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Is “free” a bad thing?

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Almost Everything Seems Free

One of the most interesting things about the current information age and Web 2.0 is the prevalence of “free.” Almost everything seems “free.” You can upload videos for free on YouTube, you can share pictures for free on Flickr, you can have crazy amounts of email storage for free on Gmail.

It Seems to be a Trend

The trend of free services continues in the real estate space– upload listings and have profiles for free on Trulia and Zillow, blog for free on ActiveRain, upload your real estate videos to Wellcomemat for free, the list goes on. . .

But maybe “free” ain’t all its cracked up to be. All of the sites mentioned above are businesses, not charities. Presumably, one of their goals (and hopefully it’s near the top of the list) is to make money. They all have investors who have a financial stake in what happens, and they expect to make money.

But what do we, as users, do?

We complain when we have to pay for stuff. We want it all to be free. “Data should be free!” How many times have you heard that? Google has made data free, but only because it figured out a way to make BILLIONS of dollars off of the aggregation and display of that data. That data ain’t free. Someone is paying for it, just not the person doing the search.

Trulia and Zillow are great sites, and they have most certainly put a lot of power in the hands of consumers, which is a good thing; but how long can they survive when almost everything is free? They have costs, and they have investors, and both of those are going to have to be satiated at some point. Where will that money come from? Sure, advertisers can offset some of the cost, but all of it? Advertisers don’t have unlimited funds, and they do have almost unlimited choices of where to spend those dwindling funds.

So what if if Zillow and Trulia, one day, ask their users to start paying for the information; to start paying for access to the powerful tools they have built? What happens then?

My guess– people will grab pitch forks and light torches.

That is the nature of the Web 2.0 culture we live in these days. We want it all to be free. Democratization sounds nice, doesn’t it?

But democratization comes with a price. A price that many are far too reluctant to pay.

Think about it for a second, why do we hate paying for incredible tools from great vendors? Are we that cynical? Is it hubris? Have we empowered ourselves to the point where we have become too big for our britches? Are we no longer willing to put our money where our mouths are?

I’m not really sure, maybe it is a little bit of all of these things. But one thing is for sure, if we aren’t willing to pay for the tools and services that we hold up as the future of the industry, then those tools and services will disappear.

Maybe we should stop talking about how great Web 2.0 is, and actually start investing in its future. . .

I'm a REALTOR, basketball referee, happy husband, and Community Manager (in no particular order). I have a passion for the real estate industry and officiating, a passion that I try to turn into inspiration on my blog, The Real Estate Zebra. I am also the Community Manager at Inman News. When I'm not blogging here on AG or the Zebra, you can usually find me on Twitter.

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70 Comments

70 Comments

  1. ines

    July 9, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Daniel, I don’t think it’s so much about paying for the services than making those companies grow with our contributions and then getting stuck with a bill. I personally love when a company gives me a taste of their services and then gives me the choice to get more for a price (like picnik.com).

    Very similar to what we do as real estate professionals with blogging, we prove our value and then get hired.

    Trulia is doing it with their pro accounts and I don’t mind paying the extra fee. I do mind however, when things are not quite clear from the get go and the whole concept of the site changes and then you are left with a bit of mistrust.

    There has to be a right way and a wrong way to make money in this web2.0 world.

  2. Frank Jewett

    July 9, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Daniel, the guys from Zolve want to know why you didn’t write this post last October. 🙂

  3. retrove

    July 9, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Daniel, great post that will have many thinking. The attraction of tech to real estate is the traditional real estate advertising was the 10 billion a year spent on advertising with most of that money spent on newspaper advertising of individual listings from agents.

    Now web 2.0 made significant investments in tech for the platforms to get part of the 10 billion ad pie but needed the listings to attract the eyeballs and get traction. First they simply scraped but that was met with resistance, so they adapted and made it free to syndicate the listings to use as bait for the consumer eyeballs… now they have the eyeballs but now is the time to recoup the tech investments and make money but the question is how?

    Are agents be willing to pay to advertise individual listings? Are consumers willing to pay to see them? Will they be willing to pay to brand themselves? Will they be willing to pay for a lead that was generated from their own listings? Or will the advertising dollars simply disappear when they can simply blog?

  4. Paula Henry

    July 9, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    Daniel – A timely, thought provoking post! I agree with Ines, it’s not the cost, it’s the way in which the cost is revealed.

    I joined RealSeekr. It is free or you can upgrade. I had the choice.

    I am totally for investing in 2.0 tools and services, just give me a choice and let me know up-front what I am getting for my investment.

  5. Will

    July 9, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    I was just thinking of how much of a conundrum this is. You see, I think I have a pretty great idea for a web app and I know it has value to not just the real estate community but a whole heap of other people as well. But how do I earn back my investment in its development? Do I charge from the get go? Maybe an annual membership? Or a pay per use? And how much would the charge be?

    But what if it does have merit and value and then someone rips the whole idea off and gives the concept away for free. You can’t patent software concepts. Not very well, at least.

    Development in this modern age of open source, free, and pirated software is a real risk. I’m really not sure how to go about it. Ads seem to be the most assured method of payment (That’s what YouTube did, right?) but at the same time, I abhor the whole idea of ads on my site.

    Maybe Ines has the right idea. Give a taste and see if they’ll come back. And then just hope no one rips off your idea (fat chance, that one).

    I hear a quote attributed to Puff Daddy on his getting into the fashion industry with the brand Sean John. It went something like “You can’t download pants”. Ha! (- course, they can be knocked off in China, thailand, Vietnam, etc)

  6. Rich Jacobson

    July 10, 2008 at 2:55 am

    Daniel: A very timely post, given the recent launch of AR’s Localism. Human nature is fascinating to observe, especially in this free-flowing exchange of Web 2.0 tools, networks, and apps. As you state, people love you until there’s a mention of money. But they don’t mind making money (gaining clients) from your free site. Just don’t attempt to charge them for it. I am being slightly sarcastic here. I see nothing wrong with revenue generation. Every business needs to create a means of sustaining their existence. The challenge is to simply offer value for whatever it is that you’re charging for, and price it reasonably.

  7. Mack in Atlanta

    July 10, 2008 at 5:42 am

    What we have to understand is that at some point free is going to cost. A perfect example is AR. It was and still is free to use. But think about what the cost is now from the stand point of everyone who contributed and built it into a competitor in the search engines.

  8. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 10, 2008 at 5:56 am

    Before I decide to participate at a new place, I assess it for 2 things:

    1. If they are a business, what is their revenue model?
    Is that revenue model viable? If its not, you can bet that they will be changing it.

