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Two Rants for the Price of One

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(Deep breath.)

Perhaps it’s due to my own personal bent, but anytime I see a post explaining … nay … lecturing on how you should operate your blog, what you should and should not post, what topics are allowed and what is taboo all filtered through testament as if the art of real estate weblogging was written not on WordPress but chiseled in stoned … well, I become indignant.

Last season, the director of my son’s soccer club in chiding the rest of us for asking questions and making suggestions said it was insulting that we believed we knew more about the sport than her staff. We never said any such thing. But just because we not know as much as someone else does not mean we don’t know anything at all.

That seems to be where we are and where we return to over and over again in the real estate blogging world – there seem to be a cadre of folks who believe they alone hold the sacred secret of success and the rest of us are mindless dolts.

To which I ask, would you like to learn some Yiddish? Kush meer in toches.

(Yes, Benn, Agent Genius will become the blog of choice for the nation’s Yiddish speakers come hell or high water!)

Some step onto the soapbox in order to push product. Others claim immunity from such mortal concerns, though they still are pushing product – themselves as experts, rather than as real estate professionals as they by their own admission prepare for their next career doing something other than what the rest of us are doing.

High Technorati ranks and heavy traffic are no more indicative of real estate and/or real estate blogging knowledge and success than high placement on Google for Phoenix real estate denotes high levels of sales. You can attract thousands to come watch a demolition derby as easily as you can to watch sprint cars go round and round.

I don’t know what he thought he was doing in making that video, but what it actually communicates is a profound contempt for ordinary people.

Jeff Turner chose another snippet to make the same point in the comments on the “other” dog blog but the irony of the above statement is jaw-dropping. Outside of the bubble blogs, that has become the haven of contempt for everyone without thorough knowledge of Latin. At least until others started writing there.

“Know your audience” is a useless assertion (and looks doubly ludicrous in a lengthy post based partially on the premise that you don’t ever know your audience is.)

Know your audience often is used by those who maintain that you have to blog locally to be successful. You simply don’t. The Phoenix Real Estate Guy is proof. Hell, I’m proof (and I have the escrows to prove it.)

Hyper-local blogging as a means to absolute success is a myth.

Like any other type of blogging, for every person for which it works there are 10 more who’ll fail miserably in the effort because they don’t understand who they’re really going to attract to their blog.

In general, real estate websites attract buyers far more than sellers. (No need to explain how many listings you have off of your site – I have, too. But I maintain the number of buyers generated is higher.)

Buyers want to know about areas, about schools, about things to do – but usually on a macro scale. This is the genius of what Teresa does in St. Paul. She shows you the city – literally – in all of her photographs. But she also writes about topics that are larger than just St. Paul even if she relates them back to the Twin Cities.  Others do the same.

But in writing strictly about items of interest to those in a given neighborhood, only those in that neighborhood will care. Your average buyer wants to know what there is to do in general; a farmer’s market from 10 – 2 at the corner of State and Main probably isn’t going to create the a-ha moment that causes them to move to your city. And finding it on your blog doesn’t mean they believe enough in your knowledge of real estate to hire you.

An extensive community directory does not a great real estate agent make. And in some cases it can be detrimental. When I see posts celebrating the opening of a new Chick-Fil-A, my first thought is “what kind of cow town is this?” I mean, it’s a really good chicken sandwich but this is the height of excitement?

(The above does not apply to In N Out Burger, which actually is worth the excitement … it’s helping my cardiologist build a home in the Hamptons.)

Having said all this … I’m not saying you can’t have an extreme focus on the local. Maybe it will generate more sellers and if that is your aim, bully for you. But you stand a better than equal chance of losing buyers who are less interested in the opening of the new Cabela’s than they are an agent who can help them not only find a property but manage the escrow in such a manner that results in the least possible headaches.

Writing for any specific audience other than the one sitting in your chair in front of the keyboard only can serve to alienate wider audiences who might have interest in what you’re saying.

I never set out to become Calgary’s choice for Phoenix real estate but it’s worked out that way. Most seemed less interested in the arts and crafts than the nuts and bolts of buying. In my case, they get more of the latter but a little of the former.

Maybe I can’t tell you when the Foothills Elementary PTO is having their annual bake sale. But I think if you’re looking to move here from Maine, you probably don’t care.

