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Finding Your Voice, Socially – Go Public

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The Pioneering Trail may be a Dead EndI’m beyond the point of return in the social media arena.  I mean, wth?  I’m a social introvert unless I am in front of clients.  Give me a television, a great college football game and I’ll give you the keys to all the open houses you care to lounge in.  Sincerely, I don’t really care to talk to masses when my brain throbs from the numerals floating around in my head- as I said today, my eyeball hurts.  I no longer see stars, I see numbers- stop computing!

There is no way an agent can be in every place every day, to sell every client, so it stands to reason that creating ways for business to come to you is the answer.  That answer is the royal flush we hope for with each new username/password we create and honestly, it just doesn’t come in the first or 30th hand.  We’re ahead of our time in many respects, those of us who venture to join these new online cliques, we’re pioneers

But pioneers when settling new lands had to plow fields, build buildings, homes, create irrigation methods, dig outhouse holes and more to establish their neighborhoods and online social networking isn’t much different– winters were cold on the plains of the new lands, and these new online lands are roughly the same.

My advice to any agent planning to pioneer their own online town is to pack lots of food, brings lots of socks for the long cold winters, and a soft chair for the hours of waiting for your online town to be found by the wouldbe fellow passing through. 

Consumers really don’t get it yet.  They pass through blogs and wonder wtf!?  They search for homes in google and some result comes back 3rd or 4th with a random quote from someone they’ve never heard of- a fragment of a conversation picked up by a search engine spider– the result is the ultimate frustration of walking into the middle of a conversation that has really no meaning to their search at all because you’re 500 miles away.

Some techie selling a product (with the hopes of going IPO or being bought out by a tech giant, or scoring VC funds to hit their lottery dreams) said their way was the road to everywhere, and we bought it, hook line and sinker.  Those same techies have agents jumping through social hoops all over the internet trying to answer the so called call the consumer hasn’t even made yet- fine, you do that, while I write this contract with a buyer that came from the phonebook you call so archaic.  You type on twitter while I dine at the Saltlick with investors from California.  Seriously, you sit there while I farm your neighborhood and fill the void you left when you stopped sending mailers.

Maybe the housing slump wasn’t caused by subprime and credit woes, maybe it slumped because all of the agents went out west to settle baron waste lands.  Or, maybe you’ve been so busy taking your eye off the ball to follow covered wagons you’ve let your own business slump.

The answer is really simple.  Pick one or two social arenas that you enjoy, continue the marketing you know has brought you success, treat your blog like a client or better, and most certainly, continue the things that work.  You can do both the settling of new lands, and continue to maintain the business you’ve already built- and most certainly keep your eye on the consumer, and not the shiny beta badge.

As much as I like Zillow, and Trulia, and see consumers gathering in those places, I see more opportunities in a shopping mall to make one on one impressions with real people, real buyers that do not need to be convinced.  I see more opportunities in Church that know me, that want to work with me given the opportunity, and what about the PTA, the Men’s Club, Happy Hour at the local pub- the last time I checked all of these places were full of real people, real business opportunities in networking. 

My most recent client came to me by accident when I rented a car here in town.  Last year, he drove me home 5 minutes from the car rental place and we chit chatted about real estate.  Last week he called me, today we wrote the contract, soon we’ll close.

The quality time invested in these types of social arenas has real value, and the last time I checked, these people talked to you about real estate to grow knowledge, not steal it. 

All I’m saying is you do not have to take the word of a techie and throw all of your business into the wind. But whatever you do, make sure you do it really well- or you may find yourself living in a wagon.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Mariana

    January 15, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Well said, Benn. The internet is a TOOL – a town bonfire (of sorts) to let people know where you are, but you are right… Physically engaging people in “real life” puts the REAL in Real Estate and is really where it is at.

  2. Brad Coy

    January 16, 2008 at 12:06 am

    Thanks Benn. There is some real solid advice here. I’m curious, do you know of many agents spending time “pioneering” and taking their eye off the ball only to lose business as a result of it? Or is this speculative?

  3. Vicki Moore

    January 16, 2008 at 12:32 am

    Thanks for the reminder. I do get caught up in the latest thinga-ma-gigy. My plan for this year is quite different than last. I hope the results are too. But it includes much of what you discuss in your post.

  4. Charleston real estate blog

    January 16, 2008 at 7:36 am

    Well said Benn, thanks for the reminder of the basics that got us to here.