    And if they don’t have a revenue model – they definitely have one, they just haven’t told you about it yet.

    2. Are they likely to become a competitor for internet visibility for my target audience?
    Providing YOUR local information, YOUR content, YOUR answers to questions, etc sets you up for a long term problem. You are establishing THEM, not you, in the minds of consumers (and google) as the place to go anytime a consumer needs to find out something about your area.

    If a place falters on those questions, then I don’t participate there. Period.

    It doesn’t matter if I can get “2 or 3 deals a year” by participating there. You are selling your soul for a couple deals, and are creating a monster long term.

    And what will likely be their thanks for you contributing all of your unique information to them? Charging you for furnishing it in the first place. Advertising, upgraded Pro accounts, exportation of that information into new sites (remember, they “own” the information you provided).

    And guess what happens if they become #1 in the search engines (thanks to you)? They can then become a lead generation company – and start selling leads back to you for VERY STIFF fees.

    I don’t need a giant middle fingered thank you like that by whoring myself out for a couple deals a year.

    There’s an old saying: I may be a whore. But I’m not a cheap or stupid one. 🙂

  9. Eric Blackwell

    July 10, 2008 at 6:33 am

    I agree with Daniel that we need to be willing to invest. Own it. Don’t rent it.

    I think that the place where folks have a problem is where there is bait and switch. If the end game is totally explained from the beginning, then it is buyer beware and you can trade your birthright for a mess of “cool” web development pottage.

    When a revenue model changes. When ownership changes. When “corporate vision” changes. These times are when folks often have a problem. They feel like their online landlords have slipped them the weenie (so to speak). I would tend to agree.

    Did we know that Trulia was going to start charging for stuff? No. In fact they vehemently denied that they would at the beginning. Had they DISCLOSED this from the START would people have decided to invest less in their content and tools? Methinks yes.

    Everyone likes REALTORS to bow down at the altar of TRANSPARENCY. If it applies to us, does it not also apply to our vendors? Not a hypothetical question…I am really curious about people view this one…

    Great thought provoking post Daniel…

    Eric

  10. Eric Blackwell

    July 10, 2008 at 6:48 am

    Daniel. Your really struck a nerve with me on this one. Thanks.

    I think I am going to start and Own it. Don’t Rent it. campaign… I am not sure that it will prevent many of the REALTORS from making the mistake of working for an online “landlord”, but raising awareness is a good thing…

    And yeah…I will make sure to put it on my own blog. (grin)

    Best;

    Eric

  11. Glenn fm Naples

    July 10, 2008 at 6:49 am

    Daniel – excellent post. An old saying “nothing in life is free.” IMHO, make it free and people will come and add their content. As the content increases and added daily, the search engines like the sites more and more, sites slowly or quickly rise in the SERP’s, volume of site visitors increases, a few leads are generated, ads can now be added to the site for one revenue stream, to continue “participation” fees are charged (can’t afford to lose one lead) – hence another revenue stream is created.

    Isn’t it true that if we don’t feed the baby guerilla, it will not grow to be a 600 pound guerilla? So why do we feed the baby guerilla?

    The word “free” always creates excitement – can we remember – free CMA, free relocation information, free maps, etc. in the real estate industry.

    Most successful businesses have a highly specific business plan that at a minimum covers 5 years with specific dates for goals and objectives, so an investor can understand the risks and benefits before investing. If the management team does meet those goals and objectives the investors find someone else to replace them. So there are points in time when the trigger will be pulled to start the fledging venture from free to fee.

    The question becomes how transparent the fledging business management team are willing to be with the public?

    As the free service grows and we become aware from a friend using the service, we as individuals, start the “lemming process” – we follow and continue to follow right off the cliff.

  12. Jim Gatos

    July 10, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Free is bad when something like this happens…

    https://www.zillow.com/forum/site/ViewThread.htm?tid=36952

    Any ideas, anyone?

  13. Rudy from Trulia.com

    July 10, 2008 at 7:50 am

    Hi Daniel!

    Free, everyone’s favorite 4 letter word 🙂 And as you mentioned, most of the sites you mentioned are businesses and not charities – nothing wrong with that.

    Just to be clear, Trulia offers lots of great free features to agents which helps increase traffic to their websites and increase their brand. For example, some core free features that we offer and which are pretty valuable in my mind are the ability to add your listings for free, brand your listings for free with your image and contact info, participate on Trulia Voices and connect directly with home buyers, home sellers, and other real estate agents and create a free detailed profile that gives consumers a glimpse of who who are. These features and many more, will remain free.

    Being a business, we offer additional cost effective services to those that choose to enhance their visibility and brand on Trulia. So if you’re an agent, local business or service provider, you can promote yourself and your brand with Trulia Pro. If you are a major advertiser, we offer banner ads throughout the site. This is how we monetize our site so have no fear 🙂

    Hope this clears up where Trulia stands.

    Peace,

    Rudy
    Social Media Guru at Trulia

  14. Benn Rosales

    July 10, 2008 at 8:45 am

    News should be free. We pay for the added tools on flickr, and we do actually pay for most added upgrades these places offer.

    The hope for cap investments designed the free approach and w/o it the product dies a painful death or they demand fee for use for a product no investor would touch. It’s how things roll and I think it is the process that weeds out the crappy product and fuels better ones…

  15. Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra

    July 10, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Thanks for the interesting discussion, everyone. Keep it coming.

    Rudy,

    One thing is for sure– the crowd is here, and the lights are on. . . Keep delivering value, and people will continue to invest in it.

    Benn,

    I do think that the process can weed out contenders from pretenders, but I wonder if their comes a tipping point at which a product or service is free for so long that you can’t ever ask people to pay for it because of their expectation level.

    Eric,

    I’m glad I could inspire. That is always one of my goals.

  16. David G from Zillow.com

    July 10, 2008 at 9:53 am

    This is a good time to remind folks that Zillow accepts donations in exchange for ads! For a penny a page view you can target ads at buyers and sellers who are looking at homes in your Zip codes on Zillow. Get your EZ Ads here: https://www.zillow.com/ezads/GetStarted.htm

    Daniel – Great post; let’s continue this discussion in SFO. I believe information will be free and that when it is freed its value, in terms of the ability to monetize the demand for that information actually increases, not decreases. For an excellent ongoing discussion of this topic, I recommend Fred Wilson’s blog and his posts about “Freemium” and other Web2.0 business models: avc.blogs.com

    Jim – problem solved!

