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It’s Time For the Real Estate Industry to Get Engaged

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This post was brought about by a thread on my local association blog about whether or not we should be feeding our listings to Zillow.

I’m not going to re-open that debate here. (so let’s try not to hi-jack the comment thread with Zillow diatribes 🙂 )

I want to discuss what I see as a schism developing between the attitude of consumers and the attitude of real estate professionals. I hope that by addressing this issue, the industry can avoid what could be a very messy break-up with the public.

We Need to Change Perspective

By “we,” I mean real estate professionals. It seems to me that, sometimes, industry professionals act surprised, even indignant, at the success of sites like Zillow and Trulia. The objections are many, and they usually begin with something like, “but their data isn’t as up-to-date as the MLS!”

Protestations like that one (and the many others) miss the point, and come from the wrong perspective. As real estate professionals, we approach these sites as, well, real estate professionals. We are comparing it to the tools that we already have available (the MLS). Consumers aren’t can’t do that. They don’t have access to the MLS like we do.

I can hear some of you now, “well sure, but they could go to REALTOR.com.” Of course they could, but again, the perspective issue rears its ugly head. REALTOR.com is a site that displays listing information to the consumer for the benefit of brokers. It is not a consumer-centric site. It is designed entirely around the goal of driving leads to agents and brokers. I’m not saying that this is a necessarily bad thing. When a site is built this way, however, that philosophy will, at some point, become apparent to the consumer. When it does. . .

The Consumer Can Walk Away

The Internet is the land of almost infinite choice. When any of us surfs the net, we get to control our user-experience almost completely. We choose what content we do, or don’t want to see; we get to search for the things in which we are interested in any way that we choose. If we find what we want– great! If we don’t– we move on.

When it comes to real estate-related sites, consumers now have the ability to move on. There is enough choice out there for access to the information that consumers seek that they can move freely amongst these sources and choose the one that best fits them.

Getting the Consumer to Commit

The thing that sites like Zillow, Trulia, RealSeekr, etc. do better than most is that they engage the consumer. By this, I mean that they recognize that the consumer is in control of the experience and they are tailored to enhance that experience, not take back control.

All of these sites offer numerous ways for the consumer to participate in the process. There are comments, there are Q & A forums, there are custom searches, saved searches, heat maps, the list goes on. . . All of these features are designed to recognize the power of the consumer to control the process and make it easier for the consumer. It should also be noted that many of these features encourage interaction between the consumer and the agent/broker. This not only engages the consumer with the information, but the consumer with the professional. That is a good thing for everyone.

What to Do: It’s Time to Pop the Question

Rather than looking at sites like Zillow and Trulia as fight-to-the-death competitors with public MLS and agent/broker sites, industry professionals would do well to learn some of the valuable lessons that these sites offer when it comes to consumer interaction.

Lesson #1: GET ENGAGED!

It is time for the real estate industry to take the plunge, make the commitment, and get engaged with the consumer. For far to long, the industry has talked about engagement, only to have cold feet when the time came to get down on one knee. That cannot continue if the industry wants to remain relevant and grow moving forward. There are far too many potential suitors out there clamoring for the love and attention of consumers for real estate professionals to rest on their laurels and expect consumers to remain committed.

So whaddya say? How about we go pick out a ring. . .

I'm a REALTOR, basketball referee, happy husband, and Community Manager (in no particular order). I have a passion for the real estate industry and officiating, a passion that I try to turn into inspiration on my blog, The Real Estate Zebra. I am also the Community Manager at Inman News. When I'm not blogging here on AG or the Zebra, you can usually find me on Twitter.

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31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. Obeoman

    June 4, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Daniel,

    Since most Realtors are not on line, blogging, using social media or a web page,
    they can’t even get a blind date with the 8 out of 10 consumers in the housing market.

    And it doesn’t matter if Realtors embrace consumers.

    Consumers are making the decision and they are going to choose engaged Realtors.

