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Opinion Editorials

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

Can we combat grind culture and injustice with a nap?

(OPINION EDITORIALS) A global pandemic and a climate of racial injustice may require fresh thinking and a new approach from what grind culture has taught us.

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Sleeping cat with plant, fighting grind culture.

Information is delivered to us at warp speed with access to television, radio, and the internet (and more specifically, social media). We are inundated with messages. Oftentimes they’re personalized by something that a friend or family shared. Other times we manage them for work, school, or just keeping up with news. Many entrepreneurs already wear many hats and burn the midnight oil.

During this global pandemic, COVID-19, we have also seen a rise in awareness and attention to social injustice and systemic racism. This is not a new concept, as we all know. But it did feel like the attention was advanced exponentially by the murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day 2020. Many people and entrepreneurs felt called to action (or at least experienced self-reflection). And yet they were working at all hours to evolve their businesses to survive. All of this happening simultaneously may have felt like a struggle while they tried to figure out exactly they can do.

There are some incredible thought leaders – and with limited time, it can be as simple as checking them out on Instagram. These public figures give ideas around what to be aware of and how to make sure you are leveling up your awareness.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Director of the Center for Antiracist Research – he has been studying anti-racism and has several books and interviews that help give language to what has been happening in our country for centuries. His content also delves into why and how white people have believed they are more than people of color. Here is a great interview he did with Brené Brown on her Unlocking Us podcast.

Tamika Mallory – American activist and one of the leading organizers of the 2017 Women’s March. She has been fighting for justice to be brought upon the officers that killed Breonna Taylor on March 13. These are among other efforts around the country to push back on gun control, feminist issues, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Brené Brown – research professor at the University of Houston and has spent the last two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She has been listening and engaging on how racism and our shame intersect. She also speaks about how people can reflect on themselves and where they can take action to better our society. She has some antiracism resources on her website.

With all of this information and the change in our daily routines and work habits (or business adjustments), what is a fresh approach or possibly a new angle that you haven’t been able to consider?

There is one social channel against grind culture that may not be as well-known. At an initial glance, you may even perceive this place as a spoof Twitter and Instagram that is just telling you to take a nap. But hold on, it’s actually much smarter than that. The description says “We examine the liberating power of naps. We believe rest is a form of resistance and reparations. We install Nap Experiences. Founding in 2016.”

It might be a great time for you to check out The Nap Ministry, inspired by Tricia Hersey. White people are called to action, and people of color are expressly told to give time to taking care of themselves. Ultimately, it goes both ways – everyone needs the time to recharge and recuperate. But people of color especially are being told to value their rest more than the grind culture. Yes, you’re being told you need to manage your mental health and include self-care in your schedule.

Through The Nap Ministry, Tricia “examines rest as a form of resistance by curating safe spaces for the community to rest via Collective Napping Experiences, immersive workshops, and performance art installations.”

“In this incredibly rich offering, we speak with Tricia on the myths of grind culture, rest as resistance, and reclaiming our imaginative power through sleep. Capitalism and white supremacy have tricked us into believing that our self-worth is tied to our productivity. Tricia shares with us the revolutionary power of rest.” They have even explored embracing sleep as a political act.

Let this allow you to take a deep breath and sigh – it is a must that you take care of yourself to take care of your business as well as your customers and your community. And yes, keep your drive and desire to “get to work”. But not at your expense for the old grind culture narrative.

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Opinion Editorials

The actual reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. But why else would you work for one?

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Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: Flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in the popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When employees find themselves personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits in the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are may be a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth. This allows them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters. Instead, it’s a clue that work environments that facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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Opinion Editorials

How Peloton has developed a cult-following

(OPINION EDITORIALS) How has Peloton gotten so popular? Turns out there are some clear takeaways from the bike company’s wildly successful model.

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Man riding Peloton bike with instructor pointing encouragingly during workout.

Peloton is certainly not the first company to gain a cult-like following–in the past we’ve talked about other brands with similar levels of devotion, like Crossfit and Yeti. Now, full disclosure: I’m not an exercise buff, so while I’d vaguely heard of Peloton–a company that sells stationary bikes–I had no idea it was such a big deal.

I mean, it’s not really surprising that an at-home bike that offers the option for cycling classes has grown so much during the pandemic era (a sales growth of 172% to be exact). But Peloton has been highly popular within its fanbase for years now. So, what gives? A few factors, actually.

Vertical Integration

If your company really wants to guarantee the vision and quality you’re aiming for, one of the best ways to enact it is through vertical integration, where a company owns or controls more than one part of its supply chain. Take Netflix, for example, which not only distributes media, but creates original media. Vertical integration lets companies bypass areas that are otherwise left to chance with third-party suppliers.

Peloton uses vertical integration–everything from the bike to its Wi-Fi connected tablet to the classes taught are created by Peloton. Although this may have made the bike more expensive than other at-home exercise bikes, it has also allowed Peloton to create higher quality products. And it’s worked. Many people who start on a Peloton bike comment on how the machine itself is well-built.

Takeaway: Are there any parts of your business process that you can improve in-house, rather than outsourcing?

Going Live

But with people also shelling out $40 a month for access to the training regimen Peloton provides, there’s more going on than simply high-quality craftsmanship.

Hey, plenty of cults have charismatic leaders, and Peloton is no exception. Okay, joking about the cult leader part, but really, people love their trainers. Just listen to this blogger chat about some of her favorites; people are connecting with this very human element of training. So much so that many people face blowback when suggesting they might like training without the trainers!

The trainers are only part of this puzzle though–attending live classes is a large draw. Well, as live as something can be when streamed into your house. Still, with classmate usernames and stats available while you ride, and teachers able to respond in real time to your “class,” this can simulate an in-person class without the struggle of a commute.

Takeaway: People want to see the human side of a business! Are there any ways your company could go live and provide that connection?

Getting Competitive

Pandemic aside, you can get a decent bike and workout class at an actual gym. But the folks at Peloton have one other major trick up their sleeve: Competition. Whether you’re attending a live session or catching up on a pre-recorded ride, you’re constantly competing against each other and your own records.

These leaderboards provide a constant stream of goals while you’re working out. Small accomplishments like these can help boost your dopamine, which can be the burst of good feeling you need while your legs are burning mid-workout. With this in mind, it’s no wonder why Peloton fans might be into it.

Takeaway: Is there a way to cater to your audience’s competitive side?

Conclusion

At the end of the day, of course, Peloton also has the advantage of taking a unique idea (live-streamed cycle classes built into your at-home bike) and doing it first. Plus, they just happened to be poised to succeed during a quarantine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from what Peloton is doing right to build your own community of fanatics. There are plenty of people out there just waiting to get excited about a brand like yours!

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