  17. Benn Rosales

    July 10, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Daniel, it depends. I am using a service right now that cost me 20 a month, and I was presented in the beginning with a notice that said obviously this is an offer to entice users and in the future our service will cost more, but early adoption meant larger savings down the road. I think that that approach works and it says that regardless of investment we’re a service that is meant to last.

    If you are using disruption such as a great discount or free to erode an existing business and retrain users, you can expect to be free or discounted for as long as your company is alive because the natives will come at you with torches because you no longer represent the liberal side of doing political business.

    I’ve warned of using politics as a business tactic in the past when it comes to consumers, it has no positive end result.

    Flickr is a unique product, and I would expect the basic service to always remain free and the same is true of Active Rain- it is the value added options at a price that are acceptable as they are optional.

  18. Jonathan Dalton

    July 10, 2008 at 9:59 am

    It seems to be less an issue with free, at least in the case of Localism, than an issue of monetizing what has been built through the contributions of the base you’re now going to bilk.

    Then again, contributors should have known better – especially after the near sale of AR.

    The words and pictures may be your own but you don’t really own them. (I tried deleting photos I’d added to Localism yesterday … no go, naturally.)

  19. Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra

    July 10, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Benn,

    As usual, you and I are thinking along the same lines. . .

    David G,

    Me, you, two fine cigars, and a discussion about the industry sounds like an awesome idea. See you in San Francisco!

  20. Michelle DeRepentigny

    July 10, 2008 at 11:11 am

    I don’t mind paying rent in high view locations. I have used Zillow’s spotlight ads and I recently purchased the pro plan from Trulia (thanks for the 25% discount). The difference is in the model that appears to be the new plan for Localism. The definition of “communities” that Jon envisions on todays FAQ post is very broad and in my opinion not very economically feasible when you consider paying $7.50 to $15 per “community”.

    As a note, Zillow even tells me when they don’t think my narrow little market is economically feasible for the views on the spotlight ads and makes me expand my target market or rethink my plan for the ad. On the other hand, Jon’s vision for Localism (“For example, I could see a school, church, office building, or apartment complex all receiving great benefit from keeping a community blog on Localism”)is very, very local which will get extremely expensive, if you wish to maintain a presence on the city or broader market area.

  21. Bob

    July 10, 2008 at 11:14 am

    I’m wary of anything free and I don’t mind paying for what gives me an acceptable ROI. After all, there are costs to doing business.

    The pitch fork and torch mentality usually comes about when people feel sandbagged or ambushed, Most of the time the pitch fork is just being used to prod an honest answer out of them.

  22. Eric Blackwell

    July 10, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    @Daniel-
    “One thing is for sure– the crowd is here, and the lights are on. . .”

    Yep.That will tend to accelerate things either one way or the other….good point.

  23. Eric Blackwell

    July 10, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    @Bob- agreed…with honest answers and trust, there is no need for the pitchfork…

  24. Thomas Johnson

    July 10, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    why do we hate paying for incredible tools from great vendors?

    @Daniel: We hate paying these vendors because they raised their billions in Venture Capital by promising that Realtors made too much money, a transaction is just like an airline ticket and that their tools are the way to disintermediate every real estate agent out there. Now they can’t understand why we are reluctant to bail them out. That’s all.

  25. Susan

    July 10, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Seems like alot of these products/companies that are advertised to be free have a hidden agenda. They are counting on whoever is using them to not know enough about will be the ultimate outcome over time and in most cases they are right. The short term advertising appears good, but in the long term, we end up competing against ourselves.

  26. Ken Smith

    July 10, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Rudy none of those items are truly free. The cost is a competing website is increasing it’s content and links to a competitors site. Now that competitor is kicking the crap out of individual agents websites across the country in rankings. Thanks for all those “free” tools…not.

    Nothing in life is free! Some are just very good at hiding the true costs.

  27. Rudy from Trulia.com

    July 10, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    @ Ken – I appreciate you taking the time to share your opinion with us. Some look at the same sky and see it as partly cloudy, while others see it as partly sunny. A pessimist would stay home in fear of it raining on him while an optimist would go out and bring an umbrella. It’s what you make out of the situation that counts. Being the optimist that I am, I wish more people would look at how they can make things work for them, rather than hating all the time. But that’s just me.

    Rudy
    Social Media Guru at Trulia

  28. Mack in Atlanta

    July 10, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    @Rudy – you wrote “Just to be clear, Trulia offers lots of great free features to agents which helps increase traffic to their websites and increase their brand. For example, some core free features that we offer and which are pretty valuable in my mind are the ability to add your listings for free, brand your listings for free with your image and contact info, participate on Trulia Voices and connect directly with home buyers, home sellers, and other real estate agents and create a free detailed profile that gives consumers a glimpse of who who are. These features and many more, will remain free.”

    Why does Trulia “no-follow” links on Voices? Why do I want to help build a listing search tool that I must compete with in the SERP’s? Inquiring minds want to know!!! FYI, I don’t hate all the time (actually I choose not to hate) and am probably one of the most optimistic agents you will ever come in contact with.

  29. Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra

    July 10, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Mack,

    When I read your question, I did a little search and got some surprising results:

    I ran a Google search for “Atlanta real estate.” The top 5 sites belong to agents. Trulia came up #11 (top result on page 2). Of those 5 agents, 4 of them have Trulia profiles, and at least 3 of those seem to be fairly active.

    What surprised me is that YOU were result #4 (congratulations on that one!) AND you were the most active Trulia user of the bunch. If you are competing with Trulia, then you are kicking their butt pretty handily, and still getting potential benefit from your participation in the site. It would appear that even if the HTML says “no-follow” people are most certainly following you.

    That is what it is all about. People, not search engines. Search engines are only a part of the pie. Good results may help, but they guarantee nothing. In my area, for example, many of the top producing agents don’t show up anywhere near the top of the SERPS. There is more than one way to compete, and win.

    I think some people seized on the Trulia “no-follow” issue as a “gotcha.” They said, “LOOK, there it is! They are hiding things, lying to us, trying to rip us off. Vendors are evil!”

    Fugeddaboutit.

    Bad businesses don’t succeed. They don’t. That is the beauty of the market. If Trulia has some sort of ulterior motives, then they will be revealed at some point; and if they are heinous, people will rightfully flee.

    The thing that I actually like about sites like Trulia and Zillow is that by making listing data more widely available, they have changed the way the game is played. Listing agents no longer control all the data. Hording listings doesn’t mean that all the buyers will come to you. Those buyers can now find listings in different places, on their terms, and then choose whether or not they want to contact the listing agent, or maybe they found someone else on the site who they trust and want to engage as a buyer’s agent.