    Steve

  2. Chris Shouse

    June 4, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Daniel,
    Well said and some thought provoking comments. Don’t fight engage:)

  3. Daniel Rothamel

    June 4, 2008 at 9:28 am

    Steve,

    You are right on the money. Consumers ARE going to choose engaged Realtors. As an industry, though, the attitude needs to change. As of right now, however, the individual Realtors out there who take a more engaging attitude are have a major advantage going forward.

    Chris,

    I’m glad you were provoked. Now, go provoke others!

  4. Natalie Langford

    June 4, 2008 at 9:35 am

    I’ve embraced Zillow and Trulia with every appropriate listing. When not residential, I turn to commerical sites. Anything beats sitting on my rump waiting for business to come to me. At the end of the day, the goal is for my listings to be found, shown and sold. If I end up with clients as a result of my being engaged, I’ll be doing the Snoopy Dance!

    Recently received an invitation to a brokers open where the listing agent has dared us all not to come because he has no door prize and no food and only has a house to sell. I checked out the property. 223 days on the market, 1 photo (our mls lets us do 30 for free) and when I Googled the address, all that popped up was some random blog that only displays some cut and pasted list from an unidentified source…You’re right – get engaged, damn it!

  5. Julie Emery

    June 4, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Make love, not war!

    You can stick your head in the sand. You can resent the heck out of the way the world works. But in the end, the only way to win is to get ahead of the curve and stop playing catch up!

    We tell our sellers that they can’t keep trying to catch up to a falling market. What are REALTORS and NAR doing with techology?

  6. Bob

    June 4, 2008 at 9:41 am

    I think many are using the term “engagement” in the military sense.

  7. John Lockwood

    June 4, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Can’t we just go steady?

    I’ve always treated Zillia and Trulow like what they are: something that bloggers care about. I don’t care what NAR’s doing. I just do my own little obsessive-compulsive publish or perish gig, and clients find me that way.

  8. Frank Jewett

    June 4, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Do Zillow, Trulia, et al replace the open house? Agents traditionally claim open houses are a complete waste of time because the odds of a buyer walking in are low. Are the people using those websites lookers or buyers? I guess the response is “Who cares? It’s free publicity!”

    Has anyone here looked at Walmart classifieds, the new Craigslist? More free publicity, especially for foreclosures that aren’t listed on the MLS. I guess banks are counting on consumer engagement, too.

  9. David G from Zillow.com

    June 4, 2008 at 10:24 am

    @Daniel,

    Yes, we do!

    Great post.

  10. Barry Johnson

    June 4, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Daniel can I make a toast? Thank you for being the one to write this!

  11. Bill Lublin

    June 4, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Daniel;
    I can’t get engaged, I’m married 😉

  12. Benn Rosales

    June 4, 2008 at 10:42 am

    I hear comments aren’t working- checking it out… disregard

    if anyone else is having this issue, please email me benn[@]agentgenius.com

  13. Jim Duncan

    June 4, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Benn – Why are you trying to keep English majors out of the comments with the higher math?

    Daniel, et al. – How can we reach out to those who don’t read/write blogs? Those of us in this space typically ‘get’ it, but the majority don’t and have their heads in the collective sand – wishing we could go back to the days when we were the gatekeepers.

    We need the majority (even if it’s only 51%) to recognize that we all need to change, but how do we get to them?

    Maybe these internets are just a fad …

  14. Candy Lynn

    June 4, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    “All of these sites offer numerous ways for the consumer to participate in the process. There are comments, there are Q & A forums, there are custom searches, saved searches, heat maps, the list goes on. . . All of these features are designed to recognize the power of the consumer to control the process and make it easier for the consumer. It should also be noted that many of these features encourage interaction between the consumer and the agent/broker. This not only engages the consumer with the information, but the consumer with the professional. That is a good thing for everyone.”

