd and Jonathan said what I was going to say in oh such a more diplomatic and pleasing manner.
To quote Todd..” I don’t see comments as a vital component to marketing real estate in a web 2.0 world.”
Lately on our real estate blog we have gotten emails from consumers who are directing their clients to go to our blog first. What morons..but I thank them!
July 28, 2008 at 7:07 pm
“I hope I don’t sound to harsh Norm.” Not at all. I appreciate hearing your perspective.
“Listing agents contact me, telling me that their client is insisting their home be featured on my blog in order for that agent to get the listing.”
That must lead to some interesting discussions. 🙂
July 28, 2008 at 7:09 pm
Btw Norm, I do understand your point- we should still keep trying and not give in to nothing is good enough- with this I can certainly agree a million times over. In fact, if a new blogger adopts the no comment is okay policy, how will this blogger ever come to realize he or she is actually failing. I love the call to evaluate.
July 28, 2008 at 7:14 pm
This was actually just a ploy to get you to agree with Jonathon on something. Sucka!! 🙂
July 28, 2008 at 7:16 pm
@ benn…”how will this blogger ever come to realize he or she is actually failing”
1. When they realize they have no traffic
2. when they are’nt making any money…it is about making money right?
Pretty easy measuring sticks!
July 28, 2008 at 7:20 pm
That’s what we say to evaluate constantly, right?
July 28, 2008 at 7:20 pm
Norm you linkbaiter you! Got me!
July 28, 2008 at 7:35 pm
I agree that revenue trumps comments any day of the week, and I realize that you don’t need comments to generate revenue. My 1.0 website has faithfully delivered qualified leads without comments for several years. I just think that active participation adds some value to my site.
These comments in my most recent post from people I’ve never met.
“Dayna…I would also add that a professional real estate agent (such as… Norm!) can provide you with a market analysis of comparable units that have sold in your area, which will help you gauge the best price to list at.”
Or this from another reader.
“Last suggestion I have is to use a big, well known realtor (like Norm if you haven’t already decided to call him).”
July 28, 2008 at 7:41 pm
I like when they join the site, and then call or email and say sell my house or I want to buy a house…that seems to work best.
July 28, 2008 at 9:04 pm
Yes Barry, I also like that and I agree “that seems to work best.”
July 28, 2008 at 11:03 pm
I agree with Todd and Jonathan. I don’t get many written comments on my blog, yet I get lots of comments about the content when I meet with people or talk to them on the phone. Readers keep coming back, and I am fine with their silence.
July 29, 2008 at 1:23 am
Norm; This whole controversy about comments is fascinating, but the key to the whole issue seems to be that you engaged the consumer in a manner that led to personal contacts – at which point your skill as a real estate professional took over.
I think that Todd and Jonathan (and even Barry) have made their points very well however, and the fact that they are able to obtain results without the comments shows (to me at least) that content is king. If you write it (well and often) they will come, and the contact again will be made, where the skills of the agent can create the real relationship that develops into a piece of business.
That being said – its always nice when the comments are there – just so you have a dialogue rather then a monologue – but thats an intangible ROI and certainly not the most important one.
July 29, 2008 at 2:20 am
I have an AR blog and an “outside” blog. The consumer never posts on either. Yet they talk about what I’ve written when I meet with them…I also get calls about my blog that have nothing to do with real estate. But they don’t comment – so I don’t think that comments are what we make them out to be.
July 29, 2008 at 3:15 pm
I like comments. I get tired of talking to myself. Yes, I know I should look at the analytics but that’s still talking to myself. I want to engage and communicate. I want feedback – nice feedback only, please.
Gee, what a concept. You want something? Ask for it. Why didn’t I think of that?
July 29, 2008 at 3:28 pm
Thank you all. I appreciate hearing your thoughts.
I certainly agree that the bottom line is relationships and transactions. It would be nice if there was a “recalculate results” button that we could click to determine how much of an impact things have on the bottom line. If X number of transactions are generated with or without an active social environment, I can agree that the latter is the better choice. It takes a lot of work to interact with guests.
August 4, 2008 at 12:37 am
I’ve only asked for specific people to comment once or twice. I didn’t just want feedback. I wanted to know how certain people who really knew me felt on the topic. A few are my clients. One is my ex-fiance 🙂
You just happened to notice the number of comments on one of those times. I think it was this one in December of 2006
Guess which comment is from my ex-fiance. Sorin (a client) surprised me, as I had no idea he had talked with a bunch of agents before me. That was interesting to learn. I never talk to my clients about other agents, or rarely, so the subject never comes up unless I ask.
Odd Norm, that you and I both remember something that happened back in December of 2006. Now THAT is relationship blogging 🙂
August 4, 2008 at 8:56 am
“Guess which comment is from my ex-fiance.”
Sounds like Jim is still in love. 🙂
Of course, my point was that you took the initiative to get the discussion going. It’s something that stuck with me and was helpful in those early stages. People seem to feel more comfortable commenting when others have done so before them.
“Odd Norm, that you and I both remember something that happened back in December of 2006.”
You were already a legend in December 2006. How could I forget? 😉
August 4, 2008 at 10:17 am
“Of course, my point was that you took the initiative to get the discussion going.”
I don’t think it is appropriate to “take the initiative to get the discussion going” as that is like putting a shill in the crowd on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City that LOVES the peeler, dicer, chopper amazing gadget. (my Uncle Hiemie was a hired shill on the Boardwalk).
I remembered which post from December of 2006, because it was one of the only times I asked certain people to comment. The key is you have to have a sincere interest to know their opinion on that particular topic. Sending every post to 100 people asking them to comment could kill a blog and would be spamming them.
August 4, 2008 at 10:22 am
“Sending every post to 100 people asking them to comment could kill a blog and would be spamming them.”
I agree completely.
Saying, “Hey, check out my blog and I’d really appreciate it if you’d share your thoughts” is an entirely different story.
August 4, 2008 at 10:56 am
I disagree with Todd on this, we’ve discussed it in person. You can’t have a credible blog if you delete the bad comments and only leave the good ones. I do remove the vowel from curse words…but that likely has more to do with my age and cursing “in mixed company”.
August 4, 2008 at 11:07 am
Sure you can Ardell. My blog is frequently listed on sites that tell spammers where to go to get high PR do follow links. It is now moderated and the drive by comment spammers get nuked or no followed.
If you get business but few comments, then no worries. If you don’t get business and no comments, then maybe the content has little value. if you fish for comments from agents, you are far less likely to get real comments from prospective clients.
August 4, 2008 at 4:41 pm
spam does not count as an actual comment, good or bad. Things that get trapped in a spam filter are not comments, and comments that made through the filter by accident are not comments either.
Deleting negative or disagreeing comments can render the blog worthless as a blog. It might make a great “interactive website” and be good for business…but it won’t be a good blog.
August 4, 2008 at 10:02 pm
Ardell, I’m not talking about what gets trapped in a spam filter or gets through by mistake. I’m talking “useless” comments like Todd mentioned.
He didn’t say negative or disagreeing comments. Those I would never delete – I would take them on.
There are several comments that I’ve seen on this site this week that are only here because it’s a do follow blog and they blend in. A spam filter would never catch them, but they are still spam.
August 4, 2008 at 10:15 pm
Most people who sell things to agents agree with Todd’s definition of Web 2.0. For agents, the conversation is vital. I call Blogging without caring about comments Web 1.5 🙂