    I’ve said this before– the proliferation of listing data and aggregation will result in the erosion of the stranglehold that listing brokerages have traditionally had on the process. It will take the emphasis off of “who has the listing?” and place it on “who can best serve my needs?” That is how a service industry should operate.

  30. Rudy from Trulia.com

    July 10, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    @ Mack – It’s pretty common in major forums like Yahoo Q&A and others too. Trulia Voices is all about the dialogue between home buyers, home sellers and real estate agents. I think you get this as you are a pretty active contributor on Voices. Thanks so much for being a part of the community.

    However, if savvy agents want some google juice per se, they should most certainly take advantage of our free profile pages, as you have done, by adding as much detail about themselves and their businesses as possible. Why is this great? Simple. The more details you provide and the more often you participate on Trulia Voices, our awesome real estate Q&A community, over time, the greater the chance your profile page will have a high Google page rank. But wait, there’s more. Another benefit of the profile page – we offer you the ability to add 5 dofollow links on your profile to the website or blog of your choice. In my opinion, that seems to me anyways, to be a pretty good ancillary benefit for participating on Trulia. In addition, if you have real estate listings, you can showcase them on your profile page for all consumers to see – and, they are dofollow links as well. In essence, when you complete your Trulia profile page, it should give the consumer a glimpse of who you are. If they want to learn more about you, they can always click on any of the 5 links you added to your profile.

    Voices is about connecting.

    Thanks again for your feedback.

    Rudy
    Social Media Guru at Trulia

  31. Bob

    July 10, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Daniel, I was with you up to the point where you gave Trulia and Zillow credit for changing the game. That credit goes to ERealty for forcing NAR to adopt IDX. Without IDX, Zillow and trulia don’t exist. It was a forward thinking real estate broker, not an opportunistic 3rd party, who changed the game.

  32. Rudy from Trulia.com

    July 10, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    @ Daniel – It looks like we were writing at the same time 🙂 Right on Zebra – you hit it out of the park or should I say – it was all net 🙂

    Rudy

  33. Frank Jewett

    July 10, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Daniel, a slow marketplace with fewer multiple offer situations has taken control away from the listing brokers. Once the market heats up and buyers aren’t hard to find, I predict we’ll see more pocket listings, steering, and double siding, listings aggregators notwithstanding.

  34. Mack in Atlanta

    July 10, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    @Daniel – Good job with the quick research. Actually in the data center that I viewed Prudential was one of the top 5, but thats OK. My site has only risen to that point recently and I certainly hope it stays. Regarding the “no-follow”, I asked the question on Voices as to why it was that way and even suggested that it would make since to have it that way until contributors reached a predetermined number of answers. This would prevent the “One Post Wonders” of the world from jumping in and jumping out just for a little link juice. As far as voices goes, I thoroughly enjoy helping people and will continue to answer relevant questions.

    Much of my business comes from smaller communities in the northeast quadrant of the metro Atlanta market. On those result pages I am constantly fighting with Trulia and Zilow for placement along with the other agent and broker sites.

    @Rudy – Yes I am a part of the Voices community. Perhaps I have not taken advantage of the profile page as I should have. Thanks for the tips, I will look into it.

  35. Rich Jacobson

    July 11, 2008 at 12:35 am

    Daniel: Mind if I sit in with you and David with those cigars?

  36. Bob Stewart

    July 11, 2008 at 1:02 am

    Mr. Dalton,

    “The words and pictures may be your own but you don’t really own them. (I tried deleting photos I’d added to Localism yesterday … no go, naturally.)”

    I’m really sorry that it didn’t work. I would be more than happy to return (or in this case delete) any photos that you would like to remove from Localism. Did you want us to remove them all? or were there certain ones? We’ll make sure to get that feature to delete photos in there right away. We have always maintained that the content you contribute is yours and you are free to take it out at any time.

    I’m really sorry for the inconvenience. Just let me know how you would like me to proceed.

  37. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 11, 2008 at 6:03 am

    I appreciate you taking the time to share your opinion with us. Some look at the same sky and see it as partly cloudy, while others see it as partly sunny. A pessimist would stay home in fear of it raining on him while an optimist would go out and bring an umbrella. It’s what you make out of the situation that counts. Being the optimist that I am, I wish more people would look at how they can make things work for them, rather than hating all the time. But that’s just me.

    @Rudy – Don’t take a leak on our leg and tell us its raining. Its not about hating. Its about being realistic.

    —> Trulia is a competitor for search engine visibility. Period. <—

    And let me get on my prediction hat: Trulia will in the future charge hefty fees to the very real estate agents that helped make them #1 in the search engines in first place. [Lots of possibilities for new revenue streams: advertisements, enhanced placement/visibility on the site, or lead generation.]

    I respect Trulia immensely. They are very smart. Well funded. And have some of the smoothest talking politicians in the public eye cheerleading real estate agents to keep them working providing free content/links to make Trulia #1.

  38. Rudy from Trulia.com

    July 11, 2008 at 7:04 am

    @Jennifer – Oh, I’m a realist, believe me. I respect you as a real estate agent and your opinions. I just don’t get why some people love to use scare tactics. I see you have created a very basic Trulia profile and have not participated in Voices. I tell you what, read comment, # 30 above, apply my suggestions and then let me know what you think. If you still feel so strongly against what Trulia offers, then, cool – we’ll mutually agree to disagree. I just don’t get it when people who haven’t fully tried to utilize our community, have such strong adverse opinions. Also, please read my comment above, # 13 on this thread to see how we monetize our site.

    Thanks for lending me your ear.

    Rudy
    Social Media Guru at Trulia

  39. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 11, 2008 at 7:37 am

    @Rudy – No scare tactics here. Trulia is a competitor for search engine visibility.

    As far as participating in Voices, thanks much for the offer – but I will decline. Why?
    Creating content for Trulia establishes YOU as the place to go for consumers (and search engines) – not me.

    As far as how Trulia is CURRENTLY monetizing its site – all of that can (and probably will) change. Trulia is still climbing up the ranks in the search engines, and needs for real estate agents to continue to provide free content/links to them – so they can become #1 in all markets.

    Its a loss leader. Why do you think the crack dealer gives away free samples? To get people hooked. [No, I’m not saying Trulia is a crack dealer – so please don’t get sidetracked. Its just an example.] Trulia is providing “free samples” to real estate agents by giving them the opportunity to pick up leads that may turn into a couple sales for them. But long term, they are creating their own battle to fight later.