    Great example of what I call “stickiness” in a site. Get them there, keep them there & keep them coming back!

  15. Benn Rosales

    June 4, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    @Jim Math is part of the requirement for mariage licensing.

  16. BawldGuy Talking

    June 4, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Consumer oriented? Engage the consumer? What does that mean when boiled down to its essence?

    A certain Mr. Shaw puts it this way: ‘Consumers aren’t looking for agents, they’re looking for a home.’

    I’ve said the same thing, but differently forever: People in general, whatever the agenda, want RESULTS. The rest is what makes those pretty balloons in Del Mar stay in the air. 🙂

    Keep bringin’ it Daniel. As usual, you’re callin’ ’em as you see ’em.

  17. Brad Coy

    June 4, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Well put Daniel. I’m always curious as to the motives of those who still think that having control over the inevitable log-jam release of information is working somehow to their benefit.

    Consumers have gained more traction than ever in the past few years due to the web. Real Estate will not be the exception. Get educated as to what the details are, what your clients are looking at, and how they are using this information. I have found that they are much more educated for doing the groundwork for you, this makes the difficult parts of your job as a Realtor much easier when it gets to the real challenging work of buying and selling a home.

  18. Ricardo Bueno

    June 4, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Confession: I’m one of the ones who used to give Zillow a bad rap by saying “but their data isn’t as up-to-date…”

    But that’s slowly changing. I’m getting involved. Though slightly more with the likes of Trulia and their Q&A forum. It’s like you said and we’ve discussed this before, consumers want to be with someone who’s “out there” (so-to-speak)…someone who’s engaged.

    If networks like LinkedIn, Trulia’s Q&A, Active Rain, etc. are going to allow me to be top-of-mind with more and more contacts, I’m there. I’m mean hey…it works!

  19. Eric- New Orleans Condos and Lofts

    June 4, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    When everyone has something it becomes worth less. Its the ones that can be inovative and come up with new ideas. Realtor.com had it by themselves and got nothing. The major brokers in our area have sites that share the info. Local people will tend to go to those. Very few people in this market have heard of tuwillo or Zulia.

  20. Daniel Rothamel

    June 4, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Jim,

    I think that reaching those who DON’T currently blog or aren’t on Facebook, LinkedIn, whatever, is something that needs to happen. That is something that might have to be accomplished through more traditional means such as education classes, presentations, etc. I tell people all the time, whether they blog or not, that I need more agents out there like you and the agents found here at AG. That would make my job a whole lot easier. There is a change in philosophy that must take place. It will take time, but we need to do whatever we can to speed up that process.

  21. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 4, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    The biggest issue I have with 3rd party sites isn’t what their business model is today, as much as it is what is their business model TOMORROW?

    Are they going to establish themselves as the “real estate leader”? If so, WHEN and HOW MUCH much are they going to CHARGE those very REALTORs that made them the real estate leader in the first place – by the real estate agent providing listings, content, advice, etc on THEIR site?

    I view their “free” advertising now like a crack dealer giving away free samples. Once the industry, and consumers recognize the 3rd party site as the “real estate leader” – then they can ream the real estate agents with advertising costs, and selling back leads.

  22. Bob

    June 4, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Once the industry, and consumers recognize the 3rd party site as the “real estate leader” – then they can ream the real estate agents with advertising costs, and selling back leads.

    The industry had their shot and missed the mark. Can’t blame a smart business person for building a mousetrap that attracts more mice, regardless of who owns the cheese.

  23. Frank Jewett

    June 4, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    Jennifer, the dirty little secret of Web 2.0 is that it is Web 1.0 all over again. Most websites can’t charge because the barriers to entry are too low, the competition for market share (rather than profits) is too great, and with no geographic limitations, clients are free to jump ship at any time.

    Don’t like ActiveRain, jump to RealSeekr. Don’t like RealSeekr, there are a dozen alternatives. Don’t like any of those, wait a month and another will emerge. We saw what happened to Zolve when they tried to monetize their platform. It went from expensive to cheap to free in less than a month.