  5. Kate Morris

    January 16, 2008 at 9:44 am

    I have to agree 100%. As an internet marketer by trade, I see so many pushes to get into the “social market” like it’s the answer to everyone’s woes. But on the internet, there is no one answer.

    You website is one big brochure. People don’t buy and sell houses through brochures, never have. It’s the relationship that is key. It’s nice to see that other people are seeing this. The internet and social marketing are tools just like everything else.

    Well spoken.

  6. Benn Rosales

    January 16, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Brad, great to see you commenting. There are two schools of thought in the marketing world to date.

    If you agree with Athol’s post (the first two paragraphs) here which is the 2.0 school of thought then yes, there is data to support that it (1.0 marketing) does still work. So, if the standard approach to marketing still does work in many many ways and you leave it for something that might work into the future then yes, there is proof that people may be losing business in the time they’re focusing online.

    There are way to many articles around the net that basically say “why am I bothering” to blog, or do social networking because nothing has come of it. The truth is, I have evidence that 2.0 marketing does work and is effective by my own experience, but the reality is, if I’ve gotten a closed lead from a phone book in the last 100 days then and a closed lead from a post mailer and a lead from the the street also within the last 100 days then it stands to reason that if you’ve removed your focus from standard marketing/cut your mailers out, cut out your phone calls, cut out your door knocking then yes, someone will fill that void and take that business- because it does still work.

    Now, I do not need to load my article with clicks to support my theory because the theory is a common theme in the blogiverse- my post is a generalization of the event of leaving one thing for another without pause because a techie said so. Real estate comes with 100 years of proven methods, hence the reason it is so easy to dive into the business. I believe that in the past year many have abandonded proven principals and begun to say they’re old and do not work without any documentation whatsoever. I am just adding in a tad bit of common sense to the mix that the truth lies mostly in the middle of both schools.

  7. Chris Lengquist

    January 16, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Benn, why would anyone ignore established business for speculative business. Oh, never mind. I don’t want to hear the answer.

    I love blogging and blogging has been very, very good to me. It is a great lead tool, retention tool, stress relief tool and social networking tool. But it doesn’t sell my houses for me. That’s still up to me.

    The blog also gives me something to do during the timeouts of my basketball games. 🙂

  8. Brad Coy

    January 17, 2008 at 12:41 am

    Benn,

    Thanks again for elaborating. This is very much a topic that’s ripe for the pickin’. I get what you’re saying, it’s just in my company I’m usually on the the new school side of the discussion. A balance is what I personally try to strike for myself as well while remaining cautiously optimistic of the bigger picture in online social communities. As it was a couple of years ago with blogging, I think it’s far too soon to be real negative about the possibilities of using certain tools given your niche and market.

  9. Benn Rosales

    January 17, 2008 at 1:55 am

    Well, Brad, check out the west today and you get where I’m going with my analogy… Why not look both east and west when looking at that big picture- balance is the key.

  10. Brad Coy

    January 17, 2008 at 2:31 am

    I understand your analogy clearly. Again, thanks for your sharing.

  11. Chris Lengquist

    January 17, 2008 at 10:19 am

    What about the southwestern northern end of the east? 🙂

  12. Benn Rosales

    January 17, 2008 at 11:01 am

    well, hrm… ha

  13. ines

    January 20, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    OK – I’m late to the party and I’m glad I read so many agreeing with you but here’s another take.
    I do agree to continue doing what works – but I can also tell you that Rick and I have had to change our whole marketing approach because things that worked were no longer working and it felt that we were throwing our money into the wind. From local chamber mailers to Church Bulletins – after thousands of dollars and not one call……we had to rethink.

    Going back to the basics is key, but experimenting with new technology and other methods is crucial.

  14. Ruthmarie Hicks

    March 2, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    I think that this issue is area specific. You have to look at what’s working and what’s not. I spent a ton of money on mailers and got zilch. People were papering their walls with agent postcards and mailers – so I shouldn’t have been surprised.

    I rethought the cards – and did everything the WRONG way and got results. I knew the following:

    1. Most prospects could paper their homes with the number of real estate related mailers they were getting.
    2. In NY people open their mail standing over the shredder.

    So I hired an artist and used my “husky theme.” People know my white Siberian Huskies. So I had cartoons drawn with them helping me sell homes. ($$$) Due to the expense – I sent them 5-6 times a year. QUALITY over QUANTITY. To make it cost-effective I sent them to a much wider area than a usual farm.

