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Zillow gets more seemingly pointless patents, why?

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) Patents are like the cheap spaces in monopoly to Zillow, they get every one they can get their hands on, why do they need so many?

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Zillow is scooping up two more patents. Are we surprised? Does a bear…? (You get the idea). Earlier this year, we covered Zillow’s takeover of 3 patents created by IBM. The latest claims are 1.) allocating electronic advertising opportunities and 2.) presenting image transition sequences between viewing locations.

Over the past several years, the online real estate search giant has not only applied for but has been granted so many patents that motive is called into question. Is the company destined to become the next patent troll and possibly impeding technological innovation and basic real estate search functions particularly for other real estate companies? Or is this a smart move by Zillow to protect their tech investments and solidify their brand?

We’ve written about the dangers of patent trolling, where companies file for patents for the intention of suing potential “infringements”. In terms of boosting the American workforce and economy, patent trolling does neither of these and can instead damage technological growth.

So what is Zillow after this time?

The first patent outlines a facility for presenting advertising messages for multiple advertisers. “The facility determines allocations that each specify a share for an advertiser, the specified shares all being different. The facility causes advertising messages to be presented on behalf of the advertisers in accordance with the shares specified by their allocations.”

The second patent focuses on transitions between two images taken at two viewing locations, “generating and presenting an image transition sequence that simulates viewer movement between the viewing locations, such as without using information about relative distance between the viewing locations and other depth information to objects in an environment around the viewing locations.”

Time will tell how these new patent additions affect smaller real estate startups or if this is simply good business on Zillow’s part. The U.S. Trademark office continues to make it easy for these larger companies to take over.

Staff Writer, Allison Yano is an artist and writer based in LA. She holds a BFA in Applied Visual Arts and Minor in Writing from Oregon State University, and an MFA in Fine Art from Pratt Institute. Her waking hours are filled with an insatiable love of storytelling, science, and soy lattes.

Real Estate Marketing

New TikTok Marketing Guide published: Show what your business can do

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) A new playbook has been released to help small businesses thrive through use of TikTok. New stats reveal how the platform’s users interact with small businesses.

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Hands holding a phone about to open the TikTok app

TikTok remains a hot platform for content creators to share their videos. As with all social media, TikTok has become a place for brands to show off what they’re made of.

As part of the initiative to put small businesses on a pedestal, TikTok recently released a marketing guide geared towards SMBs. The 61-page playbook, titled “The Official Guide to Marketing on TikTok,” boasts as “tools, strategies and inspiration to help your small business thrive.”

The presentation gives examples of ways TikTok can be used to amplify a business and gives a look at businesses that are successfully advertising through TikTok. With sections on both advertising and creative tools, this can take an SMB through the process of reaching a whole new audience.

Of course, the playbook includes data and stats to highlight the platform. This includes the fact that TikToks generate billions of views every day, and 46% of TikTokers say they use it to discover new things. TikTokers get ideas for new things to buy with every swipe, and 57% of respondents have been led to make a purchase through the app.

It encourages businesses to post content with the hashtags #SmallBusinessLove and #ShopSmallBusiness. The TikTok community is 15% more likely to buy from a small, independent business compared to other social media channels.

A rundown of how your business can get ahead on TikTok includes information such as: 42% of users say they’re on TikTok to discover new things; 67% believe that the platform gives them ideas about new brands and products; 57% have been inspired to make a purchase by something they saw on TikTok; 83% say TikTok played a role in their purchase decisions.

The playbook also gives advice on how to: Create the perfect profile, engage your audience, keep posting regularly, tell a story, be authentic, be a trend-follower, and tailor your content (with room for experimentation).

It’s worth noting that TikToks can be shared across channels and appear on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. This extends the reach even further.

Do you use TikTok for your small business? Tell us about it!

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Real Estate Marketing

Your website copy may be too hard to read; these services help

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) Your website copy may be too dense, unreadable, and turning away sales. Here’s some tech to help you out.

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Man browses website on tablet with a cup of coffee nearby.

You’ve got a killer product or service you’re about to unleash on the world. The bank accounts are made, coffee pot is running, and you’re ready to start reeling in the sales. With your slick new website, you just know your phone is going to start ringing off the hook. But then, it doesn’t.

What gives? Bad UI? Typo in the phone number? One possible reason you’re not getting DM-ed may surprise you – your web copy.

Developing the clear-as-water copy that is going to get you hired or your product sold can be a toughie. Those words you loving poured your time and energy into might be making your potential leads mash the back button. Why? If you or one of your employees wrote the website, you can know your subject too well.