    Do you think it will be any different with listings? Walmart.com’s classified section has almost twice as many listings as my MLS. Can they monetize that. Probably not, since the same listings are on at least a dozen other sites if not more. Aggregators are bleeding market share to each other. None has enough of the right eyeballs to force you to pay to list on their platform… except the good old cable company MLS.

  24. Russell Shaw

    June 5, 2008 at 12:39 am

    That may be the PR. One of the dumbest things NAR ever did was to give REALTOR.com to Homestore. The site, as it exists now is actually designed to make money for Move (formerly known as Homestore). Driving leads to agents is way down on the list of importances. Selling agents the ability to “enhance your listings” and banner ads and zip code exclusives, now that is important.

    If REALTOR.com actually did what they really should have done – Zillow, Trulia or any of the endless other sites designed to compete with them wouldn’t have made it out of the starting gate. Not one of them. If REALTOR.com had really been driving leads to agents instead of attempting to line their pockets at the expense of agents (all the while with NAR executives blindly “overseeing them”) every agent in America would have found REALTOR.com a very worthwhile website.

    Having a site that is “good for agents” doesn’t mean “bad for consumers”.

  25. Russell Shaw

    June 5, 2008 at 12:41 am

    >>REALTOR.com is a site that displays listing information to the consumer for the benefit of brokers. It is not a consumer-centric site. It is designed entirely around the goal of driving leads to agents and brokers.<<

    That may be the PR. One of the dumbest things NAR ever did was to give REALTOR.com to Homestore. The site, as it exists now is actually designed to make money for Move (formerly known as Homestore). Driving leads to agents is way down on the list of importances. Selling agents the ability to “enhance your listings” and banner ads and zip code exclusives, now that is important.

    If REALTOR.com actually did what they really should have done – Zillow, Trulia or any of the endless other sites designed to compete with them wouldn’t have made it out of the starting gate. Not one of them. If REALTOR.com had really been driving leads to agents instead of attempting to line their pockets at the expense of agents (all the while with NAR executives blindly “overseeing them”) every agent in America would have found REALTOR.com a very worthwhile website.

    Having a site that is “good for agents” doesn’t mean “bad for consumers”.

  26. Barry Cunningham

    June 5, 2008 at 5:52 am

    I hear a lot of agents who spend a lot of time bi#tching about the likes of Trulia, Zillow, Zolve and all the other likes out there and I really wonder what’s the problem.

    I have owned a few other “businesses” and never thought my competitors were “stealing” my business, they were beating me at what I did. I had 2 options…actually 3.

    1. Keep going on my current course and be satisfied with my declining market share.

    2. Quit..close up shop….or my choice…

    3. Step up my game and COMPETE.

    The Zullia’s of the world are in business. Realtors are in business (I think)…instead of having the continuing discussions about your market coimpetitot, why not step up your game and compete?

    If any of the services or competitors in your market including other Realtors are exploitable, then by all means tell the public why they need to utilize you INSTEAD of your competitor.

    Of course, this means that one would actually need to be IN “business” and run their operation LIKE a “business”. (i.e. spend money to overcome their competitors)

    It’s a pretty simple business accumen. Yet so few Realtors follow or even know what to do. Other than Russell, who has from what I understand become an institution in Phoenix, how many other Realtors know or are even capable of establishing themselves as THE agent in a market.

    His success did not come by accident.

    I applauded Daniel’s post here becasue he recognizes that your competitors have already ENGAGED the consumer. Why haven’t you?

  27. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 5, 2008 at 8:53 am

    @ Bob >>”The industry had their shot and missed the mark. Can’t blame a smart business person for building a mousetrap that attracts more mice, regardless of who owns the cheese.”<>”Don’t like ActiveRain, jump to RealSeekr. Don’t like RealSeekr, there are a dozen alternatives. Don’t like any of those, wait a month and another will emerge. We saw what happened to Zolve when they tried to monetize their platform. It went from expensive to cheap to free in less than a month.”<<

    Bouncing from place to place only works if all have equal visibility and exposure.