    AFTER you become #1 (which I’m certain you will), lets see how new revenue models come into play. Trulia can be bought out by another company for millions – and they can re-vamp the revenue streams. And even if there is no buyout, Trulia can pull a Localism, but I’m personally leading toward you become a Lead generation company.

    As I’ve said repeatedly, I respect Trulia immensely. And I like you. You are soft spoken, and smooth – and do an outstanding job representing your company’s interests.

    Whatever they are paying you – it isn’t enough. You deserve more.

  40. Rudy from Trulia.com

    July 11, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Hi Jenifer!

    Hey, it’s truly a shame that you won’t give us a try but, I respect your opinion and wish you the best of luck in business and in life.

    Rudy

    PS – Thanks for your kind words…..I’ll pass them along 🙂

  41. ines

    July 11, 2008 at 8:39 am

    Jenifer – here’s me playing devil’s advocate

    First let me tell you that I totally agree that it is us with our content that give all these sites juice – and yest it’s Trulia and Active Rain, Localism……..the list is endless

    Let’s also assume you and I and a couple of dozen others put our foot down and refuse to contribute while they keep climbing the Search Engines – it gets to a point when they are up there and it could be beneficial to have our names within those sites as well – whether it is paid banners, buying neighborhoods or whatever.

    I know the concept sucks, but right now it’s easier to have placement in localism by sponsoring an area than writing content

  42. Bob

    July 11, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Content doesnt give localism juice. That comes from links. AR got them initially from agents for points, then from agents linking to their own content. That wont happen with localism.

    Currently most of localism’s juice is coming from AR. Relying on one domain for links is not a long term strategy. That means they’ll have to buy links, and there are plenty of people who are watching the every move of these sites.

    but right now it’s easier to have placement in localism by sponsoring an area than writing content

    I would argue that is not true. The new localism is designed to be hyper-local with subcommunities that are easy pickings in Google. Beating them with your own hyper local blog is easy. Don’t be short-sighted. Build your online business presence correctly and you wont have to rent a space from localism.

  43. Ken Smith

    July 11, 2008 at 9:13 am

    Rudy no need to call names, besides I prefer realist over pessimist.

    In the beginning a few voices of reason said that Trulia would start charging first for preferred placements, Trulia said they wouldn’t….big surprise Trulia wasn’t forthcoming about their plans. In the future the fees will continue to grow and more items will be charged for. Rudy I would love to hear your thoughts on the accuracy of this statement.

    Trulia has $33M worth of investor capital it needs to generate a ROI on. The current business model isn’t generating enough revenue, or Trulia wouldn’t have needed another round of financing, so that means they need to either cut overhead or increase revenue. As a company in the growth phase cutting overhead is very unlikely, which leaves increased revenue. Pretty sure that a large chuck of the increased revenue will come from real estate agents.

    Either Trulia is going to need to figure out a way to be profitable and generate a nice ROI for its investors or they are setting themselves up for a buyout. Either option means more money out of agents pockets or worse.

    Now understand that as a business person I am impressed by Trulia’s ability to keep agents adding content, grow it’s online presence, raise money, and a lot of other factors. But as someone that earns a significant amount of their income from online leads you are my competitor, not my ally.

  44. Ken Smith

    July 11, 2008 at 9:18 am

    “I would argue that is not true. The new localism is designed to be hyper-local with subcommunities that are easy pickings in Google. Beating them with your own hyper local blog is easy. Don’t be short-sighted. Build your online business presence correctly and you wont have to rent a space from localism.”

    Bob is dead on with this one. There really is no reason to pay for a localism spot, just put a little content on your site for the neighborhoods that you are interested in and you will rank very easily.

  45. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 11, 2008 at 9:31 am

    @Ines – Bob is absolutely correct. They are beatable (at least currently).

    You are correct however, that it is “easier” to sponsor an area, than by creating your own content – but that is very much like saying its easier to RENT an apartment, than it is to OWN your own home because the home takes work/effort/maintenance.

  46. Dan Connolly

    July 11, 2008 at 9:50 am

    @Rudy – Don’t take a leak on our leg and tell us its raining. Its not about hating. Its about being realistic.

    Coffee through the nose material there Jennifer!

  47. ines

    July 11, 2008 at 9:52 am

    Jennifer – but if we are talking about not adding any more content to these sites – if you keep the content current, then there’s a contradiction…..see where I’m getting at?

  48. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 11, 2008 at 10:07 am

    @Ines – no contradiction. Thats why theres highlight. Copy. Paste (into your new site that you own). And Delete (for the old stuff). 🙂

  49. Jim Duncan

    July 11, 2008 at 10:09 am

    I hate to post only a link, but check out Mark Cuban’s post – “Free is only good if someone else is paying for it”

  50. Jim Gatos

    July 11, 2008 at 10:31 am

    You think I like all this?

    The market is nationally down and All these “social media”, Trulia, Google, Yahoo, Zillow, etc, etc, etc, etc… companies come out, and we Real Estate hand over our listing data so they can have a reason for someone to go to their site..

    If and when they get a good amount of folks to come over, then of course, someone will have to charge and someone will have to pay…

    Meanwhile everyone’s trying to tell everyone else How Important THEY are…and everyone’s jumping into the bandwagon..

    When the market picks up again, some of these companies die off. Everyone’s too busy actually selling or buying homes rather than posting opinions and trying to buy ad space….

    Face the facts. When someone wants to buy a home… They make a list. They go to the site they perceive will have the most listings or all the listings, no matter who it may be…

    They print the list or save it.. They do their research. Maybe they get an agent…

    They buy a home… and it’s over.. Everyone else is just wasting time and typing energy.

    I have nothing against Trulia, Zillow, and everyone else.. I just hate it that everyone’s trying to get their fingers in the jar.. and I mean everyone… I am sooo tired of “the latest this, the latest that…”

    One centralized database should be…

    1. Cheap..
    2. With Rss Feeds
    3. Flexible..
    4. Not a monopoly in terms of pricing…
    5. governed.. Maybe the government should get involved.. Or maybe listings need to be “regulated”…

    After all, there is only one “stock market”, right…?

    Web 2.0 to me is just giving me a headache.. Until something changes, I CONTROL my listings .. Yes, my company has ownership over them, but that’s because I want to…I get really tired of everyone asking me to hand over my content… It starts from my MLS, then to Realtor.com, then to “967” “feeds” that get multiplied daily…

    I looked over Localism. I’ll stick to my blog, thank you.. A lot of the “contributors” (not all of them) struck me as kinda “kiss ass” realtors and mortgage officers, anyway….

