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A Cautionary Tale of Visionaries, Influencers & the Community


The World Around Us

As the twilight of the past decade draws upon us and gives way to the new; I’m giving a great deal of thought to the future.  I’m putting the final touches to my business plan and researching what is working for those who have found success in our business.  Strangely, this peering into the success of others has caused me to question some of my current philosophies.

I recently created a summary report of agents and brokerage activities from my market region, which spans six counties and 1 city. In puling these reports, I found something interesting.  In the very large region, with both a mix of urban and suburban geography, the top twenty producers in our market place (an hour south of Washington DC and an hour north of Virginia’s Capital.) have little to no internet presence.  I mean, if you were to Google these folks, at best you’ll find their companies agent profile, but virtually no webpage to speak of, no blog, no twitter, rarely used Facebook pages etc…  Here’s my other observation – none of these mega-producers are involve in volunteer work at their Realtor Association. 

Now I’m not jumping to any conclusions, but I am questioning why so much emphasis has been placed in industry magazines, blogs and education on new media and our webpages? Could it be, because we’ve ran out of other things to read about? It makes me question how much my production would increase if I were to JUST concentrate on clients.  Hmmmm…

Unquestionably Online Social Engagement Makes Sense

When I look at some stats like those below, online media makes perfect sense.

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    • 83% of active Internet users are watching videos online
    • In the United States, there are 31.9 million bloggers
    • 71% of active online users read blogs
    • Nearly 66% of active Internet users have joined a social network
    • 71% of active Internet users are visiting their friend’s social network page
    • Over 80% start their Real Estate search online

The philosophy of Facebook alone is very convincing, isn’t it?  I mean virtually everyone has an account, it matches the buyer demographic, it allows personal interaction and you can gain trust.  The case to engage online makes sense.  But it may not be the only engagement that makes sense.

Consider The Options

One of my favorite posts by Benn Rosales is “37 Steps Toward Becoming at 1.5 Real Estate Agent” He provides a simply and realistic approach to working as a Realtor.  Note that most of his post is not based on Social Media.

Frankly, I’m tired of hearing about “Social Media”.  It’s just media – one more tool to contact and reach clients.  It’s part of my marketing plan, not my THE marketing plan. 

Yes, I’ve gotten clients for both Real Estate and teaching gigs but I’ve also done well with a variety of other engagements.  The most effective?  Actually meeting people in day-to-day life has been one of the best client producing tools in my career.

Living in the Here and Now

I love Visionaries and people who look forward to see what the future will look like.  I spend a lot of time reading what these people say, but I’ve taken caution to not be so focused on where the consumer WILL be, that I forsake where the consumer actually is.  There has been a tendency in the recent year to push agents toward new tools and new skillsets that has almost become cult like.  We’ve made an punch-line of agents who don’t really want to blog for clients…  Yet these “punch-lines” are laughing as they take their checks to the bank.  I don’t think new media is a fad and it is going to become more prevalent, but let’s not neglect those agents who are still mastering their Sphere of Influence and other “old school” techniques.

Learning As I Go

I’ve been actively involved with new media for about three years and love my blog, Twitter, Facebook,et al.  But they are MY voice.  While teaching others to use these tools, I’ve recently been trying to not preach about what to post or how. 

I’ve personally gotten weary of “influencers” dictating what I can or should post.  I may not want to read a Facebook stream or Twitter stream that is posting listings or just bragging about the author’s production level, but that doesn’t mean there may not be an audience for this. 

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I’m happy to share what works for me, but my 2010 mentality is to meld traditional techniques with my online practices and spend a little more time learning from those who are more successful than I am.  Those agents and Brokers who have been practicing for 20-30 years have a lot to offer and maybe we should be a little better listeners / observers and little less vocal?

Written By

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is



  1. JStampone

    January 1, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Matt, this is a great post, you make some interesting points. I think a lot of people in the real estate space are getting too caught up on social media and blogging and twitter and Facebook. Yes, these are amazing tools that are “game changers”, but they are just tools. They’re simply another way to connect with clients. Stop worrying about the number of twitter followers you have and focus on being real and connecting with people.

  2. Ken Brand

    January 1, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Without doing the research, my eyes, ears and heart tell me the same is true in my market.

    As a Sales Manager of an 80+ Icon Agent office, our Tip Top Performers are deeply rooted in activities and actions that are primarily off-line and specifically focused on in-person and on-purpose, interaction and conversation. Having said that, because they’re sharp and professional, they are embracing on-line tools to connect more frequently, communicate more efficiently, attract new business and lock in loyalism with the current Sphere Of Engagement. They also understand the power of free broadcasting for themselves and their clients as well.