    If a site shows up as #1 in the search engines for critical keywords, it has greater exposure. And, they can charge handsomely for it once they are secure in their position.

  28. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 5, 2008 at 9:03 am

    @ Barry – Most agents do NOT run their business like a business because quiet frankly, the barrier of entry into the field is so low, that just about anyone that has failed at multiple other jobs can take a 2 week class, pass a test – and BAM! They are now a “real estate expert”.

    This is evident in the extremely high failure rates of 80% of new agents getting out of the business within a year. And 90% getting out within 3 years.

    I have nothing but respect for Zillow, Trulia, and the rest. They have some extremely good persons on staff – that make Bill Clinton look like he’s tongue tied.

    It really comes down to that a lot of agents do not understand HOW they are helping Zillow & Trulia out compete them in the marketplace – and that later on down the road, there will be a greater price to pay for any short term gains they perceive that they are getting now.

  29. Barry Cunningham

    June 5, 2008 at 9:28 am

    Jennifer..you absolutely get what so many others do not. They simply do not understand how to run a BUSINESS. Look at who the CEO’s and heads of Zillow and Trulia and Homegain are…that should really give people a clue.

    It reminds me of Ray Kroc and hamburgers. Too many people, even to this day, think that the McDonald’s business model was based upon fast food. Those in business know it wasn’t.

    These discussions about the Trulia’s and zillow’s of the world are nonsensical. And you are one of those who gets it.

  30. Jed Lane

    July 30, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    No where in any of the comments is it stated that most of us are members of NAR. It is a member run organization and if you want to engage the industry work on the local committee that is addressing MLS issues.

    This is turning into much more than a comment so I’m going to another platform to post and then submit to Daniel.

    We need to take control of our own destiny and use the data set that is ours to drive traffic back to us and not through a third party that wants to charge us for the leads generated or placement acheived.

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Business Marketing

Buffer’s four-day workweek experiment: Boost or bust?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) After trying out a four-day workweek last year, Buffer is moving forward with the format going into 2021, citing increase in productivity and work-life balance.

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Man working in office with headphones on, making use of flexible four-day workweek.

The typical five-day workweek is a thing of the past for Buffer, at least for now. The company has decided to implement a four-day workweek for the “foreseeable future.”

Last year, the company surveyed its employees to see how they are dealing with the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic and the anxiety and stress that came along with it. They soon learned employees didn’t always feel comfortable or like they could take time off.

Employees felt guilty for taking PTO while trying to meet deadlines. Juggling work and suddenly becoming a daycare worker and teacher for their children at the same time was stressful. So, Buffer looked for a solution to help give employees more time and flexibility to get adjusted to their new routines.

Four-Day Workweek Trials

In May, Buffer started the four-day workweek one-month trial to focus on teammates’ well-being. “This four-day workweek period is about well-being, mental health, and placing us as humans and our families first,” said Buffer CEO and co-founder Joel Gascoigne in a company blog post.

“It’s about being able to pick a good time to go and do the groceries, now that it’s a significantly larger task. It’s about parents having more time with kids now that they’re having to take on their education. This isn’t about us trying to get the same productivity in fewer days,” Gascoigne said.

Buffer’s one-month trial proved to be successful. Survey data from before and after the trial showed higher autonomy and lower stress levels. In addition, employee anecdotal stories showed an increase in worker happiness.

With positive results, Buffer turned the trial into a long-term pilot through the end of 2020. This time, the trial would focus on Buffer’s long-term success.

