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English as a Second Language (E, S and L)

original creative commons image courtesy of ebmorse

The Combo Platter Incident

The keyboard that keeps my desktop computer company needs to buy a vowel. And a couple of consonants, while we are at it. It seems that some time during the past year, a year involving a lot of overuse and a little misuse (the latter related to an unfortunate incident involving a #5 Mexican Combo Platter), my “E,” “S” and “L” keys have been wiped clean. How is it that I continue to type?

Being a child of the industrial age (circa Before Most People Alive Today Were Born), I long ago mastered the art of ten-fingered typing. I have been doing it for so long, I just know intuitively where all of those little letters are. In fact, I don’t even see them anymore, and my three (and, apparently, favorite) keys have probably been missing for months. I just didn’t notice, because I didn’t need to.
Not so the number keys. I have to look when I am typing numbers. I suppose I just haven’t been using them as much. But occasionally, I do need one of those little guys, and then I have to pay very close attention.

My Favorite Inman Connect Panel

Without further ado, let the segue to ensue. My favorite panel discussion at the Inman Real Estate Connect Conference took place at the Blogger’s Connect pre-conference. The title of this session was “Growing Pains: Take Your Blog to the Next Level.” It was my favorite because the message was contrarian and, I believe, right on target.

The next level in our on-line evolution is a step backwards, we were told, and I couldn’t agree more. We have been teching out for so long now in our attempt to connect with our customers that we are in danger of disconnecting entirely. In our efforts to speak their language, we risk no longer speaking to them at all.

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Then Came a Comment…

During the panel question and answer session, one attendee said that he was left feeling “empty;” he said he was hoping for new technology ideas to deploy to accomplish that next level of success. While I know his comments were mostly tongue in cheek (and I won’t name names, Ben Martin), I think a lot of us (myself included) tend to fall into this trap. We have so mastered the on-line alphabet, that we are forgetting or have never taken the time to learn where all those little numbers, our customers, are located. Eventually if we want to continue to make a living, we are going to need one of those.

They are located one block or two or twenty miles from my home and my office. They are on-line, certainly, but they are ultimately going to be in my car or sitting across from me at the kitchen table. They like search engines and blogs and widgets as much as the rest of us, but what they ultimately like is neighborhood information and expertise. They speak the language of search engines and browsers and cyber social networks, but that is their second language. The universal language is one of localism. Schools, neighborhoods, services, and the need for a stop sign at my intersection; these are the things that speak to our clients on the most personal level.

Refocusing Attention

We are dangerously close to making the language of our customers our second language. In my case, that is because the numbers have not been so day-to-day critical; they have played a much smaller role in my message because I was too busy following the on-line marketing book to the letter. It just might be time to move on or at least refocus our attention at the keyboard.

This is not to say that we should turn our backs on technology. To the contrary, we must continue to embrace it. But, at some point piling technology on technology is going to be like writing a post using the Wingdings font. A few may get it, but we may be failing to connect with the majority. Like the case of the missing E, S and L, I can do a reasonable job of communicating to the on-line audience without further obsessing about the keystrokes. I could replace the missing keys, but twenty-three out of twenty-six is pretty close to perfect, so my biggest return on investment at this point is going to come from making that next distinction — successfully hitting the numbers. And if I just stop to look, I will realize that my numbers live in my neighborhood.

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Written By

Kris Berg is Broker/Owner of San Diego Castles Realty. She is the perpetrator of the San Diego Home Blog, a locally-focused real estate blog, and in her spare time enjoys fencing, luge, and kittens.



  1. Ken B.

    July 28, 2008 at 9:03 am


    Lot’s of blogging, tweeting, Facebooking et al, connection, relationship building, lead generation, time suck? Anyway, great point. I believe the Social Media efforts are worthwhile, but, as you say, keep your eye on the prize – people who know you, trust you and like you….in real time and other time. Referrals from the satisfied and the delighted is platinum.

    I raise an eyebrow when I hear, “I get all my business from the internet.” I wonder, why don’t you get tons of referrals from the people you meet and help from the internet? I mean come on, if you’re doing a fabulous job, shouldn’t 50%+ of your business come from personal referrals. If not, point your Social Media at those folks as well. Right?

    I think an agent can expand their sphere, meet new people and maybe even more importantly, stay deeply connected to their friends, family, past clients, suspects and prospects. While the old school players limit themselves to post cards, eCards, Newsletters, print ads, the new school kids can amp up with 2.0 and whiz forward.

    Another huge advantage of Social Media, people really can get to know you before you meet in person. Speed and comfort are precious.

    I sorta bounced around there, but you know what I mean.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. Ush

    July 28, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Spot on.

    Blogging about tech and widgets does not build a customer pipeline.

    Unless – that pipeline is potiential consumers of such technology, in which case you are now in a different business, and should be able to also communicate the value of those tech widgets.

    Real estate customers want to know what you offer to better realize their real estate goals, what do you know about the area, how do you work, can you negotiate, can you market, e.t.c.