    Then again, I always hated “crack real estate dealers”… LOL… Maybe I fancy myself the “Batman” of my own real estate content….

    Every monkey and his uncle is jumping in the barrel.. Eventually it has to stop.. STOP THE INSANITY!

  51. David G from Zillow.com

    July 11, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Hey Batman 😉

    When the market picks up again, buyers and sellers will be that much more interested in Zestimates values and anonymous mortgage quotes. Some sites offer far more than the simple listings arbitrage you see so often and which I agree, creates dubious value for RE consumers. Zillow on the other hand attracted a large audience to innovative and popular RE information long before listings were posted to the site.

  52. Jim Gatos

    July 11, 2008 at 11:01 am

    David, “Why so Serious?”… LOL…

    Actually, out of all the mess I see out there called “Web 2.0..”, Zillow and Trulia are probably two of the only ones I even looked at and decided to join.

    It’s just that I’m getting a major “technological rash” from all this.. I cringe to think what Web 3.0, or even 2.5, will look like…

    Thank you for your help yesterday, btw..
    Jim

  53. Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra

    July 11, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Jim Gatos,

    Government regulation?! Oh, man, I don’t even want to think about that one. If people think NAR is a mess. . .

  54. Jim Gatos

    July 11, 2008 at 11:41 am

    I can’t think of anything else.. that would deter this crazy mess we’re in now.. I looked at a couple of places (where doesn’t matter) and they had different pictures for one of my listings because I updated the pictures for the winter.. LOL..

    I can’t keep up with it..

    If I make a mistake and I correct it in my mls, how do I know it gets corrected everywhere?

    Shouldn’t I make money or be able to charge ALL THESE PROVIDERS for using my information? Who makes money now? I’m sure my MLS (MLSPIN) does now.. I don’t mind, but how about me too?

    I know, we flip to “advertising” and now I’m the one who pays.. LOL

    See what I mean?

  55. Frank Jewett

    July 11, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Jim, have you looked for your listings on Overstock.com? They opened their doors with 2.5 million listings on their site. Where did they get them all? Did you know that when you put your listing on Zillow, you grant Zillow the right to modify and sublicense your listing? Before David runs in to clarify, the same holds true for most online listings sites. You add your listing for free, they make money by selling your listing to the rest of the online listings universe.

    Bottom line: Listings are no longer a competitive advantage for anyone. They are a commodity.

  56. Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra

    July 11, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Frank,

    You NAILED it: “Bottom line: Listings are no longer a competitive advantage for anyone. They are a commodity.”

    The beauty if this is that it will level the playing field to a degree for agents. No longer will the listing agent control the industry. Potential buyers will be able to get their listing information from more than one source, meaning that they will also have more options when it comes to agency. The days of, “Well, I’m glad you called about my listing, I would be happy to help you buy it.” and double-dips are going to be more rare. IMHO, that isn’t a bad thing.

    Now, since listing data will be more widely available, agents are going to have to deliver value in some other way. They are actually going to have to focus on the skills of representation, counseling, advice, and interpretation. I think we are going to see real estate begin to transition from a sales-based industry into more of a true service-based industry. That is a good thing for the profession.

  57. Frank Jewett

    July 11, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Daniel, I wrote a post called Rock ‘N Roll and the MLS back in February which pointed out the need to transition to a post-MLS real estate model where your value is based on expertise, negotiation, and service rather than on access to privileged information. Ironically I’ve heard that organized real estate is attempting to build a new REALTOR privileged information advantage. I call it “Plan 9 from Washington” and I suspect the only real beneficiaries will be the managers, consultants, and vendors who are building it.

  58. Ken Smith

    July 11, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    “The days of, “Well, I’m glad you called about my listing, I would be happy to help you buy it.” and double-dips are going to be more rare. IMHO, that isn’t a bad thing.”

    I find it interesting that everyone seems to think that the listings being out there in more places will cause buyers to go somewhere other then the listing agent. Seems like backwards thinking to me.

    As agent with 50 active listings on all the major portals actually has a HUGE advantage over the buyers agent attempting to find clients. Heck that is even what Trulia is attempting to sell, advertise your listings and you will gain clients. There will be more “double-dips” with listing data being “easier” to find. Buyer agents are the ones that are the most damaged by this, not listing agents.

  59. Paula Henry

    July 11, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Ken – I see it the same way you do. It would be welcomed if buyers actually searched for agents and not just listings. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard the phrase, “Oh, you’re not the listing agent?”

    People seem to think they will get some kind of deal by working directly with the listing agent. I have saved every buyer client a higher % than if the listing agent were to have taken a little off for the commission.

  60. Misty Lackie

    July 11, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    This is a great post and I am so glad you wrote about this topic. ActiveRain is a perfect example of a company that offers so much for free. This week they announced paid sponsored spots on their new localism and they received the “people will grab pitch forks and light torches” treatment. I have seen this happen with Trulia and Zillow too. As a vendor though I think you need to prepare yourself for this type of treatment if you start off offering everything for free and then later start pitching pricing models. When you set the price as “free” you have already attached the value to your product in the eyes of your users even though the value may be worth much more.

    “But one thing is for sure, if we aren’t willing to pay for the tools and services that we hold up as the future of the industry, then those tools and services will disappear.”

    So true!

  61. Frank Jewett

    July 11, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    As a vendor though I think you need to prepare yourself for this type of treatment if you start off offering everything for free and then later start pitching pricing models.

    Correct. Unfortunately “free” is the Web 1.0 Web 2.0 answer to the value proposition. Rather than working to prove their value, they focus on growing their audience by giving away the product. Whether the exit strategy is monetizing the site later or simply selling it to a sucker (NAR, Move.com, Google) is a matter of opinion. Your mileage may vary.

    When you set the price as “free” you have already attached the value to your product in the eyes of your users even though the value may be worth much more.

    Nah, AR’s new sponsorship represents a material change to their value proposition in the eyes of many of their users. That’s the problem. AR’s answer is “it’s still free”, but many of those users don’t care. No point arguing with me, I understand both sides of the argument. Too often stakeholders (vendors and familiars) are so attached to their own position that they dismiss their critics as irrational, paranoid, or unduly pessimistic. It’s a mistake to circle the wagons around corporate dogma or seek support from other vendors or familiars who boost their own egos by rubbing elbows with vendors. Assume your detractors are rational and you have a much better chance of figuring out how to overcome their objections or how to refine your value proposition. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

    Right now we’re being overloaded by vendors and shills who’ve developed a pitch in their own boardroom with little input from the real world. When we object, they get insulted and start playing petty games of character assassination. We’ve seen several examples just this week in this forum. Personally, I wouldn’t allow vendors to discuss their own products because they have an obvious conflict of interest. I suspect some of them would disappear under those circumstances while others would still participate because they came here to be part of the community rather than to shill for their employers.

