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Free is a very good price

The market may be slow in your area or not, but either way, we can all take advantage of some great free tools to help us in our day to day lives. Here’s a roundup of the ones I use frequently and ones I would use more if I were an honest-to-goodness REALTOR®.


Listing Syndication/Widgets

Postlets

Postlets.com – Personally, one of my favorites because it is so incredibly simple to use. It generates code for Craigslist (simply copy & paste) and syndicates your listings out to a variety of sites, including Zillow, Trulia and Google Base. They are also what I consider a soft sell, they have paid upgrades available, but they aren’t heavily pushed while using the system. Postlets also creates a variety of widgets for your blog or other personal site.

Next up is vFlyer.com which I know is an old-time favorite. vFlyer has a lot of great features including the ability to generate some decent looking flyers for print or PDF purposes. They also syndicate your listings like Postlets as well as generating code for Craigslist. They do appear to force feed the paid options quite a bit more than Postlets, but they still do have a free plan. Also, apparently vFlyer requires a bit more tech-savvyness because I have found it to be much easier to provide phone support to people I work with for Postlets than vFlyer (apparently the home page is a bit cluttered/confusing for some).


Single Property Web Site

I know there are a lot of great paid options for single property sites, but I’ve (so far) only seen one free one that holds a candle to some of the paid versions.

RealBird Listing Publisher has been getting some really good reviews in the community lately. Unlimited photos (which we know help sell real estate), excellent Google Maps integration including street view (where available), the ability to embed 3rd party widgets, printable flyers, market stats from Altos Research…the list goes on and on. Best of all, it’s free.


Photo Manipulation

I went a bit more in-depth into this on my site, but without being a Photoshop pro, there are two programs I recommend for basic work with photos, again free.

Picnik.com is a web based photo editing tool. It offers some of the very basic functions like resizing and rotating to more advanced features like exposure control, red eye removal and color adjustments. If you do decide you want more advanced features, it’s less than $25 per year for their premium version. The only bad part is it is web-based, so if you’re not online, you’re out of luck.

But not completely out of luck. Picasa, from Google, fills the void nicely for a basic image manipulation application. Even though I’m a Photoshop guy and I love the way Vista manages my photos, I still love Picasa for its simplicity and image viewing and cataloging capabilities. A hint: if you want to resize an image, you have to click on the export button near the bottom.


Office Freedom

Like Ben mentioned, sometimes being in the office isn’t always the best for state of mind. For my day job, I travel to several different offices every day, so I have a lot of practice with these tools.

GrandCentral

Have one phone number with GrandCentral.com. GrandCentral was recently purchased by Google and technically they are still in an invite-only beta program, but invites are pretty easy to come across (here’s a good site to get connected with invites for a variety of sites). The idea is you can get a local number that you can have forward wherever you would like. Tell it to go to the office or your cell or home, it doesn’t matter. Very easy to use and again, completely free.

Keep organized and drive safely with Jott.com. Jott offers incredibly good voice to text capabilities. Setup your online address book with friends, family, clients and coworkers and call a free 866 number to have your words quickly and (fairly) accurately transcribed into text, which is then emailed. Or tell it to remind you of something and it will email you a reminder. I keep Jott on speed dial so I can keep my eyes on the road.


I know there’s a lot of great services out there, these are the ones I would keep on my tool belt (which I always wear) as opposed to my tool box (which sits in the garage). Please share your favorites in the comments below.

Nick runs a new media marketing consulting company helping real estate professionals learn how to implement new media tools into their marketing arsenal. He frequently gives presentations on generational marketing, green marketing and advanced online promotion. Nick is active on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

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28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Andy Kaufman

    March 28, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Adobe just announced a free version of Photoshop called Photoshop Express yesterday. – https://www.photoshop.com/express/

  2. Jennifer Wilson - Agent Solutions

    March 28, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Ney Nick!

    Now this post was NOT a waste of time. You have listed some awesome tools there. I use many of them regularly with the exception of Grand Central. I looked into this service but found, again, it is only available in the U.S. Would you happen to know of a similar service available in Canada?