    Tell them why you the best choice for their real estate transaction? Not the tech widgets that you think are cool.


  3. Bill Lublin

    July 28, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Kri_ B_rg;
    What a wond_rfu_ po-t you wrot_ h_r_.

    I hav_ l_arn_d _o much from your _ffort_ to communicat_ with the con_um_r that I hop_ to gain additional in_ight to my own int_ration with p_opl_.

    See, I can write without the E,S,or L as well, and I use only two fingers to type (due to a poor public school education). ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Seriously, your post is so on target. Even prior to our losing ourselves to our technology, we tended to speak in a jargon of professional abbreviations which made more sense to us then to the people we were speaking to. The technology does nothing if we forget the end purpose. Meeting with and providing solutions for our consumers.

    BTW is Ken B a psuedonym? Awfully complimentary , and suspiciously similar initials.. I’m just throwin’ it out there ๐Ÿ˜‰

    (Ok, I’m just jealous I wasn’t the first commentor)

  4. Kris Berg

    July 28, 2008 at 10:06 am

    That was quite impressive, Bill. All of those shifts and underscores must have wiped you out. I am honored by the effort.

  5. Larry Yatkowsky

    July 28, 2008 at 10:22 am


    Seems in one fingered typers in Philly they don’t even have the keys – we should start a collection to get Lublin a new board? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Your proposal here and that made the session is S-O on the M-O-N-E-Y. Our acronym lingo really does leave people without keys to understanding. We assume too much in our dance with tech believing that everybody implicitly understands why we want to be T-W-I-T-S.

    As you suggest, we need to K-I-S-S more often? ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Glenn fm Naples

    July 28, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Feeding site visitors about our “localism” is what they are looking for. Most of the people I have met via my web site, like the information about the area’s neighborhoods. However, I feel that in many cases it lacks – content, pictures, and videos. But another item I realize is there needs to be more of me included, not just real estate or “localism”.

    BTW – Has anyone noticed the arrangement of the number pad on a keyboard versus the phone key pad? Check it out!

  7. Bill Lublin

    July 28, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Sorry Kris I was napping after I wrote that comment. The Yatter chatter woke me up though ๐Ÿ™‚
    (One fingered typist indeed – I use TWO fingers – and the occasional thumb – humph)
    Did you notice he got right to the KISS part?

  8. Larry Yatkowsky

    July 28, 2008 at 11:17 am



    having a senior’s moment there were we? ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Irina Netchaev

    July 28, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Chris, very insightful… I see a couple of things here. For agents that are just beginning to blog and utilize social networking platforms, the learning curve is so steep that it takes a lot of energy and time just to keep up with existing technology. Then, you find yourself spending so much time on line that you forget that real people in your car is what you need to make a sale. At least, that’s what I found myself doing – spending too much time on line and not enough time in person.

    It took a concerted effort to get out of that mode.

  10. Rich Jacobson

    July 28, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Kris – I have to confess that my favorite soundbite from the Inman was what you said during the panel. Basicially, it was that none of us really know what the h*ll we’re talking about, and we’re just making this stuff up as we go. Thanks for breathing a little candid honesty into the program!….

  11. Jonathan Dalton

    July 28, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    I’ve heard many times that real estate is a belly-to-belly business. For me, the best way to get their belly pressed against mine is through the web. And so here I am (and there and there and way over there as well.) It’s got the best ROI that I’ve found.

    At the same time, if you don’t have the slightest idea what to do when you’ve finally got them in your car or if they decide then they don’t like you, you’re hooped.

  12. ines

    July 28, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    It was one of my favorite as well – to think that we are getting so good at the technical aspect of this industry and may forget the basics is a dangerously amazing thought. Back to “CONNECTIONS” and that’s why we were there are “connect”, no? – if we can’t make sticky connections, then we may as well loose the keys to our listings.

  13. Jay Thompson

    July 28, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    “I raise an eyebrow when I hear, โ€œI get all my business from the internet.โ€ I wonder, why donโ€™t you get tons of referrals from the people you meet and help from the internet?”

    Great point Ken. I can only speak for myself, but I count those types of referrals as “internet business” because that’s how they originated — from the internet. Looking back, maybe that is “cheating”, but the fact is, “the internet” was the original source of the client.

    Ms. Berg is, as usual, spot on and eloquent in her assessment. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

    For what it’s worth (which approaches absolute zero) I type with four fingers and two thumbs. My stupid high school counselor, KNOWING I was going to college said before my senior year, “Don’t waste your time on a typing class. Take calculus instead.”

    I’ve since learned where all the keys are, and can manage about 45wpm, but I still have to look at the keyboard most of the time. As for those number keys, maybe that’s why I dread writing stats related articles….

  14. Vicki Moore

    July 29, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Kris – That was by far the biggest point I’ve taken from the whole conference – and BarCamp. Many of us – including our clients – are hiding behind the keyboard. The more we do that the more we’re going to need face-to-face communication.

    I type fast – no looking necessary. As a former court reporter it was imperative to getter done. I have to look at the numbers too though. ๐Ÿ™‚

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