    One of my standards for whether I think something will work is this: I did a Ph.D. a few years ago. During the last 2 years my average day was 15 hours – 7 days a week. I was walking around like a zombie for two years noticing NOTHING! When I look at any marketing plan – I ask if it is different enough to have caught my attention in that sleep-deprived semi-comatose state. If the answer is “yes” its probably worth the money.

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Opinion Editorials

The truth about unemployment from someone who’s been through it

(EDITORIAL) Unemployment benefits aren’t what you thought they were. Here’s a first-hand experience and what you need to know.

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Have I ever told you how I owed the government over two grand because of unemployment in 2019, and only just finished paying it back this year?

This isn’t exactly the forum for memoirs, but this is relevant to everyone. So I’ll tell y’all anyway.

It all started back in 2018 when I came into work early, microwaved my breakfast, poured coffee, and got pulled into a collaboration room to hear, “We love you and your work, April, but we’ve been bought out and you’re being laid off.”

It was kind of awkward carrying my stuff out to the car with that Jimmy Dean sandwich in my mouth.

More awkward still was the nine months of unemployment I went through afterwards. Between the fully clothed shower crying, the stream of job denial, catering to people who carried rocks in their nostrils at my part-time job (yes, ew, yes, really), and almost dying of no-health-insurance-itis, I learned a lot!

The bigger lesson though, came in the spring of the following year when I filed my taxes. I should back up for a moment and take the time to let those of you unfamiliar with unemployment in Texas in on a few things that aren’t common knowledge.

1: You’re only eligible if you were laid off. Not if you had quit. Not fired. Your former company can also choose to challenge your eligibility for benefits if they didn’t like your face on the way out. So the only way you’re 100% guaranteed to get paid in (what the state calls) “a timely manner”, is a completely amicable split.

2: Overpayments have to go back. Immediately. If there’s an error, like several thousand of Texans found out this week, the government needs that cash back before you can access any more. If you’re not watching your bank account to make sure you’re getting the exact same check each time and you have an overpayment, rest assured that mistake isn’t going to take long to correct. Unfortunately, if you spent that money unknowingly–thought you got an ‘in these uncertain times’ kinder and gentler adjustment and have 0 income, you have a problem. Tying into Coronavirus nonsense is point three!

3: There are no sick days. If ever you’re unable to work for any reason, be it a car accident, childbirth, horrible internal infection (see also no-health-insurance-itis), you are legally required to report it, and you will not be paid for any days you were incapacitated. Personally, my no-health-insurance-itis came with a bad fever and bedrest order that axed me out of my part time job AND killed my unemployment benefits for the week I spent getting my internal organs to like me again. But as it turned out, the payment denial came at the right time because–

4: Unemployment benefits are finite. Even if you choose to lie on your request forms about how hard you’re searching for work, coasting is ill-advised because once the number the state allots you runs out…it’s out. Don’t lie on your request forms, by the way. In my case, since I got cut from my part-time gig, I got a call from the Texas Workforce Commission about why my hours were short. I was able to point out where I’d reported my sickness to them and to my employer, so my unpaid week rolled over to a later request date. I continued to get paid right up until my hiring date which was also EXACTLY when my benefits ran out.

Unemployment isn’t a career, which is odd considering the fact that unemployment payments are qualified by the government as income.

Ergo, fact number five…

5: Your benefits? They’re taxed.

That’s right, you will be TAXED for not having a job.

The stereotype of the ‘lazy unemployment collector burdening society’ should be fading pretty quickly for the hitherto uninformed about now.

To bring it back to my story, I’d completely forgotten that when I filed for unemployment in the first place, I’d asked for my taxes NOT to be withheld from it–assuming that I wasn’t going to be searching for full time work for very long. I figured “Well, I’ll have a tax refund coming since I’ll get work again no problem, it’ll cancel out.”

Except, it was a problem. Because of the nine month situation.

I’d completely forgotten about it by the time I threw myself into my new job, but after doing my taxes, triple checking the laws and what I’d signed, it was clear. Somehow…despite being at my lowest point in life, I owed the highest amount in taxes, somewhere around the 2k mark.

Despite being based on a system that’s tied to how much income you were getting before, and all the frustrating “safeguards” put in place to keep payments as low and infrequent as possible, Uncle Sam still wants a bite out of the gas-station Hostess pie that is your unemployment check. And as I’m writing this, more and more people are finding that out.