    I have to say; I LOVE Picnik, Picasa and vflyer and I use them all the time. I’m still trying to get into the habit of using Jott.

    Great post! Ciao!

  3. Missy Caulk

    March 28, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    I have used many of these, Vflyer is great. I’ve thought about checking out RealBird and now maybe I will. See ya on Twitter.

  4. mike simonsen Altos

    March 28, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Get yer free AltosChart here!

    https://www.altosresearch.com/altos/website/AltosChartsAndStats.page

    Real-time local market stats. (Just launched a nice partnership with the RealBird listing publisher too!)

    Thanks to andy for the twitter

  5. Benn Rosales

    March 28, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Note from the spam guard – me!

    I’m allowing more freebee spam (here in the comments) so long as you fit the formula Nick has so brilliantly laid out.

    aside: I’m diggin free over here! photoshop express? yummy!

  6. Cheryl Allin

    March 28, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    One of my recent favorite freebie finds (say that 5x fast) is Team Viewer – free desktop sharing and remote control. It’s easy for anyone to setup, secure and allows you to access your PC from another location.

    https://www.teamviewer.com

  7. RealBird

    March 28, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Nick,

    Thanks for the reference. We just released a quick upgrade, now using the Street View API. No more manual embedding, it’s now automatically part of the single property website. Hopefully, Google will speed up the addition of new cities, now that developers like us going crazy with this new API.

    — Zoltan
    RealBird.com

  8. RealBird

    March 28, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Freebie: Clicky Analytics ( https://www.getclicky.com ) Free for most of the features.

    Beats Google Analytics, when it comes to quick, real-time access to important metrics and external links. When reacting to blog posts about you or a topic, it is important that you have real-time access to the buzz. Google still delays data by half a day or so. Mike – nice to see you here !

  9. Carson Coots

    March 28, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    Zoltan… when is realbird going to cover Houston? I know that it would be a hit here.

    Great list Nick…

  10. Brad Coy

    March 29, 2008 at 2:31 am

    Solid list Nick. I’ve checked out all of these and am a frequent user of Picassa, Picnik, Vflyer, and Jott.

    Two things: 1. When will RealBird be in SF. Come on guys, I love the new street view API thingy. 2. Whosgot a GrandCentral invite? Anyone??

  11. Bob in San Diego

    March 29, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Free is such an ambiguous term these days. Here is the catch with the “FREE” Adobe photoshop Express:

    Adobe does not claim ownership of Your Content. However, with respect to Your Content that you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Services, you grant Adobe a worldwide, royalty-free, nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable license to use, distribute, derive revenue or other remuneration from, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content (in whole or in part) and to incorporate such Content into other Materials or works in any format or medium now known or later developed.

  12. RealBird

    March 29, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Carson, Brad,

    The free RealBird Listing Publisher (single property website service) is available for Houston and San Francisco. The RealBird Map-based IDX Search service (not free 🙂 is not yet. Now that the Bay Area MLSes are merging data, SF coverage will hopefully be available soon. Regarding Houston, we definitely considering it as one of our upcoming coverage.

    Bob,

    I agree. Nothing is free, it’s subsidized by someone paying for something at the end of the chain. Free in this case refers to “free for the target audience”. For example: the RealBird Listing Publisher is FREE with all no feature limitation and no advertising on the sites, because cost and profit is covered by those members who pay for another RealBird service (happily and willingly I may say). vFlyer is FREE for up to X number of listing flyers, those vFlyer members who pay for more services, cover the free members. But for agent A, who never has more than X listings, the service IS free. Then there are the other services, which are truly FREE, in terms of monetary fees, but you pay by giving up some sort of rights, like you example of Adobe Photoshop express, so you pay with your intellectual property, which is your asset, just like cash asset used for paying for service is. Or advertisers are happily subsidizing the cost associated with your Google searches. There are many models and combination of models and a whole economy built around free, and the successful models are those, in which the paying entities intentionally or unintentionally, but gladly pay on behalf of the free participants. In such model however, it is still free from the perspective of those, who get the benefit without monetary fees or with fees (like giving up intellectual property rights) they do not perceive as cost.