“In order to truly evaluate whether a four-day workweek can be a success long-term, we need to measure productivity as well as individual well-being,” wrote Director of People Courtney Seiter. “Teammate well-being was our end goal for May. Whether that continues, and equally importantly, whether it translates into customer and company results, will be an exciting hypothesis to test.”

Trial Results

Company Productivity
Buffer’s shorter workweek trials showed employees felt they had a better work-life balance without compromising work productivity. According to the company’s survey data, almost 34% of employees felt more productive, about 60% felt equally as productive, and only less than 7% of employees felt less productive.

However, just saying productivity is higher isn’t proof. To make sure the numbers added up, managers were asked about their team’s productivity. Engineering managers reported that a decrease in total coding days didn’t show a decrease in output. Instead, there was a significant output increase for product teams, and Infrastructure and Mobile saw their output double.

The Customer Advocacy team, however, did see a decline in output. Customer service is dependent on customer unpredictability so this makes sense. Still, the survey showed about 85% to 90% of employees felt as productive as they would have been in a five-day workweek. Customers just had to wait slightly longer to receive replies to their inquiries.

Employee Well-Being
With more time and control of their schedules, Buffer’s survey shows an increase in individual autonomy and decreased stress levels reported by employees. And, the general work happiness for the entire company has been consistent throughout 2020.

What’s in store for 2021?

Based on positive employee feedback and promising company results, Buffer decided it will continue the company-wide four-day workweek this year.

“The four-day work week resulted in sustained productivity levels and a better sense of work-life balance. These were the exact results we’d hoped to see, and they helped us challenge the notion that we need to work the typical ‘nine-to-five,’ five days a week,” wrote Team Engagement Manager Nicole Miller.

The four-day workweek will continue in 2021, but the company will also be implementing adjustments based on the pilot results.

For most teams, Fridays will be the default day off. For teams that aren’t project-based, their workweek will look slightly different. As an example, the Customer Advocacy team will follow a different schedule to avoid customer reply delays and ticket overflow. Each team member will still have a four-day workweek and need to meet their specific targets. They will just have a more flexible schedule.

Companies who follow this format understand that output expectations will be further defined by area and department level. Employees who aren’t meeting their performance objectives will have the option to choose a five-day workweek or might be asked to do so.

If needed, Fridays will also serve as an overflow workday to finish up a project. Of course, schedules will be evaluated quarterly to make sure productivity is continuing to thrive and employees are still satisfied.

But, Miller says Buffer is “establishing ambitious goals” that might “push the limits” of a four-day work week in 2021. With the world slowly starting to normalize, who knows when a four-day workweek might reach its conclusion.

“We aren’t sure that we’ll continue with the four-day workweeks forever, but for now, we’re going to stick with it as long as we are still able to hit our ambitious goals,” wrote Miller.

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Business Marketing

10 easy steps to get into Instagram marketing

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Want to up your social media marketing game? Start better with Instagram for your business using these easy tips to quickly get established.

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Instagram post open on a tablet

When Instagram first came on the scene, it was simply a place to share pictures of your cat or a pie that you just baked. While it still is a place for that kind of content, it has also grown into a platform where one can influence others and build an empire.

So, if you’re looking to step up your social media marketing game through use of Instagram, look no further than using these 10 steps from Neil Patel.