I’d like to end this on a more positive note…so let’s say we’ve all been positively educated! That’s a net gain, surely.

Keep your heads up, and masked.

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Opinion Editorials

COVID-19 acts are unfortunately too short sighted

(BUSINESS NEWS) The biggest flaw in the CARES act is simply that it won’t last. Numerous issues have extended the life of COVID-19 but the act hasn’t matched it.

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The CARES act gives an additional $600 weekly to those on unemployment assistance. The idea being that, combined with the $380 already granted by unemployment, the payments would roughly equal the wage of the average worker prior to the pandemic- about $1,000 weekly.

But on July 31st, the expansion that CARES provides will expire, and benefits will return to pre-pandemic amounts. Those currently receiving the maximum payment will see a 61% decrease in their income. In states that offer lower benefit payments, that percentage goes even higher. All of this comes during a national rental crisis, and moratoriums on evictions across the country are also nearing their ends or being extended last minute.

This isn’t the first or only “yuge” hole in the federal government’s COVID-19 safety net. Many Americans (this writer included) have seen neither hide nor hair of their promised stimulus checks. The HEROES act, which is being billed as a second round of stimulus money, remains under debate- as it has been for several weeks.

And the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires certain businesses to provide two weeks of paid leave to workers who may be sick (or caring for someone who is) has plenty of problems too, namely the laundry list of exceptions to it.

This is just the most recent push to return to the pre-virus economy before effective protective measures have been put in place for workers and consumers alike. After all, with cases of COVID-19 spiking again in the US, it’s apparent that the act is still absolutely necessary. Our lawmakers either lack patience, or compassion – take your pick. Frankly, I say it’s both.

Not only have countless health experts warned that reopening too early will be disastrous, but if a second lockdown is in our future, all of the time, money, and human lives that went into reopening will be wasted.

There is a silver lining among the storm clouds on the horizon. Because ballooning unemployment has created long wait times for benefit applicants, unemployment assistance programs are shelling out retroactive back payments to those deemed eligible.

Good news, at least, for laid off workers who have been waiting months to hear their fate.

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Opinion Editorials

Women-owned businesses make up 42% of all businesses – heck yeah!

(EDITORIAL) Women-owned businesses make a huge impact on the U.S economy. They make up 42% of all businesses, outpace the national growth rate by 50%, and hire billions of workers.

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Women entrepreneurs make history in the U.S as female-owned businesses represent 42% of all businesses, while continuing to increase at DOUBLE the national growth rate!

Women are running the world, and we are here for it! The 2019 American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, states 13 million women are now self-employed entrepreneurs. From 2014 to 2019, women-owned businesses grew 21%. Think that’s impressive? Well, businesses owned by women of color grew 43% within the same timeframe, with a growth rate of 50%, and currently account for 50% of all women-owned businesses! Way to go! What this also means is that women employ over 2.4 million workers who together generate $422.5 billion in revenue.

What can we learn from these women that’ll help you achieve success in your businesses?

  1. Get informed: In a male-dominated business industry, women are often at a disadvantage and face multiple biases. So, know your stuff; study, research, and when you think you know it all…dig deeper!
  2. Stay hungry: Remember why you started this journey. Write down notes and reminders, goals, and inspirations, hang them up and keep them close.
  3. Ask for advice: Life is not meant to go through alone, so ask questions. Find a mentor and talk to people who have walked a similar path. Learning from them will only benefit your business.

Many of these women found ways to use their passion to drive their business. It may not be exactly what they thought it would be when they started out, but is it ever? Everyone has to start off small and rejection is part of the process. In fact, stories of rejection often serve as inspiration and encouragement to soon-to-be self starters.

Did you know J.K Rowling’s “Harry Potter” book was turned down TWELVE times? Seven books later with over 400 million copies sold, the Harry Potter brand is currently valued at over 15 billion. While you might not become a wizard-writing fantasy legend like J.K Rowling, you sure as heck can be successful. So go for it, and chase your dreams.

If you want to support women-owned businesses, start by scrolling through Facebook or doing some research to find women-owned businesses in your community. Then, support by buying or helping to promote their products. Small businesses, especially women-owned, black women-owned, and women of color-owned, are disproportionally affected by the current economic crisis ignited by a health pandemic. So if you can, shop small and support local. And remember, there’s a girl (or more) doing a happy dance when you checkout!

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