    I tease Rich Jacobson, especially when he crosses the line, but he discusses many topics besides ActiveRain. When he does discuss ActiveRain, we need to remember he’s doing so as an employee with a vested interest in convincing people to support AR policy, regardless of his own feelings. Too many vendor shills try to masquerade as helpful members of the community while regurgitating their corporate talking points. I keep hoping RE.net webmasters will catch on and put an end to the practice, but for some, rubbing elbows with vendors is the fast track to RE.net celebrity.

  62. Bob

    July 11, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Frank, you are starting to grow on me.

    Assume your detractors are rational and you have a much better chance of figuring out how to overcome their objections or how to refine your value proposition.

    Very well said.

  63. Matthew Rathbun

    July 11, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    I love free. At some point I do think a lot of these systems will have “upgrade” fee like that blankty-blank Realtor.com. But when they make it a paid service, two or three other “free” services will pop up to take their place.

    I’m a huge fan of open source programs. I do wonder how and why they do it for free.

  64. Justin in Kauai

    July 22, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    I like free just as much as the next person, but with that said, just like Google, these website offering free services have to be making money somewhere.

    I think that by offering free services, these websites develop the traffic. And once you have traffic, making money becomes a lot easier.

    The people who should be charged are the agents and brokers whose listings are receiving additional exposure because of the traffic that these free services have created. It’s only fair.

  65. Bob

    July 22, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Justin, few of these sites generate traffic that results in sales.

  66. Frank Jewett

    July 22, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    If one site created meaningful traffic that resulted in actual sales, most Realtors would gladly pay.

    Right now there are dozens (literally) of sites competing for your dollar by selling sponsorships and upselling marketing features. The problem is that they are all competing for the same eyeballs, so you either have to pay for all of them or you’re merely buying a fraction of the potential audience.

    Also no one has been able to determine the true value of that audience. Stakeholders, shills and familiars* claim these systems generate revenue, but they aren’t unbiased observers and they offer scant data to back up those claims. How many Zillow viewers purchased within a year of first visiting? That would be a meaningful statistic.

    In the end, online listings may appeal to the dreaded “looky lous” and to a very small group of early adopters who are disproportionately likely to answer NAR surveys designed to tout for REALTOR.com. Even then, the fact that 80% of NAR respondents shopped online doesn’t mean they chose an agent while shopping online. They may have sought a referral (isn’t that how most of us shop for service providers), called their licensee-in-law, or called a discount broker to get a rebate. We really have no idea if the people browsing Zillow, Trulia, and the others are our target market.

    The problem isn’t really the outside marketing model. Realtors willingly pay thousands on advertising, hosting, website design, blogs named after vegetables, and other promotional efforts. The problem is that the outside marketing model currently consists of too many hands out looking for money and not enough results to justify all the expense. Bottom line, this is an industry with a long history of willingly paying referral fees, so don’t tell me you’d turn away real business just because it came from Zillow.

    *Familiars are people who have already invested money and tout the platform to protect their investment and ego or people who want to rub elbows with shills to try to enhance their own RE.net standing. The term is taken from the mortals who guard vampires in hopes of sharing their power.

  67. Ken Smith

    July 22, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    The problem is that the outside marketing model currently consists of too many hands out looking for money and not enough results to justify all the expense.

    That really sums it up. Not one of those out there has a good plan in place to generate anyone income other then themselves (and they aren’t even very good at that). They don’t care if we sell any homes from their services, they know there is another sucker around the corner to shell out the money when you don’t renew. Makes it even easier with the number of new agents that sign up every day.

  68. Frank Jewett

    July 23, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Ken, I like to open each class by reminding my students that success in real estate is 15-25% technical execution and 75-85% marketing execution. This forces me to illustrate how an area that might seem to be technical only, like Zipform or RELAY, also relates to marketing. Much of the technical execution can be and is outsourced to transaction coordinators, escrow officers, and even brokers, but there are very few ways to effectively outsource that tremendous marketing burden. That’s why I remain convinced that most brokers and agents would gladly pay to outsource some of their marketing. It’s the biggest challenge they face. Unfortunately if an effective “pay only” solution is developed, everyone will pay for it and it will quickly cease to be an effective marketing differentiator.

    “It’s a tough racket.” – Alec Baldwin

  69. Sue

    July 25, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    >>Unfortunately if an effective “pay only” solution is developed, everyone will pay for it and it will quickly cease to be an effective marketing differentiator.

    And therefore its limited. Seems this marketing will always need to be supplemented by the agent with unique and different marketing techniques in the changing business.

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Social Media

Instagram now lets you create and share fundraisers

(SOCIAL MEDIA) If you’ve been wanting to start a fundraiser for something you care about, Instagram’s new feature lets you do just that. Go check it out!

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Instagram Fundraiser

Instagram announced last week that it has launched a test for a Personal Fundraiser tool on its platform. The feature will allow users to start their own fundraiser if it complies with guidelines or choose an existing cause to support. The launch began in some US, UK, and Ireland markets and is available on Android and iOS.

In its announcement, the company confirmed that since January, more than $100 million has been raised for COVID-19 across Facebook and Instagram (also owned by Facebook), citing that donations on Instagram have doubled in the US in the past 30 days. The announcement said, “from people raising money to buy medical equipment for Black Lives Matter protesters, rebuilding Black-owned small businesses affected by COVID-19 and funding educational resources related to racial justice, people are eager to mobilize around causes they care about.”

Personal Fundraisers are short-term and meant to serve time-sensitive causes, with the initial duration lasting 30 days with the option to extend for an additional 30 days. Users must be 18 to create a fundraiser and have a designated bank account in which funds can be deposited. Donations will be processed through Facebook Pay, which also powers Instagram’s new shopping features. The platform covers fees for non-profits, but not for Personal Fundraisers. Donors can choose to keep their information hidden from the public, but organizers will be able to see user names and donation amounts.

To start a Personal Fundraiser, users with access to the feature can tap “Edit Profile”, “Add Fundraiser”, followed by “Raise Money”. They can then choose a photo, select the fundraiser category, and write out a story to encourage donations. When approved, users will be able to raise funds.