    Here is a very good article from Wired on this topic:
    https://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/16-03/ff_free

    — Zoltan
    https://realbird.typepad.com

  13. Maureen Francis

    March 29, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    I was going to add Get Clicky, and am glad to see it is already here. I am a big VFlyer fan too.

    I’d be interested in a free fax to pdf/email tool if such a thing exists.

  14. Wayne Harriman

    March 29, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    Hi,

    I use Postlets already and like it a lot. I checked out RealBird (and signed up), but unless I’m mistaken, the single property website aspect of the service is NOT free. It costs $14.99 a year for the domain name. Is this accurate or did I miss something?

  15. Bob

    March 29, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Realbirb, I understand. The catch with Photoshop is that they hid that disclaimer and are now taking heat for it. As a result Adobe says they’ll have their legal guys change it.

    https://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9906064-7.html

    I wasn’t putting the rest of these offerings in the same group as Adobe.

  16. RealBird

    March 29, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Wayne – It’s true. The domain name cost money. Nobody provides domain name for free as it has hard cost associated with it. So either it is packaged into an overall price of a service, sold at cost or one has to pay for it as an add-on. The definition and distinction between online flyers, single property websites and virtual tours are mostly in the semantics of the marketing terms used (with a few feature exceptions) All 3 promotes and presents real estate listings online for remote viewers. In my opinion, the RealBird service is a free single property website as it provides your listing its own online presence with no outgoing links to other, competing listings (like on portals) and is dedicated to marketing a single property. The only difference is that by default (for free) the site exists on the realbird.com domain name. On the other hand, if the street address domain name defines the marketing term “single property website”, than it is true, it cost money with RealBird as well. We do not however make it mandatory to purchase the domain, one can get it at any other sources and mask it to the RealBird site. Of course, vFlyer and Postlets are single property websites as well following the same logic.

    My apologies Nick to spend so much time on your blog talking about ourselves 🙂

    Here are some more free services in exchange:

    Maureen – Both Jfax.com and eFax.com provides free fax receiving services (and upgrades for premiums):

    https://www.j2.com/jconnect/twa/page/pricingComparison

    https://www.efax.com/en/efax/twa/productOverview

    It seems that jFax has more features for the bucks (for free I mean) than eFax. Both delivers fax to your email as PDF attachments.

    — Zoltan
    https://realbird.typepad.com

  17. RealBird

    March 29, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Bob,

    My guess is that Adobe had the disclaimer with such strong terms to protect themselves from liability in the future and as news.com says, it seems that their legal team went overboard. Being an online service, intentionally and unintentionally they may end up using derivatives of the photos edited with the service. I would assume that they still want to make money by upselling high-end Adobe products. I may be wrong, but I doubt that they have a business model of selling and licensing the images created with Photoshop Express; but using client photos in marketing etc. may raise legal issues unless their TOU protects them.

    This topic is absolutely fascinating . There are so many combination of “free business models” and many experiments are going on due to the flexibility of the online services and business models.

    Another freebie (out of the box): High quality stock photography used to cost up to hundreds of dollars a piece or more. One can now get great, high res photos for “free” from Flickr users by searching for Creative Common licensed photos. Such license (the proper variation) enables the royalty free reuse of photos by requiring to give attribution and link back to the photographers page in most cases. So the high quality photo is free, in terms of monetary compensation, but in exchange you share a small portion of your traffic with the author. I can imagine somebody distributing stock photos for free and getting custom, paid gigs from people who eventually visit his or her page. I am not sure if this is a sustainable business model, but certainly a variation of the free. To get Creative Commons licensed photos from Flickr, do an advanced search at https://www.flickr.com/search/advanced/ and make sure to check all three checkboxes at the bottom for Creative Commons license. Make sure you review and agree with the terms

    — Zoltan

  18. Suz

    March 29, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    I just signe dup for Realbird and it seems pretty cool. I didn’t incur any charges and haven’t finished yet…but it sure looks good. I like the map feature alot..I know there is more…I’ll get there too!