Jonathan Dalton is a Realtor with RE/MAX Desert Showcase in Peoria, Arizona and is the author of the All Phoenix Real Estate blog as well as a half-dozen neighborhood sites. His partner, Tobey, is a somewhat rotund beagle who sleeps 21 hours a day.

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Benn Rosales

    December 21, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you J. I knew you could deliver the Yiddish demo- I just knew it…

  2. Carey Goldberg

    December 21, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    The Yiddish reminds me of my childhood

  3. Teresa Boardman

    December 21, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    I have so much to say here, yet I just can’t. I like the post and agree with much of it.

  4. Charleston real estate blog

    December 21, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    Jonathan, I never learned yiddish, my parents kept the meaning from my brother and me but there was one phrase I did get, gay kahkken (spelling unknown).

    Dogs sh*t anywhere they want and then we have to pick up after them. It doesn’t seem right.

  5. kelley koehler

    December 21, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    my cowtown doesn’t like you either.

  6. Jonathan Dalton

    December 21, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    Teresa – really? This from the queen of the local blog? (Though I think those who characterize you as such sell you short.)

    Kelley – I never said I didn’t like it. Well, at least not in this post. At least I didn’t stick UA Sucks in the Title tag, deserved or not.

    For my Yiddish followers, here’s the best curse I can find. Of course if you aren’t fluent in Jewish tradition you’re missing the subtlety of it all:

    ?? ??? ???? ??? ??? ? ????? ????
    “They should name someone after you already!”

  7. Christina Ethridge

    December 21, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    Hey – I was blogging about Cabela’s because it was such a “to do” around here – plus it shows growth for our area 😉

    I totally agree with you about “hyper-local”. Sure, if you live in LA, blogging about your specific city or mega PUD would be beneficial. But for the rest of the country, hyper-local blogging just seems . . . like a waste of time since consumers really want to know about real estate – not the “local PTO bake sale”.

  8. Kristal Kraft

    December 21, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    You are right about Teresa, she is brilliant and real. That’s the secret of her success, the real part is a true attraction to the consumer.

  9. Brett Meade

    December 22, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    It certainly makes more sense to blog about the issues that matter to home buyers and sellers, rather than writing a press release for a new restaurant. Even if it is an In N Out Burger!

  10. Jay Thompson

    December 22, 2007 at 7:38 pm

    “It certainly makes more sense to blog about the issues that matter to home buyers and sellers, rather than writing a press release for a new restaurant. Even if it is an In N Out Burger!”

    What follows is just my opinion and I could be wrong. That happened once :). (That’s sarcasm folks, I’m wrong frequently, just ask my wife and kids)

    Call me crazy, but I blog about the issues that matter to me. Now since I try to make a living in real estate, what matters to me happens to coincide fairly often with what may matter to buyers and sellers.

    But there are other things that matter to me that Joe “Consumer” probably cares less about. And Joe Consumer likely blows right past those posts.

    Or maybe not. I’ve had clients ask me about my kids, my pets, heck even my thoughts on college and/or NFL football. How do they even know to ask? Because they read something on my blog about these things.

    I wrote a restaurant “review” post just last week. Two people emailed me along the lines of, “Thanks, I’ll try that place, have you tried this one? it’s good.”

    Will those people turn into clients? Probably not. Could they? Sure, stranger things have happened. But you know what? I didn’t write that post to get a client, or a “lead” (a word I’m disliking more and more every day). I wrote it because I love that restaurant. It kicks ass, and I wanted to share that with anyone that might care.

    You know the best thing about that post? I’ve got two new (to me) places to try out.

    I learn WAY more from blogging than from anything else. Sometimes I learn marketing tactics, sometimes I learn about market conditions, often I learn about human nature,and sometimes I even learn about great places to eat.

    That’s pretty cool.

  11. Jonathan Dalton

    December 22, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    As you know, Jay, I break the so-called rules as often as anyone. I can’t say there’s anything wrong with writing about a restaurant; I just had a photo essay on Margaritaville.

    But I’m also not telling would-be bloggers that they have to focus solely on local events at the expense of the greater world of real estate.

    Know how much traffic I’ve gotten from the two posts on Margaritaville? If I could parlay that into a Jamaica Mistaica I’d be damn happy.