Instagram says it will expand the number of users who have access to this feature in the months ahead, as well as give users access to share fundraisers both in their Feed and within Stories. Fundraising features already offered by the company include Donation Stickers for Stories and a Live Donations feature for live streams.

This feature is similar to the fundraising feature already available on Facebook, Instagram’s parent company.

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Social Media

Should you be Facebook friends with your boss?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Are there times when it makes sense to connect with your boss and team on Facebook? Or is LinkedIn enough?

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facebook friends

Just as we learn, grow, and change in life, so does our use of social media platforms and technology in general. It makes sense though – when hot new programs come out and “everybody’s doing it” (thinking of you MySpace and Plaxo), it’s easy to create a user profile to see what you think of the platform.

You may be a heavy user at first (looking at you Facebook) and then back off, only to use it for certain functions (Groups and Events for example). In the interim, you may have joined Instagram because for some reason it seemed simpler and light-hearted. And don’t let the new, shiny things coming out pass you by without at least seeing if you like them, or if they help entertain you and connect you to loved ones (looking at you Snapchat and TikTok).

Amongst some doubt of new or potential users in the mid-2000s after Facebook opened up to those outside of universities, we have to admit that Facebook has had a longevity that some of the other platforms have not. It allows you to keep your personal network in one place as well as your photos, significant dates, your career changes, events, and even see what your cousins are up to. It almost feels like once you’re invested, it’s hard to get out.

The thing is, there is definitely a grey area on who you accept as a “friend”. It really is up to each person’s comfort level on who they want to be connected to, and how much sharing they do on the platform. This article isn’t going to address Facebook privacy concerns and data sharing, but we do encourage you to look in to those if that is something that is important to you. It’s a similar idea with LinkedIn – some people are happy to connect with anyone and everyone, while others prefer to keep their connections to those they personally know and/or have worked with.

This story is addressing a question as it relates to an article in Inc. about whether or not is it’s ok for managers and employees to be “Facebook friends”, and some other tricky professional situations. We have to look at few things first, including the evolution of our use.

Since Facebook was made available to everyone, we have gone from a simple profile picture, relationship status (oof), and random updates about our breakfast/dentist appointments, to joining interest groups, sharing news articles, promoting brands and memes at a mind-boggling rate. Many people have considered deleting their Facebook profiles due to a high level of negativity, privacy concerns over their data and pictures, and how ultimately, scrolling your newsfeed can be a total time suck.

Many stay on because they are in groups (like super amazing, supportive, and popular ones such as Austin Digital Jobs) that they enjoy, and it’s a way to stay connected with others. This has felt true especially during COVID-19 where many people have lost their social outlets, networking opportunities, and have not been able to get together in person. Social media has also been a useful platform for small business owners and entrepreneurs to run a business page at minimal costs (free unless they run advertising), and reach out to customers. Facebook (owner of Instagram) also seems to have been making strides this year to better support small business owners.

So, should you be Facebook friends with your boss?

That is up to you (we are not here to tell you how to run your life) and while many have said, “Nope” in a super unofficial survey of 30 respondents, there were a couple of interesting perspectives:

“Since I’m my boss, twist on my answer… I don’t yes any professional that asks to be FB friends. That’s what my page is for. I even have a canned response that says this because I get so many asks. My personal FB is for actual friends of mine. I didn’t want to yes my MIL either. I have her on the restricted list.”

“I guess it depends. I’m friends with my boss and most of my coworkers. Creative shop within a corporation … about 45 strong. We are tight.”

“If you love your job and you love your boss then I think it is ok. I work 2 part-time jobs and both of my bosses are amazing! I am friends and Facebook friends with both of them.”

“I’m fine. I don’t post much on Facebook anymore. My bosses are all fairly chill. ”

“I have been Facebook friends with previous bosses while they were my boss. I am not with my current boss, but I’d be fine with it if we were. I don’t post anything too crazy, and I tend to over share in the office already. I like to be an open book. Tiktok would be different though… ”

For some who are part of a start-up or smaller team where collaboration and getting to know one another  are supported (thinking teams of 10 or less, hey AG Staff Writers), this may be more of the ‘norm’ and acceptable. However, the majority of people do not want to be “Facebook friends” with their boss to draw a line between work and personal sharing. Many people also mentioned that it varied if they chose to be Facebook friends with their colleagues, although they seem to be more open to colleagues vs. direct supervisors.

This seems to reflect back on how you use Facebook and if sharing your weekend or family photos is not something you want everyone to see. On the flip side, if you’re not sharing much, maybe you’d be OK with being connected there. A more professional way of connecting with your supervisor and others at work is through LinkedIn, and is in fact, highly encouraged.

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Social Media

Could TikTok soon be banned in the U.S for privacy breaching?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) TikTok, a video content social media giant, has been deemed a potential national security risk by the U.S Federal government.

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TikTok is banned

U.S lawmakers are calling for a full investigation into TikTok, the fifteen second video app with almost 180 million downloads, after expressing concerns of a privacy breach by the Chinese government.

TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, purchased the platform originally known as musical.ly in November 2017. Since then the social media app worth an estimated $150 billion has almost 180 million downloads in the U.S, and 800 million downloads worldwide.

According to Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, the U.S has reason to believe the Beijing-based company, ByteDance, may have been coerced into handing over data to China’s communist leaders. The app’s Founder, Zhang Yiming, and TikTok’s spokesperson responded to the accusations with the following statement: “TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

We don’t know if we believe you TikTok.

TikTok received over 500 legal demands, including emergency requests, in the first six months of 2020. TikTok has also previously confirmed that the app stores user data on “U.S-based servers” withdrawn from phone downloads. Information includes IP addresses, messages, location information, and according to Pompeo, “sensitive information”, exposed by data breaching that disregards American rights to privacy and potentially violates national security guidelines.

Company employees may live in the U.S, but with its head of operations stationed in Beijing, pressure from the Chinese Government to provide user information is a very serious concern for Americans using the app. 41 percent of its users are part of Generation Z, a highly influential, social media-friendly age group, ranging between 16 and 24.

A sense of invincibility within this age range encourages users to use the app without caution of personal information that may be provided or derived off your phone after installation. In the past two years, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have also been criticized for not abiding to lawful privacy standards.

ByteDance has halted the use of its corporate office in Beijing and is looking to establish headquarters within the U.S or under new management.

The U.S. government is seriously considering banning the use of TikTok.

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