  1. Switch to a business profile: This is super easy and can be done in just a few clicks. Switching from a personal to a business profile gives a better look at your followers through Insights, allowing you to see analytics and impressions. It also adds a contact feature that takes a visitor right to an email draft to you – just like it would on your website. All this and it makes it possible to publish ads.
  2. Use free marketing tools: Because Facebook owns Instagram, they operate kind of similarly. As mentioned in #1, Insights allows for a deep dive into personalized analytics to see what kind of posts are clicking with your audience and which aren’t. That way, you know what kind of content to continue with and what to do away with.
  3. Post product teasers: There are a variety of ways to do this, including posting about flash sales or linking business platforms that sell your product to make it easier for your customer to shop. The trick here is to not be pushy, but instead be enticing and make the post convenient for your consumer.
  4. Create a sponsored ad: Like Facebook, you can post ads and include a specific budget of what you want to spend. You can showcase one ad or multiple with the carousel feature. You can also target the exact demographic you’re looking to hit.
  5. Instagram stories: These last 24 hours and don’t have to be as “fancy” as a regular post. Give followers a glimpse into your brand with behind-the-scenes shots, polls, fun questions, etc. Make them feel like they’re part of the experience and use this as a way to tell your brand’s story.
  6. Partner with influencers: Work out a deal with influencers who have a decent following. Send them one of your items in exchange for them posting a photo of the item and tagging your brand. This will reach their whole followership and build your credibility.
  7. Collect user-submitted photos: Share photos posted by customers loving on your brand or product. Either share them to your story, or use a regram app to repost customer photos to your feed. It’s basically free advertising for your product.
  8. Hashtags: Come up with an interactive hashtag solely for your brand. Think in terms of verbs (a la Nike’s “Just Do It”). It can be punny or practical, but something that people attribute to your brand and your brand only.
  9. Timing and over-posting: Look into the best times to post – this is when your users are most active. It will be helpful to use Insights to understand when your time to shine may be. According to SimplyMeasured, the worst days to post on Instagram are Wednesdays and Sundays, while Mondays and Thursdays are the best days to post. Also, don’t over post. It’s annoying and it’s always best to err on the side of quality over quantity.
  10. Track the right metrics: Insights do no good if you aren’t looking at the right data. You need to keep tabs on whether or not what you’re doing is increasing your follower growth as well as growth for your interaction. With research, use of Insights and a little trial and error, you’ll get yourself to where you need to be.

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Business Marketing

Unpopular opinion: Coworkers are not your ‘family’

(MARKETING) “I just want you to think of us as family,” they say. If this were true, I could fire my uncle for always bringing up “that” topic on Thanksgiving…

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family coworkers

The season 10 opener of “Undercover Boss” featured Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar. Brandon Landry, owner, went to the Lafayette location where he worked undercover with Jessica Comeaux, an assistant manager. Comeaux came across as a dedicated employee of the company, and she was given a well-deserved reward for her work. But I rolled my eyes as the show described the team as a “family.” I take offense at combining business and family, unless you’re really family. Why shouldn’t this work dynamic be used?

Employers don’t have loyalty to employees.

One of the biggest reasons work isn’t family is that loyalty doesn’t go both ways. Employers who act as though employees are family wouldn’t hesitate to fire someone if it came down to it. In most families, you support each other during tough times, but that wouldn’t be the case in a business. If you’ve ever thought that you can’t ask for a raise or vacation, you’ve probably bought into the theory that “work is a family.” No, work is a contract.

Would the roles be okay if the genders were reversed?

At Walks-Ons, Comeaux is referred to as “Mama Jess,” by “some of the girls.” I have to wonder how that would come across if Comeaux were a man being called “Daddy Jess” by younger team members? See any problem with that? What happens when the boss is a 30-year-old and the employee is senior? Using family terminology to describe work relationships is just wrong.

Families’ roles are complex.

You’ll spend over 2,000 hours with your co-workers every year. It’s human nature to want to belong. But when you think of your job like a family, you may bring dysfunction into the workplace.

What if you never had a mom, or if your dad was abusive? Professional relationships don’t need the added complexity of “family” norms. Seeing your boss as “mom” or “dad” completely skews the roles of boss/employee. When your mom asks you to do more, it’s hard to say no. If your “work mom or dad” wants you to stay late, it’s going to be hard to set boundaries when you buy into the bogus theory that work is family. Stop thinking of work this way.

Check your business culture to make sure that your team has healthy boundaries and teamwork. Having a great work culture doesn’t have to mean you think of your team as family. It means that you appreciate your team, let them have good work-life balance and understand professionalism.

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