  12. Athol Kay

    December 22, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    >>I learn WAY more from blogging than from anything else. Sometimes I learn marketing tactics, sometimes I learn about market conditions, often I learn about human nature,and sometimes I even learn about great places to eat.

    100% agree Jay

  13. Jay Thompson

    December 23, 2007 at 12:27 am

    “But I’m also not telling would-be bloggers that they have to focus solely on local events at the expense of the greater world of real estate.”

    And should you ever do that, I will WALK across town and smack you upside the head.

    With a bat.

  14. Athol Kay

    December 23, 2007 at 12:48 am

    >>I will WALK across town

    The last few miles of that trek would look like a Special Olympics event was in progress.

    (sorry Jay, I couldn’t resist)

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Opinion Editorials

The actual reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. But why else would you work for one?

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Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: Flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in the popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When employees find themselves personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits in the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are may be a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth. This allows them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters. Instead, it’s a clue that work environments that facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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Opinion Editorials

How Peloton has developed a cult-following

(OPINION EDITORIALS) How has Peloton gotten so popular? Turns out there are some clear takeaways from the bike company’s wildly successful model.

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Man riding Peloton bike with instructor pointing encouragingly during workout.

Peloton is certainly not the first company to gain a cult-like following–in the past we’ve talked about other brands with similar levels of devotion, like Crossfit and Yeti. Now, full disclosure: I’m not an exercise buff, so while I’d vaguely heard of Peloton–a company that sells stationary bikes–I had no idea it was such a big deal.

I mean, it’s not really surprising that an at-home bike that offers the option for cycling classes has grown so much during the pandemic era (a sales growth of 172% to be exact). But Peloton has been highly popular within its fanbase for years now. So, what gives? A few factors, actually.

Vertical Integration

If your company really wants to guarantee the vision and quality you’re aiming for, one of the best ways to enact it is through vertical integration, where a company owns or controls more than one part of its supply chain. Take Netflix, for example, which not only distributes media, but creates original media. Vertical integration lets companies bypass areas that are otherwise left to chance with third-party suppliers.

Peloton uses vertical integration–everything from the bike to its Wi-Fi connected tablet to the classes taught are created by Peloton. Although this may have made the bike more expensive than other at-home exercise bikes, it has also allowed Peloton to create higher quality products. And it’s worked. Many people who start on a Peloton bike comment on how the machine itself is well-built.

Takeaway: Are there any parts of your business process that you can improve in-house, rather than outsourcing?

Going Live

But with people also shelling out $40 a month for access to the training regimen Peloton provides, there’s more going on than simply high-quality craftsmanship.

Hey, plenty of cults have charismatic leaders, and Peloton is no exception. Okay, joking about the cult leader part, but really, people love their trainers. Just listen to this blogger chat about some of her favorites; people are connecting with this very human element of training. So much so that many people face blowback when suggesting they might like training without the trainers!

The trainers are only part of this puzzle though–attending live classes is a large draw. Well, as live as something can be when streamed into your house. Still, with classmate usernames and stats available while you ride, and teachers able to respond in real time to your “class,” this can simulate an in-person class without the struggle of a commute.

Takeaway: People want to see the human side of a business! Are there any ways your company could go live and provide that connection?

Getting Competitive

Pandemic aside, you can get a decent bike and workout class at an actual gym. But the folks at Peloton have one other major trick up their sleeve: Competition. Whether you’re attending a live session or catching up on a pre-recorded ride, you’re constantly competing against each other and your own records.

These leaderboards provide a constant stream of goals while you’re working out. Small accomplishments like these can help boost your dopamine, which can be the burst of good feeling you need while your legs are burning mid-workout. With this in mind, it’s no wonder why Peloton fans might be into it.

Takeaway: Is there a way to cater to your audience’s competitive side?

Conclusion

At the end of the day, of course, Peloton also has the advantage of taking a unique idea (live-streamed cycle classes built into your at-home bike) and doing it first. Plus, they just happened to be poised to succeed during a quarantine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from what Peloton is doing right to build your own community of fanatics. There are plenty of people out there just waiting to get excited about a brand like yours!

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Opinion Editorials

How a simple period in your text message might be misinterpreted: Tips to improve your virtual communication

(OPINION/EDITORIAL) Text, email, and IM messages may be received differently depending on your communication style and who you’re communicating with. Here’s some ways to be more mindful.