  19. Misty Lackie

    March 30, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Also check out ClassifiedFlyerAds.com for an alternative for listing flyers, single property sites, syndication, widgets, virtual tours, posting HTML and more.

  20. Suz

    March 30, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Has anyone had experience with postlets, classifiedflyerads and realbird to say which of these products offers the best features overall? I’ve used postlets alot…looking quickly at classifiedflyerads.com it appears to have search engine benefits that others may or may not have. I certainly could dig into it more as I just did a quick review, but I thought if someone already knows…I could tap into your brain 😉

  21. Toby Boyce

    March 30, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Suz – I use a combo of Real Bird and Postlets.

  22. Keith Kreuer

    April 7, 2008 at 9:14 am

    I have utilized many of these sites like Jott and PostLets and find them to be great!

  23. Cyprus Resale Properties

    January 5, 2010 at 4:47 am

    Great set of tools, really liked looking at Picnik, great for those times when you really don’t need to fire up photoshop!

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Business Marketing

Snapchat’s study reveals our growing reliance on video

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Snapchat released a report that shows some useful insights for future video content creation.

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Snapchat is taking a break from restoring people’s streaks to publish a report on mobile video access; according to Social Media Today, the report holds potentially vital information about how customers use their mobile devices to view content.

And–surprise, surprise–it turns out we’re using our phones to consume a lot more media than we did six years ago.

The obvious takeaways from this study are listed all over the place, and not even necessarily courtesy of Snapchat. People are using their phones substantially more often than they have in the past five years, and with everyone staying home, it’s reasonable to expect more engagement and more overall screen time.

However, there are a couple of insights that stand out from Snapchat’s study.

Firstly, the “Stories” feature that you see just about everywhere now is considered one of the most popular–and, thus, most lucrative–forms of video content. 82 percent of Snapchat users in the study said that they watched at least one Snapchat Story every day, with the majority of stories being under ten minutes.

This is a stark contrast to the 52 percent of those polled who said they watched a TV show each day and the 49 percent who said they consumed some “premium” style of short-form video (e.g., YouTube). You’ll notice that this flies in the face of some schools of thought regarding content creation on larger platforms like YouTube or Instagram.

Equally as important is Snapchat’s “personal” factor, which is the intimate, one-on-one-ish atmosphere cultivated by Snapchat features. Per Snapchat’s report, this is the prime component in helping an engaging video achieve the other two pillars of success: making it relatable and worthy of sharing.

Those three pillars–being personal, relatable, and share-worthy–are the components of any successful “short-form” video, Snapchat says.

Snapchat also reported that of the users polled, the majority claimed Snapchat made them feel more connected to their fellow users than comparable social media sites (e.g., Instagram or Facebook). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the next-closest social media platform vis-a-vis interpersonal connection was TikTok–something for which you can probably see the nexus to Snapchat.

We know phone use is increasing, and we know that distanced forms of social expression were popular even before a pandemic floored the world; however, this report demonstrates a paradigm shift in content creation that you’d have to be nuts not to check out for yourself.

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Business Marketing

Technology is helping small businesses adapt and stay afloat

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Small businesses need to utilize digital platforms to adapt their businesses during COVID-19, or else they may be left behind.

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While many may not have imagined our present day back in March, and to what extreme we would be doing things “remotely” and via “hands-free contact”, we have to give some credit to small business owners who remain flexible and have pivoted to stay afloat. They deserve major credit on adaptations they have made (and possibly investments) in new technology (ordering online, online payments) especially at a time when their in-person revenues have taken a hit.

There are various marketing buzz words being used lately to say “let’s keep our distance”, including: curbside, to-go, hands-free, no contact, delivery only, order via app, social distancing and #wearamask.

The thing is, if you really think about it, small businesses are always in evolution mode – they have to pay attention to consumer consumption and behaviors that can shift quickly in order to stay relevant and utilize their marketing and advertising budgets wisely. They heavily rely on positive customer reviews and word of mouth recommendations because they may not have the budget for large scale efforts.