    As you’ve shared, it doesn’t matter how internet savvy your are, how cool your website, or how many online friends and followers you have, if your IRL PEOPLE and sales skills suck, you’re gonna go broke.

    • Houstonblogger

      January 2, 2010 at 12:03 pm

      “if your IRL PEOPLE and sales skills suck, you’re gonna go broke.” – Ken, this is so true. I can’t believe the amount of people who think that you can be socially inept, yet have a fantastic “web personality” and still be able to sell. Will not happen. They have to meet you sometime.

  3. Ruthmarie Hicks

    January 1, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    I did an interesting exercise…I decided to track people in my brokerage who were SOI people, door-knockers, cold-callers and techies and take a look at the bottom line – closed sales. What I found would surprise the “old school.” All save one door-knocker were doing relatively little business. The one who was generating business also had an on-line report that he sent out every month. These guys talked a good game, but the sales just weren’t there. These guys were hammering away at how overcoming “fears” brought them tons of business. Ok, where is it?

    I tend to use blogging, facebook, twitter and enjoy the social networking. I also use print media to draw people in. I am building an SOI of people that actually have the money to buy or sell real estate. But I don’t knock or cold call.

    Those who had many years in the business AND had bothered to build their business and nurse the SOI were doing well and those who took the time to blog and do on-line news letters seemed to be outpacing the knockers and callers. The area is very tech-driven – being so close to NYC —-sooo like all things – its a local observation.

    • Matthew Rathbun

      January 1, 2010 at 5:16 pm

      RuthMarie: I certainly think that the more progressive will inherit the earth. It’s absolutely true that markets are local. I don’t think the floor duty agents who call down the phone book are doing any business regardless, I think the agents who are good at engaging people and asking for business are doing well. A lot of these folks go to Chamber meetings and other civic organizations.

  4. Julie Emery

    January 1, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    I think you’ve gotten it exactly right. The mix will be different for everyone. What works for me, what’s comfortable for me, will very likely different than what’s comfortable for someone else. I know agents who produce great results by spending all day on the phone. I’m sure it can be an effective tool, but I’d shoot myself after a week of that! I love the SM tools, but still love the face to face stuff. I’m a big fan of Brian Buffini’s pop bys and they’ve consistently provided good results. Hand written notes are still a part of my marketing plan as well, despite being very, very old school! My blog is a reflection of who I am and is not always a reflection of best SEO practices. (Still managed to close a very nice deal off it this past week.)

    This job can be very demanding. We should all stop letting other people tell us how our business should be run. Listen to the experts, then figure out what works for you.

  5. Dan Connolly

    January 1, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    I am one of those who has bee around for a long time and my business has gone through a number of different phases. It doesn’t really matter how you meet prospective clients, its what you say to them after you meet them that decides whether or not you will sell anything to, or for them. There are a million different ways to skin the cat. Just stick with what works for you in your market.

    That being said, a very large percentage of my sales used to come from SOI. When the internet became a potential source of business, I found out that I would rather work with strangers. There are a couple of reasons. 1) Strangers treat you better than friends. (they don’t assume you work 24/7, they don’t expect kickbacks, and they seem more appreciative of the service). 2) I don’t want to be that pushy salesman guy working the Christmas party.

  6. Lani Rosales

    January 1, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Matt, we’ve spoken in detail offline about a passion Benn & I have for the 1.5 agent- one that works on and offline as no extreme is ideal in these economic times. What *most* annoys me is people outside of the industry who have never touched a transaction are “real estate social media experts” that are seen as “influential” because they coded a program that helps with real estate sales and I’m way too polite to call bullshit, instead I tune out. Just because a Realtor sells a home, that doesn’t make them a home building expert and they would never go on a speaking circuit to tell home builders how to build homes… being an interchangeable part of a process does not an expert make.

    I recently read that it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours of doing any activity to become an expert be that tennis, public speaking or blogging. Therefore, I do my homework on who I allow to influence me which minimizes my buying snake oil.

  7. Houstonblogger

    January 2, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Open Houses are where I make money. I have a good presence, my personality is good, people like me, I ask questions and always get a contact number.

    Calling FSBO’s, expireds, sending mailers, waiting for twitter and facebook and my blog to bring me business would make me incredibly poor. And, pissed.

  8. Janie Coffey

    January 3, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    For us, using our online and social presence is about building and nurturing our SOI, both online and then taking it F2F. It is part of the tool belt of staying relevant, useful, friendly and top of mind to those that (for the most part) already know, like and trust us.

  9. Thomas Johnson

    January 3, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Lanie: I would venture that a 1.5 Agent works at least 1.5X as hard as teh competition as well.

  10. Duke Long

    January 11, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Just reread this post. Thanks soooo much for the simple clarity!

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