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Black woman smiling in communication talking on phone and laptop in front of her.

Life is full of decisions, learning, hopefully some adventure, and “growth opportunities” through our careers and work. One that some of us may have never considered is how our text, email or IM communication comes across to the receiver – thus providing us a growth opportunity to take a look at our own personal communication styles.

It may have never occurred to us that others would take it a different way. After all, we know ourselves, we can hear our voices in our heads. We know when we are joking, being sarcastic, or simply making a statement. The way we communicate is built upon how we were raised, what our English teachers stressed, and even what we’ve been taught through our generational lens.

NPR put out an article recently, “Are Your Texts Passive-Aggressive? The Answer May Lie in Your Punctuation”. This article discussed what to consider in regards to your punctuation in text.

“But in text messaging — at least for younger adults — periods do more than just end a sentence: They also can set a tone.” Gretchen McCulloch, a linguist and author of the book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, told NPR’s All Things Considered last year that when it comes to text messaging,”the period has lost its original purpose. Rather than needing a symbol to indicate the end of a sentence, you can simply hit send on your message.”

While it may seem silly that the receiver would think you are mad at them because you used a period, here are some things to consider in our virtual communication now that we are all much more digital:

  • There are no facial expressions in a text except for emojis (which, even then, could be left up to misinterpretation)
  • There’s no sound of voice or inflection to indicate tone
  • We are emailing, texting, and sending instant messages at an alarming rate now that we are not having as many in-person interactions with our colleagues

Gen Z (b. 1995 – 2015), who are the most recent generation to enter the workplace, grew up with much quicker forms of communication with their earlier access to tech. They’ve had a different speed of stimulation via YouTube videos, games, and apps. They may have never experienced the internet speed via a dial-up modem so they are used to instantaneous results.

They also have quickly adapted and evolved through their use of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and now TikTok. The last two platforms are designed for pretty brief attention spans, which indicates our adaptation to fast communication.

Generational shaming is out and uncomfortable but necessary conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion are in (which includes ageism). You can’t just chalk it up as “those kids” don’t understand you, or that they need to learn and “pay their dues”.

So if you are of an older generation and even a manager, here are some considerations that you can take regarding your virtual communications:

1. Consider having yourself and your team take a DiSC assessment.

“The DiSC® model provides a common language that people can use to better understand themselves and to adapt their behaviors with others — within a work team, a sales relationship, a leadership position, or other relationships.

DiSC profiles help you and your team:

  • Increase your self-knowledge: How you respond to conflict, what motivates you, what causes you stress, and how you solve problems
  • Improve working relationships by recognizing the communication needs of team members
  • Facilitate better teamwork and teach productive conflict
  • Develop stronger sales skills by identifying and responding to customer styles
  • Manage more effectively by understanding the dispositions and priorities of employees and team members

This quiz is designed to help you identify your main communication style. It helps you to be more conscious of how your style may come across to others. Does it builds relationships, or create silent conflicts? It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change, but you can adapt your style to best fit your team.

2. Always ask your direct reports about their preferred method of communication (call, text, email, IM, meeting).

Retain this information and do your best to meet them where they are. It would also be helpful to share your preferred method with them and ask them to do their best to meet you where you are.

3. Consider putting composed emails in your drafts if you are fired up, frustrated, or down right angry with your team.

You may feel like you are being direct. But since tone will be lost virtually, your message may not come across the way you mean it, and it may be de-motivating to the receiver. Let it sit in drafts and come back to it a little bit later. Does your draft say all you need to say, or could it be edited to be a little less harsh? Would this be better as a meeting (whether video or phone) over a written communication? Now the receiver has a chance to see you and have a conversation rather than feeling put on blast.

And finally, be curious.

Check out Lindsey Pollak’s books or podcast on the best ways to work with a variety of generations in your organization. Lindsey is a Multigenerational Work Expert and she does a great job explaining her research to drive multigenerational workplace success. She gives ideas on what all employees, managers, and even corporations should consider as we experience so many generations and communication styles in the workplace at the same time.

You may laugh that your children or employees think you are mad at them when you use a period in a text. But there’s a lot more behind it to consider. It may take adaptation on all sides as communication styles and the “future of work” continue to evolve.

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