That expertise and familiarity, which makes you amazing at your job, can make it difficult for an outsider to understand what you do. The more difficult you make that understanding for your reader, the less likely you’ll turn a sale.

Case in point: Most people browsing the internet spend less than 15 seconds on a website. That means you have less than 15 seconds to hook your potential client before they remember they have a cat video to finish.

Many a great business has died on piles of jargon, dense sentences, and trendy buzzwords. But never fear! Since hiring an army of copywriters is cost-prohibitive, we’ve got some suggestions on services you can use to make that copy do work.

Clarity Grader

Clarity Grader allows you to put a website’s full text into its grading portal or even analyze a url. What you get is a free plain language report and clarity score emailed to you. Of course, if you want the ultimate features, you’ll definitely have to pay for them.

But Clarity Grader’s paid options runs hundreds of checks on your copy, including spell checking, broken link checking and consistency checks. Plus, there’s a free trial to figure out if you want to spend the dough on the premium features for this nifty proofreader.

Jargon Grader

If you’re more worried about relying too hard on jargon, Jargon Grader is a free web-based service without many bells or whistles. Just paste the concerning text into the text box and it’ll run checks and highlight which words detract from your writing. Jargon Grader also reminds you “that some over-used words may be acceptable in context.” A quick run through Jargon Grader, and you’ll be zapping all your buzzwords in no time.

Hemingway Editor

Hemingway Editor isn’t just for fiction writers. Another free web-based service, Hemingway Editor helps you emulate the bold and concise style of Ernest Hemingway. It flags words and phrases for readability, passive voice and conciseness. Hemingway Editor even highlights adverbs to keep you crystal clear.

If you’re trying to make a sale, web copy shouldn’t hedge or hide under lots of needless words. Run your words through Hemingway Editor and be bold.

Grammarly

The Big Daddy of web and desktop freemium apps, Grammarly is a must for any small or solo enterprise. Grammarly does seemingly countless grammatical, spelling, and clarity checks on what you write. It does paywall some of the clarity features, but by cobbling together all the other services plus free Grammarly, you should be covered.

And, bonus, the extension can be installed in almost every facet of your business (email, web-browser, phone apps). That means no one will be confused by how your website reads crystal clear and how your emails read like a ransom note.

So whether you’re a broker trying to save coin or an army-of-one real estate tech freelancer, arm yourself with a few nifty tech tools, and you’ll start improving your lead generation efforts.

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Real Estate Marketing

Income verification startup makes common ground for property managers and tenants

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) Income verification startup, The Closing Docs, gives property managers and tenants objective communication tools during economic crisis.

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Calculator sitting on top of 20 US dollars ready for income verification.

For property management companies who want to better understand the capacity of their tenants to pay rent during the pandemic, The Closing Docs is a startup hoping to help.

The Closing Docs is an income verification company using automated income verification with three simple steps: Collect, Confirm, and Share. Currently 3 years in, the company supports income verification to lender offering vehicle loans and more than 700,000 landlord-managed units. This system is intended to significantly compress vacancy periods and underwriting cycles, resulting in applicants being approved in minutes rather than days or weeks.

The Closing Docs was co-founded by Mark Fiebig, a serial entrepreneur and investment property manager, and Stephen Arifin, a former engineer at Microsoft. They say that what sets them apart is that they have remained laser focused on one very specific, difficult problem in a giant market. The co-founders described when inspiration hit, “The ah-ha moment came when realizing potential customers kept telling us the same thing: They were waiting days for applicants to submit required information. A good market is more important than a good product. When you have both, you’ve struck gold.”

Fiebig said, “Because we offer instant access to up-to-the-minute income history, we are not only supporting applicant approval decisions and existing tenant renewal considerations, we are also giving property managers and tenants a tool to objectively communicate about current income status. Our data provided to both parties supports these negotiations in constructive ways.” The company claims that in some cases, using The Closing Docs decreases processing time (~30%) for rental applications and increases funding rates (~15%) for loans.

This works by the software connecting to the bank accounts of the applicants and analyzing their deposit history. It then organizes that data into an income report. Income screenings can be a standalone service or be integrated into an online rental application. Income reports provide a net income summary of an applicant, summarizing key metrics such as Annual Net Income and Monthly Net Income.

The Closing Docs pricing starts at $10.00 as a one-time payment, per user. There is a free version trial and they support workflows where either the applicant or the decision maker can pay the $10 report fee.

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