For example, we use Lyft or Uber vs calling an individual cab owner; we order on Amazon vs shopping at a local mom-and-pop shop; we download and make playlists of music vs going to a record or music store. Small business owners are constantly fighting to keep up with the big guys and have to take into account how their product/service has relevance, and if it’s easy for people to attain. In current times, they’ve had to place major efforts into contactless experiences that often require utilizing a digital platform.

If stores or restaurants didn’t already have an online ordering platform, they had to implement one. Many may have already had a way to order online but once they were forced to close their dining areas, they had to figure out how to collect payments safely upon pickup; this may have required them to implement a new system. Many restaurants also had to restructure pick up and to-go orders, whether it was adding additional signage or reconfiguring their pick up space to make sure people were able to easily practice social distancing.

According to this article from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “Studies have shown that 73% of small businesses are not aware of digital resources, such as online payment processing tools, online productivity tools, e-commerce websites, online marketing and other tools, that can help them reach customers around the world. If small businesses had better access to global markets, it could increase the GDP of the United States by $81 billion and add 900,000 new jobs. During the pandemic, this could also mean the difference between thriving and closing for good.”

There are some larger corporate technology companies offering ways to support small businesses whether it’s through small business grants from Google, resources and grants from Facebook or Verizon giving them a break on their telecom bill. The challenge with this may be whether or not small business owners are able to find time from their intense focus on surviving to applying for these grants and managing all that admin time. Many business owners may be focusing on what technology they have and can upgrade, or what they need to implement – most likely while seeing a loss in revenue. So, it can be a tough decision to make new technology investments.

It does seem like many have made incredible strides, and quickly (which is impressive), to still offer their products and services to customers – whether it’s a contactless pay method, free delivery, or even reservations to ensure limited capacity and socially distanced visits. There are still some that just haven’t able to do that yet, and may be looking at other ways to take their business to a wider audience online.

We would encourage, if you can, to support small businesses in your community as often as you can. Understandably there are times that it’s easier to order on Amazon, but if there is a way you can pick up something from a local brewery or family-owned business, this may be the lifeline they need to survive and/or to invest in new technology to help them adapt.

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Business Marketing

There’s a shortage of skilled workers, so get learning

(BUSINESS MARKETING) COVID-19 may end up justifying training funds for lower-class workers to learn new skills. Skilled workers are desperately needed right now.

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The COVID-19 pandemic (yes, that one) has ushered in a lot of unexpected changes, one of the which is most surprising: An increased call for skilled workers — a call that, unfortunately, requires a massive retraining of the existing workforce.

According to the New York Times, nearly 50 percent of Americans were working from home by May; this was, reportedly, a 15 percent increase in remote work. The problems with this model are expansive, but one of the greatest issues stems from the lack of training: As employees of lower-class employment transitioned to working online, it became increasingly evident that there was a shortage of skilled workers in this country.

The Times traces this phenomenon back to the Great Recession; Harvard University’s Lawrence Katz points to some parallels and insinuates that this is an opportunity to elevate the lower class rather than regressing, and it seems fair to put the onus of such elevation on lawmakers and senators.

Indeed, Congress has even addressed the issue of skill equality via “bipartisan support” of a $4000 credit for non-skilled workers to use toward skill training. For Congress to come together on something like this is relatively noteworthy, and it’s hard to disagree with the premise that, given the invariable automation wave, many of our “non-skilled” workers will face unemployment without substantial aid.

COVID-19 has accelerated many trends and processes that should have taken years to propagate, and this is clearly one of them.

Supporting laborers in developing skills that help them work within the technology bubble isn’t just a good idea–it’s imperative, both morally and economically speaking. Even middle-class “skilled” workers have had trouble keeping up with the sheer amount of automation and technology-based skillsets required to stay competent; when one considers how lower-class employees will be impacted by this wave, the outcome is too dark to entertain.

It should be noted that non-skilled workers don’t necessarily have to scale up their training in their current fields; the Times references a truck driver who pivoted hard into software development, and while it may be easier for some to focus on their existing areas of expertise, the option to make a career change does exist.

If we take nothing else away from the time we’ve spent in quarantine, we should remember that skilled labor is integral to our success as a society, and we have a moral obligation to help those who missed the opportunity to develop such skills fulfill that need.

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